In praise of penguin snuff films
Monday Morning Quarterback Part Three
By BOP Staff
August 17, 2005
Kim Hollis: March of the Penguins made another $6.7 million this weekend. Is there anything to prevent these waterfowl from conquering Earth?
David Mumpower: I for one welcome our new waterfowl overlords.
Reagen Sulewski: Global warming.
Kim Hollis: Incarcerate Feathers McGraw!
Tim Briody: Sure, now they're just marching. But just wait for Attack of the Penguins.
Joel Corcoran: ... directed by Michael Bay, I'm sure.
Kim Hollis: Quick, get Roger Corman on the phone!
David Mumpower: I still say the movie would have been better with Muppets instead of Penguins.
Kim Hollis: *Everything* is better with Muppets.
Joel Corcoran: March of the Penguins just fills me with glee every time I see the box office charts.
Reagen Sulewski: Twenty years ago, this would have debuted on The Walt Disney Hour.
Tim Briody: I am completely baffled by the success. It's not like the penguins are protesting President Bush or eating McDonalds every day or telling some joke about the Aristocrats. What gives?
Joel Corcoran: Dead freakin' brilliant filmography. That's what I think.
Kim Hollis: They're adorable and lovable. That's what gives.
Can we talk about penguins?
David Mumpower: There are just some creatures of God humans find irresistible. I'm currently working on an indie film, Kittens Play with Yarn. It will be much more profitable than Stealth.
Kim Hollis: Madagascar made money on the strength of the penguins alone. They need to do a sequel, but with otters.
Tim Briody: The penguins would want too big a backend on the sequel, anyway.
Joel Corcoran: And it's an extremely well done film. The shots are incredible, the editing is precise, but restrained, and it's just laid out beautifully overall.
David Mumpower: I mean, they're little dudes in tuxes. I'm surprised Joan Rivers doesn't camp out in Antarctica to talk about their red carpet appearances.
Reagen Sulewski: She needs the work.
Joel Corcoran: I hope the penguins march all the way into next year, personally.
Reagen Sulewski: I think it's indicative of how much people are looking for something different this summer that this is doing so well. It's not just that it's making a lot of money for a documentary, it's that it held nearly 100% of its business.
Now showing at the North Pole...
Joel Corcoran: I think that's a really big part of it. Also, people are returning to the idea that documentaries - even nature documentaries - can be great films and very entertaining.
David Mumpower: Do you think that some penguin indie theater at the North Pole is featuring an Attack of the Humans movie?
Joel Corcoran: I think "Winged Migration" set the stage for the penguins to do so well.
David Mumpower: And next year, they send in the lions and tigers to finish off our civilization!
Tim Briody: Oh my!
Joel Corcoran: I think the penguin indie theater is showing "Dukes of Hazzard" as an example of how stupid we can be.
Joel Corcoran: Probably in a double-feature with "The Island."
What about Eurotrip 2?
Kim Hollis: Speaking of which, Variety reports that box office grosses are down 10% or more in Germany, Spain, Italy and France and 2% in England. Is there anything you would like to say to our European brethren to give them hope about the rest of the year?
Tim Briody: Good luck, suckers!
David Mumpower: Sorry about that whole 'freedom fries' fiasco?
Kim Hollis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Joel Corcoran: And King Kong.
David Mumpower: King Kong is going to be huge and it's also got broad-ranging appeal.
Joel Corcoran: And Wallace and Gromit.
David Mumpower: Serenity could even do well internationally since Joss Whedon is so popular abroad. I think Buffy is bigger in England than in the US.
Kim Hollis: And as mentioned earlier, everyone loves Harry Potter.
David Mumpower: Looking over the calendar for the rest of 2005, The Transporter 2, Chicken Little, and Syriana are also films which could do reasonably well abroad relative to domestic performance.
Tim Briody: I agree a bunch of those films will be huge, but it's not much of a list we've got there.
Joel Corcoran: I'd forgotten about Chicken Little.
Oscar loves musicals and all that jazz
Kim Hollis: And musicals like Grease, Chicago and Moulin Rouge! have done phenomenally well overseas, so I would expect Rent and The Producers to get some significant attention.
David Mumpower: Rent is a sleeper contender for The Oscars that nobody is talking about yet.
Joel Corcoran: I heard the stage version of Rent already was a big hit in London.
Reagen Sulewski: I'm not ready for the phrase, "Chris Columbus, Oscar winning director" just yet.
Kim Hollis: That's exactly what I was just thinking, Reagen, but the trailer is just fantastic. It absolutely gives me chills, even.
Reagen Sulewski: And yet, Akiva Goldsman has an Oscar for screenwriting and the world didn't end.
Tim Briody: Is anybody talking about the Oscars yet?
Reagen Sulewski: They may just cancel them this year, Tim.
David Mumpower: They're only six months away, so they should be, Tim. Since the movies have all blown, though, there is not much point.
Kim Hollis: Well, Entertainment Weekly had a feature a few weeks back, so the answer is actually yes.
David Mumpower: There are only eight releases I have not seen this year. I was just counting yesterday and I realized I disliked more than half...and I consider myself easy to please. Just a brutal year for cinema.
Joel Corcoran: "Crash" will be nominated at least twice in every category, and win everything except "Best Documentary."
David Mumpower: ...if the Awards season ends today.
Kim Hollis: Yup. This year does afford some smaller-scale stuff a better shot than it usually has, though.
Tim Briody: Here come the penguins!
David Mumpower: Do penguins have any particular vulnerabilities? Maybe we should be researching this a bit more.
In they year 2000...(and 6)
Kim Hollis: Box office was down again this week. There have only been four times in the past six months where it was up. We are down $452 million from this time last year despite more ticket price inflation. Let's fast forward to Sunday, August 13, 2006. Are we still discussing box office trending being down or has normalcy returned?
Tim Briody: We may have to consult the penguin overlords to answer that question, Kim.
Reagen Sulewski: I think, and studios hope, that this is a one-time sea change in the marketplace.
David Mumpower: There is one unknown we cannot account for in such a discussion, Kim. That is whether the movies improve in quality over the next twelve months.
Joel Corcoran: I don't think normalcy will return for at least two years. We have to get through an entire average production cycle first, before the lessons the studios learn (or are supposed to be learning) actually appear in movie releases.
Tim Briody: Though it's going to be really damn hard to throw under this year.
Kim Hollis: Sadly, judging from the movie news I cover every day on BOP Today, those lessons are not even being learned yet. I'm seeing ridiculously bad stuff being given the greenlight. I mean, Uwe Boll has a $60 million film in production, for God's sakes. Will no one stop the madness?
Joel Corcoran: Well, maybe they'll wise up after Oscar season, which means that we'll start seeing more good movies than bad around ... oh, summer 2008.
David Mumpower: As a rule, though, I don't think we will see dramatic improvements any time soon. The reality is that box office behavior has changed. There is much more competition for the free time of consumers, and that problem will only grow as videogame and computer worlds grow more involved. Similarly, the advent of services such as Netflix have changed the marketplace somewhat. When Netflix, Blockbuster or someone else is able to present on-demand delivery of movies, there will be yet another reason not to go to the theater.
Joel Corcoran: You know, I just crunched some numbers and here's what I came up with - the total of the production budgets for Crash, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Four Brothers was $16 million less than the budget for The Island. There's a message in there somewhere, and I'll have it figured out by next week.
Kim Hollis: That's an interesting point, David. Movie delivery has evolved. We are only now feeling the effect on box office receipts.
How dare The Passion of the Christ make money! It messed up everything!
Tim Briody: 2006 won't have Passion of the Christ, Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 from the previous year to compare to. But if receipts still end up down, I'm sure they'll find a way to blame Mel Gibson.
Kim Hollis: People who want to write this off as a fluke are effectively sticking their fingers in their ears and going lalala I can't hear you.
Reagen Sulewski: I still intensely dislike the idea that you can write-off films. Hollywood is in the business of producing blockbusters.
Joel Corcoran: I think Hollywood has to realize you can't swing for the fences every time. You wind up with too many strikeouts that way.