Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Weekend Box Office

I know a few accountants, and Ben Affleck is no Accountant. Thanks to BoxOfficeMojo.com for data and facts and what have you

Monday, October 10, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Movie for grownups makes number 1... I know right? Thanks to BoxOfficeMojo for numbers.

Donald Trump and Hollywood Omertà

Many people have seen, or at least read about, the now-infamous “hot mic” tape of a candid conversation between Donald Trump and Billy Bush in September 2005. News outlets and the internet are currently saturated with analysis of the content of this tape, in which Trump admits that his money and power permits him to commit sexual assault. The astounding crudity of the verbal exchange was seen as revealing the true nature of Donald Trump’s personality and attitude towards women, and the revelation of this tape may well prove to be the tipping point of the 2016 presidential election.

But this article isn’t about the content of the tape: it’s about why it took so long for it to be released. This is the part of this incredible story that seems to be under-discussed— and it relates directly to Hollywood, which is why it’s being discussed here.

The official story is the producer of “Access Hollywood,” Steve Silverstein, remembered this interview about two weeks before the release and dug the footage out of archives. This story is almost certainly false. The reason why it’s not believable is actually embedded in how the tape was recorded.

This political bombshell (more of a nuclear warhead) was taken from a segment of “Access Hollywood” which documented a cameo Donald Trump was making on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” It was shot on the backlot of NBC Studios in Burbank. A camera crew was following Trump and “Access” host Billy Bush: both men were fitted with lavalier microphones and transmitter packs which broadcast RF signal to receivers attached to the camera. During the publicly-released segment a cameraman had stepped outside the bus to set up a shot showing Bush and Trump arriving at the studio to be greeted by soap star Arianne Zucker. Thinking they were off-camera, the two men engaged in a crude, degrading conversation about women. Aside from the on-camera personalities there were seven people involved in this taping: two cameramen, the segment producer, a production assistant, Trump’s bodyguard and PR person, and the bus driver.

After this segment was shot, the footage was likely seen and handled by even more people: on-line and offline editors, more show producers, audio technicians and maybe even an archivist.

Charlie Chaplin, during one of his
many, many court appearances.
So about a dozen people— very likely more— heard and saw this footage in 2005. Yet NONE of these people recalled this conversation, one of the most devastating revelations of character any political aspirant has ever uttered? Particularly as this 2005 taping came on the heels of complaints by the cast and crew of Trump’s show “The Apprentice” about his crude on-set behavior? That is an impressive case of collective amnesia.

Hollywood’s code of silence strikes again.

The film industry has been creating and controlling secrets since the days of Charlie Chaplin (and Lita MacMurray) and Fatty Arbuckle (and Virginia Rappe). The studios all had (and still have) well-funded departments which handled public relations and “fixers,” producer-level executives who specialized in keeping indiscretions out of the press. (Hail Caesar was a thinly fictionalized account about a famous studio fixer.)

The culture of secrecy goes very deep in both the film and TV industries. Entertainment is an unusual industry in that the general public is constantly and intently curious about it. Supermarkets do not devote shelf space at the checkout counters with magazines dishing the dirt on astrophysicists and farmers, after all. Scripts and storylines have to be kept secret: details of film shoots are kept from public view as much as possible as well. The need for confidentiality rivals the Pentagon’s.

It’s all for the greater glory of the Industry, of course. That, and jobs. A scandal that would bring down a star would shut down production. A leaked script would kill off box-office potential. Finally, there’s the prestige factor: being on the set gives even the lowest PA or grip access to some of that rare stuff, Hollywood Glamor— stacks of non-disclosure agreements are willingly signed to gain access to that inner circle.

Why did this revelation take so long to emerge into the light of public scrutiny? The culture of Hollywood, a full century of studio secrets kept, reputations protected, indiscretions hidden. And they are so good at it: Did you know that Tom Cruise is only 5’7”? It took a LOT of will to overcome that much inertia and tradition.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Tim Burton, back again, talkin' with his hands. Box Office Mojo still there, supplyin' figures.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Denzel saves Hollywood with the help of 6 charismatic weirdos!

Film Economics: A helpful illustration

Skot and I were trading quips on Facebook this morning (as oft we do) and this exchange, about the cost of The Magnificent Seven, occurred.

Skot Christopherson Could be. The town gets pretty wrecked in the course of the film, so it is likely this wasn't filmed on a standing set. It's also a runaway production, shot in New Mexico and Louisiana: Guess that isn't a bargain anymore.
LikeReply2 hrs
Daniel Krause It's probably still a bargain, just LESS of one.
LikeReply12 hrs

"Runaway production", you probably know, refers to a movie shot away from Los Angeles. In previous years it was a sound strategy because even though you had to fly a good deal of your staff across the country to, say, North Carolina, the cost of local labor and goods far was much much lower and you could save a bundle. In recent years, non-Hollywood towns have started asking more from productions, because they know they can still get it.

This last weekend I have an experience which illustrates this process surprisingly well.

I needed a new mattress to replace my aging queen size. I had heard a company called Caspar advertising a memory foam mattress and was enchanted by the idea, because I'm fed up with springs, plus you can ship a foam mattress in a box that's an eighth of the size because foam compresses. However, Caspar sells for around 800 bucks. I discarded the idea and put a new mattress aside for a while.

This week though, I started looking at options on Amazon and discovered a memory foam mattress for about $160, comparable to a new spring mattress. I ordered it up and it arrived, in its 5x1x1 foot box, on Friday afternoon. I unboxed it and laid it out on my carpet, letting it expand to its full size overnight, then swapped it out with my old mattress, which I leaned on the bedroom wall.

I swear this is about to go somewhere.

When you buy a mattress at a store, they will deliver it for you and take away your old mattress as a courtesy. Amazon doesn't want your old mattress. So I started looking online for some recycler who would haul it away for free, and learned to my horror that in fact, nobody does. Some will haul it for a fee. Goodwill and the Salvation army won't take them, and they certainly won't pick them up. If there is someone who will pick up a mattress for free in California, I wasn't able to find them. And it's illegal to just leave them by the trash.

I spent 45 minutes surfing around researching this, then I lay down on my new mattress and looked at the old one leaning on the wall and said "oh God, that thing is going to be there for the next four months because I know how I operate." I thought about it again for a few minutes, then gave up. I'll figure it out later, I thought. For now, I'll go downstairs and check the mail.

And as I approached my mailbox - there was a BRAND NEW MATTRESS SET leaning on the wall outside one of my neighbors apartment.

I waited until the delivery guys came out of the place and approached one of them. "I got a queen size upstairs I have to get rid of. You want it?" He said he'd take a look. I let him in, he eyeballed the mattress and nodded, and we carried it down the flight of stairs. Once outside he put down his end and said, "How much?"

"It's free," I explained.

"How much to take it?"

I guess he had realized that I was getting something for nothing. "How much do you want?" I asked. "Ten" he replied.

I thought about it for a split second before I gave him a ten in cash. He walked away with my mattress.

So who won this negotiation? I don't know how much a service charges to pick up a mattress (weird lack of detail on those websites) look at it this way - a mattress removal service dropped out of the sky and landed at my feet, without my having to book a time and wait around for it. I bought a miracle for $10 bucks. And that's peanuts. Or memory foam peanuts.

Point is, whatever that town charged Sony/Columbia, it was probably less their own backlot would have. And that, guerro, is a miracle.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Audiences avoid Bridget Jones' Baby, terrified of her new face. Thanks to boxofficemojo.com.