Sunday, August 31, 2008

Half a billion dollars domestic in 45 days.The Dark Knight crosses the $500 million mark in just 1.5 months.

The Dark Knight officially crossed the $500 million mark this morning, ending up with $502 million by weekend's end. Considering it ended Saturday with about $499 million, I'm surprised Warner didn't find a couple hundred-grand to make it 44 days. No matter, the real noteworthy thing here is that The Dark Knight made $500 million in two days more than it took Shrek 2 to make it to $400 million (Batman did that in an inexplicable 18 days). Oh, and it's new global total is $919 million (#10 all time, it'll be number 6 by next weekend). While the opening weekend record and related opening day records may fall soon enough, I don't think we are going to see these kind of long term numbers for a long time. Truly amazing.

Scott Mendelson

When you fail, we all look bad... (Michael Moore bombs on Countdown With Keith Olbermann)

I like Michael Moore. I like his movies, I love some of them (Roger And Me, Bowling For Columbine, the first half of Sicko). I like his books and his lectures. My issues with Fahrenheit 911 and the hoopla that followed were not so much with the film, but the fact that so many liberals or uninformed wanna-be Bush bashers took it as the definitive and only educational tool for liberal ideology. Michael Moore is not and has never claimed to be the end-all of liberal discourse, but a major voice in the crowd, one who has earned his fame because he was there long before it was cool. He's not flawless, even when he's right. But when it comes to liberal ideology, he's usually right.

But wow, I don't think I've ever seen him look or sound worse than he did on Friday night's Countdown With Keith Olbermann. You could tell that Keith was taken aback, especially by his first rant about the new storm, Gustov, somehow proving that there was a God (as if the likely to be catastrophic storm was overall a good thing because it undermines the GOP during the week of its convention). Aside from his opening rant, he was completely ill at ease, seeming half-dressed and appearing distracted, completely unprepared, and caught off guard by every relatively obvious question. I'm loathe to even put this up here, but in all fairness, I wouldn't hesitate if someone on the Right botched a TV appearance this badly. So, here you go, probably Moore's worst TV appearance ever... Mr. Moore, you can do better.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, August 30, 2008

DVD Review: Dante's Inferno (2007)

Dante’s Inferno
76 minutes
not rated

by Scott Mendelson

Dante’s Inferno is a visually imaginative piece of work. I can only imagine the work and time that went into this animated variation of Dante’s epic story, but the end result is barely worth the trouble. It’s not that the film is bad or not compelling; it’s that its slavish devotion to the original text robs the film of the ability to say anything new.

A token amount of plot – the film is basically a modern reworking of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (also called The Divine Comedy), which concerns one man’s personal guide through the nine levels of Hell. This specific version is based on the somewhat updated variation written by Sandow Birk. As most of us remember, a young man (Dante himself, voiced by Dermot Mulroney) is given a lengthy tour through the various levels of damnation, guided by the poet Virgil (voiced by James Cromwell). As Dante sees the various sinners and their various sins, he gains a new perspective on his own morality. Think of it as ‘scared straight’ for the religiously inclined.

The big selling point for this picture is that the entire film is composed of paper puppets (otherwise known as puppet theater). While there is one live actor in the film, everyone else and everything else is comprised of countless paper puppets. So yes, at the very least, I would recommend one viewing of this visually unique (and mere 76 minute) feature for the puppetry alone.

But on a story telling and character level, the film comes up just a bit short. Dante is basically sarcastic and uses humor to hide his fear, while Virgil is deadly serious and authoritative. The most interesting aspect of the narrative is how Dante’s original definitions of sin so clash with today’s far more tolerant culture. The filmmakers make a point not to deviate from the original philosophies, even at the expense of alienating certain viewers (there are homosexuals in hell, as well as politicians ranging from Condoleezza Rice to Lyndon B. Johnson).

While the film shows its liberal bent by the glee at which it damns various Bush administration officials and corrupt business (Halliburton apparently has its own building), writer/director Sandow Birk and writers Sean Meredith and Paul Zaloom have no qualms about placing John F Kennedy in hell as well. Much of the humor comes from the various reasons various monsters of our ages find themselves in Hell. Hitler is there on a technicality and John Wayne Gacy is there for committing offenses to hospitality (i.e. – murdering 33 young boys and burying them in his basement).

While one could argue that the whole project reeks of a certain film school ‘look how clever we are’ project, it still works on its own limited level. It may not be high art, but the puppetry is a joy to behold and the film itself is worth a gander. Dante's Inferno is simply a neat little experiment.

Grade: B

The DVD contains a solid and watchable 16x9 transfer, with English 5.1 audio. Supplements include a 15-minute making-of, a trailer, a photo gallery, and two full-length commentaries.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"No issue stance yet recorded..." Random Thoughts on the Palin pick...

I swear, there's movie stuff coming (currently doing the summer movie wrap-up)...

First off, congrats on McCain from completely swiping the news cycle away from Obama. If this was going to be the pick, I'm genuinely surprised that they didn't 'accidentally' leak it yesterday as was rumored to be the plan.

Since everyone is noting the slight similarities, I wonder if Obama and co (or more likely an unaffiliated 527) can haggle Tina Fey into doing campaign commercials for them, basically portraying Sarah Palin and explicitly laying out some of her conservative opinions and bits of scandal. Something along the lines of "I may oppose a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest, but that's ok, cause I'm a woman too!" or "I'm currently under investigation for firing my safety commissioner after they refused to fire my former brother-in-law, but it's ok because you all hate your brother-in-laws." Regardless, I'd imagine that Ms. Fey will be doing plenty of guest cameos on SNL this season. At the very least, Hillary Clinton now has a new arch-nemesis, and Geraldine Ferraro has a shot at redemption (it's a shame that Elizabeth Edwards' rep is slightly tarnished as she would be useful here too).

Point being, McCain seems to have picked her because she's a very conservative female politician with a good biography and a generally attractive appearance. Basically, he's cynical enough to hope that women (especially some former Clinton supporters) will vote for him simply because his VP selection is a woman. Furthering the inexplicable nature of this pick, there are plenty of very qualified Republican women in various government offices right now, such as Kaylee Hutchinson or (ideology aside) Condi Rice, but instead McCain went with a more or less novice, breaking the first rule of VP selection - 'because I could die' (and breaking of said rule will further make his age and health a major issue in the coming weeks).

The irony of course is that McCain's best line of attack against Obama (because it had a kernel of plausible truth to it) was that Barack Obama was a foreign policy novice and lacked experience, and that much of his success in politics came from the aura of celebrity (I don't agree, but it was a solid point of criticism). Now, after Obama attempted to blunt said criticisms with his VP pick of Joe Biden, McCain has gone and picked a running mate with zero foreign policy experience, someone who is more or less unknown that will now become an instant celebrity more for her position (the first female VP candidate of the GOP) than for her (modest but genuine) political accomplishments. Quite frankly, I can't wait to see Joe Biden debate Palin on foreign policy, or even domestic policy (imagine - the first woman GOP vp candidate vs the old white male who wrote the 'violence against women act'). Although now anything short of a massacre would be considered a disappointing performance by Biden.

Come what may, history will be made in November. It's just a shame that the shattering of one glass ceiling may cause death by a thousand cuts.

Scott Mendelson

Convention Wrap-Up... The big speeches

Some surprisingly solid and potent speeches, and the biggest surprise is that Barack Obama's speech more or less lived up to its own hype. It was somber, policy-filled, detailed, and filled with counter-attacks against McCain and co. Here are the main speeches that are worth watching...

John Kerry - the best speech he has ever delivered, and the only major speech that dealt with the constitutional crisis and un-pleasantries such as torture and wrongful detention. A solid comparison of Senator McCain vs Candidate McCain.

Hillary Clinton

Bill Clinton

Bill Richardson

Dennis Kucinich

Al Gore

Ted Kennedy

Michelle Obama

Joe Biden

And, of course... Barack Obama

Please let me know if any of those don't work. Here's the link for the DNC page on YouTube, with pretty much every video of consequence.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

15 Point Bump? About as likely as a $150 million 3-day weekend.

I've been saying this for years. In the last decade or so, the box office business has become more like politics in one very important way: The management of expectations. As weekend box office has become a mainstream sport, the studios have used alleged tracking and alleged punditry to attack the films of rival studios. Politics works the same way.

And sure enough, the GOP put out a memo last week proclaiming that Barack Obama would get a 15 point bounce from the Democratic Conventions this week. They compared Obama's candidacy to Bill Clinton, who got a record 16 point bump (at the time, Ross Perot had just dropped out, leaving a huge chunk of now undecided voters up for grabs right at the close of the convention). It's not gonna happen and the GOP knows damn well that Obama will be lucky to get a 7 point bump in this politically fractured time. But expect the pundits to crow all next week about how Obama didn't get those 15 points and thus isn't connecting with the American people.

I touched on this a little bit way back in April, dealing with the inflated expectations for the opening weekend of Iron Man. Point being, rival studios have made a habit of using columnists and bloggers to create often impossible expectations for the opening weekend of a given major film. The problem isn't for example when studios and writers claim that say, The Dark Knight could do $155 million on opening weekend. The problem is when the official line becomes that The Dark Knight will do $155 million and it becomes a failure when it does not meet up with arbitrary expectations more or less pulled out of the butts of writers who know nothing about box office or rival studios who want to create a stink of disappointment. Despite Warner's insistence that it was expecting $95 million, The Dark Knight would have had to fight off the stink of alleged failure had it 'only' opened to $125 million.

It sure wasn't Disney who was touting that Pearl Harbor would do $100 million in four days back in Memorial Day weekend, 2001. And of course, when it did a perfectly logical (and correctly predicted by me) $75 million four-day (basically, double Titanic's opening weekend, divide that by four, then toss a fourth of that onto Monday's gross), the rags were in a hissy about how the alleged monster of Summer 2001 had disappointed and was sure to be a disaster. For what it's worth, despite being terrible, it was actually quasi-leggy and limped to just under $200 million by the end of the summer before becoming huge on DVD because of post 9/11 nationalism. Of course, as I've said many times, had Pearl Harbor come out over Thanksgiving weekend of 2001, it would have beaten Titanic in the US. And Lionsgate certainly never expected Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 to open to $30 million over Halloween weekend in 2000 (yes because a quickie sequel to a pop-sensation that half the audience hated was going to open to MORE than the original's opening weekend). But rival studios and the like pumped up the alleged interest level than laughed like hyenas when it 'only' did $13 million.

And Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle was never going to open to $60 million or $69 million in the middle of June 2003. Expecting a sequel to a solid but not beloved original to do almost 70% better on its opening weekend was a fallacy. That, say, Box Office Prophets got it wrong isn't the issue (I get it wrong all the time). The problem was that those inflated estimates from Entertainment Weekly and the like became the official 'correct' amount. So when Charlie's Angels 2 only made $38 million (admittedly, a slight disappointment compared to the $40 million opening of the original), it was immediately labeled one of the biggest flops of the year, proof positive that women could not open action films (that it too was terrible didn't help its long term prospects, but that's irrelevant to opening weekend). Point being, don't believe Bill Kristol, Sean Hannity, and other pundits who condemn Obama's camp for only receiving a 5 or 6 point bump in the polls come Monday. And don't believe Nikki Finke or 'unnamed studio sources' when they swear up and down that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is certainly going to open to as much as X-Men: The Last Stand or that Terminator Salvation will do $100 million over the Memorial Day stretch. It's the same game in both arenas, with the same rules and the same goals. Don't play along.

Scott Mendelson

"Because I read it!"

So far, the convention has gone as expected. Ted Kennedy's likely farewell address was about as much as he could muster, but it worked as a poignant passing of the torch. Senator Hillary Clinton did what she needed to do, although her speech was fiery and passionate enough that Obama will look terrible if he or Biden fails to top it (I have little doubt that Biden will rip McCain's lungs out tonight, but Obama has expectations that may be beyond rational possibilities). Meanwhile, Michelle Obama gave a relatively emotional speech about her family and their good works, but it is a little dispiriting that his blunt, intelligent, powerful black woman had to basically convince voters that she's as much a conventional wife/mother as they are (I personally prefer my politicians to be better than me in some capacity or another).

For real fun, check out this barn burner from yesterday evening, from Dennis Kucinich, everyone's favorite candidate that they won't vote for despite agreeing with everything he says. Entitled 'Wake Up America', it got the job done, earning a rousing standing ovation and literally waking up the delegates before the main events of the second day. And, miracle of miracles, he actually got positive coverage for once, with positive notices and a couple photos in CNN's convention ticker.

Wake Up, America indeed!

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three of a kind - the best part IIIs in film history...

With summer winding down and everyone taking stock (full summer analysis coming soon), now is a good time to reflect on what comes next. The big story of the summer was of course the colossal success of The Dark Knight. But, with success comes possibly insurmountable expectations. Obviously Warner will get a third Batman film one way or another, but whether Chris Nolan, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman will be involved still remains a mystery (come what may, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are sure to return). There has been talk that Nolan blew so much of his load on this epic second chapter that there really isn't anything he can do to measure up.

My thoughts? Measure down. The only villains left that might sustain a film are The Riddler and Catwoman, and both have their baggage. Instead, tell a smaller, more intimate story about Bruce Wayne's triumphs as Bruce Wayne contrasted with his slow road towards public redemption as Batman. Like the first film, this film would only tangentially involve super villainy (using B-listers like Black Mask and Deadshot that otherwise wouldn't support their own movie). For the record, I'm using that poster art above not because it's real, but because it's a neat fake poster. But I digress. Despite common wisdom, and a recent string of bad luck just last year (Spider-Man 3, Shrek The Third, and Rush Hour 3), there is a small but potent legacy of third films that are actually quite good, in some cases even becoming the best of the series. A quick roundup of great part 3s. Warning - thar be heavy spoilers below!


The third James Bond film is the one that set the tone for all that followed, as well as turning the series into a worldwide phenomenon. It set the template not just for the series, but for the modern action picture as well. It has all the basics. A great hero, a quippy gentleman villain, a brutish henchman, several femmes both fatale and otherwise, and several worthwhile action sequences (the climactic duel between Bond and Oddjob, the massacre at Fort Knox, the final airplane tussle). It also a fiendish plot that actually makes sense. Goldfinger's scheme to destroy Fort Knox's gold to increase the value of his own is a template that was used for, among other things, Superman: The Movie and A View To A Kill. It may not be the best Bond film (that may go to From Russia With Love, Goldeneye, or Casino Royale), but it is one of the most entertaining of the franchise.

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

The only Apes sequel that was any good, this parable involving apes from the future traveling to the past to warn us of the coming doom has a dramatic potency that the other Apes films lacked. It's genuinely compelling and has a stunningly downbeat ending that is as disturbing as the original film's twist is mind blowing.

Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

Call it film three or film six, this final entry in the original Star Wars trilogy is still terrific. Oddly underrated now because of Ewok-loathing, this visually stunning and emotionally gripping finale to the whole Star Wars series has actually improved with age. The first act in Jabba's palace is thrilling and fun (never mind that Luke's 'lets all get captured' plan is pretty stupid), and the final space battle is still the only one in the series that feels like a dogfight and has any actual suspense (since all of the characters involved are theoretically expendable). Having two simultaneous climaxes provides genuine tension to newbies. Will they fail to blow up the Death Star but count on Luke to save the day? Will they destroy the Death Star but not before Luke turns to the Dark Side and escapes? Especially with the prequels now completed, the finale of Return Of The Jedi showcases the tragic end of a tragic life, shown to us from nine-years old until death. The end, especially with the Special Edition climactic music cues, has a bittersweet sorrow that goes hand in hand with intergalactic triumph.

Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

The only 'real' sequel that Wes Craven was involved in, this is the one where they set the formula. While the first two films told the dream sequences from the point of view of the dreamer, this one turned the tables, taking viewers into Fred Kruger's imagination, giving the series a head-trip FX blow-out that set it apart from the slasher film genre. It's not a great film, but it's gory fun with plausible, intelligent characters, and thus the only regular sequel that is still fun to watch on its own terms (to be fair, part 2 now has an extra dose of context due to the gay symbolism and ice-cold Robert England performance). Plus the returns of Heather Langencamp and John Saxon provide welcome continuity that would start a trend of returning characters and arcs that would last three films (also a rarity for a slasher film series). Aside from Wes Craven's New Nightmare, this is the best Freddy sequel.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Marcus Brody is needlessly dumbed down, and it borrows a bit much from Raiders (as a way of needlessly atoning for the out-of-left field Temple Of Doom), but this is the most gee-wiz goofy and probably the most purely entertaining and fun film in the series. Sean Connery gives one of his best performances and the action scenes have a tacky old school feel that makes them a hoot even if you can see the strings. Oddly enough, without much fanfare, quite a few choice lines of dialogue have quietly sneaked their way into our pop-culture vocabulary ("Our situation has not improved.", "No ticket!", and "He choose poorly..." to name a few). The emotionally compelling father/son dynamic provides a new ingredient to the Indiana Jones template and the literal riding off into the sunset denouement works splendidly as a rousing finale. Or at least it would have, had they not made a pretty good but unnecessary fourth film.

Back To The Future III

I know I'm in the minority, but this is my favorite film of the series. Aside from being a delightful western adventure, this finale benefits from out worn-in relationship with Doc and Marty. We know these characters and they are our friends. After a first film that focused on George McFly and a sequel that focused on Biff, Doc Brown finally gets a character arc of his own and this is literally the only film in the series that contains any drama, any real character development. The first film is an intelligent jokey joy, and the second film's second half is a mind-ripping paradoxical amusement (the first half is pretty terrible and the whole film is badly acted), but this third film pays off everything that comes before it. Doc and Marty are more human in this one, and they actually feel like close friends. The last scene is an incredibly sweet finale and a completely satisfying farewell. We walked out of the theater feeling good, because we knew that Doc and Marty were going to be just fine, be it in the past or the future.

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

It's not as good as the original, and it's not quite as good as the epic but slightly overrated sequel, but this third chapter is certainly a credit to the franchise and Jonathan Mostow does Cameron proud. Despite costing $170 million, this is a stripped down action film, feeling more like the cheap bare bones original than the epic chase spectacle of Judgement Day. There is real character development with the future Mr. and Mrs. John Conner, and the bitterness at a life stolen by alleged fate shines through the occasional action set-piece. This is the only Terminator film where the humans are more interesting than the robots, and the incredibly grim final twenty-minutes pack a brutal punch of acknowledgment and inevitability.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Duh. This incredible Oscar-winning spectacle closes the book on the greatest film trilogy of all time. Unsurpassed action spectacle intertwined with heartbreaking character moments (Sean Astin deserved at least an Oscar nomination, and the last twenty-minutes are uncommonly powerful), this is simply one of the finest big screen entertainments ever made. It 'towers' over the fine but flawed Two Towers, but whether this is better than Fellowship Of The Ring is open to debate. Who cares? They're both masterpieces.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

It's not the best of the series (that honor goes to Goblet Of Fire, which is the best book too), but this small-scale, intimate entry is a darn fine continuation of a stunningly consistent series. Aside from the change in production design, darker and more meditative tone, and overall artier, less stage-bound film making, this bridge film boasts a wonderful performance by David Thewliss as Professor Lupin, the compassionate father-figure and former best friend of Harry's father who happens to be a werewolf. And, although underused in this film as well as part V, Gary Oldman is terrific as Serius Black.

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

Call it film three or film six, but this third film in the prequel trilogy is easily the best of the prequel series and second maybe only to Empire in the whole Star Wars cannon. The opening 23 minutes is hands down, the most entertaining, elaborate, make you grin till it hurts action set-piece of the decade. Right from the start, the acting is better, the writing is sharper, and the action is completely over-the-top. After that, we get to what everyone has been waiting for. Anakin Skywalker goes to the dark side (how delicious that Anakin falls while doing the moral thing; correctly preventing an unlawful assassination by a rogue Jedi), the Jedi are wiped out in a hauntingly staged and beautifully scored montage, and the mother of all light saber battles finally unfolds. And yes, the Obi-Wan/Anakin showdown is almost as exciting onscreen as it was in our imaginations.

Far more melodramatic than any other Star Wars picture, this one goes for high emotion as well as high adventure (that its politics are sledge-hammery anti-Bush is only because no one got the subtle symbolism of Episodes I and II). The absolute failure of good to prevail over evil is still shocking, and it lends a dramatic creditability to Luke Skywalker's similar choice years later. Regardless of what you thought of Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace, this is a stunningly effective tragedy and a terrific action spectacle.

Vastly overrated third film that will not be on the above list - The Bourne Ultimatum.
A film that critics seemed to champion BECAUSE it had no story and nonstop action and incident. This is a dumbed-down, audience-pleasing remake of The Bourne Supremacy. That terrific second film was filled with moral shadings, gray tones, a genuinely threatening anti hero, and a refusal to paint broad strokes. Comparatively, this one has the same music cues, the same narrative structure, the same action set pieces, and goes for easy jokes, and cheap liberal-feel good pay-offs. It claims to be a liberal spy thriller, and it condemns the covert US actions in the simplest fashion, yet Bourne causes an innocent man to be kidnapped by the US covert ops, probably to be rendered, tortured, and killed, and then the film expects us to find it funny.

Seemingly unwilling to write a new story, they simply rehash the plot of the second film (with Albert Finney playing Brian Cox). But this time, because Treadstone wasn't evil enough, Bourne realizes that he was also part of an even more evil assassination group. This one brainwashes you - Blackbriar! I presume in the fourth film that Bourne will discover that he was always quasi-willingly inducted into the fiendish society known as Bald Eagle - which turns you into cybernetic assassins ("Compute: Look - At - Us - Look - At - What - They - Make - You - Give! Execute").

Let me know if I missed any third-part gems. I can only hope to add Toy Story 3D and 'Shadow Of The Bat' (or whatever it's called) to this list in due time.

Scott Mendelson

'A Sentence, a Verb, then POW'

It's official. Joe Biden is Obama's vice presidential pick. And, of the various choices that were on any short list, he was by far the best (ironically, in my VP poll that I stupidly took down, Biden placed dead last with two votes). He was actually one of my favorite candidates running in the primaries. He would have surely become secretary of defense had John Kerry won in 2004. He's a foreign policy expert, and he's a rabid attack dog. Yes, the man has the occasional off-the-cuff gaffe, but he'll make a good balance for a candidate that is almost too polite and holds his tongue when he often shouldn't.

It was never going to be Russ Feingold (although since Edwards isn't a contender anymore, Feingold would make a hell of an Attorney General), but after Russia and Georgia went to hell, Obama needed someone who knew more about foreign policy than Obama and McCain combined. They also needed someone who could gleefully point out that McCain of 2000 or even 2005 is not the McCain of 2008. They needed someone who could explain with authority why McCain's lobbyist ties to Georgia makes him a terrible president in a time when Russia seems to be a new long term problem. They need an hatchet man to defuse the three-week string of poundings that Obama has taken (which is why Obama should have announced this a month ago), someone who can defuse the whole 'You can't criticize me on that, I was a POW!' thread (Biden's personal story is even more tragic). That man is Joe Biden.

Does anyone else think it's funny that, as I jokingly predicted to friends yesterday, the fabled text message to supporters went out at 3:00am last night? That can't be a coincidence can it?

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another major holiday movie (yawn) shifts around the release schedule...

Entertainment Weekly probably ought to send out a revised version of its Fall Movie Preview from last week. In just the last eight days...

In a stunning (and stunningly intelligent) move, Warner Bros moved Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince moved from November 21st to July 17th, 2009. Then, in response to this true game changer...

Disney's Bolt switched from November 26th to November 21st.
Summit Entertainment's Twilight moved from December 12th to November 21st.

And now, Sony's Quantum Of Solace has moved back a week, from November 7th to November 14th. This new date places it in the same general weekend where Casino Royale, Die Another Day, and The World Is Not Enough opened. Although a quirk in the calendar means it has an extra weekend before the extended Thanksgiving holiday. Once again the major holiday titan has shifted the entire balance of power in the holiday season.

Madagascar 2 will now get a weekend all to its self on November 7th. And, since it's the holiday kickoff film (think the mega opening grosses of Interview With The Vampire, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ransom, Monsters Inc, and The Incredibles), expect it to gross about $65 million over its now unopposed opening weekend and then flourish with the lack of family competition for two full weeks.

Despite opening in the same general weekend as Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace is now on the second unofficial weekend of the holiday season, which is exactly where Goldeneye flourished back in 1995. It opened to a 007-record $26 million during the second weekend of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Of course, that too was the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The real loser is Australia, the expensive Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman period epic that was planning on using the November 14th date to make its mark in between the two biggies of the season. But now it's in direct competition with the remaining 800 pound gorilla, so it's in big trouble. Expect this one to move to perhaps Thanksgiving weekend, where it will now face much less direct competition (cough - move Star Trek to Thanksgiving - cough). This just in... the other major film on the 14th, the comedy Role Models, has just moved to November 7th to escape the wrath of 007.

Why Sony is deciding to not take advantage of its kick-off birth, yet giving it a full weekend to bleed before the Thanksgiving holiday is a mystery to me. This is just my opinion, but I say let it explode out of the gate in early November, and let it get its second wind over the long Thanksgiving weekend (remember, everything drops like a rock after Thanksgiving weekend). Regardless, Quantum Of Solace will open huge ($60 million+) no matter where it opens, but its odd that it seems to be running from Madagascar 2 of all things. I eagerly await the new website: The delay of Quantum Of Solace one week later has ruined my

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office Bingo (08/22/08)

Four new releases. The best reviewed release so far is The House Bunny, with a whopping 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. For the first time since May, the weekend box office is going to be lacking any mega-grossers. Just normal sized films trying to cash in on the last pre-school days. The box office analysis is going to be a lot less interesting for the next month or so, and it's going to be a lot harder to predict, since smaller films are harder to peg in a crowded marketplace. That's just the way it is.

Death Race - $15 million. If it's the end of August, it must be time for Jason Statham to beat the crap out of various rogues, quip wise, and make us all nostalgic for the days of trashy 80s action. The unneeded Paul WS Anderson remake is the annual end of August Jason Statham action vehicle that has been a tradition for literally the last four years. The Transporter 2 was a sequel to a cult action film and had a major studio (20th Century Fox) behind the wheel, so it's $20 million+ four-day opening over Labor Day was the exception to the rule. The last two years have had Lionsgate opening Crank (which was clever fun) and War (which was good for absolutely nothing, huzzah) to about $10 million apiece. So, he obviously has a consistent fan base as long as the budgets are kept in check.

Death Race has a major studio (Universal) and a modest budget (allegedly $18 million), so even if it performs more like The Bank Job (one of the year's best movies, by the way) than The Transporter 2, it'll do just fine. As it is, the $10 million-worth of die-hards will show up for sure. Also being targeted are the car junkies, and just people who want one last action blast, a trashy R-rated one at that. On an unrelated note, can I just add how great Joan Allen looks on her 52nd birthday? Just the fact that she's lending her gravitas to this sleazy B-picture almost makes me want to see it.

The House Bunny: $15 million. IE - Legally Blonde 3. Anna Faris has been due for a breakout for awhile now. Although if you count her Scary Movie franchise, she already has 3 $40 million+ openings to her credit. She is genuinely funny and the premise for this broad comedy is an easily marketable one. The positive reviews are very positive so this could surprise and end up number 01 for the weekend.

The Rocker - $2 million. It opened yesterday, did $500,000, it may need till Friday to cross the $1 million mark. Game over.

The Longshots - $12 million. Ice Cube has a family following, so this could break out just a little. It's intended to cash in on the beginning of football season, so that will help. On a slightly related note, it stars Kekee Palmer, who also starred in 2006's best film, Akeelah And The Bee. So any success for her will be most welcome indeed.

See, that wasn't so painful? To be fair, much of the above was only slightly educated guessing (that's how it is on these kind of weekends). Oh, and since my daughter turns one this weekend, I might just wait till the weekend finals to discuss the full weekend box office. Because, yes, some things are more important.

Scott Mendelson

McCain's 'Macaca' moment?

Has McCain had his 'Macaca' moment? Gosh, I certainly hope so. For the last two months, McCain has been attempting to brand Obama as the elitist candidate, and they've been inexplicably pretty successful at it. But, this morning, Senator McCain stumbled on a question concerning the number of houses he owned. And McCain didn't know, saying that he'd have to have 'my staff get to you' on the matter. It gets better.

According to Talking Points, the McCains were actively buying another vacation property at the exact same time they were congratulating Americans who were dealing with economic woes by canceling their own vacations in order to make mortgage payments.

It's not a crime or a sin to own many homes. The question reared its head in 2004 as John Kerry was asked about his five properties (in, ironically, an attempt to portray him as an elitist, a stereotype he all too easily allowed). But, in a time where the housing market is collapsing, to own at least four properties (as many as seven according to Newsweek), not be able to remember them, and then blast your single-home owning candidate as an elitist, that makes it fair game.
Yes, it's fair game because John McCain is:
- the son and grandson of admirals
- graduate of an elite private high school
- legacy admission and graduate of the Naval Academy,
- almost last place graduate of Annapolis (894 of 899) who still was awarded a plum flying assignment (in which he was promptly shot down, leading to his POW narrative)*
- who dumped his injured first wife (who waited five years for him during the war) to marry an heiress worth millions (who financed his political career)
- and, now it seems, owns more houses than he can remember...

He is the populist man of the people, right?

But Barack Obama, the candidate who
-was raised by a single mom
- had to use food stamps
- was the scholarship student
- who worked his way through college and Harvard law school (where he allegedly didn't even mention on the application that he was black - although I'm sure administrators could have guessed by his name)
- married the daughter of a municipal employee
- only just recently paid off his student loans using proceeds from a book he wrote
- only owns one home

He's the elitist and can't understand the wants and dreams of everyday working people.

Maybe this shouldn't be an issue. McCain's biography isn't any more sordid than any number of senators from both parties. In fact, taken at face value, only the failure of his first marriage is really a true moral falling in any real sense. And being rich doesn't mean that you're a lesser advocate for the middle class and the working poor. But John McCain's record has so far belied his biography, and he made it an issue the second he played the 'elitist snob' card against his far less wealthy opponent.

And good for the Obama camp for jumping on this so quickly. Politics is a contact sport and they need to start tackling.

Here's hoping that this stays in the headlines, especially heading into the democratic convention.

Scott Mendelson

* For the record, graduating at all from Annapolis is a pretty impressive achievement (although he was allegedly nearly expelled for excessive partying). The issue is that he graduated at the bottom and was still awarded a prime flying assignment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ed Brubaker goes Hollywood! More great news for great talent...

It's about dang time...

As mentioned above, Warner Bros. is developing the dynamite comic book spy thriller Sleeper into a feature that may or may not star Tom Cruise and may be directed by Sam Raimi.

For those not in the know, Sleeper was a 24 issue miniseries of sorts that ran from 2003-2005. Written by the incomparable Ed Brubaker back when he still worked for DC Comics, it told the story of... well, just give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed. For some reason, only volumes 2 and 3 (out of 4) are available new, but I'd imagine that they'll go back to print as soon as the movie gets an official green light.

Ed Brubaker has been the best mainstream comic book writer for this entire decade. Coming aboard DC with the Batman family in 2000, he, Devin Grayson, and Greg Rucka helped shepherd the Batman titles to a level of consistent quality not seen since the 1970s. He also helped relaunch Catwoman and helped shepherd that character to a level of quality not seen since... well ever, before or since (twas tragic irony that the Halle Berry Catwoman movie came out towards the end of Brubaker's 37 issue run). He also teamed with Greg Rucka for a 40-issue run of an original series, Gotham Central. Taking a look at the Gotham crime wars from the point of view of the embittered cops, the series provided the (unacknowledged) blueprint for The Dark Knight.

After leaving for Marvel in 2004, he promptly reinvigorated Captain America, shepherding the character to... well, you get the idea (this is a guy who intelligently brought back Bucky and then killed Cap himself, and the story arc isn't even 2/3 over as we enter year 3) . He also took over for his friend, Brian Michael Bendis, when the latter left Daredevil, and he is currently writing Uncanny X-Men as well.

It's about time that Brubaker was able to successfully develop one of his properties in Hollywood. No matter who ends up starring or directing this one, I'll be first in line.

Scott Mendelson

Terrific news about terrific news...

I was expecting this or hoping for this sometime after the election, but MSNBC and Keith Olbermann jumped the gun. Starting September 8th, Air America host, frequent MSNBC political pundit, and Countdown With Keith Olbermann guest host Rachel Maddow will be getting her own show following Olbermann himself on MSNBC at 9pm est. I sincerely hope the network finds another home for legal analyst (and occasional general manager) Dan Abrams, but this is a terrific development for anyone who cares about fostering an actual liberal media, to say nothing of rewarding a very intelligent and entertaining news pundit. No worries, as she'll continue her 6pm Air America radio show (quite fortunate, as she entertains me as I get stuck in traffic on the way home from work). Congratulations Maddow and all involved. I guess this makes the brass at MSNBC today's 'Best Persons In The World'.

Scott Mendelson

Hello Sharpay... I'd like to play a game. Why isn't Saw V opening on Halloween night?

As most of us know, Lionsgate is releasing the fifth film in the ongoing Saw series in late October as they always do. Yet, this time, for the first time since the original, there is genuine competition. This time, there is the juggernaut known as High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Fair enough, far be it for Lionsgate to admit inferiority and move their movie from the onslaught of the Disney freight train. And make no mistake, High School Musical 3 will make more in one day than Saw V will make all weekend, possibly more all weekend that Saw V will gross overall. HSM3 will break the October opening weekend record and will have one of the highest grossing opening weekends of the year. But here's the weird thing...

Saw V and High School Musical 3 are opening on October 24th. Why in god's name isn't Lionsgate moving Saw V a week later? What date would that be? Oh, yeah, October 31st! Yup, Halloween falls on a Friday night this year. Why isn't LG using this random bit of luck in their favor? Aside from saving face in regards to giving them to perfect reason to move, well, it's the perfect release day.

Saw has always banked on Halloween, and it's not like the film is going to lose that much from kids trick R treating. First of all, the core Saw audience is composed of people too old to be scavenging for candy but too young to have kids of their own. Second of all, most neighborhoods have trick R treating from 5-7pm, leaving plenty of time to leave the kids with a babysitter (or drop them off at HSM3) and catch that 8 or 9pm showing. Last bit... having both films open back to back just makes it that much easier for underage kids to buy tickets to HSM3 and sneak into Saw V, depriving LG of much needed opening weekend coin. This probably cost Rambo its opening weekend crown back in January, when the PG-13 Meet The Spartans won by a nose.

Considering how atrocious the last Saw film was, you'd think that Lionsgate would need every advantage they could obtain to keep this drawn-out franchise afloat. I'm genuinely baffled by Lionsgate's thinking on this one, but then much of their behavior has been odd since their announcement of their 'grown-up studio' aspirations (allegedly massacring The Punisher: War Zone, ditching Midnight Meat Train, releasing nearly a dozen major films in the last four months of the 2008). We'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Numbers (Final)

Not much unexpected here.

Tropic Thunder ended the five-day weekend with a decent if unremarkable haul of $36.8 million ($25.8 million of that on Fri-Sun). Again, this is a fine result marred only by excessive hype and excessive costs. The minimum budget for this was was $90 million, but numbers as high as $160 million are being tossed around. If it's $90 million, then Paramount/Dreamworks/etc is just fine and this will be in the black by the time the overseas run ends. If it's in the upper estimates, then Paramount better pray for some legs and an unexpectedly good overseas run. Say whatever you will about how 'satire doesn't sell' or 'people don't want war movies', but in the end this opened exactly at the higher end of the Ben Stiller/Jack Black comedy properties that aren't sequels or King Kong. The marketing was saturation level, but the main audience (older viewers) were just the sort that actually cared about the Olympics. Again, this is a fine number and if the movie holds up at all, they'll be ok.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - $14.6 million. Since this film pretty much cost $50.00 to make, and since it was already intended to be aired on TV, this is pretty much gravy for Warner Bros. The bad press amongst the geeks probably cost it $5 million, especially the AICN dust up. But this was never, ever going to perform like anything approaching a live-action Star Wars film, and anyone who thought so really ought to retire from this business. Still, the reviews are scathing and the fans seem to be taking it personally (when don't they?), not realizing that Star Wars is a brand that can be used for different interpretations as Lucas and co see fit. Don't like it? Don't see it. Whether this film does any long term harm to the brand name remains to be seen, but I'd imagine that everything will be forgiven if, come next month, 'The Force Unleashed' is as terrific a video game as everyone wants it to be. Sadly, this may go down as one of the Warner Bros' highest grossing theatrical cartoons in their canon. Warner Bros. has literally only had seven 0r eight animated features that grossed over $30 million. This will certainly out gross such under performing classics as The Iron Giant and Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (another spin-off that went theatrical at the last minute, only to tank and make $5.6 million).

I completely forgot about Mirrors last Friday morning, so my apologies (I updated after the fact). I was expecting about $9 million and it did $11.1 million, so Mazel tov to Fox. Considering the competition and low key advertising, the fact that it was on only 2664 theaters, and that many of those theaters (like mine on Sunday afternoon) were smaller auditoriums, this is a pretty impressive figure. I don't know the budget for this, but it'll do fine on DVD, especially with at least one new classic kill-scene.

The Dark Knight finally fell to second place, for whatever that's worth (it only occurred because The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor was terrible and Pineapple Express opened on a Wednesday). Still, despite losing about 400 screens, it dropped a shockingly small 37% for $16.4 million. New total: $471 million. Yup, not adjusted for inflation, The Dark Knight is now the second-highest grossing film of all time. It won't be catching Titanic's $600 million, but there is no shame in that. This number will stay number two for a long, long time.

Of note: Despite my earlier predictions of overseas under performance, The Dark Knight has bucked the trend and crossed the $800 million mark overseas, overtaking Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull as the worldwide champion. And since, as you may have heard, Harry Potter 6 has been delayed till July 2009, The Dark Knight will all but certainly end the year as the domestic and overseas champion of 2008. Whether it can scrounge up another $350 million globally to take the #2 global slot is debatable, but we'll see.

Woody Allen's Vicki Barcelona ended up at number 10 with $3.7 million (about $5500 per screen). This is of course one of Allen's biggest openings ever, for whatever that's worth. The Pineapple Express dropped 57% for a second weekend total of $9.7 million. Yup, it made less on its second weekend than it made on its opening Wednesday. This one is basically finished, but this $27 million production has already made $63 million and will probably make it to $80 million before having a long life on DVD/BluRay. Despite losing over 500 screens, about 1/4 of its total, Journey To The Center Of The Earth still only dropped 31% this weekend. It's at $89 million at the moment and will likely squeak past the $100 million mark.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, August 15, 2008

Riddle Me This... When is a movie tie-in not a movie tie-in?

Thanks for the heads up, Franklin. Apparently Rocksteady Studios is prepping an original Batman game based in the comic book world and set entirely within Arkham Asylum. It is entitled, fittingly, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Due for release on all the major platforms in 2009, it will apparently contain an original story by Batman: The Animated Series writer and producer Paul Dini that will be part action game and part puzzle and detective game. Here are some accidentally leaked screenshots to wet the appetite. The news officially breaks on August 18th in the September issue of Game Informer.

Oh, and here's an article concerning the mythical Dark Knight movie video game that allegedly exists in the bowels of development hell. Apparently, my instinct was right and the game is undergoing massive retooling to salvage the project. Add in this new game and the aforementioned Lego Batman, and we may have three Batman games within a year. While I can't imagine Lego Batman not being addictively entertaining, here's hoping that at least one of the other two games is closer to The Adventures Of Batman And Robin as opposed to Batman: Dark Tomorrow.

Scott Mendelson

'Twilight' really wants to be the new Harry Potter... (too bad it allegedly tanks in the end)

As reported here, the adaptation of the first film in the four-book Twilight series has moved from December 12th to the vacated November 21st spot. Smart move on the part of mini-studio Summit Entertainment. The legions of young girls (and adult women) who have made this series a mega-smash have made this the second-biggest kids film of the season, behind High School Musical 3. So now, within two days of the date-change heard 'round the world, two of the bigger remaining films of the holiday season, Twilight and Bolt, have both raced to the prime weekend before Thanksgiving weekend slot so recently vacated by The Boy Who Lived. Make no mistake, this is no Dark Is Rising, or even a Golden Compass or Spiderwick Chronicles. Twilight is a literary phenom and the opening weekend alone will put Summit Entertainment on the map as a major player.

Free tip - middle school boys, high school boys, and predatory lecherous men: this is the place to be to score on the weekend before Thanksgiving, as well as several weekends after.

Small problem... the last book in the teenage girl loves a chaste vampire series, Breaking Dawn, is allegedly terrible, earning scathing responses from critics and fans alike. How will this affect the grosses of the first film in the series? I haven't a clue, as this is a completely unique situation. At least the last 3 Harry Potter films have the advantage of actually having a well-liked finale. And the other major fantasy film series (Lord Of The Rings, Chronicles Of Narnia) had their endings set in stone decades before the films.

Anyway, this is an interesting development and yes, the November 26th date, over the actual Thanksgiving weekend, is still more or less empty (The Transporter 3 and Milk are now the main attractions).

Scott Mendelson

Funniest thing I've heard all day... a PG-13 Punisher movie?

Yet more Punisher drama. Apparently Lionsgate wants to further bowdlerize The Punisher: War Zone. Not content to remove the director, re-edit the film, and replace the score with heavy metal music, they are now aiming for a PG-13. Yes, that's right, a PG-13 Punisher film. Remember that when the last Lionsgate Punisher came out in 2004, it wore its R-rating as a badge of honor ('Hey look, we're a $30 million gritty R-rated action film with 1970s vibes!'). I guess this is what happens now that Lionsgate wants to be a real studio. We'll see if they actually go through with this, but I suppose they are thinking two things.

A) "Hey, if we get a PG-13, we can market it as a quasi-sequel to The Dark Knight!" Comparing The Punisher to Batman is foolhardy. Batman is a beloved worldwide icon as recognizable as Mickey Mouse and/or Jesus. The Punisher is a cult comic character whose appeal is SOLELY based on his reputation as a homicidal psychopath who lays waste to the criminal element. If anything, The Punisher is a more intellectually honest version of Batman, since he is more like what a vigilante would actually be in any modern society. Making a Punisher movie without R-rated action and blood-stained violence is like making an omelet without eggs.

B) "Hey, if we make the theatrical cut PG-13, we can make extra money on the DVD/BluRay release with an R-rated and/or 'unrated cut'. No arguments here, but this is an awfully childish way for Lionsgate to start its run as a major, grown-up movie studio. If the situation changes, I'll gladly update.

Oh, and for the record, breaking ground and hiring a woman to direct this brutal action comic book adventure and then canning said woman and gutting her vision is a sure way to get a tongue-lashing from Nikki Finke. This time though, when Finke cries sexism, I might agree with her.

Scott Mendelson

Whoops... (Dewey Beats Truman!)

Um... at least Entertainment Weekly has a sense of humor about it. "Entertainment Weekly’s early look at the new Harry Potter movie just a got a whole lot earlier."

How much you wanna bet that Entertainment Weekly choses a DIFFERENT movie for the cover photo for its 2009 Summer Movie Preview issue (Transformers 2, perhaps?). So much for corporate synergy.

Gee, if a certain movie would have the guts to move to the now-vacated November 28th slot, it just might get its face on the cover for the 'Holiday Movie Preview' issue in November.

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office Bingo

Yet another reason not to open your movie on a Wednesday - If you don't open with 'Friday-like' numbers, you get the blogs and media complaining that you are already a loser going into Friday.

Tropic Thunder: $28 million three-day, $39 million five-day. So far, it has has pulled in about $11 million in its first two days. Not a sterling number, and certainly not great considering the (at least) $90 million production budget, but the opening weekend really begins today. Remember, this is an R-rated action comedy starring actual adults. Yes, Ben Stiller and Jack Black have solid youth appeal (Downey Jr. appeals more to their parents, Iron Man aside), but this is an adult movie and thus we can presume that the main audience is simply waiting till the weekend to see it. I'm sure plenty of people want to see it, but no one has to see it RIGHT NOW, which is why they should have just waited till Friday. In all likelihood, this is going to play closer to Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skill than The Pineapple Express (pattern-wise, not numbers wise). In other words, the film will slowly build towards a peak on Saturday night, just like movies used to do back in the day.

Using that template, expect a solid 6x opening day multiplier (Pineapple Express had 3.4x) for a final five day total of $39 million. If it performs like King Kong, expect a 6.8x multiplier and a $44 million Sunday total. I don't think Shrek 2 is a proper comparison here, but let's amuse ourselves. Shrek 2 made a meager $21 million by Friday, than made another $108 million for a five-day total of $129 million (obviously no one cared about seeing this one first or inconveniently). That's a 11x multiplier and would give Tropic Thunder $71 million by Sunday. Ain't gonna happen, but there you have it. Shrek 2's incredibly anomaly of a Wednesday opening has forever screwed predictions for Wednesday openings.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - IE - Star Wars does Never Say Never Again. That was a Warner Bros. James Bond film that had no theme music, no Q, and no real continuity that matched up with the other Bond films (long story, but it was basically a remake of Thunderball with only Sean Connery returning to the role giving the movie a reason to exist). This is Warner Bros.' Star Wars entry, which is not live-action, has no Fox Fanfare, no John Williams music (I assume the allegedly terrible score uses bits and pieces), and only a few of the original trilogy actors returning to voice their characters. In truth, this is basically the extended pilot for the upcoming Clone Wars cartoon show coming soon to Cartoon Network and TNT (hence, I presume, the Warner Bros. release). The reviews have been dreadful (although a friend had a point, in that this may be the critics beating up on Lucas after not being able to bring themselves to pan Indy 4), and there is no real excitement even from the hardcores. The AICN critical trashing and the resulting controversy didn't help. So, expect $15 million and a healthy life on DVD (ironically, Clone Wars will likely be the first Star Wars film on BluRay).

UPDATED: I completely forgot about Mirrors when I did this write-up. I was expecting about $9 million and it did $11 million. That's even more impressive as it didn't have a huge screen count and when I saw it Sunday afternoon at the AMC Woodland Hills (the wife loves her horror films), it was in one of their smaller theaters.

The Dark Knight will start to lose screens and probably drop 45%. Still, a $14.5 million weekend would bring the total to a stunning $468 million (passing Star Wars for the second-highest grossing film of all time in the US).

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Free advice - Paramount should use the Potter move to reposition Star Trek.

Of course, now a relatively weak 2008 holiday slate becomes incredibly weak (basically you have Quantum Of Solace, Walt Disney's Bolt, Twilight, and Madagascar 2). For what it's worth, if I were Paramount, I'd immediately use this opening to move Star Trek back to the holiday season, perhaps the same November 21st date that Potter just vacated. The buzz isn''t that all hot, so this move would be a sign of confidence and garner the film lots of free press. Besides, the last Trek film to open in the summer was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, not exactly a comparison you want to start with. In it's current slot, it's just another summer film, a badly positioned one at that.

Opening May 9th, it's in the notoriously lousy second major weekend of summer slot that doomed Poseidon, Speed Racer Dating all the way back to 1996. If you recall, Warner Bros. officially started the modern early May summer kick-off with Twister in 1996, opening a full two weeks before Memorial Day (after a very successful trial run in 1992 with WB's Lethal Weapon 3). For at least the last thirteen years, the summer kick-off film usually repeats in the top spot, with only Troy opening number one in 2004 and doing even remotely well in that second-week of summer spot.

Be that slot the second weekend in May or the third, the second-big movie never takes number 01 and usually flops or performs modestly in regards to expectations. Let's just say that I'm pretty sure that Paramount would not be happy with Monster In Law or Horse Whisperer numbers. Push it up to November 21st and it becomes the event of Thanksgiving (it can co-exist with the just moved Bolt) Or it can open in the now-empty November 28th slot. Either way, it becomes the second-biggest film of the holiday season along with Quantum Of Solace. Just my thoughts, with no knowledge of how close the Trek film is to being finished.

Scott Mendelson

Harry Potter 6 is pushed all the way back to July 2009! Will Warner Bros. have another year with the highest grossing film?

As noted above, Warner Bros. has shockingly decided to move Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince from November 21st, 2008 to July 17th, 2009. Yes, it's the same slot where Warner Bros. scored huge with Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix and The Dark Knight in the last two respective years (same opening day as The Dark Knight). For Warner, this does make complete sense. Partially because of the writer's strike, WB's summer 2009 slate had but a single tent pole: Terminator: Salvation, which is still slotted for next Memorial Day weekend. Now Warner has two bookends. Besides, with summer 2009 seeming like the weakest slate in years (see again - WGA strike), Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince immediately becomes the front runner, along with Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen, for the summer 09 crown (and the crown for the whole year). It ain't gonna be Terminator: Salvation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Trek, or Night At The Museum 2. Now, instead of being THE film to beat for the holiday season of 2008, and merely another mega success from Warner Bros, Harry Potter 6 becomes THE film to beat for all of 2009 and gives Warner Bros. the potential to have four consecutive years with the year's highest grossing film (The Dark Knight, Harry Potter 6, then Harry Potter 7.1 and 7.2 and/or the next Batman picture from 2008 to 2011). At the very least, Warner will now have one of the top three films for the next four years guaranteed (especially if they can pull off 'Shadow Of The Bat' or whatever they want to call it by 2011). This stinks for us Muggles, but it's a sound strategy for Warner Bros.

Scott Mendelson


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