Sunday, April 28, 2019

Muscular Box Office

Buffness predominates as the U.S./Canadian and World box offices are dominated by super hero movies which finish 1st, 2nd and 5th. (I understand that a few records were broken.) ...

Three Days Of Grosses

1) Avengers: Endgame -- 4,662 -- $350M -- $350M (1st weekend)

2) Captain Marvel -- 2,435 (-218) -- $8M (-12%) -- $413.5M

3) The Curse of La Llorona -- 3,372 -- $7.5M (-72%) -- $41.2M

4) Breakthrough -- 2,913 (+89) -- $6.3M (-44%) -- $26.1M

5) Shazam! -- 3,631 (-552) -- $5.5M (-67%) -- $131.1M

6) Little -- 2,119 (-548) -- $3.4M (-59%) -- $35.8M

7) Dumbo -- 2,380 (-845) -- $3.2M (-51%) -- $107M

8) Pet Sematary -- 1,655 (-1,491) -- $1.2M (-73%) -- $52.6M

9) Us -- 1,225 (-1,009) -- $1.1M (-73%) -- $172.8M

10) Penguins -- 1,815 -- $1M (-54%) -- $5.7M

Worldwide, Avengers raked in $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. (Which is quite good, as I understand it.)

Straight-ahead cartoons are currently down-list, but How To Train Your Dragon 3 has now earned $516,091,660 on a global basis, 70% of that outside the U.S. and Canada. The Lego Movie 2 has collected $189.2 million, while Wonder Park has reached $103.1 million, and won't be earning its production costs and advertising budget back, more's the pity.

Friday, April 26, 2019

BIG Pay, Big Stock Price

The Walt Disney Company has (at last) seen its stock price bounce upwards this year by 26% ... after a long period of languish. Analysts attribute this to the Mouse's oncoming streaming platforms, its hard-charging amusement parks (where the average family needs to take out an equity line of credit to finance a four-day visit), and its gangbuster performance at the box office. Meantime ...

... Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices [for its CEO/Chairman].

In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post with the headline “It’s time to call out my family’s company — and anyone else rich off their workers’ backs,” Disney said the pay of Robert Iger (which she says was $65 million in 2018) ... was “naked indecency.”

“That’s 1,424 times the median pay of a Disney worker. To put that gap in context, in 1978, the average CEO made about 30 times a typical worker’s salary. Since 1978, CEO pay has grown by 937 percent, while the pay of an average worker grew just 11.2 percent. ...”

Of course, in 1978, the top marginal tax rate was 70%, which might have had something to do with executive pay being less exorbitant. The top rate is now around half that.

Companies love to claim that big CEO payouts are "tied to corporate performance", but companies have ways of nuding performance up and down quarter to quarter, and don't kid yourself. Top-dog execs manage to get boards to vote them big pay days, even when their corporations don't do well. (When Michael Eisner was running Disney, he managed to get the Disney board of directors to pay him and then-President Robert Iger sizable bonuses in a year the copmany wasn't doing well. How about that?)

The issue here, really, is a global one. Bob Iger is in the mainstream of big corporate paydays for top brass. What he's doing might seem greedy, but it's normal behavior, here in the second decade of the 21st Century. If Abigail Disney and others want to change the current behaviors of company CEOs and other high earners, then marginal tax rates need to be raised, along with other disincentives for high rollers who rake in every last time they can get.

In the age of Eisenhower, when the U.S. of A. was growing robustly, the top tax rate was 90%. And the Republic didn't fall. There is no reason that taxs can't be structured so that the big money doesn't pay more to sop up some of the red ink currently sloshing around. Maybe we can get back to corporate cheifs making 300 times the median age of their employees, instead of 1,424.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Animation King, Entertainment King

Variety details how Seth MacFarlane, one-time Hanna-Barbera storyboard artist, went from animation employee working near the scale rate to multi-multi millionaire ...

... “Family Guy” executive producer Kara Vallow, who has worked with MacFarlane since his earliest days in animation, sees a common theme to his successes: “The projects that he was taking on never seemed to be out of desire for money or pomposity,” she says. “It all seems to me like different versions of innocence and the dedication that he had when I first worked with him when he was 23.” ...

Here's the deal about Seth MacFarlane and his entertainment empire.

It was a roll of the dice and he came up with a string of sevens. And good for him. Because in show biz, you need talent, a work ethic, and luck. And if you have a lot of one of those things, you can get by with less of the others.

Seth made a short and came up with a concept (Family Guy) that got him a fairly rich development deal from Fox. And he and his crew went onto do make a couple of seasons of the show, at which point it was cancelled.

And that, as the saying goes, would have been that. But Fox began selling the produced shows as a package of DVDs, and the DVDS sold like hot cakes. Millions of hot cakes. This got corporate attention, and Fox decided to put Family Guy back into production.

It's been in production ever since, making Seth and Fox (and now Disney) lots of money.

Kara Vallow has noted: "DVD sales are what triggered Family Guy's rebirth." Who knows? Without DVDs, which are now pretty much defunct, there would have been a truncated number of FG episodes, and probably (possibly?) no American Dad no Ted, no anything else.

So luck had something to do with the shape of Seth MacFarlane's career. As it does for everybody. Without "X", there would never have been "Y". Remember that.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Weekend Box Office

Animation in the current cycle has only one entrant the Top Ten (see above), but super heroes? Going like gangbusters! (Mostly) ...


1) The Curse of La Llorona -- 3,372 -- $26.5M -- $26.5M (1st weekend)

2) Shazam! -- 4,183 (-123) -- $17.3M (-29%) -- $121.3M

3) Breakthrough -- 2,824 -- $11.1M -- $14.6M (1st weekend)

4) Captain Marvel -- 2,653 (-322) -- $9.1M (+6%) -- $400M

5) Little -- 2,667 -- $8.4M (-45%) -- $29.3M

6) Dumbo -- 3,225 (-481) -- $6.8M (-28%) -- $101.2M

7) Pet Sematary -- 3,146 (-439) -- $4.8M d(-50%) -- $49.5M

8) Missing Link -- 3,437 (+24) -- $4.3M (-27%) -- $12.9M

9) Us -- 2,264 (-504) -- $4.2M (-37%) -- $170.4M

10) Hellboy -- 3,303 $1.3M -- $3.8M (-68%) -- $19.6M

Only the well-reviewed but under-performing stop-motion feature Missing Link resides in the big list. But several other cartoons are still in circulation ...

14) How To Train Your Dragon 3 -- 1,062 -- $817k -- $159M

25) The LEGO Movie 2 -- 222 -- $134k -- $105.6M

74) Asterix -- 7 theaters -- $5,272 -- $1.3M

Other box office news (most of it weeks old but interesting to moi): Fathom Events, in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies, rolls out old classics in pristine condition and showcases them in chosen theaters for a few days during a given month. Recently they've distributed My Fair Lady and Ben Hur, but last month the 80th anniversary release of Gone with the Wind grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings on four dates — a record for a classic film Fathom. (The previous record was set in January by Fathom’s re-release of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz with $2 million.)

My question: though producer David Selznick sold his ownership stake in GWTW in the early 1940s (a truly short-sighted move), older brother Myron Selznick's estate still owns a small percentage of the picture ... and what kind of cash flow could the heirs of old Myron still be getting? Be interesting to know.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Animation Derivative Takes a Dive

Men with capes = box office gold!

The weekend box office results are in, and for last week's #1, the totals are not pretty...

Three Days of Grosses

1) Shazam! -- 4,217 -- $53.4M -- $56.7M (1st weekend)

2) Pet Sematary -- 3,585 -- $25M -- $25M (1st weekend)

3) Dumbo -- 4,259 -- $18.2M (-60%) -- $76.2M

4) Us -- 3,512 (-231) -- $13.8M (-58%) -- $152.3M

5) Captain Marvel -- 3,573 (-412) -- $12.6M (-39%) -- $374.1M

6) Best Of Enemies -- 1,705 -- $4.5M -- $4.5M (1st weekend)

7) Five Feet Apart -- 2,484 (-361) -- $3.7M (-40%) -- $41.5M

8) Unplanned -- 1,516 (+457) -- $3.2M (-50%) -- $12.4M

9) Wonder Park -- 2,281 (-1,023) -- $2M (-59%) -- $41.9M

10) How To Train Ur Dragon 3 -- 1,928 (-857) -- $1.98M (-55%) -- $156.7M

For animation reboots like Dumbo, and original animated features like Wonder Park, it was not the weekend was not the best of three-day experiences.

The little elephant fell 60%, the biggest tumble of any feature in the Top Ten, and it didn't open like gang-busters to begin with. (Part of Dumbo's problem is it was an expensive picture to produce and heavy with CG animated characters and effects. Unfortunately there are no superheroes in the plot-line so the turnstiles haven't been spinning at a sufficient rate of speed to push this circus movie into the black.)

Meantime, the Paramount cartoon Wonder Park dropped 59%, and now has a total of $41.9 million in the till after a month on domestic screens. Not good.

Even How To Train Your Dragon 3, which has done solid business over the past seven weeks, has racked up good but not great grosses. Happily, Dragon has produced big numbers overseas and has a worldwide total of $508,092,245 against a budget of $129 million.

The high flyers on the current Big List are movies with characters wearing spandex and bright-colored capes.

Friday, April 5, 2019


As culture evolves, so do the movies and TV shows that reflect it. Case in point:

Joining [Netflix's] roster of LGBTQ-friendly programming, which already includes a team of drag queen superheroes with Super Drags, is Q-Force, a new half-hour, adult animated comedy from Will & Grace star Sean Hayes, Parks and Recreation creator Mike Schur, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Gabe Liedman.

Q-Force tells of “a handsome secret agent and his team of fellow LGBTQ super spies.” Images of Sterling Archer’s undercover twink-on-rollerskates disguise immediately come to mind.

Liedman will showrun the 10-episode series and executive produce with Schur ...

There was a time when the only gay characters who appeared in movies were broad, comedic caricatures of which film-makers made vicious fun. The same held true for the handicapped (Chaplin striking a match on a hunchback's deformity), and minorities (Butterfly McQueen in "Gone With the Wind").

Kindness and enlightenment don't always proceed in an upward trajectory, but here in the 21st century, more former outcasts are being brought into mainstream entertainment, and that's a good thing, yes? The days of nothing but white, Anglo Saxons in movies are O.Ver.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Theatrical Animation -- The Good and the Bad

There are a lot of animated projects (some of which are hybrids) that are burning up the world's turnstiles during their theatrical runs. And (sadly) there are those that under-perform their first weekend, flutter to earth, and wither quickly away. Here are some recent totals, which illustrate what I'm talking about:


Dumbo -- $73,498,849 -- $48,871,832 -- $122,370,681

Wonder Park -- $14,400,000 -- $38,398,179 -- 52,798,179

How To Train Your Dragon 3 -- $348,900,000 -- $153,479,970 -- 502,379,970

The Lego Movie 2 -- $78,700,000 -- $104,714,947 -- $183,414,947

Ralph Breaks The Internet -- $326,984,483 -- $201,050,178 -- $528,034,661

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse -- $182,658,075 -- 190,173,195 -- $372,831,270

There have been no Captain Marvel equivalents in animation, no billion-dollar monsters, over the last twelve months. Disney and DreamWorks Animation have created solid hits with Ralph Breaks the Internet and How To Train Your Dragon 3. Both have gone over the half-billion mark ... and The Grinch, recently departed, hit the $511 million mark.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse was profitable at $373 million (a production budget of $90 million helps), but its worldwide grosses might have been held down a bit because animated features with U.S. locations don't seem to perform as well overseas.

The Lego Movie 2 looks to be under-performing its predecessor and Wonder Park seems to be a robust money loser for Paramount, since it was still-born on its opening weekend. (Yikes!)

The hybrid Dumbo, though it opened at #1, came in below expectations. With its high price-tag (close to $200 million?) the elephant picture doesn't look to be much of a cash cow going forward.

(To quote Sam Goldwyn: "When they don't want to go watch your movie, you can't stop them.")