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.
Sony Pictures’ strong performance in the quarter that ended in June stood out as the corporation reported a net loss of $191M on revenues of $18.5B, down 10% vs. the same period last year. Sony attributed the decline to the effects of this year’s earthquake and tsunami as well as lower-than-expected sales of TV sets and other consumer electronics. As a result, Sony lowered its net profit forecast for the year ending March 2012 by 25% to $771M.
Home video sales for The Green Hornet, Battle: Los Angeles, and Just Go With It as well as television ad revenues from India contributed to the $1.78B fiscal 1Q for Sony Pictures. The company says that the unit delivered $53M in operating profit, up 50.4% vs. the same period last year. Results were somewhat muddled at Sony Music due to currency exchange issues. Its profits were 61.4% to $149M on sales of $1.35B, down 0.6%. But the company says the slight drop is largely due to the appreciation of the yen vs the U.S. dollar. Factoring that out, the music operation’s sales were up 7%. Best sellers for the quarter included recordings from the TV show Glee, Adele’s 21, Beyonce’s 4, and Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light.
EXCLUSIVE: FX is sticking to its strategy of buying marquee movies with the recent purchase of the TV rights to six films, all of which opened at No. 1 at the box office. The list includes Disney’s Tron: Legacy, which has grossed $171.6 million domestically; Sony’s The Green Hornet, which has cleared $97.5 million to date; Screen Gems’ The Roommate, whose current domestic haul stands at $37.2; Sony’s Just Go With It, starring basic-cable-friendly Adam Sandler ($94 million to date); Paramount’s animated Rango ($68 million after 10 days of release), directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp; and the current box-office champ, Sony’s Battle: Los Angeles, which opened with $35.6 million this past weekend. The six films will begin their run on FX in early to mid-2013. Their license fees are said to be 10%-12% of their domestic box-office range.
FX started to systematically target for acquisition No.1 box-office movies a couple of years ago, with the first wave of those movies recently starting to make their way to the network’s lineup. Year-to-date, FX’s primetime movies have averaged 934,000 viewers in the adults 18-49 category, up 28% from last year. The movies outperformed the average for FX’s primetime lineup, which is up 20% from 2010. (In addition to movies, FX airs original programming and Two and a Half Men reruns in primetime.) FX’s most recent premiere of Madagascar 2 on Friday night drew 1.1 million viewers in 18-49, with …
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Yes, I went AWOL from Friday night’s North American box office. But can you blame me? With these two pics opening this Super Bowl weekend?
UPDATE: So Sony Pictures spinmeisters respond: “Clint Culpepper is one of the most successful executives in this industry. The film over performed. He makes genre movies and he makes them well. Easy A was one of the best films of the year. What was mysoginistic about that, or Burlesque or Country Strong or Dear John. And if strong women characters at the center of two very popular franchises (Resident Evil and Underworld) is somehow demeaning to women, I would love to understand why.”
Increasingly, Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems has become the Odd Lots of movie divisions: you never know what you’re going to find there, but you know it’s cheap crap. Worse, Clint Culpepper is one misogynist dude when it comes to picking plots: it’s always woman getting victimized in horror movies or most recently women fighting woman, ad nauseum. Obsessed, Burlesque, and now The Roommate, the blatant rip-off of Single White Female and every uber-bad Lifetime movie about deranged college girls starring Tori Spelling or Shannon Dougherty. Seriously, Clint, this is how you counter-program Super Bowl weekend? SERIOUSLY? Worse, this pic doesn’t even feature two legitimate stars: instead, it’s B-level TV actors Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights) and Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl). Even the parent company is embarrassed by this drek: the execs can’t even bring themselves to give me pre-release briefings on Screen Gems stuff anymore. All they would tell me is, “We counter programmed Super Bowl weekend with a title appealing to teen girls/young women as we have done so successfully in the past with Screen Gems titles during the Super Bowl frame.” They claim the movie overperformed and was only supposed to make between $10M and $12M this weekend. Oh, and they say it cost $16M which means the pic nearly grossed its negative cost during the first three days of release and became the 8th film since 2001 that Sony has opened to #1 during Super Bowl Weekend. The film played stronger to females and overall the film skewed younger, with 65% of the opening weekend audience female and 61% under age 21.
Relativity and Universal did what they could to market James Cameron’s connection to Sanctum 3D and the fact that he exec produced it. But the public didn’t buy it: they want him directing before they turn out in droves. Good thing Universal and Relativity claim they paid only around $12 million for the flick, which Uni also opened day and date in the UK and Australia and earned $3.1M, and debuting in New Zealand on February 17, and Japan on April 22nd. I really thought this film could connect because it used the same 3D techniques which Cameron used in Avatar, only this time the film and the technology took audiences into the furthest reaches of the subterranean world. But the story for this so-called action thriller was weak, as evidenced by only a “C+” CinemaScore. According to exit polling, moviegoers were 47% male vs. 53% female, and 35% under age 30 years vs. 65% over age 30. Of the theater count, 178 ran the film in Digital 3D Imax which accounted for 17% of the gross.
1. The Roommate (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [2,534 Theaters]
Friday $6.4M, Saturday $6.8M, Weekend $15.6M
2. Sanctum 3D (Relativity/Universal) NEW [2,787]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $4.4M, Weekend $9.2M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Rentrak is having system issues so box office will be a bit late today. But Paramount was so worried about its No Strings Attached being a stinker that the studio didn’t even bother to give me a pre-release briefing. I don’t necessarily blame them: any movie starring Ashton Kutcher is probably a bomb since his last one — PG-13 Killers with Katherine Heigl — opened to only $15.8M for Lionsgate. And rom-coms, especially sexy R-rated ones (Ed Zwick’s Love And Other Drugs which opened to only $9.7M for Fox with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal) have been stillborn at the North American box office with this caliber of star. But No Strings Attached surprised at the box office, not only coming in No. 1 but with a decent $20.3M. Exit polls showed 70% of the audience was female, meaning it should be the least affected by football on Sunday. As for CinemaScore, 40% of those aged under 25 gave the film an “A-” while 60% over 25 scored it a “B”.
This $25 million-cost movie started out as a Black List script titled Fuckbuddies and written by Elizabeth Merriwether. Natalie Portman came on board as a producer and star for Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock’s The Montecito Picture Company, which co-financed in partnership with Coldspring and Paramount’s usual partner Spyglass Entertainment.
Natalie is hot after her Oscar-worthy transformative performance in Black Swan and now finds herself with 2 movies in this weekend’s Top 6. And perhaps risking overexposure because of her new pics opening in January, February, April, and May. Anyway, the pic took advantage of being the only wide opening this weekend and may hang on for $20M. (Remember, it took Ron Howard’s Dilemma starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James 4 days to even make that over the MLK long holiday.) The film had been tracking strong with 20-year-old females whom Paramount pursued aggresively not with traditional newspaper ads but instead with a big Facebook push of a sexy Red Band trailer. Meanwhile, Sony’s The Green Hornet 3D and Universal’s aforementioned Dilemma look to drop more than -35% each this weekend. Here’s the Top 10:
1. No Strings Attached (Paramount) NEW [3,018 Theaters]
Friday $7.3M, Saturday $8.2M, Weekend $20.3M
2. The Green Hornet 3D (Sony) Week 2 [3,584 Theaters]
Friday $5.1M, Saturday $8.7M, Weekend $18.1M (-31%), Cume $63.4M
3. The Dilemma (Universal) Week 2 [2,943 Theaters]
Friday $3M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $9.9M (-33%), Cume $33.5M
4. The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co) Week 9 [1,680 Theaters]
Friday $2.1M, Saturday $3.9M, Weekend $9.1M, Cume $58.6M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: This was a tough weekend at the box office for one new major studio tentpole opening on a long Martin Luther King weekend but not for another which met the lower end of expectations. The 4-day holiday overall is looking -25% down from last year’s:
1. The Green Hornet 3D (Sony Pictures) NEW [3,584 Theaters]
Friday $11.1M, Saturday $12.7M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $34M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $40.5M
Saturday’s take was up +15% from Friday’s, which relieved Sony fears tonight. It seemed a miracle that this much bad-buzzed big movie that’s a modern adaptation of the old radio series about the legendary action duo – Britt Reid (with the unorthodox casting of Seth Rogen) and his resourceful Kato (with Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou) not to mention their coolly equipped The Black Beauty – was tracking very well for weeks now. But then rival studios emailed me Friday that The Green Hornet was surprisingly underperforming. Sony execs disagreed. They said things could have been worse at the box office Friday but the West Coast was “pushing it way up” with late shows. And just as they predicted, Saturday’s number jumped. Friday’s post midnight screenings were light — $550K on 700 plays — because Sony didn’t push them. Meanwhile, The Green Hornet earned a “B+” CinemaScore overall but an ”A-” among audience members under age 25. The audience skewed male (61%) vs female (39%) and age was evenly split over and under 25 (50%).
The debut is the 2nd highest opening ever for a film ever released during the 4-day holiday weekend in January and the …
Over the past two years, Universal Pictures learned some hard lessons about adult dramas when high-priced films State of Play, Robin Hood, Duplicity and Green Zone failed to catch on with domestic audiences. This weekend, the studio will deliver some clarity on the immediate future of the adult comedy, when Universal opens The Dilemma, the Ron Howard-directed buddy comedy pairing Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. The film goes up against The Green Hornet, a 3D picture whose horrible Comic-Con buzz has turned been turned around by Sony Pictures Entertainment, which smartly moved the film out of the holiday corridor and repackaged it from a Seth Rogen pseudo-superhero film into a two-hander buddy comedy that happens to be about a superhero.
Insiders at Universal still like their chances with The Dilemma, which despite its PG-13 rating is chasing an adult audience. In Universal’s favor: James has become a comic star, and Vaughn has delivered in adult comedies Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up and Couples Retreat, all of which turned in domestic gross north of $100 million (a number that would make The Dilemma a win). The studio is also bullish because The Dilemma came in at around a $70 million budget, with a gross outlay somewhere in the 20% range. That gives The Dilemma a chance that Jim Brooks’ How Do You Know didn’t have, because its budget was just too high, at a reported $120 million. Brooks’ film opened at $7.5 million. …
The Sony film will be released on January 14. It stars Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz and newcomer Jay Chou and is directed by Michel Gondry. Take a look:
Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con for Deadline:
Seth Rogen comes out. “I’m sorry if you were expecting Ryan Reynolds” (who’s in Warner Bros’ Green Lantern.) Introduces footage that expands on the trailer we’ve seen, where Rogen plays a drunken newspaper heir whose father dies suddenly, and becomes a hero when his father’s Asian chauffeur Kato (Jay Chou, stepping in for Bruce Lee) turns out to be an expert in combat. New scenes include Kato removing a beer bottle cap in such a way that it flies like a bommerang… Rogen saying that Kato’s autobiography should be called ‘Balls Deep In Shit-Kickin’ Dudes,’… Kato insisting on “no tights” … Rogen deciding his hero identity should be “the green bee,” which a room full of friends agree is lame (they prefer “hornet” though he still tries to put it to a vote and get “bee”)… Christoph Waltz yelling “Nothing green should survive the night!”… Rogen accidentally shooting himself with gas gun (next thing he knows, he’s out for 31 days)… This clip was not in 3-D.
FRIDAY, JULY 23
STAR WARS DAY (This is a meaningless appellation unless and until George Lucas sees fit to say or do anything regarding the proposed live-action TV series.)
Luke Y Thompson covers Hollywood events at the Con for Deadline:
10:15-11:15 AM: Aloha, Earth! Have you heard they’re doing a new HAWAII FIVE-O TV show? Do you care? Well, you might want to attend the panel anyway, as the show’s executive producers are STAR TREK/TRANSFORMERS scribes Orci and Kurtzman, the director of the pilot is UNDERWORLD’s Len Wiseman, and it stars Daniel Dae Kim (LOST) and Grace Park (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). Sure, they’ll try to steer the discussion toward this new show rather than talk about what you actually want them to talk about, but it’s a chance to see ‘em all at once anyway. Room 6BCF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Star Wars Day: Hasbro Panel. If you’re at Comic-Con, chances are you’ve owned STAR WARS toys at some point. Wanna see some new ones? This is the place. Room 7AB
11:00 AM-1:00 PM: Comic-Con How-To Session: Costuming with Sabrina Belly Dancer. From the official schedule: “Sabrina will show how to create a costume bra top for hall costumes or a masquerade performance.” In saying that, it has practically guaranteed that all the creepy raincoat dudes will come out of the woodwork for this one. Room 18
11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Mattel and DC Comics: A Heroic Partnership. Fans of action-figure collecting love Mattel’s DC superhero toys, and hate how hard …
Summit Entertainment joins the phalanx of studios bringing film footage and star casts to the geek altar that is Comic-Con. Summit, which for the past two years has brought its Twilight Saga cast to the event, this time herds the cast of its two upcoming action offerings, Red and Drive Angry 3D. Red stars Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban and Mary Louise Parker, director Robert Schwentke and graphic novel writer Warren Ellis will debut the film’s trailer and appear on a panel on July 22. The following day, Summit will assemble the Drive Angry 3D cast of Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner and director Patrick Lussier will debut footage from the 3D shot film about a vengeful father who hunts down the people who killed his family.
Among the other studios that are planning big events at Comic-Con, Disney is highlighting Tron Legacy, and is expected to mount a big spectacle (last year they recreated Flynn’s Arcade, which figured in the original film and the sequel); Sony will make a fuss about The Green Hornet; Warner Bros is expected to vamp the Zack Snyder-directed Sucker Punch and Harry Potter; Universal will be pressing the case for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World; Paramount has the Marvel Studios pic Thor. DreamWorks Animation is expected to show something from Megamind, and other studios are still making last minute plans for the San Diego event that begins July 21.
Here’s a new trailer for The Green Hornet, which debuts 3D in January. Cool trailer, sure. But having grown up watching action films with badass protagonists like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, even Brian Bosworth and Jeff Speakman, I’ve got a question about this trailer (and the one for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World): Am I the only one having trouble buying Seth Rogen and Michael Cera as action stars? What happened to the days when the heroes could wipe the floor with everyone in the theater? I’m not sure Rogen and Cera could clean house against the matinee audiences for Toy Story 3. The jury is still out on Adrien Brody for Predators, though at least he seems to have undergone a vigorous aerobics regimen. Is this an apocalyptic sign for the genre?