EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Tambakis, who teamed with Gavin O’Connor and Cliff Dorfman to write the underrated film Warrior, has sold his novel Swimming With Bridgeport Girls to Simon & Schuster for spring 2013 publication. This comes at a time when Tambakis …
Big Media 3Q Corporate Earnings Roundup: Are CEOs Really Worried About Recession? Or Just Looking For Convenient Excuse?
Three months ago, when Big Media CEOs wrapped up their 2Q earnings, they were still relentlessly upbeat about the business. Any worries about the economy? Not then. But the messages they delivered over the past few weeks, as they discussed 3Q, were different. Although they’re still optimistic — remember, they’re paid to be salesmen — now and then you could hear expressions of concern about where things are headed. It stood out when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted that “ad sales growth will face some headwinds.” Other CEOs who are known for speaking bluntly warned that other shocks may bedevil the business. For example, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that his satellite company — and others in pay TV — have to fight harder against rising programming costs because “there’s a limit to the price increases that could be passed on to consumers.” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt warned that premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz “are clearly impacted by the economy as consumers try to cut back.” Either they’re genuinely worried, or they want a scapegoat to blame for things that are going bad, or may soon do so. Whatever the case, we can expect to hear a lot more about the economy when it’s time for the post-mortem on the all-important 4Q earnings.
As for industry performance matters, parents of movie studios had their usual mixed results to brag about or explain away: Time Warner benefitted from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Viacom was up on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And News Corp beat its chest about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: First Class. But Disney’s Cars 2 was no match for last year’s Toy Story 3. Comcast’s Universal Pictures had nothing to compare to last year’s Despicable Me. Lionsgate suffered from Conan The Barbarian and Warrior. And DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t contribute as much in the quarter as Shrek Forever After did in the same period last year.
Over at the TV networks, Comcast’s NBC underperformed the Street’s already modest expectations. Execs at almost all the companies were eager to talk about the cash they expect to collect soon from political ads — as well as their favorite new ATM machines: retransmission consent deals and digital streamers including Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings once again tried to reassure investors that he’s focused on “building back our reputation and brand strength” after his decision in July to slap a 60% price increase on customers who wanted to continue to rent DVDs and stream videos. In 3Q Netflix lost 57.7% of its market value and 800,000 subscribers. And since that customer loss was bigger than projected, Netflix shares continued to fall — they’re now down 67.3% since July 1.
Here are some other themes from the latest earnings reports:
Ad sales: They’s good, but for how long? Most television networks report that scatter prices are comfortably above the upfront market from this past summer. CBS chief Les Moonves says prices in 4Q are up by “mid-teens” on a percentage basis, while Discovery says it sees least high single digit percentages. But Disney’s Bob Iger noted that scatter prices have “slowed slightly these last few weeks.” Kurt Hall of National CineMedia — the leading seller of ads in movie theaters — was far more direct when he spoke to analysts after ratcheting down his company’s financial forecasts. “I’m sure that the broadcast and cable guys are sitting there now counting their lucky stars they got their upfront done before August,” he told analysts. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
The film and TV company had a net loss of $24.6M, an improvement from its $29.7M loss in the quarter last year, on revenues of $358.1M, down 21.5%. That revenue figure was far below the $421.5M that analysts expected. And the net loss, at 18 cents a share, was below the 13 cent loss the Street had forecast. The bottom line could have looked even worse: Lionsgate included the $11.0M it collected from its sale of Maple Pictures. The company also was able to add $6.1M from its 31.2% stake in EPIX vs a $19.8M loss from last year’s quarter. Lionsgate says that it suffered from “underperformance of theatrical films in the quarter” — where releases included the Conan The Barbarian remake, Warrior, and Abduction – as well as “timing of DVD releases which offset gains in the Company’s television and digital businesses.” The movie operation generated $218.9M in revenues, down 36%.
Participant Media Can Boast ‘Contagion’ #1 & ‘The Help’ #2; ‘Warrior’ #3 Disappoints; ‘Bucky Larson’ Bombs; Kevin Hart Still #10?
SATURDAY PM: This is shaping up as 2011′s lousiest box office weekend in North America with only $70M total grosses. Yes, even worse than Hurricane Irene’s. A lot of surprises in this weekend’s numbers and a fuller analysis is coming. But no surprise which new North American movie is No. 1:
1. With $8M Friday and +20% for $9.7M Saturday, it’s a $24M weekend for Warner Bros’ Contagion playing in 42% more theaters — 3,222 — than its nearest newcomer. This Participant Media-backed disease movie looked like yet another yikes-you’re-all-going-to-die formula pic. But I’m surprised it didn’t generate more appeal what with Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh directing 6 Academy Award winners or nominees: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne. (Readers are urging me to include Oscar-honored John Hawke and Elliott Gould as well…) That added oomph to credited screenplay writer Scott Burns’ material. “Yes, it was important to be provocative and to scare people,” a Warner Bros exec tells me about the $60M-budget pic. “But both the print and trailer and TV campaign present a more well-rounded view of the mystery. We did sell the visceral experience — a smart and thrilling look at a killer virus, the science behind it, and the aftermath.” Warner Bros took the film to Venice to solid reviews and conducted an aggressive consumer campaign. Besides, adult movies are working at the box office.
2. Entering its 5th weekend in release, DreamWorks/Disney’s hit dramedy The Help which is also backed by Participant Media made $2.7M Friday and $4M Saturday going to $9.4M from 2,935 locations for the weekend. It’s estimated new cume of $137.8M by Monday.
3. This seemingly anticipated mixed martial arts drama Warrior starring Tom Hardy (Bane in the next Batman) and Joel Edgerton was only released for 1,869 runs. It opened with $1.8M Friday and $2.1M Saturday for what was just a dismal $4.8M weekend. Another very disappointing opening for Lionsgate which was very high on this actioner. Did last weekend’s sneaks let some wannasee steam escape? Will this hurt Hardy whom Hollywood execs consider a hot soon-to-be-star?
4. Focus Features’ adult holdover The Debt earned $1.4M Friday (-45% from a week ago) from 1,874 theaters and a projected $4.5M weekend for an estimated $21.6M cume by Monday.
5. Sony Pictures’ holdover Colombiana made $1.1M Friday and $1.9M Saturday from 2,354 runs for a $4M weekend and $29.8M cume.
But I have it on good authority that Sony execs were hiding out at the Toronto Film Festival (where better-than-expected Moneyball officially premiered Friday night) rather than get tagged by its Columbia Pictures’ R-rated Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star which had one of the most annoying TV ad campaigns I’ve ever been assaulted by. Mercifully, its box office take was miniscule: $540K Friday and $570K Saturday for only a $1.2M weekend. That wasn’t even enough to make it into the Top 10 much less Sony’s hoped-for $4M. Fortunately the budget is purportedly just $10M. Usually Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production banner gives Sony box office gold: stupid pics popular with audiences. But this was fool’s gold.
Before I give you the rest of the Top 10, you should know that Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain was No. 10 Friday despite Hartbeat Productions and Codeblack Entertainment releasing it into only 99 theaters. It opened to $758K Friday and an estimated weekend of $2M. But it may ultimately be beaten by The Weinstein Co’s Spy Kids 4D. (I’ll know Sunday AM.) Hart’s fans turned out for this profanity-filled film version of his recent stand-up tour. It offers less than an hour of Hart onstage but also includes such bonus footage as Hart touring his old neighborhood in Philadelphia and faking a bank heist. Directed by Leslie Small, this 1-hour, 28-minute pic and its entry into the Top 10 now establishes Hart as a bonafide star beyond just his YouTube videos which have drawn tens of millions of views. Look for the major studios to take notice.
This Labor Day box office, The Weinstein Co opens Dimension Films’ Apollo 18 in 3,328 theaters while Relativity Media chums Shark Night 3D in 2,806 locations. But also Disney/Pixar is expanding the run of Cars 2 this Friday for special end-of-summer return engagements at a total of 2,043 theaters. (The …
Deadline Comic-Con Movie Contributor Luke Y Thompson reports:
It’s the story every media outlet is dying to tell every year: “Comic-Con just ain’t what it used to be.” This year, however, the event — set for July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center — comes with some alarmist (and circumstantial) evidence: Warner Bros won’t be doing a movie presentation. Marvel Studios won’t be either, even though the tiniest teaser for The Avengers last year made for the most memorable panel. Disney initially appeared absent too. So what’s going on? Did the failure of Scott Pilgrim to triumph at the box office following a massive Con promotion last year leave studios leery?
Well, you’d think if that were the case, Universal would feel the most burned — yet they’re doubling down by holding the premiere of Cowboys and Aliens there, inviting many of the fans to attend; one would imagine the big names like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig will at least attend.
Disney, which now owns the Muppets and Marvel Studios, is likely saving those properties for its own D23 Expo in Anaheim toward the end of August. They are, however, bringing the DreamWorks pickup Fright Night to Comic-Con (in presentation and screening form) — notably, this is a movie that will open Aug. 19, the same day the D23 Expo begins, so it makes sense to hype it sooner. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are the big names attending; curiously, the publicity has consistently downplayed the presence of former Doctor Who star David Tenant, and he has not been mentioned as attending, though he’d be given a hero’s welcome if he did.
Warner Bros’ lack of a movie panel may largely be due to the fact that the next Superman and Batman movies aren’t ready to show much yet — Man of Steel star Henry Cavill will be there, but on behalf of Relativity’s Immortals (also Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke; director Tarsem Singh is not currently expected). Certainly WB is showing a ton of TV previews, but I’ll leave that to my colleague Gary Hodges to discuss. The biggest question mark in my mind is what Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly will put on the cover of their Comic-Con issue now: traditionally, it’s been a big reveal from a Warners movie.
The biggest name being batted about right now as a possibility is Steven Spielberg, to present footage from his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Certainly, a Tintin presentation would be wise, as the teaser has left many (myself included) highly skeptical. The fanbase needs persuading, and since it’s Spielberg, there’s probably at least one kickass scene that can get people hyped. But Paramount’s still playing things close to the vest — when I asked a publicist there about Comic-Con plans, I was told “It’s uncertain what or if we’re bringing anything.” That’s not a denial. And there has been talk of a Captain America screening — whether that translates into an actual panel is uncertain, as the regular press junkets and such will already be in full swing for the movie, opening that week.
Lionsgate has issued a trailer for Warrior, a film written and directed by Miracle and Pride and Glory helmer Gavin O’Connor that seems to have a bit of familial spirit of The Fighter, transplanted to the world of mixed martial arts. It’s the story of battling brothers played by Tom …