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Dolby Launches 7.1 Audio For Streaming

By | Tuesday October 18, 2011 @ 1:15pm PDT

San Francisco, October 18, 2011—Dolby Laboratories, Inc., (NYSE: DLB) today enabled the first discrete 7.1-channel surround sound entertainment experience available to streaming media using Dolby® Digital Plus audio. VUDU, a leading subscription-free, video-on-demand movie service and wholly owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., began streaming Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 audio today.

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Analyst: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ May Be Only 3Q Movie Write-Down As Overseas Ticket Sales Grow

Movie moguls usually have to grit their teeth during the media company quarterly earnings season as they begrudgingly acknowledge the bombs they had to write off. But the 3Q reports that will begin to come out in two weeks could be different, RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank says this morning. Only one film from the quarter — DreamWorks’ Cowboys & Aliens – “looks likely to be a write-down.” And the outlook for 4Q is encouraging due to “the strong existing slate, combined with the likelihood of surprise ‘tentpoles’ and … relatively easy comps” vs 4Q 2010. He’s particularly impressed by the soaring returns from overseas, where the number of movie theaters is growing. He notes that this year major films are generating more than 1.65 as much from international box offices as they do from domestic, up from 1.45 last year. Bank says that Hollywood is zeroing in on the right investment formula: Spend big on “culturally neutral action/adventure movies” that play well abroad — and slash budgets for comedies that often don’t travel well. Read More »

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Who Needs Comic-Con? Disney Reveals All At D23 Expo

Pete Hammond

Disney Announces Two New Pixar Films
Who needs Comic-Con when you can do it yourself?

That must be exactly what Disney is thinking as it continues its massive second annual Disney D23/ Expo, the “ultimate fan event” taking place all weekend long at the Anaheim Convention Center right next to Disneyland (the name refers to 1923, the year Walt Disney started his studio).  It’s an offshoot of the official Disney Fan Club and includes a ginormous exhibition center with every imaginable opportunity to buy Disneyana, numerous fan events and celebrity-sighting opps, and then there was today’s centerpiece: a near-three-hour preview of movies in the pipeline from Disney, Pixar and Marvel (which announced a partnership with the company in 2009 that is just now gearing up).

Call it “Mickey Con”. It’s all a bit overwhelming, so no wonder it takes three days just to get through it all. The event continues through the end of Sunday.

After his major presentation of the new Disney slate in the gargantuan arena in front of 4200 seemingly rabid fans (and a few more restrained press members), I caught up with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross in the Green Room for an exclusive interview in which he talked about the possibilities of a fifth Pirate.s of the Caribbean film as well as his first comments on the demise of  Pirates team Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer’s about-to-shoot Western The Lone Ranger, which Deadline’s Mike Fleming first reported had been dropped by Disney due to budgetary concerns on the pricey pic. When I asked Ross if there was anything new to report  he said, ”Nothing definitive. There is nothing new. I’m hoping to do it, I’m certainly hoping. I think it’s a compelling story and no one wants to work with Jerry and Johnny more than me, so we’ll see how it works.” And about the possibility of a fifth Pirates? The situation is obviously clouded with the Lone Ranger situation, but again he used the word “hopeful.” Read More »

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Report: Plummeting Disc Sales Depress Home Video Business in 1H 2011

A spokesman for DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group says the trade organization didn’t deliberately choose a Friday afternoon to release its dreary new report about consumer spending on home entertainment in the first half of 2011. But from a PR perspective it probably doesn’t hurt to bury news that shows VOD and electronic distribution still can’t make up for the collapse in sales of DVDs. The headline number is that consumer spending on all forms of home video — including DVD and Blu-ray disc sales and rentals, VOD, and online — fell 5.1% vs the first half of 2010 to $8.3B. Last year, spending fell 3.3% in the first half of 2010. DEG says this year’s drop isn’t so bad because last year included Avatar. (It seems that the blockbuster was good enough to include last year when it made sales look strong, but is supposed to be treated as an anomaly now that it makes comparisons look weak.) Still, there’s no getting around the steep decline for DVDs. Consumers bought nearly $3.9B worth of DVD and Blu-ray content, down 18.3% vs the first half of 2010. At this time last year, disc sales were off 7.1% vs. 2009. DVDs are the culprit: Although DEG only reports figures for “packaged goods,” it notes that Blu-ray sales are up more than 10%. Read More »

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‘Pirates Of The Caribbean 4′ Passes $1 Bil

UPDATE: Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films confirmed this Summer 2011 milestone: that the franchise’s fourth film Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides crossed $1 billion in global box office Saturday.  The global cume through Sunday is $1,007.7B, with an estimated $774M of that coming from international and 233.7M from domestic through Sunday. This will be the second Pirates of the Caribbean film to reach $1B after 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Rounding out the studios’ four billion-dollar earners are 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3. Five of the 10 biggest films of all time are now from The Walt Disney Studios.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is now the 8th film in history to reach the $1B threshold, the Walt Disney Studios’ 4 title to earn $1B, the 3rd Disney film in less than 18 months to gross $1B globally, and the bBiggest international opening ever, and the #3 film of all time at the international box office. It also crossed the $500M international threshold in a record-setting 14 days, and crossed the $800M global threshold in only 20 days, the second fastest ever to reach this milestone. Pic set a new industry speed record by crossing the $700M global threshold in only 16 days. It’s Disney’s biggest international release ever, and the biggest Pirates of the Caribbean installment in 58 territories as well as the highest-grossing Disney film ever released in China and Russia. It’s … Read More »

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VA VROOM! ‘Cars 2′ Revs $68M Weekend; ‘Bad Teacher’ More Than Good For $31M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.

1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M

Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.

But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”

Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.

2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M

Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)

Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.

Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden. Read More »

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‘Pirates Of Caribbean 4′ Moves Into Top 10 Biggest Global Releases Of All Time

Clearly, people around the globe are starved for entertainment. For those of you keeping score, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4‘s cume to date is Domestic $221.6M and International $735.2M for a worldwide total of $956.8M. It now stands as the 10th-biggest release of all-time on a worldwide basis, passing Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part I but behind Pirates Of The Caribbean 3. In fact, three of the Top 10 films are the Pirates franchise. And Johnny Depp has four of the Top 10 films (three Pirates and Alice In Wonderland).

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D-Day For 200 Disney Layoffs In Distribution Even Though ‘Pirates Of Caribbean’ Passes $900M

By | Wednesday June 15, 2011 @ 10:03am PDT
Mike Fleming

It won’t be a good day on the Disney lot. Today, the studio will tell just under 200 staffers that they are being laid off. Deadline told you this was coming, as part of a restructuring effort, with most of those layoffs coming in theatrical and home video distribution. The fact that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides just crossed the $900 million mark in worldwide gross doesn’t change that studio brass felt a restructuring was needed. Fox, Paramount and Lionsgate have also been streamlining their operations and laying off staff as well.

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RealD Effort To Talk Up 3D Leaves Investors Cold As Stock Falls In After Hours Trading

UPDATE, 3:30 PM: Things were fine for RealD, until executives started talking. The company’s stock price initially jumped in after-hours trading following a surprisingly strong earnings report. That would be a welcome change for the company whose stock value has dropped more than 29% since mid-May. But investor sentiment quickly changed about mid-way through CEO Michael Lewis’ briefing where he scoffed at the notion that consumers are fed up with paying higher ticket prices for 3D. The stock price fell to 7.4% below Thursday’s $24.07 closing price. “I don’t think that two films a trend makes,” Lewis said referring specifically to the disappointing 3D sales for Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2. “I don’t see a trend. It’s a trend until the trend changes to something else.” He added that results for 3D films this year “will be all over the place, but the end result will be a good one.” RealD is especially optimistic about the performance of its screens outside the U.S. The international venues account for 49% of RealD’s locations, but 55% of its gross revenues. Lewis didn’t directly answer a question about whether weakening 3D sales in the U.S. might be an early warning of what will happen overseas. Read More »

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Kagan: ‘Pirates,’ ‘Hangover,’ And ‘Bridesmaids’ Lead The Profit Parade For May

Looks like May wasn’t so bad for movie studios after all. Five of the month’s eight major theatrical releases tracked by SNL Kagan are poised to be profitable. Averaged together, each of the films will generate $464.7 million from theaters, home video, and TV sales. That’s 2.13 times the films’ estimated average cost of $217.7 million — making this the most lucrative May since 2007 when revenues on average were 2.4 times higher than expenses. Since the cost tallies don’t include distribution fees, interest, profit participation and residuals, Kagan figures a film will be profitable if revenues are 1.75 times higher than the estimated expenses.

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sailed to the head of the profitability armada. Kagan figures the studio ultimately will see $1.2 billion in revenue, 2.88 times its estimated $421.9 million cost.  Warner Bros’ Hangover Part II follows with expected revenues of $611.4 million vs costs of $213.8 million. The winners list also includes Universal’s Bridesmaids ($311.0 million over $139.6 million in expenses), Paramount’s Thor ($660.7 million over $301.5 million) and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 ($652.3 million over $301.8 million).

Expected losers are TriStar’s Jumping The Broom ($63.4 million vs costs of $66.9 million), Warner Bros’ Something Borrowed ($94.2 million over $135.9 million), and Screen Gems’ Priest ($108.7 million over $160.6 million).

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Analyst: ‘Pirates’ Was Hurt By 3D As Consumers Tire Of High Ticket Prices

Analyst Richard Greenfield of Wall Street’s BTIG has long been skeptical of claims by Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron that 3D would do wonders for the movie business. But now Greenfield says that 3D is actually hurting the industry: “U.S. consumers are increasingly rejecting 3D movies,” he said in a report today. Attendance for Disney’s Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides “would have been higher” this past weekend if half of its screens showed the movie in conventional 2D instead of just a third, he says. The evidence? He notes that about 38% of the $90 million in box-office revenue for the film’s opening weekend came from non-IMAX 3D screens. That’s much lower than the average last year, when 54% of the opening revenues for DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Forever After, and 57% of the initial sales for the studio’s How To Train Your Dragon, came from non-IMAX 3D screens. Greenfield says that “pricing remains our single biggest concern, especially with so many 3D movies aimed at the family segment.” He figures theaters charged $14.85 a ticket to see Pirates on IMAX 3D, $10.85 for non-IMAX 3D, and $7.60 for 2D. He adds that family films also are hurt by “young children not wanted to wear 3D glasses.” His advice: Hollywood should make fewer 3D films in 2012. “Focus on making consumer-desirable films rather than worrying about the technology,” he says.

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ABC Family Acquires New ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ Movie

Nellie Andreeva

Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is staying in the Disney family for its TV window. Cable network ABC Family has acquired the rights to the movie from Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The film, which opened this weekend with $90.1 domestically and $346.4 worldwide, is slated to premiere on ABC Family in 2013.

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YO HO-HUM TO 3D BUT NOT OVERSEAS: ‘Pirates Caribbean 4′ Soft $90.1M Domestic; Saved By #1 Biggest 5-Day International Opening, 4th Highest Global Cume $346.4M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATEArrrr, mateys, now I know why these marauders of the seas are always cranky. Because in North America this weekend, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened with only $35 million Friday and $32 million Saturday from 4,155 theaters because of weak demand for sequels and 3D. But it doesn’t matter because the action pic made it up overseas where sequels still rule and 3D is still king. It finished the weekend with the #1 biggest 5-day international opening of $256.3M (beating Harry Potter 6‘s $236M) and the #4 biggest global opening of all time with $346.4M (behind Harry Potter 6, Spidey 3, and Pirates 3). It’s now the best global, international, and domestic opening of 2011:

1. Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 3D (Disney) NEW [4,155 Theaters]
Friday $35M, Saturday $32M, Weekend $90.1M
International Cume $256.3M, Global Cume $346.4M

A Disney exec told me Friday that IMAX grosses were “very solid” for the film, but Saturday morning he admitted that 3D had turned “very soft” in the U.S. and Canada. Maybe people are sick of wearing those dumb glasses. That translated into a $90.1M weekend domestic – a far cry from the $100M weekend which Disney was expecting or the $114M which Pirates 3 did in 2007 for the first 3 days of the Memorial long weekend. I hear Pirates 4 cost in the neighborhood of $250 million to make and another $170M to market worldwide. But a derivative and lackluster U.S. promotional campaign didn’t help. (Recruited to help newbie MT Carney was vet Valerie Van Galder, a mistake.) Then again, reviews for Rob Marshall’s direction ranged from bad to mediocre after fans were already disappointed with the threequel from Gore Verbinski (who helmed the Pirates trilogy). However, CinemaScore was a B+, indicating moviegoers liked #4. Or maybe just those mermaid scenes.

For over 2,000 midnight locations, Pirates 4 opened to a hefty $4.7M, beating the previous midnights for Disney’s own Alice In Wonderland and well as new Summer 2011 blockbusters Fast Five and Thor. Disney released On Stranger Tides into 4,155 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, of which 2,747 are 3D locations including 256 IMAX (an IMAX domestic record). But interestingly, a survey by big online movie ticketseller Fandango found 61% of more than 2,000 ticketbuyers picked Johnny Depp’s new love interest Penelope Cruz as primary reason to attend, while only 29% selected 3D as a main factor. It won’t help that the new installment will have to contend with Hangover Part 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2 this coming Memorial weekend so rival studios think Pirates 4 will have a tough road to reach the $300M domestic of all three prior films.

That may not matter because Disney is confident it can pass the $670M of Pirates 3 now that Pirates 4 scored the best 5-day international opening of the franchise and the 4th biggest global cume. As a Disney exec acknowledged to me, “It’s a summer popcorn four-quadrant pic and U.S. audiences know what they’re getting. But internationally, there’s no denying it’s more important than ever and Johnny’s global appeal will definitely help us as well as the addition of Penelope in Europe (and the rest of world) certainly won’t hurt.”

The 2011 Summer Movie Season began its blockbuster rollout overseas with both Fast Five and Thor opening first abroad and establishing their box office bonafides before coming to North America. Disney did the same — and foreign saved this pic. Pirates 4‘s international grosses overwhelmed the results of Pirates 3 in most of the 70 foreign markets where Russia had the biggest opening day ($5M) and the biggest opening weekend ($28.6M) of all time but also big grosses in China, India, Brazil, Latin America Middle East, Norway, & Turkey. Russia is where 3D continues to play huge and star Johnny Depp showed up for the premiere. In the first 3 days of release, the film took in foreign of $92.1M which was 8% higher than Pirates 3, as Wednesday opened in 33% of the international market, Thursday 32%, and Friday 35%. Adding in Saturday and Sunday, the foreign total expanded into not just the biggest opening of 2011 but the #1 biggest 5-day international opening of $256.3M (beating Harry Potter 6‘s $236M) and the #4 biggest global opening of all time with $346.4M (behind Harry Potter 6, Spidey 3, and Pirates 3). This shattered the IMAX global record with $16.7 million on 394 screens.

2. Bridesmaids (Universal) Week 2 [2,937 Theaters]
Friday $6.4M, Saturday $8.2M, Weekend $21M (-20%), Cume $59.5M

Universal’s R-rated female comedy Bridesmaids is enjoying an exceptional hold at the start of its 2nd weekend. Elated Universal execs reached all the way back to New Line’s The Wedding Crashers to find an R-rated comedy with anywhere near a comparable hold.

3. Thor 3D (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) Week 3 [3,924 Theaters]
Friday $4.3M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $15.5M (-54%), Cume $145.4M

The Norse god came into its 3rd weekend with $238M international. Paramount grossed another $9M for Thor this weekend from 60 overseas markets bringing the foreign cume to $247M after 4 weekend in release. The movie’s opening in Japan is still to come this July. The biggest contribution this weekend came from China, UK & Ireland, and Mexico.

4. Fast Five (Universal) Week 4 [3,622 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.4M, Weekend $10.6M, Cume $186.2M

This streetracing turned heist film crossed $300M at the international box office on Friday and $500M worldwide on Sunday for a global cume of $506.2M for Fast Five in 61 territories. It held strong in 2nd place overseas with what the studio said were smaller drops than expected.

5. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 6 [2,593 Theaters]
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $2M, Weekend $4.6M, Cume $131.6M

6. Priest 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 2 [2,864 Theaters]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4.6M (-69%), Cume $23.7M

7. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) Week 3 [1,472 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $31.3M

8. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros) Week 3 [2,606 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.4M, Cume $31.4M

9. Water For Elephants (Fox 2000/Fox) Week 5 [1,894 Theaters]
Friday $660K, Saturday $900K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $52.4M

10. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Lionsgate) Week 5 [912 Theaters]
Friday $280K, Saturday $476K, Weekend $1M, Cume $51.7M

Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s newest romantic comedy, Midnight In Paris, scored an awesome per screen average of $92,457 total from just 6 locations for Friday’s tally of $171K and Saturday $213K. Weekend is $564K for Sony Pictures Classics. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson’s acting comeback movie wasn’t. The Beaver from Summit Entertainment and Participant Media presentation in association with Imagenation Abu Dhabi is starting to expand in North American but made only $190K playing at 168 theaters this weekend for a paltry per theater average of $1,131. Estimated cume to date is $582K in limited release.

Read More »

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CANNES: Parties, Pirates, And Fireworks

Pete Hammond

Cannes experienced a huge dose of starpower on its prime Saturday night as the Film Festival hosted the latest premiere following big events at Disneyland and in Moscow for Disney’s summer juggernaut Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. For the out-of-competition event, stars Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin, plus producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Director Rob Marshall, all hit the red carpet. You literally could not navigate the massive crowd scene in front of and surrounding the Palais as this group worked the paparazzi. It drew the biggest throng of fans so far at the Fest, all trying to position themselves to get a glimpse of the stars. Cannes loves photo opps like this and has been actively courting studios to bring their big summer behemoths to the Cote d’Azur in order to guarantee some celeb glitz. With Depp and Cruz tonight, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie making their entrance Monday night for Brad’s Tree of Life premiere, the photogs are having a field day. I  also heard Leonardo DiCaprio hit town this weekend as well. Read More »

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Big Media’s 1Q Earnings Roundup: Cash

The money is flowing again into Big Media. Just about every media CEO who recently spoke to Wall Street analysts about this year’s 1st Quarter earnings said that ad sales are up and consumers are spending. “Viacom has never been stronger financially,” CEO Philippe Dauman crowed. At Disney, where net profits fell slightly, CEO Bob Iger expressed he was “confident in the trends we’re seeing across our segments”. So will these companies do more hiring and give out raises? Don’t be naive. Dauman, for one, told investors that he’s “watching for head count creep” while the company returns $1.9 billion to shareholders over the first 9 months of its fiscal year. Most Big Media companies are buying back their stock, making publicly held shares more valuable. CBS doubled its quarterly dividend to shareholders and Viacom plans to follow suit.

Here are some of the other major themes from this earnings season:

TV Advertising: Network executives were predictably upbeat about what will happen in their upfront ad sales negotiations in coming weeks. Disney CEO Bob Iger predicted the market will be “strong”. NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke upped that to “very strong”. And News Corp COO Chase Carey claimed it’ll be “truly strong”. Their pronouncements made CBS chief Les Moonves sound refreshingly bold when he projected “solid double-digit increases” in ad sales for his broadcast network. Executives cited the price increases they’ve seen in scatter sales as the economy has improved and auto, technology, telecom, … Read More »

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CANNES: 2011 Fest Ready For Its Closeup

Pete Hammond

Just as I hit the ground at the Nice airport today I ran smack into Jude Law, one of the main competition jury members of the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (under President Robert De Niro), and he looked rarin’ to go as he arrived for all the hoopla and non-stop filmgoing over the next 11 days. We’ll see what he feels like after plowing through the 20 competition films as well as those out of competition such as Wednesday night’s opener, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, and the closer, on May 22, Christophe Honore’s 2-hour and 25-minute Les Bien-Aimes (Beloved), the longest of any film in the official competition — competing or not.

Workers were busily attaching huge billboards up on the big Croisette hotels when I cruised the tony neighborhood earlier today, but the world’s second-most-famous red carpet won’t be laid out until midday tomorrow just before Woody, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson and the cast of the director’s first French-set film make their way up those famous Palais steps for his love letter to Paree. It was hoped that co-star Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, First Lady of France, would be coming too, but I heard she’s not making the trip after all and neither is her husband. C’est La Vie.

Up and down the Croisette you are bombarded as usual by Hollywood product being hyped on any available space. The new Transformers film from that auteur (NOT) Michael Bay got the hot spot at the Carlton entrance right next to a display for Disney/Pixar’s  Cars 2 on one side and Cowboys and Aliens on the other. Lording over them, though, are The Smurfs and all of those Pirates of the Caribbean, which plans to make a huge splash here Saturday as the prime-time film on one of the key nights of the fest. Star power will be in force, of course, with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz driving the paparazzi wild, which is just what Disney wants for its global launch of the film that premiered last week at Disneyland and makes another stop in Moscow before hitting the Cote d’Azur. Cannes, though a serious-minded haven for cineastes, doesn’t mind the attention either. Read More »

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Cannes To Be First Port For ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’

The 64th annual Cannes Film Festival doesn’t announce its Official Selection until Thursday, but the French daily Le Figaro is reporting that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment in the Disney franchise, will play at the fest May 14 — a move that would assure red-carpet appearances from Cannes favorites and Pirates stars Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. (The film’s world premiere is May 7 at Disneyland.) So far, the only announced movie in the lineup is Woody Allen’s opening-night film Midnight in Paris, set for May 11. Last month, Deadline confirmed that Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life will premiere on the Croisette, most likely in an out-of-competition slot. The festival runs May 11-22.

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Latest Trailer: ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean 4′

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Super Bowl Spot: ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’

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