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Weekend B.O., District 9 No. One, Rise of Streep, Fall of G.I. Joe

Sony marketing took rookie Neill Blomkamp's $30-million VFX thriller to a terrific estimated $37 million--it wasn't the stunning reviews alone. All the Comic-Con raves and critics and folks on twitter and facebook had a viral impact. The R-rated sci-fi thriller opened well to its largely male base. A sustained hold will require other audience segments to come in--and I just don't know how this plays for women. They went to see The Time Traveler's Wife this weekend, which nabbed lousy reviews and came in at a solid $19 million.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • August 17, 2009 8:54 AM
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  • 4 Comments

District 9 Must Do Well

District 9 Must Do Well
Root for District 9 to do well. The Comic-Con hit represents a lifeline to Hollywood. Commercial director Neill Blomkamp (with backing from Peter Jackson) has made an intense, unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller that throws you into the doc-like reality (think Cloverfield on steroids) of a battle between humans and insect-like aliens (“prawns”) in Jo’burg. The budget was lean ($30 million). No stars. Leading man Sharlto Copley had never acted in a feature before.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • August 13, 2009 4:02 AM
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  • 24 Comments

Cameron's Blue Avatar, Swinton Hauls Movies, Moore Traverses Fest, Ebert's Best Movies

James Cameron’s new poster for Avatar is an extreme close-up of a blue Nav'i alien from the Planet Pandora. It’s an arresting image that makes you stop and pay attention. Cameron wants you to know he’s taking you somewhere you’ve never been before. Jeff Wells hates this poster. There’s plenty of time between now and December 18 for the Fox marketers to figure out their message. I suspect that one reason they’re showing the 15 minutes in IMAX theaters on August 21 is that they know showing the film is their best approach.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • August 5, 2009 3:30 AM
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  • 2 Comments

Cameron talks Avatar

When I talked to James Cameron at Comic-Con (below), he admitted that he and producer Jon Landau know that they have a lot of heavy lifting to do before the 3D sci-fi epic Avatar hits screens on December 18. 24 minutes of footage played great at the Con, where Cameron announced that Fox will screen 15 minutes in IMAX on August 21 for free on 35 screens around the country. But the VFX-packed fantasy lacks major stars and is not based on anything (god forbid, it's an original), so the movie will need a major marketing push from Fox. Which is what the Con was all about.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • July 30, 2009 2:58 AM
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  • 0 Comments

Comic-Con: Cameron Wows with Avatar

Twentieth Century Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman came down to San Diego to intro James Cameron, who in turn presented 24 minutes of footage from Avatar. The studio has backed Cameron's R & D for the dozen years since Titanic. After earning credibility with the deep sea documentary world with a series of 3D docs, Cameron finally opted to chase the promise of advanced 3-D motion-capture with an original story that had been sitting in his drawer for 14 years. But no matter how fabulous this movie looks--and it wowed Hall H, the perfect target audience for a sci-fi adventure--Fox has to market this movie without major stars, branding and the kind of wide release a blockbuster usually commands. That's why they're showing 15 minutes of footage, free, on Avatar Day on August 21 on 35 IMAX theaters around the world.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • July 24, 2009 3:11 AM
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  • 0 Comments

#SDCC Comic-Con Separates Top Draws Avatar and Twilight: New Moon

Last year, I remember a few diehard fanboys mocking me when I flagged Twilight as a big deal at Comic-Con. The power of Twilight fans became clear as thousands of girls screamed their lungs out for emerging star Rob Pattinson. Helping to avert certain traffic gridlock, Comic-Con organizers pushed apart back-to-back Thursday panels for Twilight: New Moon and James Cameron's Avatar, by far the most anticipated two panels of the Con. Many were concerned that the threatened tsunami of fans surging toward Hall H Thursday morning (many of them female, in this very male-dominated universe) would make it tough to also cover Disney's 11 AM 3-D panel (Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol, Burton's Alice in Wonderland) and James Cameron's Avatar on the same day. Now New Moon is at 1:45 pm and Avatar is at 3:00 pm. Covering media may have a tough time getting into New Moon without some kind of press pass.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • July 10, 2009 5:59 AM
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  • 0 Comments

Paramount Scores Orci and Kurtzman Project

It's not surprising that new Paramount production head Adam Goodman took advantage of his DreamWorks insider status and nabbed a high-profile project, License to Steal, from the super-hot screenwriter-producing team Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. This buy of an overtly commercial Salon feature about globe-trotting Repo men chasing luxury planes and boats was pursued by several top directors and producers. It signals that an inside-Hollywood pro is back in charge, and the once-quiet studio is back in buying mode. When Paramount put into turnaround projects such as John Carter of Mars and Twilight , that sent another signal: the studio didn't recognize potential franchises.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 29, 2009 5:43 AM
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Don't Feel Sorry for Michael Bay

Nobody likes Michael Bay. Give the media a big fat target like a Forbes "who is richer" entry, and they will not resist piling on. New York's Vulture even calls him "the mogul of mindlessness." Lest we feel sorry for him, the guy owns Digital Domain and gets 10% of the gross on the Transformers movies (and 8% on the toys). And don't get your hopes up. By all accounts, this summer's installment, as over-pixellated as it looks, will not be a boxoffice disappointment when it opens June 24.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • June 5, 2009 7:26 AM
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Star Trek Opens Strong; Kurtzman and Orci Talk

You can look at tracking all you want, and listen to studio marketers downplaying expectations. But truth is, if a movie plays as well as Star Trek does, the word gets out. The movie opened to an estimated $31 million on Friday (including Thursday night numbers), and we know that the WOM will be strong. So it's going to do a lot better than those $50-65 million estimates. UPDATE: It grossed an estimated $76.5 million for the weekend but scored only 35% under 25. Of course the core demo skewed older. Paramount has been spending the big bucks on luring the younger demo--which will likely expand on upbeat WOM.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • May 9, 2009 6:45 AM
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Star Trek Will Open Huge: $100 Million?

Star Trek will open huge, and some prognosticators are heralding the year's first $100 million weekend. That's not what the advance tracking shows, which is trending toward older males, or what Paramount wants anyone to believe. But word travels fast. And I will bet that the movie will outpace expectations. Even if the "brand"--everyone's favorite word these days--is damaged. Admittedly, my own daughter-of-a-Trekkie, Nora, 19, is not the slightest bit interested in plunking down her ten bucks.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • May 7, 2009 5:52 AM
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  • 0 Comments

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