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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Airplane Blogging – The End of the Road

Coming back to NYC from Kansas City, via Atlanta. I spent over a week in KC, from a trip on a whim due to bad weather out of Chicago. All in all I had a great time and Val and I (and Mikimoto, her pooch) got along swimmingly. And despite a few hiccups with work related stuff during the week, I basically had a very nice, relaxing week. KC isn’t exactly New York (hell, its not even St. Louis), but it was pretty cool, anyway. I worked all week out of the Screenland theater, arranging for My Brother to make its KC premiere there and playing matchmaker between the theater owner, Butch Rigby, and Slamdance, to set up a Slamdance in the Midwest screening series which both sides think is a dandy idea.

See, I am talking like them now.

Now, what you may or may not have been waiting for, which is the results on My Brother’s run in the theaters.

We had 28 screens in 18 markets the first weekend. The total advertising budget from the distributor, I am told, was about 100,000 dollars (prints and PR are extra). We didn’t have newspaper ads, either.

You see where I am going with this. Maybe, maybe not.

We did around 33,000 on the 28 screens for the opening weekend. One theater didn’t report, for some reason. Don’t know why.

So at about 1,200 per screen or so, we weren’t the weakest movie released that weekend, but we weren’t burning up the ticket window either, except in Houston, which did very nicely thanks to the Scott’s help and to some extent, Hampton VA (which is still going strong). Some markets, like Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and unfortunately, Chicago, did very little. And so, at the end of the weekend, AMC pulled the chain on 24 of the screens they had given us, and added only one replacement screen.

Funny thing, though, despite the weak opening, the movie began to do decent numbers during the week. Steady, not spectacular. We crossed 40,000 Thursday nite, but despite the decent performance during the week, especially in NYC and Norfolk VA (where Donovan lives), the decision from the prior weekend stood, and we are only on six screens this weekend, three in Houston, one in Columbus OH (which didn’t perform well during the first weekend), Dallas, and Norfolk. New York City was done with AMC.

From the distributor’s standpoint, they seem pretty happy with the release. The movie got reviews, some good (Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Kam Williams and NY Times being the best), and some not so good. There seems to be a lot of awareness in the market for the movie, and since they spent so little on prints and advertising, the money that will start to come in on DVD sales will recoup their expenditure very quickly Which means both CodeBlack and Liberty will start to see cash sometime fairly soon.

That’s all well, but we still want to get the movie out a little more broadly in the public consciousness, so I’ve made contact with some movie theaters, independent ones, to book the movie in cities where we never opened. Kansas City was the first (which also makes the trip a biz trip, tax deductible, yes). And working on San Francisco, and a chain of theaters in the south from Mississippi to Louisiana and the Carolinas. They have the movie, lets see. Still working on Philadelphia, but time seems to be running out on that.

Anyway, that’s the basic plan. There are still the same people circling about putting up some money to do a real movie campaign, but time is so short, and I’ve seen this song and dance a million times. We’ll just have to see where it goes.

The new Slaughter script came in, and it’s a big improvement, although we can leave that upto Heidi to determine. I’ll send her a copy so she can get grossed out again and complain about all the actresses taking their clothes off. The production team has been having its bumps and bruises, but the creative elements seem to be coming together, and that’s the key. We even slipped the script to a director who may be a good fit for the project. We’ll see if he warms to the material.

I haven’t been in NY for two weeks. And before that, I was gone basically all week in Washington, D.C., Arizona. California, Arizona, Houston, Chicago, Kansas City, all in the past month. Lotsa travel. And that followed up a January in Park City and the nine days I spent out there. My mattress is getting lots of rest.

Despite the title of this entry, I probably will head to LA for work within the next ten days or so. Slaughter is sitting squarely in the middle of my bloody plate. Its picked up momentum, and is getting good press from the bloggers and horror websites. Already seen a picture of Nathan and Bobby, the writers, on JoBlo. That’s pretty huge.

I have to see how we’re putting all these pieces together with all these partners, or say some goodbyes and get focused down to business. I am also going to start taking legal clients again –this traveling gets expensive. I’m looking at renting a cheap place in Hollywood to cut costs for when I go to LA, so that I can stay as long as I need to and afford it. The Sunsent Hyatt (or Riot Hyatt) just wasn’t worth three bills a nite, anyway.

Catch y’all in NY. And to those who went to see My Brother, thanks.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Airplane Bloggin: Snowbound Edition

(Friday, March 16th)

Did the Chicago premiere last nite, and now, Im on my way back to NY for the screening for the national board of review of motion pictures, which is the older critics organization in the country and is ….screeech.

Well, not really.

I was on my way back to the screening for the NBR (some of you may recall that I co-produced their gala with John Gallagher) but my flight from OHare was kaput. Cancelled. Sorry folks, Moose out front shoulda told ya.

They wanted to book me on 12:15 flight that might or might not happen, and thus might or might not get me into New York at three or so, well after the question and answer period for the movie would have been over. Consequently, flying back that late didn’t help me do anything at all. I’d be home, and that’s only if the flight actually happens, because word has it that the east coast is SNOWBOUND.

Thank god for wireless. For the inexpensive price of 6.95, Boingo put me on the web in OHare. Now, mind you, I got up at 3:55 this morning, and I do not like to get up early. When I got to the airport at 4:30 or so, AM, ugh, and my flight was cancelled, I wasn’t happy. And wasn’t about to spend another 50 bucks to go back to my hotel, where I wasn’t even assured of being able to check back in. I mean, I already checked out.

So I Boingo it – and find a flight to Kansas City, to go see Val. 150 bucks one way. She’s happy, Im happy, and now I am flying south, instead of East. Too bad Kansas City isn’t any warmer than Chicago. At least I have plans for the weekend, and I wont be sitting in the airport for 8 hours plus twiddling my twiddle.

The premiere (not a red carpet premiere, mind you) was great. It wasn’t as full as I would have liked, and it didn’t get the coverage that I wanted, but Jesse Jackson was there, and introduced the movie, and was generally very friendly and cordial, as was Ms. Nina Rawls (Lou’s widow). Also in attendance were two women who work for the Queen of Daytime TV. They didn’t stay for the Q and A after the screening, but stayed through the movie and one of them told me she loved it and kissed my cheek. Twice. She didn’t take my info, though she has my email already and well, I don’t want to speculate. Rev. Jackson has already said he’ll call O. I hope he’ll do that today.

And that’s basically it. This is a nice short flight, Val is grabbing me at the airport in 50 minutes or so, and I am sitting behind the very talented D.L. Hughley, who plays Simon Stiles on the great show (now on hiatus, ugh) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I already said hello, he’s in the last row of first, I am in the first row of last – er, I mean coach. Anyway, maybe I’ll tell him a Columbus Short story.

Y’all have a good weekend. Go see a movie. My movie.

I hope the snow doesn’t kill the box office in the east. Ugh. At least Chicago has good weather.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Airplane Bloggin: On the Road Again

So I am sitting on a CRJ-700. I don’t know who makes it, probably McDon.-Douglas. Its got nineteen rows and four seats per row, so its just a little bigger than a puddle jumper. Im back in Row 17, and its bumpy. Bouncy. Thank god for the Valium I got from Dave before I left for Houston.

Ah, Houston. We were stars in Houston. Before we landed Sunday morning in Houston, we were on the ABC News affiliate and they showed the trailer. Over the next two days, we were on Fox and ABC probably four or five times, including movie clips, interviews with the cast and with Tony Lover, the writer-director, and behind the scenes stuff from our documentary. We did at least four radio shows, including Mix 96, the most popular radio show in Houston, and Wash Allen, who hosted the premiere and is very popular with the African American family audience in Houston. A Congresswomen presented Chris Scott with a certificate from the US Congress and National Black Caucus at a family party Sunday nite, and on Monday, the red carpet premiere seemed to go off very well, with people being into the movie and wanting to spread the word. And at this point, boys and girls, its all about spreading the word.

See, the way the movie biz works these days is that when a picture like My Brother is released in theaters, it has to earn its keep to hold the theaters or to add more theaters. Ultimately, My Brother is opening in about thirty two or thirty three screens on its first weekend, this Friday. If the movie makes money for the theater owners, they will leave it up on the screen for an additional week or more. If it doesn’t make them enough money, then they’ll pull it and replace it with another movie. If it does very well, like I’m hoping we’ll do, they may add screens in those theaters, so that it could be playing two or even three screens in the same movie theater.

So it really is all about that opening weekend, and about momentum. And for a movie like My Brother, which is an inspirational audience movie, a lot about word of mouth as well. What my last three months have been spent doing is trying to generate as big an audience as possible for the opening weekend, and then to hope that those people would spread the word to their communities, whether those be churches, or groups for people with developmental disabilities, or schools, etc., and that those friends and neighbors will turn out for the movie,

When the box office numbers become available on Sunday mid morning, they are posted online and exhibitors (the theater owners) from all over North America look at them and if they see a movie doing nice business, they will call up the distributor to try to order a print. Why? Because if the movie is bringing in audiences, then they can make money off of it. Its really that simple.

Speaking of spreading the word, despite an incredibly tight shooting schedule on Ugly Betty, I know Vanessa is doing a bunch of press today, including a satellite tour for national and local morning shows, a bunch of radio shows, CNN’s Showbiz tonite, and Extra. I also heard from people that they had seen several commercials for the movie on BET or TV One, but I haven’t had a chance to see one myself yet.

And now I am on this bumpy-ass flight to Atlanta, on the way to Chicago (I know, shitty connection, basically two hours east to head back to hours northwest, but it was late notice). We are doing a screening for agencies for people with developmental disabilities in Chicago, for Rainbow-Push and for anyone else who might be interested in spreading the word.

And even beyond Houston, it does seem to be spreading, with people taking it upon themselves to do so. Yesterday I got word that an email was being sent to the 175,000 people on the list for the National Human Resources Council, mostly of those people being in the NY Metro Area. Why? Because a woman who attended the NY Premiere, a local radio DJ, loved the movie and told people at NHRC about it,and they were interested.

We are still chasing, in various ways, the queen of daytime talk shows. I don’t have any expectations, and its getting very very late. But they’ve expressed a bit of interest and we can see where it goes from here. Its been a long road, and I am almost at the end, at least with respect to North America for the movie (famous last words, I know, and I will probably end up being wrong, although I am definitely ready to move on).

Chicago is the last stop on the tour. Val has compared it to a political campaign, and in some ways she is right. When I hosted the Q&A in Houston last nite, it even felt like that a bit. Gonna do what I can in Chicago, for the next couple of days, have dinner with my best friend from law school, and see his baby daughter, then fly back to NYC 6AM Friday morning for the last screening we’ll be doing (unless Philadelphia comes through with a premiere for next week). Its my friends at the NBR for their organizational screening. Then I am going home to take a nap, and wait for the box office numbers to start presenting themselves. And to figure out what I am going to do next.

Its been two and a half years on this journey. If I live to 75, that’s over three percent of my life. It all comes down to this. All I can say is one thing…

1 -800- FANDANGO.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Airplane Bloggin’: The Midnight Special

Sitting in the Phoenix Airport, waiting for a flight home. It’s a midnighter, Jet Blue, red-eye and the airport is mostly empty. Most of the gates are unoccupied, and unfortunately, I got here a bit early but all of the restaurants are closed. Had I know everything would be closed, I would have grabbed something before returning the car to the rental place. So now, hungry, already having passed through security, I am long-boning it for the next hour and change until I can get on the airplane, swallow the Xanax that’s in my pocket, and say hi to the Sandman.

As least this airport has wireless, and I managed to snag a seat next to an outlet so that I can blog for y’all without losing battery.

This just in. Sedona is gorgeous. You can drive through the town, make a turn, and see something that will totally take your breath away. These mountains of red clay, striated by hundreds of thousands of years of rivers that carved beautiful, cactus-speckled canyons, are breathtaking (as I just said, duh). Really a beautiful place, and I’d like to go there when life is a little less chaotic, and I can enjoy the environment a little more. To boot, things are pretty cheap, drinks, hotels, etc., and its nice and cool at nite, good sleeping weather.

The festival was pretty cool too. Not that it was overflowing with the type of contacts I enjoy making at festivals- wasn’t very industry heavy though I did pick up a few biz cards and maybe made one contact that will be worth the trip. What I like about the festival really had to do with the audiences. Sedona is 70 percent occupied by retirees. Which means they don’t work. Which means they have free time. And during this festival, they go to the movies. A lot.

I didn’t see any screening less than half full except for the first day. We were a little light with My Brother day one, but by the Friday screening, with very minimal promotion (I did invite a few ppl), we were easily 2/3 full, over a hundred people, lotsa grey hair. And they really seemed to love it, asking questions until the moderator told us we had to wrap it up. And then asking more in the hallway.

They have already announced the Festival Director’s picks, and though he was very gracious and described us as a top breakout pick in press for the festival, we weren’t included as the feature (one I missed, Canvas, with Joey Pants, was his selection for feature narrative). Audience awards are to be announced tomorrow, AM, at the brunch. He told me that there were a bunch of films in contention, including My Brother, so David Basch is sticking around to see whats what, which he wanted to do anyway, because he fell in love with Sedona. He’ll attend the brunch. If we win, he’ll be accepting on my behalf for the second weekend in a row, having accepted by Best Producer Award at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Series. Haha, talk about carving out a niche.

Anyway, Val is coming to town for a week, and things are gonna get busy. Got the NY premiere at the Magic Johnson theater on 124th St. Tuesday nite, with the incredible moving afterparty to follow (we’ve gone through three venues, and my fingers are crossed). On Sunday, I have to fly to Houston, for the Houston premiere, and then back to NY on Tuesday. On Thursday, we may or may not have a Chicago premiere, pending finding a place to show the friggin thing, and then on Friday, we’ll be opening in our 19 or so cities (I recently found out that it could be a few less, or a few more, depending on AMC holdovers and spots available, we’re only confirmed on 25 screens as of this past week, of the 35 for which we were aiming).

But we’ve gained momentum, as least in parts of the country, and there are a whole lot of people who are just looking to stomp for the movie because they think it’s the right thing to do, all over the country. They just admire the messages of the movie, whether its about family in the black community, or opportunities for people with Intellectual disabilities, or whatever. We’ll take all the help we can get.

I’m nervous, not because I expect to make a bunch of money if we do well, but because so many people have put so much into this movie, getting it out, getting it into theaters, spreading the word. Its been guts and no glory for months, and hopefully, it will have been worth it. This is totally a word of mouth movie, and if we get good reviews (we have critics screenings in LA (2) and NY (1) this week), maybe we can even cross over to a broader audience. I think Santa Barbara and Sedona have proven to me that white audiences like this movie almost as much as black audiences, even if they have no particular experience with people with intellectual disabilities. In a best case scenario, if we can get those folks to come out to see the movie that only come out for a rare thing, to see something special and different, well, then, I wont be talking to any of you little people any more. Except Dawn, my most ardent supporter. ☺.

But seriously, Im fucking tired, and I don’t have a whole lot left in the tank, or in the bank, for that matter. I’ve spent a lot of my own money doing these roadtrips to promote the movie, to try to make things happen. And now, thirteen days and diminishing from the release of the movie, the final push is on.

I don’t have any predictions, anymore. I don’t know how we’ll do, whether we’ll go out with a whisper. Every time I google the movie, I find new stuff, more stuff. Good stuff. But Im not sure it ever seems like enough stuff. Like too little jelly over too many markets, I mean, bread.

Talk to you soon. If I don’t blog this week, forgive me, its hard to find the time unless Im waiting for, or am on, a plane. I should have the blog sponsored by Jet Blue.