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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Weekend Box Office #108

Let's just jump right in:

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2735 theaters). This is the first movie that has sparked my interest in a while, just because I like funny R-rated movies and the cast is solid. I think it'll do well; call it $18.8 million opening weekend.

THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY (2652 theaters). I have no idea why they are opening this movie so wide, because I have no idea why anyone would drop $10-plus to see it in a theater. There are no name actors, the title sounds like a dull basic cable movie, and it's a horror-thriller rated PG-13. They are advertising it a lot; I don't think it'll help much. $4.4 million for the weekend.

CHANGELING (1850 theaters, expanding from 15). It definitely has a pedigree, but reviews have been very mixed, and apparently it just ultimately isn't all that great. It'll probably do about $8.2 million for the weekend, then drop like a rock.

ROCKNROLLA (826 theaters, up from 19). Just not enough of a hook to draw more than core fans of Guy Ritchie's earlier, similar movies. $1.5 million.


My writing continues solidly. Today will be day 11 of writing at least an hour.

I am dealing with the weird moral conundrum of writing a violent movie (albeit one with a solid story and characters) that I wouldn't actually want members of my family to see.

My wife says that if this is ever made, she's just going to tell her mother that I edited it.

Oh well. I'm just going to write the hell out of it, and let the chips fall where they may.

Monday, October 27, 2008

When Everything Snaps Into Place

So after an unfocused summer in which I completely lost touch with my write-for-an-hour-a-day mantra, it's back on again.

Today will be Day 7.

And something surprising happened over the weekend. I'm still working on my dark thriller, and I always had a basic roadmap for where it was going; I just hadn't worked out the specifics of the journey.

I've been bringing 20-page chunks into group, and after some false starts I figured out a few things.

But all my character brainstorming last week broke the logjam. On Friday night, I found myself writing (in longhand) what happens beat by beat in the second half.

Yesterday I fleshed out a major subplot. And it's all working. It's all there.

Sick and disturbing, but there.

Now I just have to write it. An hour a day. Won't take that long.

Feeling good.


High School Musical 3 made an estimated $42 million over the weekend. I guarantee that brains at Disney are churning trying to figure out how to get them all left back at school for another year.

Saw V made a very strong $30.5 million. More good news for me, because tonally my new script is more than a little Saw-like, for better or worse.

Pride and Glory limped in with about $6.3 million, about what I predicted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weekend Box Office #107

Young adult audiences should be happy this week. Audiences looking for good grown-up fare? Not so much.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR (3623 theaters). This is the first one to play in actual theaters, the wanna-see factor among audiences of a certain age should be huge, and if the Miley Cyrus concert movie made a ton, this should do well too. Prediction: $36.1 million for the weekend.

SAW V (3060 theaters). Of course, the cool kids will buy tickets for the G-rated HSM3, and then sneak into this. $19.8 million.

PRIDE & GLORY (2585 theaters). This has been on the shelf for a little while, reviews haven't been all that excited, and ultimately it looks like the kind of thing you can see on cable TV. They are advertising this a lot, but I don;t think Ed Norton and Colin Ferrell are really all that much of a draw. $6.1 million.

CHANGELING opens in 15 theaters, and is getting good reviews. Opening in 9 theaters is the weird SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scariest Title I've Seen On a Script This Week

"Untitled Rob Schneider Project".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All Hail the Character Bio

So I've been wrestling with a fairly high-concept thriller for the past few months.

My script group is both helpful and unhelpful in this respect. It's helpful because deadlines are keeping me writing.

It's unhelpful because I've been fairly busy otherwise, so writing time that should have been geared toward brainstorming the basics of my script were instead focused on churning out pages before they were ready to be churned out.

Which is a helpful process in and of itself. Knocking out pages, and getting great feedback on what's working and what isn't, has really helped me figure out the essence of the first 45 pages of the script here, which is all I have written so far -- though I know where the script is going, in general.

But those 45 pages still need reworking.

So the last two days, I devoted about 4 hours to not typing, at all. Instead, I just thought about my characters.

Which is usually basic no-shit stuff. Story is character.

But my past scripts tended to be stories following one main character, which means generally I'd thought a lot about that one character just in putting the script together.

This is more of an ensemble tale. A half dozen major characters, and a definite focus on character despite it being a thriller.

Oddly, my back-assward approach to writing the script, churning out pages and then really digging into my characters, really seems to be paying benefits. Because now I went into my character bios knowing a lot more about these characters, through what they have been doing in the scenes that I wrote, than if I'd tried to do it before writing page 1.

But the best thing is that, even as I sat down writing these character bios, these characters surprised me.

And spoke to me.

Things started coming out of my pen about these characters that I'd never thought about, but which serve the script well.

It's not rocket science, but it's a step too many writers neglect. Including me.

Think about your characters. Write their stories. Ponder their needs, their desires, their dramatic needs, their frustrations.

Because it's the real meat of a screenplay and (take it from someone who knows) most writers aren't thinking very deeply into their characters at all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Musings on the Movie Biz, and Weekend Box Office #106

It occurs to me that I haven't been in a movie theater in months.

When I lived in Manhattan in the 1990s, I lived in movie theaters. I was a movie theater manager for about 7 years, from 1986-1993, and I used to see 100-150 movies in theaters a year.

Of course, I was a single man then. I had a lot of disposable income, I was a social retard, and I had a lot of free time.

Now, not so much (well, I'm still something of a social retard, but now I'm married).

Plus I think it's becoming a real issue for a lot of people, that DVD prices are going down, and movie prices are going up.

There's nothing like seeing a movie in a theater with a big crowd, particularly an event movie. But if one can own a copy of a smaller film (say, The Visitor) in a couple of months, why does someone need to pay more to see it now?

The movie box office is doing well, for certain big movies. But I think the shift is coming in which movie theaters are going to be even more and more about movies that need to be seen on a big screen. Which isn't really good for the movie business in general.

I guess we'll see.


Opening in wide release today:

MAX PAYNE (3376 theaters). It sort of looks like a dumb video game movie, but the black-winged creatures look cool, and the presence of Mark Wahlberg will help. Plus this is a lot of screens. Prediction: $21.1 million for the weekend.

SEX DRIVE (2421 theaters). It's supposed to be funny, but it has a fairly no-name main cast, and it's going to lose a big chunk of its young male target audience to Max Payne. $5.1 million.

W (2030 theaters). My prediction is that this is going to tank, bigtime. Republicans aren't going to want to see it, while reviews say that it is actually a fairly moderate look at Bush, so Democrats aren't going to want to see it either. I think we're in a period of time when everyone is sort of tired of George W. Bush, and ready for him to just fade away -- which isn't going to get a lot of people to drop money to see this. $4.1 million.

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (1591 theaters). They are advertising the hell out of this, and though reviews aren't over-enthusiastic, there's an audience out there for a movie with a fairly sharp cast like this one has. $7.6 million.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10,728... and counting.

Every once and a while, I crack my records to figure out how many pieces of paid coverage/notes I've written.

It's higher than the Dow, now.

Work is pretty steady. I'm actually working for a bunch of companies that give me a couple of things a week, so it generally adds up.

If I ever get to 20,000, though, I'm going to go on a killing spree.


Though I haven't gone to an actual movie theater in way too long, I caught up with the Al Pacino film "88 Minutes" last night.

It occurred to me that if Pacino had died 20-30 years ago, we'd be talking about all the great movies he never got to make, all of the great performances he never got to give.

Unfortunately, Al keeps throwing his career under the bus, making bad movie after bad movie in which he seems to keep playing characters with the same basic arc: they get louder as the movie goes on.

I like him as an actor (in theory), and he's always interesting to watch, but he really needs to start making good movies again.

88 Minutes is the classic example of a movie in which the "why" of the character being run through a lot of hoops is really the central mystery. But at the end, when the "revelations" come, the why really doesn't make any real sense at all.

C'mon Al. Really.


At the box office this past weekend, the Chihuahuas won again, doing $17.5 million.

Quarantine did $14.2, while Body of Lies did only $12.8. Not great considering the budget was somewhere around $100 million (depending on who you ask).

The Express did poorly, at only $4.6 million despite being in a lot of theaters. The Duchess only found $3.3 million, while City of Ember limped in with only $3.1 million.

Rachel Getting Married, RockNRolla and Happy-Go-Lucky are all doing well in limited release.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Box Office #105

So the economy is loudly tanking... but there's still the movies.

Even in the Depression, the movie business did well. People are loking for an escape.

Of course, they didn't have TV back then.

Still, the movie business is one of the few things that actually funnels a large chunk of money back into the U.S. economy from the rest of the world.

Now all Hollywood needs to do is make some good movies. But I fear we may be doomed for another weekend of Chihuahuas in first place.

Opening widely this weekend:

THE EXPRESS (2808 theaters). Reviews haven't been nearly good enough for a film like this to do well, while the commercials hide the fact that this is actually a rather depressing story. $7.8 million for the weekend.

BODY OF LIES (2710 theaters). Reviews have been pretty glum for this too; apparently the movie is just rather boring. Leo and Russell will bring out some moviegoers, but how many? Prediction: $12.3 million.

QUARANTINE (2461 theaters). I wouldn't be surprised to see this do well, and maybe even sneak into first. They are advertising the Hell out of it, and it looks freaky. But people may just wait 8 weeks for it to come out on DVD. $13.1 million.

CITY OF EMBER (2022 theaters). I read this book for someone, and thought it was problematic as film fodder; it's a bit too bleak for kids, while the young leads aren't going to bring in adults. Reviews aren't great, and I think it's going to tank. $4.1 million.

THE DUCHESS (1207 theaters, up from 127). This is supposed to be okay, but I think it's time for Keira to start doing movies where she isn't bound up in corsets. $5.2 million.


Last weekend, the Chihuahuas dominated, with $29.3 million. Nick and Norah only did $11.3 million; solid enough, but not as good as I thought it might.

Nothing else did well at all. American Carol did $3.6, Religulous did $3.4, Flash of Genius did $2.3.

Blindness completely tanked, doing only $1.9 million. How To Lose Friends and Alienate People was a complete non-starter, doing only $1.4 million on more screens.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weekend Box Office #104

So there's a lot opening this weekend, as October starts ushering in (generally) more-interesting movie fare...

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (3215 theaters) ...Which isn't to say there won't be crap as well, and early reviews on this are pretty dire. Still, in the absence of other kids movies, it'll make money. $24.3 million for the weekend.

NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2421 theaters). They are doing a lot to make this look funny and romantic, and Michael Cera and Kat Dennings seem like the perfect cast. $17.8 million.

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE (1750 theaters). This is supposed to be sort of annoying, and I'm not sure there are nearly enough Simon Pegg fans out there. $4.3 million.

BLINDNESS (1690 theaters). This looks interesting, but reviews have been sort of underwhelmed. $8.9 million.

AN AMERICAN CAROL (1639 theaters). Conservatives taking satirical potshots at a Michael Moore-like character. Not screened for critics, and it's hard to believe that this will be high on anyone's radar, though I have seen a lot of ads for it. $3.5 million.

FLASH OF GENIUS (1098 theaters). I've seen a few reviews for this that said it was solid but sort of dull. $3.8 million.

APPALOOSA (expanding to 1045 theaters from 14). Supposed to be pretty good for its type. $4.7 million.

RELIGULOUS (502 theaters). Supposed to be funny but offensive, and this isn't many theaters. $3.1 million.

Opening in limited release in Jonathan Demme's RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, which is supposed to be pretty good.