OSCAR MOGULS: Rich Ross Q&A

The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:

WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
12 Nominations: 5 Toy Story 3, 3 Alice In Wonderland, 1 Tron: Legacy 3D, 1 The Tempest, 1 Tangled, 1 Day & Night

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: You’ve never done an Oscar campaign before. These weren’t even your movies. What was the biggest challenge you were facing?
RICH ROSS: For me to be able to support films that I didn’t greenlight was putting me in the brain of a marketer. I certainly knew I was lucky that I saw Alice In Wonderland before it was complete, and I saw Toy Story 3 way before it was complete. I think what made it very easy for me, in all honesty, was working with Tim Burton on Alice or working with John Lassiter — people who pour their heart and soul into these movies. And seeing how these movies both performed and were talked about and heralded is no less thrilling because I didn’t greenlight them. I see the faces of the people who win and you know they are thrilled. And that makes me happy. I would say that the most challenging situation was coming in and coming up with a strategy of support. At the same time you don’t have relationships which people have had for 20, 30, 40 years with the different organizations who determine the outcome of those races — people in the Directors Guild or people in the Producers Guild or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the National Board of Review. These are many, many organizations aside from the critics who are giving out kudos.

DEADLINE: But you had Oscar consultants.
ROSS: We already had Tony Angelotti on the animation side, and we had Kira Feola on the live action side. They’ve split up the responsibilities. And the late Ronni Chasen was working on Alice In Wonderland, too, because she had worked with the Zanucks for a very long time. So Dick had asked me if it was possible to bring in Ronni to help support the film, and of course to support the filmmaker we said sure.

DEADLINE: It must have been such a blow for everyone at Disney when she died.
ROSS: Well, it was beyond shocking because I saw her the night before and she was very much in the heat of the moment because she was very close with the Zanucks and so when it happened it was very tough.

DEADLINE: You’ve done plenty of Emmy campaigns. What is the difference do you think now?
ROSS: The Emmy campaign is so much more targeted because you’re really going for one group of people who are voting on that series of awards. The Oscar campaign difference is the diversity of the groups. You have to thread the needle. You are going from literally that first National Board of Review list through every critics group that are in Iowa and St. Louis to all the Guild groups til you get to the Oscar nomination and an Oscar win.

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about Alice in Wonderland first. It didn’t get a Best Picture nomination.
ROSS: My feeling on Alice was I knew going into it we had a proverbial issue of timing. Obviously, it made a billion dollars. But that doesn’t help you. It opened in March. So it was about getting people to remember what they saw. Aside from the problem of when they do see it, the No. 2 challenge is commercialism which seems to come up every year. Last year the ultimate was with Avatar vs The Hurt Locker where people felt Avatar already had its success because the box office was there. It’s not that it doesn’t get attention but it’s definitely a challenge in terms of people’s interpretation of the Awards season. And one of the curious things for me was Mia Wasikowska who was doing her first film and held together a $150 million plus film that made a billion dollars. And when people are talking about breakout stars, I would stand around talking about her, and they are like, ‘Really?’ Now she’s getting huge movies and I believe she will be a huge star. But to me that was the most curious.

DEADLINE: And then Tim Burton has been pretty much ignored by Oscar voters.
ROSS: I think he’s clearly at the top of his game. This was a giant year for him and I assume he wanted to be appreciated. I do believe that day will come before it has to be an honorary Oscar. And I don’t believe it will be a small movie, Nikki. I do believe it will be some substantial commercial film where people will say, ‘It’s about time.’ Read More »

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‘True Grit’ Beats ‘Little Fockers’ Yet Again; Box Office For Relativity Film Doesn’t Suck

SUNDAY AM: Knowing it was going to be a boring box office, I took off Saturday. First, I have zero interest in country music. Sony/Screen Gems’ Country Strong, which expanded into 1,424 theaters and made $7.3M in wider release, hitting the “high end” of the studio’s expectations, with a “B” CinemaScore. The only other tidbit of interest is that a Relativity genre movie finally had an opening that didn’t suck in even if audiences gave it only a “C+” CinemaScore and its budget was a too-big $40 million. This nonsense about medieval knights and witches, again something in which I have zero interest, did around $10.7 million for the weekend. Because all the bigwigs were at the Palm Springs Film Festival for The Fighter, the Relativity spin machine was keeping its other movie’s news under wraps – probably more used to handling losers at the box office.

Meanwhile Oscar-touted movies keep racking up bigger cumes. So how does Sony Pictures continue to remind awards voters about The Social Network when it was released way back in September? If you’re Jeff Blake, you decide to re-release the Facebook origins story in about 600 nationwide theaters this weekend to take advantage of all the critical acclaim and awards hype. And then launch the DVD on January 11th with more than 8 hours of bonus extras. But you also fete the fact that The Social Network will pass $200 million at the worldwide box office within the week. The Social Network has grossed more than $94 million in the U.S. after adding another $650K to its cume.

Here are the Top 10 grosses:

1. True Grit (Paramount) Week 3 [3,124 Theaters]
Friday $4.4M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $15M, Cume $110.4M

2. Little Fockers (Universal) Week 3 [3,675 Theaters]
Friday $4.2M, Saturday $6.3, Weekend $13.7M, Cume $127.9M

3. Season Of The Witch (Relativity) NEW [2,816 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $4.3M, Weekend $10.7M

This supernatural pic made with Atlas Entertainment had a too-big production budget of $40M although Relativity claims pre-sales and tax credits are estimated to cover “a minimum of 75% of that”. This one should earn out because box office combined with the foreign output deals and Relativity’s Netflix arrangement make this the first decent opening for the company in a long time. Somehow, Nicolas Cage (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure, Ghost Rider) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Hellboy II) got roped into this. As I said, audiences gave it only a “C+” CinemaScore, and exit polls showed its moviegoers were 52%/48% male vs female, 39%/61% under vs over age 25, and 31%/69% Caucasian vs non-Caucasian (including 36% Hispanic, 14% Asian, 10% African-American, and 9% Other).

4. Tron: Legacy 3D (Disney) Week 4 [3,013 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Weekend $9.8M, Cume $147.9M

The big news here is that the Disney action pic’s international is up to $143.2M (including $17.6M this weekend), as Tron: Legacy 3D opened strong in Italy this past week and is now in release in 43 territories representing 75% of the international market. It will soon expand to China, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France. New global cume is $291.1M which helps with that $170M budget and $120 worldwide marketing cost. 

5. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Week 6 [1,584 Theaters]
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $8.3M, Cume $61.4M

6. Country Strong (Screen Gems/Sony) Week [1,424 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3M, Weekend $7.3M, Cume $7.4M

Sony today said this “hit the high end of our expectations” as the Gwyneth Paltrow pic featuring lotsa country music stars expanded from its 2-theater platforming in Nashville and Los Angeles. Opening weekend exits had a core audience of women who made up 73% of ticket sales and 49% of those were under 30. The film earned a “B+” CinemaScore among women and a “B” overall.

7. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 5 [2,528 Theaters]
Friday $2M, Saturday $3M, Weekend $7M, Cume $57.8M

8. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co) Week 7 [758 Theaters]
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.8M, Weekend $6.8M, Cume $33.2M

9. Yogi Bear 3D (Warner Bros) Week 4 [3,288 Theaters]
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $6.8M, Cume $75.6M

10. Tangled (Disney) Week 7 [2,383 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $2.5M, Cume $5.2M, Cume $175.9M

This Disney juggernaut added another $26.3M from overseas and opened at #1 in all 10 of this weekend’s debut territories, including Australia, Brazil, Greece, New Zealand, Argentina, and Columbia. The film is currently in release in 43 territories representing approximately 55% of the international market.  Read More »

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NEW YEAR’S WEEKEND: ‘True Grit’ Gives #1 ‘Little Fockers’ A Run For The Money; Many Holiday Pics Grossing Big Overseas








SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE, HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Overall, the movie industry domestic box ended the … Read More »

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Wednesday: Holiday Box Office Grosses



THURSDAY AM: Here are unofficial numbers from my sources for Wednesday’s box office as the holidays continue. The Weinstein Co’s Blue Valentine opened in 4 theaters; the Derek Cianfrance film starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams logged an estimated opening … Read More »

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Tuesday: Holiday Box Office Update

WEDNESDAY AM: Here are unofficial numbers from my sources for Tuesday’s box office as the holidays continue. The Weinstein Co’s Blue Valentine (4 theaters), and Sony Pictures Classics’ Another Year (6 theaters) both open today. Christmas weekend actuals are here:

1. The Little Fockers (Universal) Week 1 [3,536 Theaters]
Monday $8.4M, Tuesday … Read More »

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Monday: Better Box Office Despite Blizzards

MONDAY PM/TUESDAY AM UPDATE: Here are unofficial numbers from my sources for Monday’s box office as the holidays continue. Christmas weekend actuals are here:

1. The Little Fockers (Universal) [3,536 Theaters]
Monday $8.3M, Cume $53.4M
2. True Grit (Paramount) … Read More »

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