ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, September 24, 2007

Art House Wars

So this is the time of year when the "good" movies come out, the ones that actually need strong reviews and to build word of mouth to really succeed.

The ones that open in a handful of theaters, usually in Los Angeles and New York. If they do well in those runs, they expand to more markets and theaters; if they don't, they quickly disappear, and show up three months later on DVD.

Sadly, one of the season's earliest casualities is John August's THE NINES, which despite some very good reviews just never found an audience. It won't be coming to a theater near you.

Currently, there are a lot of good and semi-good movies in art houses/prestige theaters, fighting to be the one to get its chance to jump to thousands of screens. This past weekend was a big test for many.

The biggest success was INTO THE WILD, which averaged over $51,000 per theater, in only 4 theaters.

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES averaged a solid $28,800 per theater, in 5 theaters.

Everything else pretty much tanked. There are a lot of movie corpses littering the landscape today.

EASTERN PROMISES expanded to 1404 theaters, and did $5.7 million, an average of just over $4000 per theater. Not terrible, but not good.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH expanded to 317 theaters, and only did about $1.3 million. Its chances of expanding much farther are pretty grim.

Headed for oblivion is THE HUNTING PARTY, which jumped from 40 to 329 theaters, but only averaged about $1000 per screen. Gone.

KING OF CALIFORNIA jumped from 5 to 18 screens, but only averaged $2000 per screen. Gone.

FIERCE PEOPLE jumped from 5 to 25 screens, but only averaged $1000 a screen. Gone.

DEDICATION jumped from 2 to 8 theaters, but only averaged about $1200. Gone.

Moderately more successful was ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, which did over $2 million in only 276 theaters, an average of over $7000 a theater. Still, that movie has gotten enough bad reviews to make its future prospects a bit dubious.

The same goes for THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, which opened in 25 theaters, but only averaged a little over $6000 per screen. Those aren't numbers that will get anyone excited.

****

Among the big openers, RESIDENT EVIL did a surprising $24 million. GOOD LUCK CHUCK did a solid $14 million. SYDNEY WHITE managed $5.3 million.

Look for all three to fall off big next weekend.

14 Comments:

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I think the biggest problem with some of these films is bad titles. Eastern Promises sounds like an E.M. Forster book and even I don't want to be involved in the Jane Austin book club.

I think the problem with the Nines, which I liked very much, is that there is no way to really explain what that film is about without giving away the ending so it's difficult to give someone and idea of what they're going to see.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

Who do we blame? Not the studios. I blame the audiences. Over the last twenty five years audiences have told the studios what they want to see, what they will see. That is why crap like Transformers could be (and was) a terrible movie and it will still make hundreds of millions of dollars. Into the Wild, Jesse James, and Eastern Promises are all terrific films, but combined won't probably make what Transformers did on its opening weekend.
Audiences just have to get smarter, and take more chances, with what they'll see.
What Emily is saying above me is sadly true. Audiences want to know everything about a film going in. They know Transformers isn't going to blow their minds on an intellectual level. They know what they're getting beforehand. And that is safe and comforting. To go see a movie with an undefined plot is scary. But blaming the titles is letting the audience off the hook. Plenty of successful films have bad titles.

 
At 6:47 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Emily, do you have any "alternative" title's in mind? Ut-oh, I gave the hamster in the wheel some cheese, should I duck and cover?

Saw, "Good Luck Chuck" over the weekend. Should have been called, "Good Luck, It Sucks." Very, very raunchy in spots. And unlike "40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked-Up or "Superabd, none of "Chuck's" raunch is funny. Biggest blunder in "Good Luck, It Sucks." and there are many to chose from, is the token (un) funny, side kick who has an ongoing stint trying to masterbate into a warm grapefuit. Gross and unfunny, time spent on that attempt at a gag was TOTAL WASTE OF FILM.

Okay after venting I feel A LITTLE better about the $9 bucks I wasted.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I haven't seen either of those two films so it would be impossible to come up with a more appropriate title, I just know that before I saw the press and previews for Eastern Promises I assumed it was a sensitive movie about lots of emotional women finding themselves. Now I've heard a lot about it and it sounds good. So yeah, marketing can overcome a bad title, but it's extra work you wouldn't have to do if you had a good title.

Anything with the word "book club" or "sisterhood" or "Jane Austin" could be the best movie ever, but there is no way my boyfriend is going to go see it even if he sees an explosion in the preview.

Okay maybe if he sees an explosion and some guns.

 
At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

The real person to blame here is me, because I'm not going to see any of the quality films Scott mentioned, not at a theater. I doubt I'm going near a theater any time in 2007.

I've had it with theaters. Allow me to expound.

I'm tired of commercials 20 minutes before the show. I'm tired of people talking during the movie. I'm tired of cell phones. I'm tired of paying $10 for a matinee. Even if the movie achieves Superbad level of quality, I'm tired of going to a theater.

The answer for me was once the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. They don't show commercials and are self policed. The problem is I've had challenges ordering tickets lately. My guilt made me consider that maybe the problem was with my web browser, but guest relations let me know that they have computer problems from time to time. Apparently only when I really want to go to the movies.

My dream is for theater managers to realize how few of their customers want to watch commercials and stop taking ad money. Since this is pie in the sky, they could at least start cracking down and throwing Emily's students out of the theater when they start yapping.

My apologies to Emily. I'm sure your students aren't the actual noise makers per se, but they sure share a resemblance.

I am willing to give a place like the Arclight the benefit of the doubt, but at this point, I wouldn't mind seeing every other multiplex bulldozed to the ground.

 
At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Joe,

I agree completely. Although the commercials don't bother me that much, I can see how they are an annoyance. You know what bothers me? People, normally teenagers but not always, that text others while watching a movie. It's a dark theater, and that obnoxious cell phone light is always in my line of sight. But what I've noticed is there is less of a problem when I go to an art film.

The people in an art house audience seem more interested in watching the film. I also try to find times that are less busy, like an early matinee. I don't live in LA though, so maybe it's always busy there.

I worked at a theater for a long time, and believe me, the managers couldn't careless about the movie going experience. Sad, but true. I was a projectionist and was appalled at the lack of effort put forth by the management to create a good movie going experience.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

Matt -

blaming the audience is the most preposterous thing I have heard in a long time. Thanks for that.

People won't take a chance on something that will end up costing them a lot of money - which going to the cinema these days IS a lot of money. If someone goes to the movies these days - they want SPECTACLE not quiet ruminations on niche subject matter.

Don't blame the beer drinkers because they don't like wine. You want people to go see art films? Make them affordable. Give the audience the tools, the hooks necessary to entice them into the theater.

And don't blame TRANSFORMERS because the movies YOU like didn't do well.

 
At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

"blaming the audience is the most preposterous thing I have heard in a long time. Thanks for that."

You're welcome. Now if only you could come up with an arguement that isn't ludicrous to back that up.



"People won't take a chance on something that will end up costing them a lot of money - which going to the cinema these days IS a lot of money. If someone goes to the movies these days - they want SPECTACLE not quiet ruminations on niche subject matter. "


Exactly my point. They want spectacle because then they dont' have to think. God forbid somebody pay some money to have their mind tested a bit. Thank you for making my point. This is the same society that doesn't read anymore.

"Don't blame the beer drinkers because they don't like wine. You want people to go see art films? Make them affordable. Give the audience the tools, the hooks necessary to entice them into the theater."

So, art house movies should cost less then big budget movies? That hardly seems fair. Yeah, let's make it that much tougher for the indie guys to make a profit. If people wanted to see something stimulating, like Jesse James, they would. It's not about the money. It's that they want something spoon fed to them.


"And don't blame TRANSFORMERS because the movies YOU like didn't do well."

Some of the movies I like did very well. I liked Knocked Up, and The Bourne movie. I don't blame Transformers, as I said, I blame audiences for going to see it and everything like it. They should have handed out Tylenol at the conclusion of every showing of Transformers.

You should know, if you're going to label somebodies post as preposterous, you should back it up with something.

It's simple math. Audiences won't pay to see smart films like Zodiac, or arty films like Jesse James, or obscure movies like The Nines. It's the reason that possibly the best movie Tom Cruise has ever made (Magnolia) had one of his lowest box office totals.

Thanks for the laugh though.

 
At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EC -

Could you be any more of an idiot? Seriously.

And a lot of arthouse films don't get an audience because they're too focused on being important and forget that people want to be entertained as well.

 
At 1:47 PM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

I think the biggest problem with art house is that it's not keeping up with the MTV generation.

The 18-35 demo is used to Ecstasy (like GO for John) and hot dancing (every video on MTV).

If you make a modern movie and throw in some Prada or Manolos, you can get the females of the demo.

Throw in a bong or a beer party and the males will come. I guess it shows that IMAGES are everything.

A tattooed Russian in Britain won't do it. Writers looking for critical acclaim write like reviewers don't like fun, modern themes and images, like BlackBerry's and midriff T-shirts.
Juno is a good example. Just looking at Sydney White, it seems too "safe."

It's one thing to celebrate the virginal woman, it's another to do it in a convent.

As writer's we have to take chances. Break the mold. Do the unexpected, etc.

I mean you can wander around Times Square bars and see Heigl and Rogen stumble over each other.

But at the same time you will see Jane Austen sipping a SnakeBite with a sheer spandex skirt and cleavage.

It's 2007. Slip a fart joke into that heartfelt drama.

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

I agree about the need to be entertained, but can't the bar be raised a bit on what is entertaining? I love a good action film, and I love thrillers. But something like Transformers was mind numbing. I took a bathroom break just to get away for a minute.
Plenty of art house films are entertaining, but in different ways. They don't jolt you with loud crashes and lame fight sequences every thirty seconds. Is that all that is entertaining these days?
If so, it makes me very sad.
Next up we will probably see No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Reservation Road get buried under the box office of another Tim Allen/John Travolta road trip comedy. Oh, the hilarity.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

I don't blame Transformers, as I said, I blame audiences for going to see it and everything like it. They should have handed out Tylenol at the conclusion of every showing of Transformers.

Matt -

You seem to have this view that anything that has a commercial appeal to an audience it's made for is somehow evil or bad.

You have yet to provide any of us with detail as to why your films are worth seeing except for the fact that they are "smarter" than TRANSFORMERS.

And you completely missed my point - I think ALL movies should be cheaper. Lower the hurdle and people will experiment more - see things they don't normally venture toward. The fact is that moviegoing these days is an economic decision as much as it is an artistic one. That's wrong.

I don't begrudge any indie from making a buck, but you can't sell me on seeing arthouse movies simply with the idea they are somehow more "important" than TRANSFORMERS. That's not salesmanship or marketing - that's snobbery.

 
At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

"You seem to have this view that anything that has a commercial appeal to an audience it's made for is somehow evil or bad. "


Uh, once again, no. I like plenty of action oriented movies. Just recently, the Bourne franchise, the first two Spidey movies, Batman, Knocked Up, among many others. Try again.


"You have yet to provide any of us with detail as to why your films are worth seeing except for the fact that they are "smarter" than TRANSFORMERS. "

Do I need to? Was I asked to? It's a really difficult thing to explain anyway. I like them because they challenge me, they make me see the world in a new way, they can be exciting, mysterious. There is more going on in them than how big an explosion we get to see. It's not that difficult to figure out why people like movies, except for Michael Bay movies. That I don't get.



"I don't begrudge any indie from making a buck, but you can't sell me on seeing arthouse movies simply with the idea they are somehow more "important" than TRANSFORMERS. That's not salesmanship or marketing - that's snobbery."

I just blew a snot bubble. That bubble alone is more important than Transformers.

Do you intentionally miss the point? Good God trying to get through to some people is impossible. My point isn't, and never was, that people shouldn't enjoy their popcorn movies. I know I do. I was there opening day for Spiderman 3. But most people don't strike a balance. They'll only go see the silly Adam Sandler, but won't go near Punch Drunk Love. They'll see Saw 15, but won't go near Zodiac. They'll see every dumbass horror film that gets spewed out, but won't see anything with subtitles. I'm sorry if you're not enough of a movie fan to notice this, and be bothered by it.

Do you understand now? Do I need to say for the fifth time that I love a lot of mainstream action films, or did you get that this time?

I'm not really interested in you agreeing with me. I know I'm right on the issue, because it is basic common sense.

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Laura Reyna said...

Yeah, there needs to be a balance. Popcorn movies need to be smarter & more challenging. Art house movies need to be more entertaining and less self-important.

Few movies strike that balance.


And I agree w/ Emily about the title thing. Eastern Promises is a dumb title. I keep forgetting its the Viggo/Cronenberg film. I keep thinking it's a Chinese soap opera.

And I also refuse to see anything with Jane Austen or sisterhood in the title. And I'm a chick.

When will these people figure out that women won't go see lame, boring, predictable movies about themselves?

Give them something good & EXCITING and they'll go see it.

 

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