Thursday, February 16, 2006

Off to Exile Island tonight...

I'm sure this will crush the spirit of thousands of people, but I'm spending the night at the Music Box Theatre, to watch a double bill of Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany's. I am taping Survivor, however, and will post my thoughts this weekend.

The life of the mind...

Pamela Anderson, as a spokesperson for PETA, has announced that she will be boycotting the Kentucky Derby this year. Apparently she has previously attended as a guest of the event's prestigeous Millionaire's Row. On one such occasion, she reportedly delighted a no-doubt rapt assortment of hillbillies by flashing her mounds of skin-encased silicon baggies at them, sans even the promised recompense of a string of plastic beads.

Aside from the Derby being, no doubt, mean to horses, Ms Anderson is apparently trying to call attention to event sponsor KFC. (Actually, the sponsor is Yum! Brands, a KFC subsidiary. Now if she were boycotting the company for it's moronic name...) It turns out, and I'm sure this will shock many, that KFC is apparently involved in the deaths of quite a few chickens. Ms. Anderson has previously corresponded with Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, in a failed attempt to effect the removal of a bust of Col. Harlen Sanders from the Kentucky Statehouse.

Really.

Ms. Anderson, famous the world over for the numerous times she has had her chest cut open in order to enlarge, enhance, shape, firm and even reduce the size of her 'breasts,' noted that Col. Sanders' bust was a monument to a man who "mutilates God's creatures."

Of course, this is one of only myriad examples of such celebrity antics, but really, who is the intended demographic for this boycott? In other words, who is going to change their mind due to, or even take into account on an issue they haven't really considered before, the positions of Pamela Anderson? (And please, no smutty jokes.)

Ms. Anderson is of course more than welcome to waste her copious free time as she wishes, inbetween filming that ghastly-looking Fox sitcom she has (assuming it's still on) and spending her well-earned millions of dollars. However, does even Ms. Anderson find it less than terrifying that she, or more pertinently her balloonish breast implants, might have influence over somebody's--anybody's--political beliefs?

By the way, Ms. Anderson is Canadian. I don't know why I mentioned that, but it's one less thing we American have to apologize for.

Monday, February 13, 2006

News in Brief....

Processing the New York Times Magazine this morning, I see a cover story blurb: "The Sex Over-50 Problem."

I haven't read the article, but surely this sums up its findings: "Yes, stop that, it's gross."

Horror trend to continue....

Horror never dies. Economically, little has changed from the ‘50s, when the drive-in circuit catering to undiscriminating teens ensured a profit for any sufficiently low-budget monster movie. Now it’s the home video/DVD market that all but ensures such profits.

Occasionally some low-budget horror film hit it (comparatively) big at the box office, by which I mean one might make $50 million or higher. Roughly half the ticket sales go back to the production company, meaning about $25 million. For most films, such a figure would be disastrously bad. For a film made for $15-25 million or so, though, that indicates an early profit.

The real money, though, is as noted in home video rentals and DVD sales. Horror fans are voracious, but more importantly, horror films and comedies (thus explaining the continuing stream of equally cheap gross-out comedies) are the default compromise rental choices of any group of two or more people planning to watch a movie together.

If anything, the real value of a theatrical release of a low-budget horror movie isn’t that it’s already in profit by the time it hits shelves. It’s that the remembrance of a theatrical release acts as an advertising tool. One might not bother to see some piece o’ crap like The Cave in theaters, but the fact that it was out and supported by television ads and such at one time raises its profile over its direct-to-video competitors.

In any case, expect to see the flood of such titles continue until the glut does temporarily reign in the market. This week’s number one film at the box office was Steve Martin Pink Panther remake, which pulled in around $22 million at the box office. For a film released (or dumped, perhaps) in February, that’s not a bad amount.

The second place film was Final Destination 3. In real terms, however, that was easily the weekend’s winner amongst new theatrical releases. (That includes Curious George, which pulled in $15 million, and Firewall, the latest Harrison Ford disappointment, which gleaned about $14 million.)

First, it actually made more per theater than The Pink Panther. In other words, Pink Panther drew more money, but only because it was on substantially more screens. Final Destination 3 made nearly as much in real terms (within two million dollars; exact BO figures due later today), but it’s $20 million average out to close to $7,000 per theater, whereas Pink Panther drew under $6,300.

Moreover, the Final Destination franchise is still growing. The third chapter’s $20 million handily beat the $16 million made in it’s first weekend by the second film, while the first movie draw only $10 million. In other words, there will be a forth film, and although the series box office will obviously peak at some point, things look strong for the present. Especially valuable for the films is that each film’s cast is largely is bumped off by the end of things. Sans continuing stars that might ask for raises, there’s little reason to worry about the budgets increasing and diminishing profitability.

Meanwhile, FD3 is merely the latest such success. This year already has seen three other low budget horror pics open with $19 million or more, Hostel, the comparatively high budgeted Underworld: Evolution and When a Stranger Calls (whose receipts are up to $35 following this weekend).

The big difference, as alluded to earlier, though, is cost. The Pink Panther had a reported $80 million production budget, and a heavy TV advertising campaign. Final Destination 3 cost less than a third of that, at $25 million, although it too heavily spent on TV ads.

Still, Pink Panther did better than it might have done, considering how awful it looks. Curious George didn’t draw giant numbers, but is a kid’s film, and should continue to play for several more weeks, after the other weekend leaders have fallen out of the top ten.

The most ominous flop is definitely Firewall, which seems to indicate that Harrison Ford has more or less dropped from public favor. This is his third low opener in a row, following the already forgotten K-19: The Widow Maker (2002) and the atrocious buddy cop flick Hollywood Homicide (2003). The fact that Ford took two plus years off after those surely hasn’t helped things. It’s notable that production cost info on Firewall has apparently not been promulgated.