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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lorax Dominates. John Carter Bombs. Indy Films and channel find room for success. CBS Head has confession to make.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen got off to a good start at the box office this weekend
 Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor star in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Credit: CBS Films

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest entertainment news.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" reeled in a healthy number of moviegoers at the box office this weekend. The drama, about a scientist and a consultant on a mission to bring fly-fishing to the Middle East, opened in 18 theaters and collected $240,000 domestically, according to an estimate from distributor CBS Films.That amounted to a respectable per-theater average of $13,333.

The film starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor attracted an older female audience, as 71% of the crowd was over the age of 50 and 61% were women. The film has earned so-so critical reviews, but those who saw the picture this weekend seemed to like it: Ticket sales jumped 86% from Friday to Saturday, indicating the movie is benefiting from strong word of mouth.

CBS Films, which had moderate success with its horror release "The Woman in Black" earlier this year, acquired "Salmon Fishing" at the Toronto Film Festival last year. Their latest movie will play in 40 theaters next weekend.

Meanwhile, the romantic comedy "Friends With Kids" also got off to a decent start. Written by, directed by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, the movie opened in 375 theaters this weekend and grossed $2.2 million. That resulted in a less-robust per-theater average of $5,801.

The movie, about two friends who decide to have a baby together and remain in a platonic relationship, was also acquired at the Toronto fest. The movie was bought by Lionsgate, which is paying to market and release the film through Roadside Attractions.

"Friends With Kids" will expand to 600 theaters nationwide next weekend.

John Carter flopped upon its debut at the box office this weekend
 Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch star in "John Carter." Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Disney's John Carter of Mars may be biggest flop of the year. In what is certain to go down as one of the biggest box office flops of the year, the $250-million-plus "John Carter" debuted with a disappointing $30.6 million this weekend.

Instead, last weekend's No. 1 film, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," claimed the top spot yet again. The Universal Pictures film, an animated 3-D environmental tale for families, collected an additional $39.1 million. The movie has now grossed a robust $122 million in just 10 days of release.

Meanwhile, fanboys failed to gravitate toward Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter," a 3-D fantasy epic that has been eclipsed by bad buzz for months. But the movie starring Taylor Kitsch wasn't the only bomb at the box office this weekend. "Silent House," a thriller featuring Elizabeth Olsen, did not have an impressive debut, grossing $7 million -- but at least the movie was made for under $1 million.

"A Thousand Words," an Eddie Murphy comedy that has been sitting on the shelf since 2008 and cost far more to make, brought in only a measly $6.4 million.

"John Carter," about a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars, will likely force Disney to take a write-down, according to media analysts. Heading into the weekend, one Wall Street analyst, Evercore's Alan Gould, said the film could lose as much as $165 million.

PHOTOS: Costliest box office flops of all-time
Based on a century-old character created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, "John Carter" was meant to appeal to young males. But a surprisingly older crowd turned up to see the movie this weekend, as 59% of the audience was over age 25. Those who saw the film -- a 64% male contingent -- assigned it an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president of distribution, offered little insight on why the film did not resonate with moviegoers.

“Every studio ultimately has their turn with a film like this -- despite how good it might be,” Hollis said. “I wish there was a simple silver bullet answer of why people didn’t come out in the kind of quantity we would have liked.”

"John Carter" was directed by Pixar Animation Studios veteran Andrew Stanton, best known for his work on films like "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo." Unlike the movie's director, its leading man is still lesser known to most film-goers. While many television viewers are familiar with the 30-year-old Kitsch due to his role on the long-running television series "Friday Night Lights," "John Carter" marked the actor's first major film role.

Overseas, the movie fared better, grossing $70.6 million from 55 foreign countries, including Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. The picture performed best in Russia, where it was the No. 1 opening of the year and had the biggest opening day in the country's history.

The poor opening for "A Thousand Words" continued a career downslide for Murphy, who was set to host this year's Oscars but withdrew from the gig months before the telecast. While the actor's last movie, Brett Ratner's "Tower Heist," was not a total box office bust -- his other recent live-action films have tanked at the multiplex. "Imagine That" and "Meet Dave" grossed well under $20 million by the end of their domestic runs -- a fate that may also befall his latest effort.

The movie, starring Murphy as a literary agent who could die after he utters 1,000 words, was made by DreamWorks while the company was still owned by Paramount. The picture stayed at the studio when it parted ways with Steven Spielberg's company, which spent about $70 million to produce the film, according to two people familiar with the production who were not authorized by the studio to speak publicly on the film. A Paramount spokeswoman said the movie cost $40 million.

Those who saw "A Thousand Words" didn't like it, giving it an average B- grade -- but audiences liked it way more than "Silent House," which received a dismal mark of F. The low-budget flick, starring the 23-year-old sister of popular twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, is about a girl locked inside of her family's lake house. The picture was acquired by Liddell Entertainment after its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and is being marketed and distributed by Open Road.

[Updated, 12:40 p.m. March 11: "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" crossed the $200-million mark at the international box office this weekend, far surpassing the $140.3-million tally the original "Journey to the Center of the Earth" made abroad in 2008. The sequel, which is currently playing in 53 foreign countries, collected an additional $9.2 million over the weekend, raising its overseas tally to $200 million. The family adventure starring Dwayne Johnson has performed best in China, where it has grossed $57.4 million, but has also done well in Russia, Mexico and France.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates:

1. "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" (Universal): $39.1 million on its second weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $122 million. $1.4 million overseas in six foreign markets. International total: $1.8 million.

2. "John Carter" (Disney) Opened to $30.6 million. $70.6 million overseas in 55 foreign markets.

3. "Project X" (Warner Bros.): $11.6 million on its second weekend, down 45%. Domestic total: $40.1 million. $3 million overseas in 13 foreign markets. International total: $7.3 million.

4. "Silent House" (Open Road/Liddell): Opened to $7 million.

5. "Act of Valor" (Relativity/Bandito Bros.): $7 million on its third weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $56.1 million.

6. "A Thousand Words" (Paramount/DreamWorks): Opened to $6.4 million.

7. "Safe House" (Universal/Relativity): $5 million on its fifth weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $115.8 million. $6.1 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. International total: $61.6 million.

8. "The Vow" (Sony/Spyglass): $4 million on its fifth weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $117.6 million. $2.4 million overseas in 24 foreign markets. International market: $39.8 million.

9. "This Means War" (Fox/Dune): $3.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $46.9 million. $9.4 million overseas in 52 foreign markets. International total: $57.5 million.

10. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" (Warner Bros.): $3.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 44%. Domestic total: $90.7 million. $9.2 million overseas in 53 foreign markets. International total: $200 million.
Leslie Moonves is CBS' chief executive.
CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves in April 2011 at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

His favorite comedy is not on his network. CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves made a startling admission at the 36th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium on Saturday.

At the end of a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, prominent entertainment attorney Ken Ziffren asked the television titan to name his favorite television comedy.

"Modern Family," Moonves said.

The Emmy-winning sitcom, created by Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, has become a colossal hit for ABC. The show, now television's top-rated comedy, is produced by another rival, 20th Century Fox Television -- not CBS'  production studio.

It would hardly be news if any other entertainment CEO said he liked a competitor's program, but this was Moonves. He has been CBS' most ardent cheerleader for more than 15 years, and he has changed the names of several business units in his corporate stable so they would be branded CBS.
Moonves immediately knew he would take flak.

"I'm going to get in big trouble with Chuck Lorre next week," Moonves said, referring to the prolific producer who has helped build CBS' comedy blocks into some of the most profitable half-hours in all of television with his shows "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and most recently "Mike & Molly."

Ziffren noted that "Big Bang Theory" (produced by Warner Bros. Television), which airs on CBS on Thursday nights, is beating the once-invincible Fox Broadcasting singing competition "American Idol" in the ratings.

"Look, 'Idol' is still a monster show, I wish that I had it, but it's not what it used to be," Moonves said.
For the record, Moonves said his two favorite dramas on television were "The Good Wife" on CBS and "Homeland" on Showtime, which is owned by CBS.

"And they are both mine," he said.

Charles Segars is Ovation's CEO
Photo: Ovation Chief Executive Charles Segars in 2010 at the channel's Santa Monica headquarters. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times 

Indy channel reaches 50,000 homes. Ovation, the independently owned cable television channel that showcases art and artists, has etched a major milestone: It now is available in more than 50 million homes.

The Santa Monica-based cable channel announced this week that it secured a distribution deal with AT&T's U-verse subscription television service, putting the channel in more than half of the nation's households that subscribe to pay-TV. Ovation has increased its carriage by about 20% during the last year -- an achievement for a small independent that lacks the leverage of a major media company like News Corp., NBCUniversal or Walt Disney Co.

“When we acquired Ovation five years ago, it was in less than 5 million homes,” Charles Segars, chief executive of Ovation, said in a statement. “Our 10-fold growth proves that distributors and viewers agree with what we have been saying all along: Programming about art, artists and artistic expression rocks.”

The channel's expansion bodes well for the network because it demonstrates that cable, satellite and telephone companies are interested in carrying some highbrow programming at a time when distributors are under pressure to shed channels. Consumers have grown increasingly wary of rising cable bills.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest entertainment news.


Anonymous said...

Wow so far thier taking a big loss on "John Carter". In my personal opinion why I did not see it is based on two things. First I have seen the preview 500 times everyday, when that happens it usually is a bad movie and hasn't proved me wrong before. Secondly it's from Disney, when I hear about Disney I think of kids movies. This movies does not come off as a kids movie so I'm not sure how it would pan out if I watched it. You can usually tell how a movies going to be if you know the studio making it and the genre. Now that I have read this article my opinion was technically right.
Benny Ventresca COM101-4080

Anonymous said...

I dont care to watch n e of the movies they just talked about. they all sound boring. why would I want to watch a movie about fishing? About the only one I would watch is the one with The Rock. Sounds like a lot of companies lost a lot of money whoops!!

Chris Smith com101 sec4049

Anonymous said...

I would have preferred to see John carter over the Lorax (but thats because I am not a fan of the people that do the voices. The sound of their voices make my ears hurt) But, Disney also made Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer's Apprecntice which I think were good movies as well.... And they were not your typical Disney Movie....

Nicole Baxter COM 101-4080