Sunday, December 9, 2018

Still At The Top

There will, of course, be yet another superhero movie out on December 21st ...

For a second week, Disney and Illumination Entertainment entries remain at the pinnacle of The Box Office Ten. (But the Grinch is gaining on Ralphie boy) ...

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Ralph Breaks Internet -- 3,795 (-222) -- $16.1M (-37%) -- $140.8M

2) The Grinch -- 3,841 (-93) -- $15.1M (-15%) -- $223.4M

3) Creed II -- 3,572 (+176) -- $10.3M (-38%) -- $96.4M

4) Fantastic Beasts 2 -- 3,541 (-400) -- $6.8M (-40%) -- $145.2M

5) Bohemian Rhapsody Fox/NR/GK -- 2,953 (-54) -- $6M (-25%) -- $173.5M

6) Instant Family -- 3,426 (+50) -- $5.6M (-22%) -- $54.1M

7) Green Book -- 1,181 (+116) -- $3.9M (0%) -- $19.9M

8) Robin Hood -- 2,573 (-254) -- $3.5M (-25%) -- $27.2M

9) …Hannah Grace -- 2,298 (+233) -- $3.18M (-50%) -- $11.5M

10) Widows -- 2,161 (-232) -- $3.1M (-30%) -- $38.1M

The Grinch now has a worldwide box office total of $322,363,175, while Ralph weighs in with $258,158,885.

And in a few days the well-reviewed Spider-Man/Spider-verse swings into theaters with opening weekend projections of $30-$40 million. (Some, including moi, think it will be higher. Is $50,000,000 too optimistic?)

.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Kimball On Kimball

Mr. Kimball and Mr. Tom Snyder converse at Grizzly Flats railway.

A new biography entitled "The Life and Times of Ward Kimball", authored by Todd James Pierce, rolls out in the next several weeks. Mr. Kimball, of course, was a Disney story artist, director and animator for forty years, also a musician who fronted "The Firehouse Five Plus 2" a best-selling jazz band in the late forties and early fifties. The tome covers his early years, his career at Disney, his hobbies and personal life. Also his mischief-making at the Hyperion studio:

When Walt set up a volleyball court next to the bullpen, Kimball played every day. ... One animator remembers that Kimball loved to play with senior storyman Jack Kinney. Sometimes at the height of the volley, Kimball would perform very well, then suddenly take the ball ... hold it lazily in his hands, drop it to the ground, and walk off with a mischievous grin as Jack Kinney and other devotees danced with rage. ...

And like that.

Mr. Pierce uses a wide variety of sources to bring Kimball's life and multi-faceted career into focus.

"Multi-faceted" is probably one of the more accurate labels attached to Mr. Kimball. He had a wide range of interests (see above), and he was focused and efficient in pursuing all of them. He was also opinionated, as in this forty-year-old interview:

"Gerry Geronomi [an early WDP director] was one of the prime (expletive)s at Disney's. Walt had a way or retaining someone like that, because he figured if there was conflict it brought the best out of all of us.

But Gerry was a crude man. I had a woman assistant named (blank) who was very well constructed. She drove Jerry crazy and finally he couldn't stand it. And one day he came up behind her and he went "Rhhhrr!"... I heard this scream and the chair flew back and the desk got knocked over. And I went running in there and said "What the hell?" I knew Gerry had just left my room... Vince said that Gerry had grabbed Mary... I mean, that's terrible. That's not a class act.

Finally we boycotted Geronomi, said we weren't going to work for him. We told Ken Peterson, who was head of the animation department, and nothing was done about it until Geronomi said: "How come I can't get this guy Kimball?" Peterson told him that Kimball "doesn't want to work for you."

"What the hell is Kimball talking about?" Geronomi says. "Who does he think he is? Son of a b*tch."

And Milt Kahl told him about everybody, and finally the straw that helped break the back was John Lounsbery, the nicest guy you would ever want to meet, who was patient, and didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings, who finally went to Walt and said: "I don't want to work with this man anymore."

And Walt thinks, if Lounsbery goes, there must be something wrong. And of course the end came when Walt decided to take Geronomi out of the animation room for a number of reasons, one of which was TV, and he wanted him to go to Germany and kind of produce some live action ... Like all the kids from the lower eastside who had been beaten up every day of their lives for being small or something, Gerry thought he was in some alien surroundings, there with the "Krauts." In other words he was in Germany and here were these "Krauts." See, he wanted to be picked up in a big limousine, he wanted to play director, just like Ernst Lubitsch or Frank Capra.

Gerry wasn't in sympathy with the whole project; he mistrusted everybody and made an ass out of himself. Finally Walt had to go over there and see what the matter was. And at a meeting he gave Gerry his choice. Gerry said "I want to go back to work on animation! I don't like this sh*t." Well, that's when they let him go.

Yeah, he was a prime (expletive). Outside the studio there were stories you can't repeat because most people say it's just gossip. Of course, they happen, and they didn't help him one bit.

If Mr. Pierce captures the full essence of Ward Kimball, the new biography should be well worth buying.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Number One & Number Two

The animated features on the Box Office Top Ten list finish in the Win and Place positions... and another high profile animated feature hits on December 14th. ...

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Ralph Breaks Internet -- 4,017 -- $25.8M (-54%) -- $119.2

2) The Grinch -- 3,934 (-26) -- $17.7M (-42%) -- $203.5M

3) Creed II -- 3,576 (+135) -- $16.8M (-53%) -- $81.1M

4) Fantastic Beasts 2 -- 3,851 (-312) -- $11.2M (-62%) -- $134.3M

5) Bohemian Rhapsody -- 3,007 (+80) -- $8.1M (-42%) -- $164.4M

6) Instant Family -- 3,376 (+90) -- $7.1M (-42%) -- $45.9M

7) …Hannah Grace -- 2,065 -- $6.5M -- $6.5M (1st weekend)

8) Robin Hood -- 2,827 -- $4.7M (-49%) -- $21.7M

9) Widows -- 2,393 (-410) -- $4.4M (-47%) -- $33M

10) Green Book -- 1,065 (+2) --$3.9M (-29%) -- $14M

As of Sunday, Ralph Breaks the Internet has pulled down $206,994,233 on a worldwide basis, and The Grinch has earned $268,307,195. Both features have made more domestically than overseas. That will likely change.

The highly anticipated Spider-Man, Into the Spider-Verse rolls out wide on December 14th. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the guiding forces behind the new iteration of Spidey. Look for it to do rather well (the number of views for the trailers on YouTube are ... up there.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Five Days of Holiday Grosses

The new version of the thief with bow and arrow seems to get little love and even less box office traction.

Two animated features appear to be doing well in the box office department. The Disney movie nests at #1 and the Universal-Illumination offering resides at #3:

FIVE DAYS OF (PROJECTED) BOX OFFICE MONEY

1) Wreck-It Ralph 2 -- $88.5 million -- $88.5 million

3) The Grinch -- $41 million -- $179.4 million

Meantime, the opening of a freshly-minted Robin Hood landed in 5th place and seems to be going the way of other recent Hood epics: into the trash bin of large-budget flops. The Kevin Costner offering from 1991 did brisk business in its time, but there has been little to get excited about over the ones produced since.

The industry keeps making flicks about the bandit from Sherwood Forest, and audiences keep going to other movies. (Kind of like The Three Musketeers. Newer versions keep being produced ... and failing. It's been forty-plus years since one of those did big box office.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Get Rich Slowly

When I was forty, I was pretty much broke. I had a house, mortgage, four-year-old, and a wife who kept the family afloat (sort of) with a semi-steady job in animation. At the time, I was not holding up my end of the family finances. I had eight jobs in a span of three-and-a-half years, the longest of which was a staff position teaching English in a private school for $350 per week.

I promised myself that if I ever secured employment that paid a living wage (i.e., more than $350/week), I would get serious about saving.

A month shy of my 41st birthday, I got a job that paid enough so my spouse and I could save a little money ... and boy did we save. Year in and year out, we tucked money away in stocks, in savings bonds, in bank accounts. We took unlavish vacations and drove old cars. We sent our kids to public schools and public universities. And when we retired two years ago, we had enough salted away to (finally!) afford retirement.

So what's the secret? The roadmap to success? The numbered guide below (from a millenial called Badger1754 at bogleheads.org) is more useful than many:

Some Rules For Creating Wealth:

1) Live within your means.

2) Pay yourself first.

3) Put aside money for emergencies (actual emergencies).

4) Ignore the “noise” (CNBC, “financial advisors” trying to sell you stuff). This might be actually a healthier way to live life. I get my news from the NYTimes and the WSJ. My wife gets her news from Facebook and cable TV. I am infinitely calmer during elections. :D

5) Keep things in perspective.

6) Don’t let sentiment, emotion, or a “gut feeling” cloud your judgment when there are facts that can be relied upon. In particular, I’ve found that having a basic facility with finance and math (e.g. able to build an Excel model) helps streamline the decision-making process which as in turn helped me avoid several potentially bad decisions.

7) Invest in the future (monetarily, educationally, philanthropically).

8) Remember: Sic transit gloria mundinothing good lasts forever, so don’t expect it to.

9) There is still a greater concentration of talent, hunger, entrepreneurialism, chutzpah, grit, accessibility, and freedom in the US economy than anywhere else in the world that attracts the aforementioned attributes like moths to a flame. So, while nothing good lasts forever, Rome took over a thousand years to fall.)

10) Stay active (physically, intellectually, economically) — idle hands do the devil’s work; idle money does no work. Take ownership and responsibility for your own success.

11) No one aside from your parents will give you anything. In fact, there is a large population of people who would freely and shamelessly take advantage of you. But it is up to you (and only you) to find and pursue those opportunities that will lead to success.

12) A piece of advice I wish all millennials would reflect upon: remember that you can’t save the world if you become a casualty in the process.

13) Don’t reinvent the wheel — stand on the shoulders of giants!

I ladled out a lot of advice in my old job in the cartoon business. The advice encompassed employment, what kinds of investments to put money in, how the cartoon business works. Here's the gist of it (most of which dovetails with badger1754's advice directly above.

Surviving (And Prospering) In The Animation Industry

1) The cartoon job market goes up and down -- Twenty-plus years ago, salaries and job opportunities in animation went through the roof. But within half a decade the supply of talent overtook the supply of jobs, and salaries went down ... and more people were out of work. (Sic transit gloria mundi -- badger's #8).

2) Invest in yourself -- hone your skills, improve your skills. Constantly train, learn, improve; it's the only way to stay relevant in a changing business. Remember there are always hungry 22-year-olds coming up behind you (badger's #7).

3) Even if you don't think you can afford it, put something in your 401(k) ... and IRA ... and Roth IRA. (If you're under an IA/TAG contract, you'll also be having your employer put money on your behalf into a pension fund. -- badger's #2)

4) The animation business has always underpaid workers. Artists were taking free tests in 1933 ... 1967 ... 2016. Artists were working free overtime during the same time periods. My artist father made $15/week at Disney in 1939. Animator Don Lusk made more clerking in a liquor store near Big Bear Lake in 1941 than he did as a Disney artist in Burbank during the same year. (Union sign painters in the building trades averaged $1.47/hr during this time.)

In the present era, Disney exec Ed Catmull -- soon to retire as a wealthy man -- suppressed animation and tech wages; non-union studios pay below union minimums with scanty benefits; union studios distributing work on the internet are allowed to undercut contract minimums. It's useful for artists to know the industry's past as they push to make the industry's future better (badger's #5 & #6 & #12).

5) The TV animation business has always had periods of work followed by periods of layoff. It was that way in the 1960s and 1970s when Saturday morning cartoons provided seven months of employment followed by five (and sometimes six) months of layoff. There were "hiatuses" then, there are "hiatuses" (aka unemployment) now.

5) Best investing advice I ever got? -- keep it simple, keep it constant, and know your threshold of pain. You can't be an effective investor if you react emotionally to markets' ups and downs and pull cash out at the wrong time. If you're unable to endure financial pain without panicking, if you have only a sketchy knowledge about stocks and bonds, read one or two good books on the subject; if you don't have time for math, calculators and slide rules, set up an asset allocation with an all-in-one fund that has both stocks and bonds with the amount of risk you are comfortable with, and let the pros handle your investment stash. Then feed money into it week by week, and only look at how the fund is doing every seven years*.

* A Fidelity Investments study found that the best Fidelity investors were people who forgot they had investments there.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mid-November Movie Grosses

The Grinch holds reasonably well one week to the next, while Fantastic Beasts 2 performs better overseas than in the U.S. and Canada.

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Fantastic Beasts 2 -- 4,163 -- $62.2M -- $62.2M (1st weekend)

2) The Grinch -- 4,141 -- $38.1M (-44%) -- $38.1M -- $126.5M

3) Bohemian Rhapsody -- 3,810 (-190) -- $15.7M (-50%) -- $127.8M

4) Instant Family -- 3,286 -- $14.7M -- $14.7M (1st weekend)

5) Widows -- 2,803 -- $12.3M -- $12.3M (1st weekend)

6) The Nutcracker… -- 2,635 (-1,131) $1.1M -- $4.6M (-54%) -- $43.8M

7) A Star Is Born -- 2,010 (-838) -- $4.3M (-46%) -- $185.8M

8) Overlord -- 2,859 -- $3.8M (-62%) -- $17.7M

9) …Spider’s Web -- 2,929 -- $2.5M (-68%) $13.2M 2

10) Nobody’s Fool -- 1,301 (-1167) -- $2.2M (-66%) -- $28.8M

Fantastic Beasts 2 collected $191 million from 79 foreign markets. Coupled with domestic grosses, it's earned a quarter billion in its first weekend. Not bad, but critics don't love it the way they loved the first installment.

Meantime, The Grinch has now grossed 425.2 million abroad and is rolling out slowly. To date, its worldwide total is $152,163,410.

On Wednesday next, Wreck-It Ralph 2 makes its debut.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Goodbye To A Story Teller

William Goldman has died. You might not know who he is, but you know his work. He wrote novels ("The Temple of Gold", "The Princess Bride", numerous others). And screenplays. (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harper, All the President's Men, Misery) And he crafted memorable lines of dialogue:

"Follow the money."

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

"Why, are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya." [see above]

Mr. Goldman was born in Illinois and writing ran in the family. His older brother James grew up to write "The Lion in Winter" (among other works). Like younger brother William, he won an Academy Award for one of his screenplays.

William Goldman claimed not to think he wrote particularly well, but the claim is undercut by two Academy Awards and a career that was over a half-century long (Among his last assignments was adapting Stephen King's novel "Misery" for the Broadway stage.) One of the lesser-known facts of Mr. Goldman's career is that he wrote a script for Universal's animated feature Curious George, though ultimately it wasn't used.

He leaves two daughters (Jenny and Susanna) from a thirty-year marriage that ended in 1991. Rest in Peace, Mr. Goldman.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The ReBoot

Slick as a ringmater's polished silver whistle, but will audiences buy in to a new version of a beloved classic? Of a monster conglomerate messing with their childhood memories? (And granted, for the elementary school set, this iteration WILL be their childhood memory, not the 1941 film.)

I honestly don't know the answer, but we'll find out soon enough. But whether the new movie is good, bad or indifferent, it isn't about new ideas or old ideas. It's about about properties tucked away in the corporate library that can generate major cash flow.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Grinch's B.O.

Illumination Entertainment scored a #1 with its new iteration of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas while Warner Bros's Smallfoot quietly left the Top Ten.

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) The Grinch -- 4,141 -- $66M -- $66M (1st weekend)

2) Bohemian Rhapsody -- 3,766 -- $30.8M (-40%) -- $100M

3) Overlord -- 2,859 -- $10.1M -- $10.1M (1st weekend)

4) The Nutcracker -- 3,766 -- $9.5M (-53%) -- $35.2M

5) A Star Is Born -- 2,848 (-583) -- $8M (-27%) -- $178M

5) ….Spider’s Web -- 2,929 -- $8M -- $8M (1st weekend)

7) Nobody’s Fool -- 2,468 -- $6.5M (-53%) --$24.2M

8) Venom -- 2,351 (-716) -- $4.8M (-38%) -- $206.2M

9) Halloween -- 2,717 (-1,058) -- $3.8M (-65%) -- $156.8M

10) Hate You Give -- 1,108 (-399) -- $2M (-38%) --$26.7M

The recently-departed Smallfoot now perches at #11, with a domestic total of $80,306,553 and $203,906,553 globally.

Incredibles 2, despite moving to other platforms on your home viewing devices, remains in 140 theaters. The pic collected $144,000 over the weekend, and now has a domestic total of $608,297,459 (worldwide the gross is $1,238,553,699).

Lsstly, the animation hybrid Disney's Christopher Robin remains in 132 theaters, picked up some small change, and now stands at $99,118,784 in domestic grosses. Globally, the take is almost evenly split between the U.S./Canada and everywhere else; world total is $196,116,581.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Ever-Changing Cartoon Biz

Now with healthful, gluten-free Add On (see below).

Ed Catmull retires next month. John Lasseter is looking to make a comeback in Cartoonland (at a studio not named Disney). Animation, in ways similar to live-aCtion, has become a roiling sea.

Companies are beset by mergers, or #MeToo scandals. Studios are wedded to big ambitions, or shackled to past successes.

And internal questions are only the start. Leaders such as Disney and Pixar are trying to maintain dominance over the field, while close competitors like Illumination are closing in. Once-great studios such as DreamWorks are struggling to find their way back. And well-funded upstarts from Sony to Netflix are seeking to knock them all off.

“We are witnessing fundamental change right before our eyes,” said Dan Sarto, editor at the industry-watching Animation World Network and a close observer of the category. “It’s totally unprecedented. Everything is subject to disruption.” ...

A big reason animation is in flux is, it isn't a sleepy little corner of the movie business anymore. (Truth be told, it hasn't been small or sleepy for years.) Every entertainment conglomerate produces and releases animated features. Every conglomerate produces and distributes TV cartoons. Netflix and Amazon, to upstart pretenders to the Hollywood throne, produce animation because the formate draws LOTS of eyeballs. And well-watched content is the ane of the game.

Standard rule of thumb: the higher the stakes, the more vicious the in-fighting. That's why there is more back-stabbing and maneuvering at higher levels than there ever was before. That's why fewer big-shots talk to the mainstream media. (Kindly note that highly-placed animation execs delivered quotes to the Washington Post story directly above. They have more to lose than gain from press accessibility.)

Yes, the industry is going through Big Change, but it has gone through change and upheaval before. (Television, labor strife, cable networks, etc.) The difference now is the profits are far bigger and the stakes far higher. Internal turmoil is one thing when cartoons are a sleepy sideshow, quite another when the money is big and the competition fierce. The business is not just Disney, Hanna-Barbera, and a few small upstart studios anymore. Now it's seven hungry corporations with very long knives.

Add On: But, of course, it isn't just the animation biz in turmoil. The wider live-action industry is also going through painful change, as one of our major metroploitan dailies details here.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Merry Times at Walt's Place

The House of Mouse (otherwise known as the Walt Disney Company) had a very good quarter...

... The company reported adjusted per-share earnings of $1.48, topping analysts forecasts of $1.34 for the fiscal fourth quarter. It booked record revenues of $14.3 billion, exceeding Wall Street’s projections of $13.73 billion.

The film studio’s revenue jumped 50% in the quarter to $2.2 billion, buoyed by the box office success of Incredibles 2, which rang in more than $1.2 billion globally, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, at $622 million in worldwide ticket sales.

The media networks group, which includes broadcast and cable television, saw revenues rise 9% to nearly $6 billion in the quarter ending September 29. ...

Disney will complete its integration (digestion?) of Fox assets early in the new year. The Mouse's new streaming services will shortly be up and running. How well will Diz Co. complete against Netflix and Amazon? Should be interesting to find out.

In the meanwhile, most of its subsidiaries are ticking along, contributing to the bottom line. And Disney stockholders will no dout be hoping that Chairman Robert Iger stays beyond his current employment contract, even though he's getting a bit long in the tooth.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Bohemian Box Office

Rock-and-roll rules the turnstiles as Warner's animated feature makes ready to leave the Top Ten, and make way for Illumination Entertainment's Grinch.

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Bohemian Rhapsody -- 4,000 -- $48.9M -- $48.9M (1st weekend)

2) Nutcracker… -- 3,766 -- $20.2M -- $20.2M (1st weekend)

3) Nobody’s Fool -- 2,468 -- $13.8M -- $13.8M (1st weekend)

4) Halloween -- 3,775 (-215) -- $11.1M (-65%) -- $150.4M

5) A Star Is Born -- 3,431 (-473) -- $10.7M (-24%) -- $165.2M

6) Venom -- 3,067 (-500) -- $7.5M (-30%) -- $198.3M

7) Hunter Killer -- 2,720 -- $4.1M (-37%) -- $13.6M

8) Goosebumps 2 -- 2,828 (-895) -- $3.6M (-50%) -- $44M

9) The Hate U Give -- 1,507 (-868) -- $3.5M (-31%) -- $23.5M

10) Smallfoot -- 2,002 (-660) -- $3.1M (-35%) -- $76.7M

Smallfoot has now made $192,684,301 around the world. Not one of Warner Bros. larger hits, but since it's still playing off in lots of market and cost less than $100 million, (it was made in Canada at Sony Picture Imageworks Vancouver studio), it might eke out a profit by the time all cash streams are exhausted.

Incredibles 2 remains in 150 theaters domestically and has taken in $608,113,568 domestically. Worldwide Brad Bird's feature has taken in $1,238,213,568, good enough for #15 on the all-time grossers list.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Mickey! Merchandise!!

The rodent in the red shorts (there on the left with two other corporate mascots) turns ninety.

... Disney is using Mickey’s 90th birthday as a monstrous marketing moment, with the company’s cross-promotional machine revved up to what may be its highest level yet. Every corner of the $168 billion company is contributing to the campaign, which will intensify on Sunday when ABC runs “Mickey’s 90th Spectacular.” ...

By the early 1930s, Mickey was a merchandising machine. Look at early studio photographs, there is Mickey. He became a doll, became a watch, became a comic strip. The company was raking a $100 million in royalties on the Mouse by the second decade of its corporate existence.

As American copyright goes, Mickey frolicks into the public domain five years hence. Look for the Walt Disney Company to extend copyright AGAIN before the clock runs out. There is GOLD in that rodent with the bright red shorts.

Second Tier Product Reaches For Top Rung

Spain and South America combine forces on an animated feature they want to take worldwide:

Argentinian firms FilmSharks and Vista Sur, Peru’s Golem and Zentropa’s Spain-based animation arm Doce are launching the animated film Dalia Y El Libro Rojo 3D (Dalia and the Red Book 3D) at the American Film Market.

According to the producers, this is among the first Spanish-language animations to combine CGI characters, stop motion and classic 2D animation. Production is underway. ...

Few Americans notice, but there is a lively foreign market for lower budget animated features, most of which don't get any kind of meaningful release in the U.S. of A.

They come out of Europe.

They come out of South America.

Some come from Africa, the Middle East, and India.

The majority of these flicks make $15 million, $25 million, sometimes $60 million at the global box office. Those kinds of grosses would be disastrous for Pixar, Disney, or DreamWorks Animation, but they're fine for pictures coming in at $8 or $10 million. They're made on a shoe-string but when the features find an audience (and some of them do), they turn a nice profit. (Nothing that Robert Iger would fid comforting, but quite handsome for a small Spanish or Argentine studio.)

Will Dalia and the Red Book find favor in the United States and Canada? Probably not, but a domestic launch might help its prospects elsewhere.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Disney Keeps ON Monetizing Its Expanding Animation Empire

The Mouse, currently digesting most of the company formerly known as 20th Century Fox (which goes back to 1935 when Fox and 2oth Century studios merged) is making sure that every corner of its cartoon empire is making money:

Hulu has locked down streaming rights to a host of animated series, including new addition King of the Hill.

All 13 seasons of the Fox series from Mike Judge, which ran from 1997-20 are available to stream on the service as of Thursday. Hulu has also acquired exclusive streaming rights to Bob's Burgers, Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. ...

All of the series in the new deal are produced by 20th Century Fox TV, which is in the process of being absorbed by Disney. The latter will also be the majority owner of Hulu when the deal closes. ...

More than 10 new animated series have debuted in 2018 thus far, and Netflix and CBS TV Studios are each starting in-house animation arms. Though Hulu doesn't release viewing data for individual shows, the company has said animated shows are among the most-streamed content on the service: Viewers watch nearly 20 hours of animation on Hulu per month.

If you're keeping track at home, Disney will be the majority owner of the streaming service Hulu, even as it launches a Disney-branded streaming service for Disney-branded animated product.

The Mouse is keeping all streaming bets covered, the better to fight Netflix, Amazon, and other upstarts. Animation, as always, is a major component of its plans.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy Belated to Mr. Lusk

Five years and two days ago, I put up an interview with THIS fine man. ...

Cartoon veteran Don Lusk (animator, story man, and director .. from Disney on Hyperion to Hanna-Barbera on Cahuenga) turns turns ten decades old today.

To celebrate, we present you with the Don Lusk 100th birthday interview, which covers his career from Disney in 1933, to Hanna-Barbera in 1993. (Sixty years of work seems to be sufficient, wouldn't you say?) ...

Don is now 105 years old, and the last of Disney's "Golden Age" animators.

He started at Disney-Hyperion in 1933, departed in 1960 (and let's be upfront about this: Don was fired. He went out on strike in 1941 and Walt never forgave him.)

Don went on to a long career at Hanna-Barbera. He retired at age eighty in 1993, and has been busy for the twenty-five years that have elapsed since then. Happy 105th, Don. May your next 105 years be eqully memorable.

You will find Parts II and III of this interview here and here.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Halloweenie Box Office

Jamie Lee Curtis perches at the top of the box office, while Lady Gaga's Star continues to shine at #2. And the animated feature clinging to a spot on the Big List is fading a bit, but fading slooowly.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Halloween -- 3,990 (+62) -- $32M (-58%) -- $126.7M

2) A Star Is Born -- 3,904 (+20) -- $14.1M (-26%) -- $148.7M

3) Venom -- 3,567 (-320) -- $10.8M (-40%) -- $187.2M

4) Goosebumps 2 -- 3,723 (+202) -- $7.5M (-23%) -- $38.3M

5) Hunter Killer -- 2,720 $2.5M -- $6.6M -- $6.6M (1st weekend)

6) The Hate U Give -- 2,375 (+72) -- $5.1M (-33%) -- $18.3M

7) First Man -- 2,959 (-681) -- $4.9M (-31%) -- $37.8M

8) Smallfoot -- 2,662 (-370) -- $4.75M (-28%) -- $72.5M

9) Night School -- 1,991 (-305) -- $3.2M (-33%) -- $71.4M

10) Mid 90s A24 -- 1,206 (+1,202) -- $3M (+1063%) -- $3.3M

Remakes and sequels currently rule the roost (and, of course, the usual super hero movie). The well-reviewed Smallfoot has been only a mild performer at the U.S. and Canadian box office. The bulk of its revenue (over 56%) has come from overseas. Its worldwide total now comes to $167,591,050

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Animation Guild Ratifies New Contract

Slightly old news (but still) ...

Members of the Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new film and TV contract. The vote to approve the three-year deal with management’s AMPTP was 868-213 – an approval margin of 80.3% to 19.7%.

Of the guild’s 3,695 eligible members, 1,081 (29.3%) cast ballots. ...

There was campaigning between pro-ratification and anti-ratification Guild members during the ratification process. In the end the "Yes" votes were in line with previous ratifications. The number of ratification participants was similar to earlier election cycles, though the vote totals were higher because the membership of TAG has grown over the previous decade and a half.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Hiccup of History

A high profile writer (Terry Rossio of "Shrek", "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Lone Ranger" fame) points out a discrepancy that's been around sine the 1930s.

So strange that literally tho only words spoken in the new "Aladdin" trailer happens to be a rhyme that my writing partner and I wrote and Disney offers zero compensation to us (or to any screenwriters on any of these live-action remakes) not even a t-shirt or pass to the park.

As I used to tell angry writers: the reason they get shafted is because of a hiccup in history. Back when entertainment guilds and unions were being formed and scrambling for jurisdiction, animated cartoons were not something the Screen Writers Guild thought much about. The stories, after all, were worked by people that DREW PICTURES.

But things changed as things so often do. Story work for animated features and shorts devolved to the Screen Cartoonists Guild and then The Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (now known as Tne Animation Guild), part of the IATSE, which represents below-the-line crafts in movies and television. And here we are.

Because of that hiccup, animation employees are shoe-horned in with grips, make-up artists and camera people (among others) and labeled "below-the-line" which is a lousy term to start with. Cartoonists have tried to get re-use residuals multiple times without result. Times being what they are, it might be a while before they achieve them.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Box Office of Middle October

Man on the moon

The super hero continues to charge along (though dropping by more more than half, weekend to weekend), while the space opera about the first man on the earth's orbiting orb lands at third.

Three Days of Grosses

1) Venom -- 4,250 -- $35.7M (-55%) -- $142.8M

2) A Star Is Born -- 3,708 (+22) -- $28M (-35%) -- $94.1M

3) First Man -- 3,640 -- $16.5M -- $16.5M (1st weekend)

4) Goosebumps 2 -- 3,521 -- $16.2M -- $16.2M (1st weekend)

5) Smallfoot -- 3,606 (-525) -- $9.3M (-35%) -- $57.6M

6) Night School -- 2,780 (-239) -- $8M (-36%) -- $59.8M

7) …El Royale -- 2,808 -- $7.2M -- $7.2M (1st weekend)

8) The House… -- 2,791 (-672) -- $3.9M (-46%) -- $62.2M

9) The Hate U Give -- 248 (+212) -- $1.76M (+245%) -- $2.4M

10) The Nun -- 1,174 (-1,090) -- $1.3M (-49%) -- $115.9M

Smallfoot (from Warners) has collected $14.5 million in international markets even as it collected $9.3 million from the U.S. an Canada. (Grand total to date: $110,208,221).

Hotel Transylvania 3, though pretty well over domestically, earner another $2.8 millio overseas. It now has a $350 million total in foreign markets, and a global gross of $516,735,989.

Friday, October 12, 2018

THE REBOOT

The removal of properties from the vault continues ...

Will any of the creators of the original blockbuster get any profit-sharing on this one?

Will Walt rise again?

The original's story director, an artist named Ed Gombert, told me how difficult it was to put together the first version, how Howard Ashman's treatment got changed, and then the whole plot had to be reworked in a short time span to meet the release date, and he had NO idea how they would hit the mark.

But they did.

Per director Ron Clements, when the crew moved into production after "Beauty and the Beast" wrapped, nothing was ready but two of the songs .... so the songs went into animation first.

And now comes the remake. All hail the Mouse.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What's Jeffrey K. Been Up To?

Mr. Katzenberg hasn't let the grass grow under his feet. He's been raking in bucks for his new "short content" enterprise.

Media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and veteran tech executive Meg Whitman used the prominent platform of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit to announce the name of their new mobile video startup and drop the names of four high-profile Hollywood players who will create content for the subscription service.

Filmmakers Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Antoine Fuqua and noted producer Jason Blum will all create shows for the new mobile subscription service, which launches next year.

“These people are so excited about doing something new. They want to be the pioneers. They want to be able to show the path in doing this,” said Katzenberg. “We are going to do be able to do extraordinary storytelling.” ...

Jeffrey has come full circle.

Back in the early eighties at Paramount, he was overseeing live-action features. Then he moved with Michael Eisner to Disney, and supervised live-action and (as a side show) the studio' animated features.

Initially Mr. Katzenberg found success with both live-action and animated movies, but over his ten years at Disney, it was animated product that took flight. He was an unqualified success with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King but the offerings with flesh and blood actors foundered. In '94 Disney President Frank Wells died and Jeffrey grabbed for that brass ring. Michael Eisner pushed him overboard and he became the junionr partner of DreamWorks SKG.

For twenty years Jeffrey oversaw a string of animated features, then he sold out to Comcast Universal and dove back into live-action. Mr. Katzenberg is now a billionaire, but his day-to-day reality will be superintending (again) live-action. The difference this time around? The product will be 8 to 10 minutes in length, instead of two hours.

Progress. (I suppose).

IATSE Basic Agreement Ratified

Word went out within the last hour that twelve of thirteen unions in the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees' west coast bargaining unit ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement.

The 43,000 members in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts’ 13 West Coast Studio Local Unions ratified a new Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement with the AMPTP. Twelve of the thirteen Local Unions voted to ratify the contract.

The three-year contract—with wages, health and retirement benefits retroactive to July 31, 2018—includes broad gains in several key areas for workers, with no givebacks. ...

From reports, this was a hard-fought ratification. From the day agreement was reached, the Editors Guild Local 700 IATSE was against what came out of lengthy negotiations. The main issues for editors seemed to be the structure of new benefit payments by small companies, less turn-around time for editors thant other locals in the bargaing unit, and general unhappiness over funding for the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.

In twenty-seven years of watching IA-AMPTP Basic Agreement deals, I have NEVER seen a more rancorous campaign to oppose the final agreement than this one. For its part, the International campaigned aggressively for a "YES" vote and achieved it. Overall, the deal was a good one. Will some of the dire predictions about the health and pension plan come true? Time will let plan participants know.

Add On: Here's Deadline's take on the ratification. (71% of the Editors Guild membership voted. The Guild spent time and effort turning out the vote.)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Early October Box Office

Another effects-heavy super hero extravaganza lands at the top of The List.

The first full weekend of October movie receipts turns out to be highly venomous.

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Venom -- 4,250 -- $80M -- $80M (1st weekend)

2) A Star Is Born -- 3,686 -- $42.2M -- $43.5M (1st weekend)

3) Smallfoot -- 3,592 -- $14.55M (-40%) -- $42.4M

4) Night School -- 3,019 (+9) -- $11.9M (-55%) -- $39.1M

5) The House… -- 3,463 -- $7M (-44%) -- $54.7M

6) A Simple Favor -- 2,408 (-665) -- $3.5M (-46%) -- $49.1M

7) The Nun -- 2,264 (-1,067) -- $2.7M (-50%) -- $113.4M

8) Crazy Rich Asians -- 1,466 (-881) -- $2.1M (-48%) -- $169.2M

9) Hell Fest -- 2,297 -- $2M (-48%) -- $8.8M

10) The Predator -- 1,643 (-1,283) -- $900K (-77%) -- $49.9M

Venom opens north of $80 million in the U.S. and Canada. With a production budget of $110 million (after the Free Money is handed out via tax breaks and subsidies) it should climb rapidly into profits.

Smallfoot has the smallest PERCENTAGE decline of any movie in the Top Ten ... The Incredibles 2 remains in a couple of hundred theaters and now stands at $606.9 million domestic, $1.2 billion worldwide.

Hotel Transylvania 3 is now pretty much gone from neighborhood multiplexes, but has a global domestic gross of $511,661,024.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Power Fulcrum

Back during my working life (now twenty months distant) I wrote and talked a lot about "leverage". What I meant by that was the power to achieve things you believed were important. (Another way of framing it: What's the maximum point of lift on the fulcrum?)

Labor unions today have less power/leverage than they used to, but they still have some leverage. The question is, how much leverage?

I would submit to you that nobody ever knows precisely what leverage they possess, but the more information they have, the easier it is for them to judge. Here's an example:

Several months before I departed the Animation Guild, we were renegotiating Nick's Collective Bargaining Agreement (a.k.a. "the union contract"). The lawyer negotiating for Nick said the company was happy to agree to what other studios had gotten in recently concluded negotiations, but ... the company just had to get the ten sick days guaranteed in the Nickelodeon contract whittled down to five days, because that's what Nick's non-union employees were no getting. It just wasn't "fair" to those employees that union artists were getting double that number of days*.

I suggested a simple solution: just raise the non-union employees back up to ten sick days. Problem solved!

The lawyer told me (sadly) that was unfortunately out of the question. But in the name of fairness, justice and equity, the guild had to take five days instead of ten.

I told her no. There were ten sick days in the contract, and ten days were going to stay in the contract.

I also told her I didn't believe in "fair". I believed in keeping gains that were in the contract.

She said that Nick and the Animation Guild would never reach a deal if I had that kind of attitude.

I said "Okay then. We won't reach a deal."

At which point she hung up.

Over the next few months there were more phone calls, more bogus studio hand-wringing, more appeals to "fairness", and more not-gonna-happens from me. The refrains of "unfair" and "unreasonable" never stopped. Ultimately (and with the help of the I.A.) the Animation Guild achieved what it sought and kept the ten sick days. The question was never really in doubt, because we knew that Nick wasn't going to blow up the contract over a difference of five sick days.

We had knowledge of the power fulcrum (i.e., what we could achieve).

And now it's two years further on, and word reaches me out here in the desert that both the I.A. Basic Agreement and the Animation Guild's Master Agreement are the subjects of lively debates between the "Vote Yes on the contract!" proponents and the "Vote No! We can do better!" adherents.

Basically, it comes down to believing either 1) the negotiators used their leverage as well as they could, or 2) the negotiators loused up and could have achieved more, so they should go back and try again ... with a picket line out on the sidewalk to increase leverage.

That is pretty much it, but it's useful to examine the leverage thingie.

The IATSE has never done an industry-wide strike over the Basic Agreement, so the international has never fully tested where the power fulcrum is. But thirty-six years ago, the Animation Guild hit the bricks for the second time in three years to exert maximum leverage in its contract negotiations.

Three years before (1979), Local 839 had correctly judged where its power fulcrum was and achieved a contract that guaranteed employment for members before work could be sent out of Southern California.

Unfortunately in 1982 it misjudged its leverage, endured a long strike, and failed to achieve its goals.

So what happened?

In '82, the animation union thought it had more power than it actually did. It was facing down a medium-sized company named Hanna-Barbera, a bunch of smaller animation studios, and Walt Disney Productions, which was at the time a medium-sized movie studio attached to BIG amusement parks. But this second time around, the studios were prepared for a strike, and dug in. They were determined to get rid of the "runaway production clause" and held out until they achieved their goal.

So what about now?

The IATSE and the Animation Guild, (Local 839 IATSE) face large conglomerates that have resources and global reach. If the talent pools for live-action and/or animation in Southern California become unavailable, they can shift work to Australia, Canada, Georgia, Great Britain ... or Emeryville. They will calculate that union members won't be able to hold on much beyond five or six weeks, and so they can wait the work stoppage out.

Of course, the AMPTP can always renegotiate the agreement and give the striking unions a better deal, but (at least in my time), the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' operating philosophy was: "They go out on strike, we give them a lesser deal, not a better deal."

Whether that motto still holds, I don't know. But if it doesn't, there is probably a close cousin to it back there in the AMPTP offices, waiting to be dusted off.

I've gotten a bunch of calls and messages asking me, "Do you think the contract will get approved?" Here's what an old fud who's close to two years out of the loop thinks:

1) Yes it will be approved ... because the negotiation committee did its homework, presented its arguments well, and achieved the best deal (or close to) that could be gotten.

2) The membership is wide, diverse, and most members are employed. Few will want to have the negotiation committee return to the table to achieve a "same as" or lesser result while they walk up and down a picket line earning no money.

Most people that I talk to get where the power fulcrum is.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Box Office of Animation

Warners has a new cartoon feature out, and it's landed at #2 on the Big List:

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Night School -- 3,010 -- $26.3M -- $26.3M (1st weekend)

2) Smallfoot -- 4,131 -- $23.6M -- $23.6M (1st weekend)

3) The House -- 3,592 -- $12.1M (-55%) -- $44.4M

4) A Simple Favor -- 3,073 (-29) -- $6.7M (-34%) -- $43.1M

5) The Nun -- 3,331 (-376) -- $5.4M (-46%) -- $108.9M

6) Hell Fest -- 2,298 -- $4.8M -- $4.8M (1st weekend)

7) Crazy Rich Asians -- 2,347 (-455) -- $4.1M (-36%) -- $165.6M

8) The Predator -- 2,926 (-1,114) -- $3.5M (-62%) -- $47.4M

9) White Boy Rick -- 2,017 (-487) -- $2.4M (-51%) -- $21.6M

10) Peppermint -- 2,002 (-678) -- $1.8M (-51%) -- $33.5M

Smallfoot, a Warner Animation Group production but animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks out of Vancouver, British Columbia (Free money! Free Money!) is, as of now, running neck-and-neck with Night School. It will either place first or second on the Big List for the weekend, depending on how it performs tomorrow.

Meantime, Increcibles 2 remains in a few hundred theaters and has now grossed $606,555,582 in the U.S. and Canada. It's well north of a billion on a worldwide basis.

Friday, September 21, 2018

When Animation Salaries Went Through The Roof

It was the mid nineties. Warner Bros. had launched a second animation studio to make feature films. Fox had opened a fully-equipped animation facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the driving force at Disney Feature Animation from 1985 to 1994, was charging full speed ahead with big-budget animated features at a new company named DreamWorks.

And the dear old House of Mouse? It had multiple projects in development.

Demand for experienced artists and designer far outstripped supply, and salaries (unsurprisingly) went up.*

At the same time, animation on cable networks and in syndicated packages on over-the-air TV was steadily expanding. And salaries for television animation jobs were also going up. So it was unsurprising when one of the Hollywood trade papers noted those facts:

Animation talent continued to enjoy a seller’s market in the past year, with rates for union staffers generally rising to record levels, according to an annual survey by the industry’s cartoonists guild.

The survey, conducted in April, showed especially strong increases in the median average salaries for story sketch artists, visual development designers and lead key assistant animators.

The median average for lead key assistants, for example, jumped from $1,370 a week in 1996 to $1,900 a week this year. The minimum in that category was $1,435; the maximum, $3,815. ...

If you didn't live through the L.A. animation boom in the middle 1990s, you can't fully understand the buoyant feelings that permeated the business. Jeffrey Katenberg and Michael Eisner, hating each other, opened a bidding war for feature animation talent. Katzenberg, recently of Disney Feature Animation, had the phone numbers for Disney talent and lured a lot of artists away to upstart DreamWorks with higher salaries. Michael Eisner ordered DFA management to keep animation employees in place "whatever it took." This resulted in elevated paychecks and signing bonuses. Long-term contracts with generous terms were offered to Disney assistants. Disney layout artists and (of course) Disney animators.

Warner Bros. Animation (tv branch) kept its entire staff on weekly salaries for months with nothing to do because it was worried that it wouldn't get laid-off employees back after production resumed. Everyone would have gone to other busy studios. The owner/operator of a smaller union studio told me:

"I had a deal with a board artist for twenty-two hundred a week. The guy comes back to me yesterday and says, 'Twenty-two hundred isn't good enough. I need twenty-four hundred.' What can I do? I told him I'll pay twenty-four hundred. I NEED him. But I'll REMEMBER this. ..."

Artists knew that times were good. Some of them even told me that union minimums had become irrelevant: "I'm making double union scale! I don't know what we even need minimums for."

High pay (along with lots of jobs) went on into the late '90s. But no boom time lasts forever. Syndicated animation became less lucrative, hand-drawn features got eclipsed by CGI features, Art schools and universities turned out hundreds (then thousands) of young artists eager to plunge into the cartoon industry and the suppply of talent caught up with demand.

And weekly checks steadily shrank.

Adam Smith wasn't wrong. Markets do go up and down. Fat times are followed by lean times (and the reverse). Today animation is a bigger business than it's ever been, with CG and hand-drawn product, with animated visual effects, with video games and television graphics and animation on the internet. But there is also a huge pool of talent that spans the globe. (Thouse art schools and colleges have been busy.) Plus, our fine, entertainment conglomerates are tight-fisted. For these reasons (and Ed Catmull's earlier handiwork?), the high wages of the 1990s has not been replicated.

* Dr. Catmull, happily, was not yet in a position to collude in the suppression of wages. That would come later.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Animated Repurposing, the Horror!

Every few years, an article crops up on the intertubes that goes like this:

So many plots have similarities, why can't scenes have them too? From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, many movies are on this list here which have the same scenes. Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of Disney. But when I noticed these differences, I was quite amazed. Not only they cheated and copied some scenes, but they got away with it! Such a cost-efficient and convenient way. ...

Etcetera.

Thirty-seven years ago, a Disney veteran told me: "Woolie [Reitherman} has repurposed animation for YEARS. We've used stuff from Bambi, Snow White, Pinocchio and a bunch of others. Whatever we could make work."

YouTube is replete with examles of this, and it went on straight into the Katzenberg era. Why create something from scratch when you can pull animation out of the Animation Research Library?

The era of do-over animation has come to an end in the age of CGI. Now computers can aid and abet creators, so who needs drawings from half-a-century ago? But the insatiable keeps bringing up the self-plagiarism committe by the Walt Disney Company over the course of decades.

Monday, September 17, 2018

New Animation Guild Contract Deal

The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE came to a tentative agreement with the AMPTP a week back, and it is now hitting the trades...

The Animation Guild and management’s AMPTP have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year film and TV contract, although an actors’ strike against the TV animation industry is still a possibility. Members of SAG-AFTRA voted overwhelmingly in July to authorize a strike if their negotiators failed to reach a satisfactory agreement, although contract talks resumed last week. The key sticking point in those talks has been SAG-AFTRA’s demand for scale wages and residuals for shows aired on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

The Animation Guild will detail how the talks went and what was achieved at the General Membership Meeting (held at Burbank's Pickwick Gardens) the last Tuesday of September. My information is that significant improvements were made.

The guild spent over a year preparing for talks that came after the end of protracted IA-AMPTP negotiations for a new Basic Agreement. Negotiations ultimately took five long days (four were originally scheduled). From reports, there were no significant concessions on labor's side and TAG got improvements in rates and schedules in different job classifications.

When TAG releases details of the contract deal, I will put them up here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

CG News Graphics

We've come a long way from Pac-Man style news graphics.

Green screen, now of the wrap-around variety, and accompanying CG animation has improved by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. Three-color bar charts will soon be a quaint visual of the past.

... The visualization literally just shows what three, six, and nine feet of water looks like. But it’s showing that in a context most people have never experienced. ...

18 months ago, the broadcast industry at large started getting serious about the quality of graphics it could offer, thanks in part to the rising popularity of esports. Seeing potential for weather coverage, TWC invested in the use of Unreal Engine, the same suite of tools that powers countless video games....

The Weather Channel [which deployed the visual above] had previously worked with The Future Group to prep a water animation that they could place at different heights as needed. Having those elements ready to go ahead of time made the actual execution surprisingly seamless. ...

Reporters won't have to go out into the wet and wild anymore to get the story. They'll just step in front of the green screen and be at the center of the action.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Into The Specialty Theaters

This new European animated feature appears destined for an art house run.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired North America and Latin American rights to Milorad Krstic-directed Ruben Brandt, Collector. The English language animated film from Hungary played at the Locarno and Sarajevo Film Festivals. ...

Krstic wrote the script and pic was produced by P├ęter Miskolczi, Radmila Roczkov. Hermina Roczkov and Janos Kurdy-Feher.

Sony likely saw an opportunity to position RBC as a limited-release item that could pick up some money if marketed in a smart way.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Holy Box Office -- June 7-9

Warner Bros. has the #1 picture, a horror movie with a habit, and it bests the wealthy Asians partying in Singapore. (Warners currently has three of the top four movies at the American-Canadian box office, and an animated feature rolling into theaters the end of the month.)

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) The Nun -- 3,876 -- $50M -- $50M (1st weekend

2) Crazy Rich Asians -- 3,865 == $12.9M (-41%) -- $135.5M

3) Peppermint -- 2,980 -- $12M -- $12M (1st weekend)

4) The Meg -- 3,511 (-250) -- $5.2M (-51%) -- $130.7M

5) Searching -- 2,009 (+802) -- $4.5M (-25%) -- $14.3M

6) M:I – Fallout -- 2,334 (-305) -- $3.7M (-46%) -- $212M

7) Christopher Robin -- 2,518 (-407) -- $3.1M (-41%) -- $91.6M

8) Operation Finale -- 1,818 -- $3M (-50%) -- $14.1M

9) BlacKkKlansman -- 1,547 (-219) -- $2.6M (-26%) -- $43.4M

10) Alpha S8/Sony 2,521 (-360) -- $2.4M (-47%) -- $32.3M

Once again, the closest thing to animated characters in the Box Office Ten is Christopher Robin, slowly ascending toward $100 million domestic.

Both The Incredibles 2 and Hotel Transylvania 3 remain in more than a thousand theaters. TI2 has now racked up $604,397,505 domestic ($1,176,597,505 globally) while HT3 has collected $164,196,613 out of a worldwide total of $496,596,613.

The next three major animated releases are Smallfoot from the Warner Animation Group (September 28), followed by The Grinch out of the Illumination Entertainment/Universal shop (November 9) and Ralph Breaks the Internet from Walt Disney Animation Studios on November 21st.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Animation Guild (Local 839, IATSE) Reaches Tentative Contract Agreement With the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

Early today word reached (out here in the far reaches of the high desert) that a long, arduous process between my old employer and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had come to a conclusion:

"We reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP last night on a new Animation Guild Master Agreement. ..."

The Negotiation Committee members I talked to over the course of contract talks said the negotiations were intense. Talks concluded at 11 P.M. last night, after five days at the table.

Labor negotiations, under the best of circumstances, are not easy. The entertainment industry is one of the last in the United States that is heavily unionized by non-public unions and guilds, a resilient vestige of the unionization that went on in mining, manufacturing and other industries during the '30s and '40s. The International Alliance of Motion Picture and Theatrical Employees is the umbrella labor organization under which the Animation Guild operates; over the past several contract cycles, IA representatives have been participants in the talk. This time around, IA Vice-President Mike Miller joined TAG Business Representative Jason MacLeod and the Guild's negotiation committee in the talks.

What I said about the talks on FaceBook:

Negotiations are NEVER easy, under the best of conditions. I know that the Guild did a LOT of preparation, and had a lot of dedicated, focused committee members. And that it achieved some goals but not all goals. (It is always thus.)

To Jason MacLeod, Mike Miller and TAG members who worked so hard on the contract: THANKS for getting down in the arena. THANKS for fighting for every animator, checker, board artist, designer, animation writer, technical and timing director, supervising director, story editor (and everyone else) who works on cartoons.

Just ... THANK YOU. Because of your efforts, lives will be better.

The agreement will run (retroactively) from August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2021. The Animation Guild put a lot of focus on preparing for negotiations, and (reportedly) the preparations paid off. As the Guild announces the specifics, I will post details of the new agreement here. They'll have an impact over the next three years on every active Animation Guild member.

"Rick and Morty's Emmy

First chance at bat, and ka-pow! Out of the park!

First-time Outstanding Animated Program Emmy nominee Rick and Morty won their first trophy at the Creative Arts Emmys Saturday.

Presented by Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon and Silicon Valley & Crazy Rich Asians star Jimmy O. Yang, co-creator Justin Roiland spoke for the group thanking everyone for “believing in this weird concept.” ...

So congratulations to the creators and the production team (still located, I assume, at their Olive Avenue headquarters in Burbank).

(A parenthetical note: Rick and Morty was a resolutely non-union show until ace organizer Steven Kaplan persuaded a disgrunted board and design crew to hit the bricks for a union contract. As soon as Cartoon Network/Adult Swim discovered that it's very popular hit series might have a problem delivering new shows, production topkicks hurriedly negotiated a contract with union wages and union health benefits that started without any wait time.

This is a prime example of a determined animation crew exerting the leverage it has to achieve its desired result.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labor Day Final Box Office

Apparently a film about Adolf Eichmann does not align with the current national mood, because "Operation Finale" landed in fourth place during its debut weekend.

The closest thing to an animated feature in the Top Ten would be the hybrid Christopher Robin. Everything else is playing off overseas and in the "lo cost" theaters domestically.

FOUR DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Crazy Rich Asians -- 3,865 (+339) -- $28.3M -- $117M

2) The Meg WB -- 3,761 (-270) -- $13.4M --$123.4M

3) M:I – Fallout -- 2,639 (-413) -- $9M -- $206.3M

4) Operation Finale -- 1,818 -- $7.8M -- $9.5M (1st weekend)

5) Searching -- 1,207 (+1,198) -- $7.6M -- $8.1M

6) Christopher Robin -- 2,925 (-469) -- $6.7M -- $87.1M

7) Alpha -- 2,881 (+162) -- $6M -- $28.5M

8) Happytime Murders -- 3,256 -- $5.3M -- $18M

9) BlacKkKLansman -- 1,766 (-148) -- $5.3M -- $39.4M

10) Mile 22 -- 2,950 (-570) -- $4.8M -- $33M

Incredibles 2 now sits at #12, and has collected $602,840,972 domestically (worldwide: $1,166,859,123).

Hotel Transylvania 3 has now collected $162,979,411 in the U.S. and Canada; this is 1/3 of HT3's $486,961,546 worldwide take.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Record High

Sony Animation has a new sky-high pic:

The Drac Pack has reached a new milestone as Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation becomes Sony’s biggest animated film of all time globally. At $476.3M worldwide, it sailed past Hotel Transylvania 2 ($474.8M) on Friday. Combined, the three HT movies have now grossed in excess of $1.3B global.

... [I]t opened No. 1 in North America, and passed $100M domestically on its 12th day of release, faster than the previous two installments. The movie has a better RT score than those (at 59%) and a A- from CinemaScore.

Genndy Tartakovsky had a much freer hand with #3 than he did with earlier installments. There had been tussles over creative choices with voice-star Sandler on the first two iterations of Hotel Transylvania. We're told that wasn't the case this time around.

The mice! The mice! Tales of Disney Animation in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now! ... and into the future (we think)!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Long Goodbye?

Forbes speculates thusly:

... Though Fox has made billions from The Simpsons since the show debuted in 1989 from ad revenue, video games, movie tickets, and theme park rides among other things, the cash has dried up in recent years as viewership plummeted. Odds are slim that The Simpsons will ever be able to recapture the ground that it has lost though it continues to have legions of devoted fans. ...

Aren't the devoted fans the point?

Kantar Media's educated guess is that The Simpsons pulled in $94 million in ad revenue in '17, and the money flow is declining. But of course there are merchandise sales and ancillary rights, and the thirty-year-old cow still produces hundreds of millions of cash.

And of course there is one large rodent in the room: Disney didn't buy Fox so that the entertainment conglomerate could turn around and shutter the franchise. If a new Simpsons feature is actually in development, why not two or three or four? The Walt Disney Company has a history of squeezing acquired franchises until every last drop has leaked out; witness the Intellectual Property of Lucasfilm (purchased by Diz Co. for billions) as exhibit "A".

The Disney purchase should give pause to anyone who thinks The Simpsons will soon fade away. They might not keep making a half-hour sitcom, but there will be specials, there will be streamed shorts, and there will be features.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Weekend Box Office -- August 24-26

After a long while, there are no animated features (Hotel Transylvania 3 having just departed) in the Box Office Top Ten. Crazy Rich Asians has a single digit, weekend-to-weekend decline. This happens very seldom. The C.G.I. Christopher Robin and The Meg hold their own, while the new C.G.I. A.X.L. (debuting in 10th place) lands with a muted thud.

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Crazy Rich Asians -- 3,526 (+142) -- $25M (-6%) -- $76.8M

2) The Meg -- 4,031 (-87) -- $3.3M -- $12.2M (-42%) -- $104.4M

3) The Happytime Murders -- 3,256 -- $10.2M -- $10.2M (1st weekend)

4) M:I – Fallout -- 3,052 (-430) $2.2M (-27%) -- $8M (-25%) -- $193.9M

5) Mile 22 -- 3,520 -- $5.9M (-56%) -- $25M

6) Alpha -- 2,719 -- $5.8M (-44%) -- $20.4M

7) Christopher Robin -- 3,394 (-208) -- $5.6M (-37%) -- $76.8M

8) BlacKkKlansman -- 1,914 (+126) -- $5.1M (-31%) -- $31.8M

9) Slender Man -- 2,065 (-293) -- $2.6M (-46%) -- $25.2M

10) A.X.L. -- 1,710 -- $2.48M -- $2.48M (1st weekend)

Hotel Transylvania 3 (off the Big List a couple of days ago) has now earned $158 million and change domestically; its worldwide total: $434,745,420 (approx.)

Incredibles 2, still in a number of theaters, closes in on a $600M domestic total; the global accumulation is now $1,125,745,538 (or thereabouts).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ellation in Burbank

From Forbes Magazine:

Ellation, the company behind anime streaming platform Crunchyroll and general geek streaming platform VRV, is about to do more than just serve others’’ content. Beginning this year, the newly developed Ellation Studios will produce and deliver “anime-inspired shows.”

Out of production studios in Burbank, California and Tokyo, Japan, Ellation will begin developing new original shows targeted toward its current, geeky audience—beginning with its audience for Japanese media specifically. The first installment in what the company is calling Crunchyroll Originals, High Guardian Spice, will have a Japanese anime-inspired story and visuals.

Asian studios setting up shop in Southern California is not new. The animation talent pool in Los Angeles and surrounding cities is wide and deep, so why not set up an outpost facility there and take advantage of it?

I had no idea that animation veteran Marge Dean had ankled Stoopid Buddies Studio to set this new operation up, but I get around so little...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Asians" Rule Box Office -- August 17-19

Warner Bros. owns the top two titles in the Big Box Office List -- Crazy Rich Asians, The Meg -- while Hotel Transylvania 3 declines 36% weekend to weekend at remains at #8. ...

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) Crazy Rich Asians -- 3,384 -- $25.2M -- $34M (1st weekend)

2) The Meg -- 4,118 -- $21.1M -- $83.7M

3) Mile 22 -- 3,520 -- $13.6M -- $13.6M (1st weekend)

4) M:I – Fallout -- 3,482 (-406) -- $10.5M (-46%) -- $180.7M

5) Alpha -- 2,719 -- $10.5M -- $10.5M (1st weekend)

6) Christopher Robin -- 3,602 -- $8.9M (-31%) -- $66.9M

7) BlacKkKlansman -- 1,788 (+276) -- $7M (-35%) -- $23M

8) Slender Man -- 2,358 -- $4.9M (-56%) -- $20.7M

9) Hotel Transylvania 3 -- 2,187 (-402) -- $3.6M (-36%) -- $153.8M

10) Mamma Mia 2 -- 2,270 (-542) -- $3.3M (-42%) -- $111.2M

A few notches under the Top Ten, Incredibles 2 (#14) has now collected $594.1 million domestically and $1,120,919,848 around the globe. (Teen Titans Go! To The Movies! (#18) has earned $27.3 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $32,561,352 worldwide.)

Globally, Hotel Transylvania 3 has now taken in $425,988,700

Friday, August 17, 2018

Oldest Living Animation Employee

Ruthie Tompson, now 108 years old, worked in animation from 1935 to 1975, at which point she retired.

Think about this: Ruthie ended her cartoon career before a lot of people who are now board artists, designers, and directors were born.

... “I just got in on the tail end of Snow White,” Tompson said. “I got in on the dirty work, more or less. It was at the end of it where you had to clean cels and patch up little things that might have popped off, and do legwork. I was a gopher, really.” ...

Ms. Tompson did a pack of different jobs during her four decades at the House of Mouse. She inked (for less than a week). She painted cels. She animation checked, and final checked. She was in Scene Planning for a long while, and this makes her today the oldest retired member of The Cinematographers Guild, since scene planners at Disney worked under the camera local.

She lives, as she has for several years, at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills.

(The oldest living animator? That would be 104-year-old Don Lusk. Don hired on at Walt Disney Productions in 1933, assisting on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and animating sections of "Fantasia". He left the studio in 1960 and worked as an animator and director for another thirty years. Don's interview with me is here, here and here.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prime Time Animated Series That Went South

The A.V. club lists a host of prime-time shows that never made the full-season cut (though several had a full season produced).

...We pay tribute to the 18 animated programs that have appeared on network TV post-Simpsons that failed to make it through an entire season. These are the wannabes that never were, cut down before they had a chance to make a lasting impression—unless you count failure. With each one, we take stock and determine whether it was jettisoned too soon, or agree that a swift death was probably for the best. ...

Many of these specimens were written under WGA contracts (God, the Devil and Bob, Baby Blues and Bordertown being three examples.) Two were written under the Animation Guild's jurisdiction (Father of the Pride and Sit Down, Shut Up). A few times, there were jurisdiction fights between the two unions. Regardless of the behind-the-scenes wrestling matches, all the half-hours failed to connect with a sizable audience.

And one (Murder Police) fails to get a mention by A.V. at all, because while the Fox Broadcasting Network* ordered thirteen half-hours of the opus, after the thirteen were completed, the network decided not to air the series at all.

Yikes.

* Fox has been the only network that has made a strong investment in night-time animation over the years. Its Sunday line-up of animated half-hours has been a staple of network television for over two decades. Why ABC, NBC, and CBS have been skittish about putting prime-time cartoons on their schedules is a mystery known but to front-office execs and God, but there it is. Live-action in hourly and half-hour formats is the only type of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. entertainment in which the other three nets are interested.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sharky Weekend -- August 10-12

A big, fat, animated shark churns to the top of the box office list:

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) The Meg -- 4,118 -- $44.5M -- $44.5M (1st weekend)

2) M:I – Fallout -- 3,888 (-507) -- $20M (-43%) -- $161.9M

3) Christoper Robin -- 3,602 -- $12.4M (-49%) -- $50M

4) Slender Man -- 3,359 (-155) -- $11.3M -- $11.3M (1st weekend)

5) BlacKkKlansman -- 2,725 (-663) -- $10.8M -- $10.8M (1st weekend)

6) The Spy Who Dumped Me -- 3,111 -- $6.6M (-45%) -- $24.5M

7) Mamma Mia 2 -- 2,812 (-547) -- $5.8M (-35%) -- $103.8M

8) The Equalizer 2 -- 2,373 (-352) -- $5.5M (-37%) -- $89.6M

9) Hotel Transylvania 3 -- 2,589 (-573) -- $5.1M (-36%) -- $146.8M

10) Ant-Man & The Wasp -- 1,863 (-370) -- $4M (-37%) -- $203.5M

At present, only one pure animated feature -- Hotel Transylvania 3 (#9) remains on the Big List. It's made $146.8 million domestically and $378.3 million on a global basis.

Incredibles 2 sits at #11 with a domestic gross of $589.9 million and a worldwide take of $1,088,474,600.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies has dropped to #15 and has a domestic gross of $25.5 million. Around the globe it's collected $28.6 million.

The mice! The mice! Tales of Disney Animation in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now! ... and into the future (we think)!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Union Vs. Union

The ongoing battle of the Editors Guild, Local 700 IATSE and the mother international (the IATSE) is about as intense as any I can remember.

[Unionized film editors] find themselves the unlikely center of attention in an escalating labor dispute that threatens a new three-year contract [the IA-AMPTP "Basic Agreement"] covering compensation, benefits and working conditions for thousands of Hollywood crew members.

In a rare breaking of rank, the Motion Picture Editors Guild is recommending its members vote against ratification of a tentative deal recently negotiated by its parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE. The Local 700 editors guild said the contract with Hollywood studios and TV networks is flawed in several areas and doesn’t adequately address the effects of the streaming media boom on compensation and benefits. ...

Three decades back, when I was a fresh-faced union business representative attending one of his first biz rep meetings at IA headquarters, I witnessed a screaming match between the then-head of the Editors Guild and the then-President of the I.A, a gruff, no-nonsense Italian named Al DiTolla.

The issue was a big-budget (mostly) non-IA feature that DiTolla wanted the editors to help the international leverage into a collective bargaining agreement covering the movie's production workers. But the Editors Guild already had a contract with the post-production house editing the big feature, and said "no." A heated argument at high volume (in front of thirty union reps) then ensued.

There have been other disputes between the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and various locals in the years since; mostly the IA has come out on the winning side. ("It's hard," a grizzled rep once told me, "to fight city hall."). The issues for this dust-up appear to be ...

A) The Editors Guild is getting nine hours between shifts ("turn-around time") while other unions are getting ten. (This comes about because the other unions started with a nine-hour turnaround time and had an hour added to the time allotment, while the editors had an eight-hour turnaround that also got a one-hour sweetener).

B) The Editors Guild finds the new benefit fees for small independent post-production houses to be exorbitant, and will make it harder for the small companies to stay in business. The editors point out that the conglomerates and their subsidiaries will only be paying a fraction of the increase.

C) The Editors Guild believes the new residual formula between the IA and AMPTP for streaming video will be inadequate for keeping the IA's pension and health plans healthy and solvent.

Regardless of who's "right" in all this, the feud has been acrimonious. And Twitter, Facebook and other social media has made the angry back-and-forth both broader and nastier than it would have been in simpler, by-gone days when there weren't armies of keyboard warriors slinging invective.

I'm delighted to be retired.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Jeffrey K.'s Next Act

He was a production head at Paramount, then ran Disney's movie studio, and then co-founded and ran DreamWorks Animation for twenty years. And now? ...

Jeffrey Katzenberg has a billion to play with for his new short-form video platform.

His holding company, WndrCo, announced on Tuesday that it had raised $1 billion in its initial investment round, including funds from 10 American media companies and the Chinese technology giant Alibaba.

The money will go toward the executive’s dream of upending the entertainment industry with high-quality bite-size content intended for mobile devices. His company, NewTV — which is the working title — will try to set itself apart from the competition by making and distributing programs mere minutes in length. ...

Mr. Katzenberg was never the type of Hollywood exec to let the grass grow under his feet ... or to dog it.

At Disney he was always in early and gone late (and his staff had to keep up). When he didn't like the way a story was shaping up for this-or-that animated feature, he let the crew know where he stood. (Re Aladdin, he yelled "Eighty-six the Mom!" when he wanted Aladdin's mother eliminated from the plot-line.)

In 1994, Walt Disney Company President Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash and Jeffrey was passed over for the post, ultimately getting pushed of the House of Mouse by Michael Eisner. But he landed on his feet as a co-founder of DreamWorks, and headed up DW's feature animation division for two decades, ultimately selling the company to Comcast-NBC-Universal for billions.

And now he's onto his next venture, and has raised a billion dollars to launch brief bits of entertainment on mobile devices. Other moguls are skeptical. The competition is stiff, they say. The field is crowded, they maintain. But Jeffrey has come up smelling like an expensive floral bouquet before. Maybe it's all those late nights and early mornings. ...

Monday, August 6, 2018

Trio of Animated Features -- August 3-5

Over the weekend, there were three (count 'em) animated features in the Big Box Office Ten. (Also, too, a near-fourth in the #2 position):

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) M:I – Fallout -- 4,395 (+9) -- $35M (-43%) -- $124.4M

2) Christopher Robin -- 3,602 -- $25M -- $25M (1st weekend)

3) Spy Who Dumped Me -- 3,111 -- $12.3M -- $12.3M (1st weekend)

4) Mamma Mia 2 -- 3,359 (-155) -- $9M (-40%) -- $91.3M

5) Equalizer 2 -- 2,725 (-663) -- $8.8M (-37%) -- $79.9M

6) Hotel Transylvania 3 -- 3,162 (-843) -- $8.2M (-33%) -- $136.4M

7) Ant-Man & The Wasp -- 2,233 (-780) -- $6.1M (-29%) -- $195.4M

8) The Darkest Minds -- 3,227 -- $5.8M -- $5.8M (1st weekend)

9) Incredibles 2 -- 1,802 (-814) -- $5M (-31%) -- $583.1M

10) Teen Titans Go! -- 3,188 -- $4.8M (-53%) -- $20.7M

Incredibles 2 has now gone well past the billion-dollar mark, with 1,048,347,092. Foreign box office makes up 44.4% of the gross.

Hotel Transylvania 3 has collected $338 million in worldwide grosses, 60% of the take coming from foreign lands.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies comes in at #10. To date its total gross is $23,101,332 (10% of that foreign).

The other flick of note is Christopher Robin, a live-action spinoff of the longtime Disney animation franchise. (Christopher Robin's stuffed-toy friends remain animated. Near the start of its theatrical run, CR has a total take of $29,717,275

The mice! The mice! Tales of Disney Animation in two exciting volumes ... Mouse in Transition and Mouse in Orbit. Available now! ... and into the future (we think)!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Animated Drama

AMC (the cable network that used to show wall-to-wall old movies in times long ago) is doing nighttime animation:

AMC is looking to break new ground with a primetime animated drama series, Pantheon. The basic cable network has open writers rooms for two series projects, Pantheon, from Turn creator/executive producer Craig Silverstein, and drama St. Luke’s, from The Walking Dead co-executive producer Seth Hoffman. Both hail from AMC Studios. St. Luke’s also is from Channing Tatum’s Free Association.

Pantheon is based on a series of short stories by Ken Liu about uploaded intelligence. Because of the project’s unique nature... in addition to a writers room, which will produce multiple scripts, AMC has commissioned a five-minute animated presentation. ...

Ken Liu is a Harvard-trained lawyer who also writes (and translates) science fiction stories and novels. This would be his first animated series. He's published science-fiction since 2002, and has over a 100 short stories published, on top of multiple sci fi novels.

No word on where the five minutes of animation might be produced. AMC, as do other producers, will wait to see what the scripts created in the writers' room looks like before deciding on whether or not to take Pantheon to full series.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tucking Money Away

Animation artists are like a lot of other weekly employees in the United States. They live paycheck to paycheck. (Many can't even afford to fund a 401(k) because they need to pay rent and buy groceries.)

But maybe a number could kick in a tiny sliver of their net pay if they only had the right incentives, foregoing the Starbucks iced coffee or buyin a sit-down meal at lunchtime. So here's an incentive:

Fidelity, one of the largest index mutual fund providers, announced on Wednesday that it will introduce two no-fee funds, giving more investors access to both domestic and global markets.

The funds are called the Fidelity Zero Total Market Index Fund (FZROX) and the Fidelity Zero International Index Fund (FZILX). They are the industry’s “first self-indexed mutual funds with a zero expense ratio” and will be directly available to individual investors.

Investors will pay a zero percent fee regardless of how much they invest in the funds, while gaining exposure to nearly the entire global stock market, the Boston-based mutual fund said. There is no investment minimum, and no domestic money movement fees for investors.

The funds will launch the end of this week. Fidelity isn't paying a license fee to an established index (S & P, CRSP, etc.) so no cash outflows there. Also, too, there will be no minimum investments ... which will come in handy if you don't have a lot to invest. The Fidelity website proclaims:

2 Fidelity index mutual funds FZROX and FZILX with a zero expense ratio.

No minimums to invest in Fidelity mutual funds.

$0 for Fidelity funds and hundreds of other funds with no transaction fees.

If this deal holds up -- Fidelity is only just launching it, after all -- there are minimal reasons not to put $20 ... or $30 ... or $51.72 away every week or three and begin building a nest egg. Even if you feel you can't afford it, because, honest to God, everybody can trim something and start an investment account that requires next to nothing.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cruising For Big Grosses -- July 27-29

Three animated features decorate the Top Ten list; Mr. Cruise holds court at #1:

THREE DAYS OF GROSSES

1) M:I – Fallout -- 4,386 -- $61.5M -- $61.5M (1st week)

2) Mamma Mia 2 -- 3,514 (+197) -- $15M (-57%) -- $70.4M

3) Equalizer 2 -- 3,388 -- $14M (-61%) -- $64.2M

4) Hotel Transylvania 3 -- 4,005 (-262) -- $12.3M (-48%) -- $119.2M

5) Teen Titans Go! -- 3,188 -- $10.5M -- $10.5M 1st weekend)

6) Ant-Man & The Wasp -- 3,013 (-765) -- $8.4M (-49%) -- $183.1M

7) Incredibles 2 -- 2,616 (-548) -- $7.1M (-40%) -- $572.7M

8) Jurassic World 2 -- 2,685(-696) -- $6.7M (-40%) -- $397.6M

9) Skyscraper -- 2,773 (-1,049) -- $5.4M (-52%) -- $59.1M

10) The First Purge Uni/Blumhouse --1,400 (-931) -- $2.2M (-56%) -- $65.4M

Incredibles 2, now at $996.5 million globally, breaks into the billion dollar club next week.

Hotel Transylvania 3 has earned $284.2 million worldwide.

Teen Titans Go! has made a million dollars in foreign markets and 10.5 million here. It won't be a major money-maker, but the WB should be in the black with this TV spinoff. (And the secondary and ancillary markets -- toys, TOYS, TOYS! should do quite well.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Mega Merger COMPLETE

Now part of the Disney entertainment empire...

So after a government review and a challenge from Comcast, Disney and Fox are now one:

Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox shareholders on Friday voted in favor of a $71.3 billion deal, in which Disney will acquire large parts of Fox, including the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, Fox's entertainment cable networks and its international assets. ...

Disney expects to pay about $35.7 billion in cash and issue about 343 million New Disney shares to Fox stockholders so that when the transaction closes after final regulatory approval Fox stockholders will own about 17-20 percent of New Disney. ...

Robert Iger has generously agreed to put off his retirement and remain as Top Dog at the House of Mouse to oversea the merger of Fox assets with the Walt Disney Company. (There will likely be additional compensation.)

Walt's old studio now owns multiple animation assets

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Walt Disney Television Animation

Pixar

Marvel Animation

Fox Animation

Blue Sky Studios

DisneyToon Studios, launched during the heyday of VHS tapes, has recently gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger and is no more. How long Blue Sky Studios sticks around* is known but to Bob Iger and his working group of Merger Specialists.

* Disney-owned studios have come and gone over the years. Disney had two studios in Canada, both specializing in home entertainment product, that were launched and then closed within three years. There was a thriving studio in Sydney, Australia -- purchased from Hanna-Barbera -- that specialized in the production of direct-to-video features. Then there was Walt Disney Animation, Florida, that grew from an amusement park walk-through in the 1980s to a full-blown theatrical animation studio in the '90s with one of the prettiest facilities in the history of Disney animation. Walt Disney Animation Florida closed its doors in 2004.

There are, of course, other studios that sprang briefly to life and then vanished. (Image Movers Digital, anyone?)No need to list them all in a footnote.