Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movie Industry Running Strong; Breaking Bad Updates

From the LA Times:
Movies with 'legs' keep industry running strong
More hold up beyond debuts, helping box office race past last year.
By Claudia Eller
March 9, 2009
Hollywood is witnessing a phenomenon it hasn't seen in more than a decade -- movies with legs.

Pictures that hang in at the box office over multiple weekends -- known as "having legs" among theater operators and studio executives -- are contributing to a sharp rise in attendance and ticket revenue. The upsurge is a welcome respite for Hollywood, where weak consumer spending has undercut DVD sales, long the backbone of the movie industry.

So far the recession doesn't appear to have dampened trips to the multiplex, where ticket prices in major cities now top $8 and a tub of popcorn can cost more than $5. Attendance at movie theaters in the first nine weeks of 2009, typically one of the slowest periods for ticket sales, is up 14.8% over last year, according to Media by Numbers, a box office tracking firm. Box office revenue is up 16.5%.

Holdover films such as Sony Pictures' comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," 20th Century Fox's thriller "Taken," Focus Features' animated film "Coraline" and Warner Bros.' "Gran Torino" have continued to attract audiences for several weeks, some even months, after they debuted.

Fox Searchlight's low-cost "Slumdog Millionaire," which opened in a handful of theaters more than three months ago and swept the Oscars, continues to be a must-see. In theaters for 17 weeks, the drama about an uneducated teenager from Mumbai who becomes an unlikely winner on India's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" game show, is still the fourth-most-popular movie in America.

Theater operators and movie distributors attribute the upswing to a diversity of offerings that are drawing a wide range of moviegoers.

"Our industry continues to demonstrate that as long as there are appealing films that are connecting with the audience, we are very much recession-resistant," said Mike Campbell, chief executive of Regal Entertainment Group, the largest operator of theaters in the U.S.

Executives say films with staying power are unusual in today's competitive environment, where several movies open each weekend and appear on thousands of screens. Consequently, releases tend to crowd one another out, triggering significant declines in their second and third weekends at the box office.

"There are more films staying around longer," said Ted Mundorff, chief operating officer of Landmark Theatres, which operates the most popular art house multiplex on the Westside of Los Angeles. Mundorff estimates that his circuit's business is up 25% this year, thanks to such pictures as "The Wrestler," "The Reader," "Milk" and "Slumdog."

Although the bump in ticket sales has been good for challenged theater operators, whose business hasn't markedly grown in years and has been propped up by higher ticket prices, it means less for the movie studios because they earn the bulk of their profits from DVD sales, which have fallen sharply.

Jeff Blake, head of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures, said he has been surprised at how movies such as "Paul Blart," "Taken" and "Gran Torino" have held on to audiences.

"We haven't seen this since 'Titanic,' where multiple pictures are doing three, four or five times their opening weekend gross," Blake said. James Cameron's 1997 disaster epic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett, remained the top-grossing picture for 15 consecutive weeks largely because of young women making repeated visits to the theater. "Titanic," which played in theaters for nine months, generated $1.8 billion in worldwide ticket sales -- still a record.

Blake thinks the recent legs phenomenon is a sign that a broader audience is showing up. In recent years, the box office has been propelled by younger moviegoers, who tend to see a film the weekend it opens. "Now you're also getting an older audience going week two and three," Blake said.

Generally, however, theater operators are enjoying the ride.

Tim Warner, president of Dallas-based Cinemark USA, the country's third-largest theater operator, said that although every industry was going through treacherous times, "I don't know if any business has as good news as the movie business."

More at Movies with 'legs' keep industry running strong

Over in the Albuquerque Journal, Dan Mayfield has an update on Breaking Bad -- whose second season premiered this past Sunday (it was pretty intense -- nice cliffhanger too):

Cranston Rides High on 'Breaking Bad,' Directing
By Dan Mayfield
Of the Journal
This is a busy weekend for Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston.

Last night, he had his first feature-film directorial debut on Womens' Entertainment Network (WE TV), and, tonight, the new season of "Breaking Bad" premiers on AMC.
The series' new season has been earning huge amounts of critical acclaim, and rightly so. It stars Cranston as a high school chemistry teacher whose life is in shambles. He's diagnosed with cancer, he has a rough family life and his career is stalled. Using his chemistry chops, he turns to making high-powered meth, and, next thing you know, he's playing drug kingpin — even if it is more in his mind than in reality.
"Breaking Bad" is both filmed and set in Albuquerque.

"Walter is a smart man," Cranston said. "The angst he's dealing with, it's an example of a man making bad decisions. They're not good ones. He could say, 'My God, what have I done,' but he doesn't want to. He's on this quest."

TV critics are getting it. The New York Times ran a flattering story on the show Friday, and, this week in Entertainment Weekly, mystery writer Stephen King said, " 'Breaking Bad' " is "for viewers who like their suspense cocktails a little stronger than the usual 'Law & Order' mojito."

...Cranston has become a New Mexican since the show started filming here at Albuquerque Studios. He has a house near Nob Hill and hangs out at some Nob Hill night spots.

...'Breaking Bad' Contest
If you dig "Breaking Bad," take a shot at being on the show by entering AMC's "Breaking Bad" contest. Simply record a video of yourself performing one of Walter White's monologues and post it. There's a lot more info at www.amctv.com/originals/breakingbad — including text of the monologues. Hey, I'm a fan, so I recorded a video that I'm going to send in. Vote for me, or, send in your own, and I might just vote for you, too. Check out my video at ABQjournal.com.

More at Cranston Rides High on 'Breaking Bad,' Directing

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