BOP Answers Its Mail

By Calvin Trager

May 28, 2004

Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night, can help me identify with Kobe's plight.

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BOP loves its readers. And BOP's readers love BOP. But some of BOP's readers don't love certain things that BOP does. But others do. This is the enigmatic nature of feedback: It doesn't often let you know what you are doing well, but it very nearly always lets you know what you're doing wrong, or at least what others think you're doing wrong.

And while we at BOP are self-aware and confident enough to follow our own muse even in the *gasp* face of negative feedback, from time to time we will use this forum to respond to our readers, to further clarify, to enlighten, to entertain.

Here then is some selected feedback and response from May 5-12, 2004.

Jason offers a contrasting perspective:
To Stephanie Star Smith: I was surprised to find myself in rare disagreement with a BOP writer when perusing your article on From Hell. Although I certainly don't dispute any of your "Strike" arguments, I do dispute the degree to which they detract from enjoyment of the film. A horror-film afficionado who seeks historical accuracy is perhaps seeking the wrong things from the genre; granted, historical accuracies can bolster film, but unless they completely warp the impact (not the plausability) of the story, I'm not sure it's fair to consider inaccuracies detractive. The horror genre, like the sci-fi genre, has always involved a healthy dose of disbelief-suspension as a prerequisite, and even a film whose story is rooted in historical facts should be given a wide berth in this department if it casts itself as a member of the genre. It's after all a comic book adaptation; solitary would be the voice of a reviewer who resented Hellboy because the Nazis never technically opened a gateway to outer space during the waning days of WWII. As to the film being boring, I quite disagree. Depp's performance was wonderful as always, and the film had some of the greatest absynthe/drug-effects-in-general scenes in cinema. The choice to portray Abbeline as an addict may not have been a realistic possibility given the context of the story and the historical attitudes of the Brits, but it was a bold and effective choice nevertheless, and under the skill of actor such as Depp, doubly so. Anyway, I'm obviously not going to change your opinion, nor should I be allowed to, but I wanted to offer a contrasting perspective. I have a debate similar to this with friends who hated Event Horizon. Regards, Jason

Special guest Star responds:

Although I received many comments on my From Hell review - the majority of which boiled down to "You suck!" - your feedback presented me with some interesting points I'd like to address.

As a long-time horror film fan, I certainly agree with you that one should never look to a horror or science fiction film - or any Hollywood product, for that matter - for historical accuracy. But those became the foundation towards my real point in the review, which were my biggest problems with the film: The red-herring-strewn path the filmmakers took to
unmasking their Ripper, and how incredibly boring I found the whole proceedings. Now, I grant you that last is a very subjective judgment, and one man's boring is another man's masterful thriller. But had I not been so taken out of my suspension of disbelief by wondering how much longer this
thing would drag on, and being duped as to who the filmmakers tagged as their Ripper, I would never have been unhappy with the historical inaccuracies.

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. And for what it's worth, I agree with you on Event Horizon, which will be the subject of a future Slimy Wall.

To that I will add I think Jason is too quick to lump From Hell in with other "pure fiction" horror films (and certainly any science-fiction film) and demand suspension of disbelief. The filmmakers decided to tell the Ripper's story and took full advantage of their ability to market the movie as such. To simultaneously cash in on, and ignore, the historical elements of the story is either disingenuous filmmaking or disingenuous marketing. Thanks, Jason, for your feedback.

Clara spots a mistake:
Hello, i love your site and visit it often. well, i was browsing around and decided to look at the "box office by studio" section. I went to the Walt Disney Productions area and the top grossing movie was finding nemo. I wasnt suprised by this in the least but, i was sure that the lion king would be at number 2. instead, its said toy story 2. well, i heard many times that the lion king was the highest grossing animated film of all time before finding nemo. also, i noticed that the lion king wasnt listed at all in the disney section. I know that its definitely a disney film, so where is it? I was just wondering.

Clara, we appreciate your eagle eyes and have corrected the oversight in the Box Office by Studio section accordingly. Disney's page now shows Simba and company as its fourth biggest opener ever (adjusted for inflation), which is how these charts are arranged. Take a peek at the Total Box Office column and you will see that you were correct; Lion King's $313 million domestic take made it Disney's highest grosser (and by extension the highest grossing animated film) until Nemo got lost. Of course, Nemo just barely won and had 2003 ticket prices working for it. Comparatively, The Lion King's feat was way, way more impressive, coming in 1994 and all. Thanks for the heads up, and thanks for the feedback.

Matt uses all caps for emphasis:
Absolutely LOVE your website - However, ask the FEMALES in the office if they're anticipating "The Notebook" - Come on now guys, you predicted "Mean Girls" at 11 mil. Throw in a "chick flick" every now and then, eh? :-)

Matt, thanks for the love. Your tongue-in-cheek comments earn a two-part response which is probably going to come off as way more serious than your expectations or my intent; bear with me, I'm mostly doing it for effect. Firstly, on the anticipation front, you correctly observe that The Notebook failed to register in our BOP 25 of Summer 2004. You posit the reason for this is the preponderance of testosterone around the BOP offices. Conversely, you think if one has estrogen coursing through their veins, ergo one must naturally be anticipating the upcoming film The Notebook. Matt, I am here to tell you that BOP staffers will not be so easily painted with your broad, sexist brush. The blunt truth is, the womyn in the office have expressed little interest in The Notebook at this point. Meanwhile a male staffer who has seen it has tapped it as a potential sleeper of the summer.

Now, I think any time you're talking about anticipation, marketing and buzz carry a significant amount of weight; it's not just a simple issue of certain gender types liking certain movie types. The Notebook, for all its acclaim as a novel, has zero buzz as a movie. Most of the potential audience already knows the ending and the remainder aren't inclined to see it as an opening weekend's first choice. This doesn't mean it can't find an audience or that its box office prospects are limited, of course. It will have to work a little harder for its payday. And it is certainly fair to say there are more than 25 movies with higher profiles on our (guys and gals alike) watchlists.

Your second comment implies BOP's box office forecaster Reagen Sulewski underestimates the drawing power of the female-targeted movie. To support your point you cite his prediction for Mean Girls, $11.1 million, 56% below the actual opening of $24.4 million. Now I'll grant you, our man Reagen missed low with Mean Girls, but I didn't know what to make of your broader point. So I went digging into BOP's archives to find out.

What I found upon examining a sample of 40+ "chick flicks" going back to 2001 is contrary to your speculation that we low-ball films outside of our demographic. In fact, Reagen more often overestimates a female-targeted movie's box office potential (about 58% of the time). Underestimates accounted for a 42% prevalence. Note that for the purpose of this exercise I defined an overestimate as $1 or more above the actual box office figures, and an underestimate as $1 or more below actuals.

From a slightly different angle, I looked at Reagen's overall performance in predicting the box office potential of the movies I analyzed. His typical (read: median) prediction was 8% above actuals. So while Mean Girls is an excellent example of a low prediction, as a phenomenon it is in the minority. I can just as easily cite the $24.5 million prediction for 13 Going on 30 (against $22 million actual) or the $15.3 million prediction for Mona Lisa Smile (against $11.5 million actual) as examples where Reagen was overly in touch with his sensitive side. Wuss.

Now, I know you were just having a little fun, teasing us and all, and I hope you take this response in the same spirit. Thanks for playing along, and thanks for your feedback, Matt.

Linda can count from 1 to 3 without using 2:
My question is for David Mumpower concerning the article based on Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason. Can you tell me the date the article was written and on what did you base your information. I'm curious because I thought that Helen Fielding said she would not write the script this time and your artice seems to imply that she wrote the first draft. I thought the first draft was written by Andrew Davies, and Richard Curtis wrote the third draft. Thank you, Linda

If Fielding wasn't involved, and Davies wrote the first draft, and Curtis wrote the third draft, who wrote the second draft?

I crossed out all the naughty parts.

No, no; I'm pretty sure we have it right with the combo of Fielding to Davies to, Curtis. Here's a quote from Andrew Davies speaking to the UK Radio Times, whatever that is, either confirming the screenplay arrangement or describing some weird sexual tryst: "I was in the middle of a sandwich, with Helen Fielding doing three drafts, then me and Richard Curtis. The film was terrific. It can be heartbreaking, though, when someone takes over your work." Thanks for the feedback.

Gerry has got to be kidding me:
Firstly - I just wanted to say that I love the new look BOP! Keep up the great work. Sadly - I was totally pissed off with John Seal's May Forecast. Having never read the Iliad and knowing very little about the story on which Troy is based - I didnt know that Achillies dies in the story. This isnt exactly akin to the ship sinking at the end is it!? Next time use a spoiler alert!!!!!! Otherwise the rest were all great!

Actually Gerry, it is EXACTLY (what up, Matt!) like the ship sinking at the end of Titanic. Lookit, I never exactly read the Iliad either; I'm the kind of person who disdained required reading in high school. But even I know all about Achilles and how his infamous vulnerability led to his ironic demise, I mean, there's a tendon named for it and everything. We at BOP are as spoiler-sensitive as anyone, but we're not going to lower the bar for every Tom, Dick, and Gerry who doesn't know the basics. But we didn't do it on purpose, and all kidding aside, we apologize if we negatively impacted your viewing experience. Thanks for the feedback.

Someone whom Kim Hollis will imagine is Bruce Campbell writes:
I have a nice role in United Artists' The Woods, directed by Lucky McKee and am beginning to wonder whether it's coming out at all. I note that the predicted release date is TBA 2005. Any hope you can give me that it will in fact be released?

Well, I think it has a shot at a limited release as United Artists has secured distribution rights. UA has had much success recently raising the profile of smaller films by bringing Pieces of April, Coffee & Cigarettes, and Saved! to theaters near you. Thematically similar to M. Night Shamalyan's The Village (the two productions squabbled over the same title even), you can be sure the smaller film will want to capitalize on the buzz created by the bigger film but also wait long enough to avoid any "been there, done that" vibe. We also shouldn't discount the natural boost The Woods' box office prospects would receive around Halloween. The Village drops July 30, so October or November would seem to be a good bet for The Woods. However, BOP's Kim Hollis, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, tells me it's off the release schedule and I'm nuts if I think it'll see the inside of a theater in 2004. So instead of hope I'm afraid all I have to give you is a bite of my wish sandwich. Thanks anyway for your feedback. PS: Kim and the rest of the gang can't wait to see you on the big screen in about a month as Snooty Usher.

L.A. acts all worldly and stuff:
When you compare a film's budget with what it makes at the box office, you seem to be only looking at the US numbers. What about the international box office numbers? Aren't you telling only one part of the story?

Great point. The growth of international box office and its impact on Hollywood is a trend everyone - including BOP - is becoming more fully aware of every day. And clearly it's a trend that is going to change the way movies are greenlighted, written, distributed, and marketed. Films like The Alamo or Miracle that have narrower, US-centric appeal are in the near future going to be seen as riskier choices compared to films with internationally friendly themes. While it is a safe bet to say that The Alamo couldn't get greenlighted today, what about Miracle? Even though the film ended up being very good and will end up very profitable, it was upwards of a $100 million gamble with little hedge opportunity. Sadly, I believe these kinds of "American Experience" films are a dying breed.

By now you've checked out Ash Wakeman's God Save the Screen column. Ash's perspective on the UK box office is first-person and first rate. Walid Habboub's recent Movieball article also addresses the increasing importance of the foreign gate, and much more. It's required reading if you're looking to get a handle on all the things that go into a production's coffers, and what it costs to generate those revenue streams. Thanks for the feedback.

Jim wonders about Bush's do we sometimes:
Any word on where and when this movie can be seen in the greater So. Calif. area? And/or is it going to be available to purchase on DVD or tape? Your help is appreciated. JIM

If it wasn't before, Jim, Bush's Brain is guaranteed a DVD release and has a smallish (upgraded from zero) chance for a theater distribution deal now that Michael Moore's film Farenheit 9/11 made a big splash at Cannes. The temptation to cash in on the buzz and free publicity that Moore's higher profile work has already created will prove too great for some distributor to resist. And believe me, if it opens at all, it will open in Southern California. I mean, they'll be projecting it in an endless loop on Barbra Streisand's roof for crying out loud. Thanks for the feedback.

neo has a comma fetish:
happened found that your site ,,really amazing,,,but there are some word i don't know the meaning,,like "opening",does it mean the first week?or just the first weekend...and "PSA",does it mean totally income? thanks your site really helpful to me,,cause i work in a movie distribution company,,,there r lots of info i can use from your database

Well neo - if that is your name - since you work in a movie distribution company and all I'm sure you already know that opening means first weekend (typically Friday, Saturday, Sunday) receipts, and PSA stands for "Per Screen Average". PSA is calculated by taking the opening and dividing by the number of venues the movie was shown at. The number of venues is a commonly reported misnomer known as the Screen Count. Now that we've cleared that up, maybe you can help my man JIM out. He desperately wants to see the movie Bush's Brain, but the film needs a distributor. And you r one of those! Maybe you and Trinity could co-finance it. Thanks for the feedback.

Moe brings the love:
The redesign of you site is GREAT! Thank you for not making me hunt for what I like.

You rock, Moe. Thanks for the encouraging feedback.



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