Which summer movies were box office winners and losers?

Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in "Captain America: Civil War." (Photo courtesy Marvel Studios/TNS)
“Captain America: Civil War” dominated the global summer box office. (Contributed by Marvel Studios)

This isn’t news, but it bears repeating: If there is one thing we can learn from looking at summer movies, it’s that absolutely nobody cares what critics have to say about summer movies.

Critics hated some summer movies that did really well and loved others that bombed.

Who had a good summer at the box office? Who wishes that 2016 had never happened? Let’s look at some numbers. All grosses are drawn from the almighty boxofficemojo.com.

This summer’s biggest winner was Disney, by far. Great merciful crap, did Disney have an insane year. The top four movies on the planet were Disney films.

“Captain America: Civil War, the most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, grossed $1.152 billion worldwide. “Zootopia” was a sleeper smash with a $1.02 billion gross. “The Jungle Book,” an entirely CGI-affair (save for the lead actor), grossed $961 million. And Pixar’s most recent entry, “Finding Dory,” picked up $930 million worldwide (with $479 million of that in the States; domestically, it’s the year’s most successful picture).

Even with a few flops —The BFG,” directed by Steven Spielberg, earned only $54 million domestically and $160.3 million worldwide against a $140 million budget; “Alice Through the Looking Glass” took $77 million domestically but finished with a decent $295 million worldwide gross; and “Pete’s Dragon” has only made $55 million in about three weeks of release — Disney pretty well owned 2016. Until everyone gets sick of Marvel and Star Wars, this trend may continue. Then again, nothing lasts forever.

That said, superheroes in general had a good year. The critically excoriated “Batman v Superman” grossed $872 million worldwide (though only $330 million of that at home). The critically rebuked “Suicide Squad” made $637.8 million worldwide.

“Deadpool” was the real superhero surprise, grossing $782 million worldwide against a budget of $58 million. Considered a low-budget also-ran, it radically outperformed “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which took in $544 million worldwide but only $155 million domestically, less than half of the $363 million domestic “Deadpool” made. The moral of this story is that absolutely nobody cares what critics have to say about superhero movies, especially audiences in other countries.

You know who also had a good year? People complaining on the internet. Take, for example, “Ghostbusters,” rebooted by Paul Feig with a gender-swapped cast. A certain segment of the internet almost instantly started complaining about the ladies wielding proton packs, keeping up a drumbeat of bafflingly bad buzz that resulted, most recently, in actress Leslie Jones’ website getting hacked. The movie earned a $121.7 million domestic box office (and only a $217.7 million international total), and plans for a sequel seem to have been scrapped. This is very literally why we can’t have nice things.

Then again, sometimes the market and critics march hand in hand. “Free State of Jones,” starring Austin spirit animal Matthew McConaughey, just did not work and made only $20 million, less than half its $50 million budget.

I was one of the very few critics who didn’t absolutely love Austin film godfather Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some,” but it never completely found an audience, grossing only $3 million, making for Linklater’s worst outing since “Me and Orson Welles” in 2009 and doing far, far worse than 2014’s still-incredible “Boyhood.”

But I really enjoyed “Midnight Special,” by Austin director Jeff Nichols, a movie that couldn’t quite find its audience, either — it made only $6 million worldwide. (And also got its tribute-to-’80s-sci-fi-and-fantasy lunch eaten by Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”)

Ultimately, critics enjoyed “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone’s comedic ode to the Biebers of the world.  But it made a dismal $9 million (no budget was released) domestically and has not been released overseas. And the genuinely terrific “Green Room,” a much better horror movie than, say, “Don’t Breathe” or last year’s “It Follows,” has made only $3 million. I suspect both will have a decent life on various streaming services.




Austin Film Festival introduces inaugural theater track, 2017 playwriting competition

aff Austin Film Festival (AFF), which bills itself as “the Writers’ Festival,” announced Tuesday an inaugural Playwriting Track for the AFF Writers Conference (Oct. 13 to 16), including a new playwriting competition, to open in the 2017 season.

The Playwriting Track will feature discussions that delve into the art and craft of dramatic writing and how these techniques can inform storytelling for both stage and screen.

Playwright, screenwriter, “House of Cards” showrunner and AFF frequent flier Beau Willimon will present a staged script reading of his unproduced play “War Story” which follows two soldiers, two bankers, a war overseas and a war at home.

Willimon picked up an Oscar nomination for his work on “The Ides of March,” which was adapted from his play “Farragut North.”

Additional playwright and film/television hybrids confirmed for the conference include Stephen Falk (creator, “You’re the Worst”), Monica Macer (writer, “Nashville”), Melanie Marnich (writer, “The Affair”), Mark Medoff (writer, “Children of a Lesser God”), Elizabeth Meriwether (creator, “The New Girl”), Nicole Perlman (writer, “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and many more. The Playwriting Track will play host to panels such as “Shakespeare Inspired”, “Stage to Screen”, “Playwrights in the Writers Room”, “Dialogue”, “Subtext and Beats,” and “Breaking in as a Playwright.”

The playwriting competition is an extension of AFF’s  screenplay competition. AFF will accept full-length stage plays and provide aspiring playwrights exposure to a wide array of theatre professionals. More information and specifics will be available when the competition opens in early 2017.

AFF runs from October 13 to 20. Expect the full schedule in mid-September.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” to open Fantastic Fest

Arrival-1-600x936Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction epic “Arrival,” which stars Amy Adams, will open Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest. Villeneuve (“Sicario”) has been tapped to helm the upcoming “Blade Runner” sequel.

The festival also revealed its second wave of films.

South Korean superstar director Park Chan-Wook (“Oldboy,” “Stoker”), attends the festival for the first time to present the US Premiere of his erotic drama”The Handmaiden.

“Elle,” Paul Verhoeven’s new one, is described as a “deadly comedic rape-revenge thriller,” so, uh, we’ll see how that goes. 

Also look for Paul Schrader’s new one. His last was the astoundingly unwatchable “The Canyons” but this one, “Dog Eat Dog” is a violent crime film, a genre at which he excels. It stars Nicholas Cage and, man, that can turn out about a million different ways.

Also look for the U.S. premiere of “The Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to her amazing film “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” a return of the massive band Itchy-O and two movies from the American Genre Film Archive vault: a digital transfer of “The Zodiac Killer and a rarely seen 35mm print of Hajime Satô’s 1968 low-budget alien invasion flick “Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell”

 See below for the full lineup of newly announced film titles for Fantastic Fest 2016. The final wave of titles to be announced shortly. The fest takes place from from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29.

India, 2001
International Premiere, 178 min
Director – Suresh Krissna
Kamal Hassan stars in this ridiculously entertaining tale of an Indian commando pitted against his own serial killer twin brother in a deadly race to save the beautiful Tejaswini from certain death.


United States, 2016
Opening Film, 116 min
Director – Denis Villeneuve
When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

U.S. Premiere, 118 min
Director – Eiichiro Hasumi
This conclusion to last year’s hit finds Class-E running out of time in their efforts to assassinate Koro-sensei, their yellow octopus smiley-faced teacher who is about to destroy Earth.


United States, 2016
U.S. Premiere, 115 min
Director – Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her alt-cult sensation A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE with her highly anticipated dystopian cannibal desert trip.


United States, 2016
U.S. Premiere, 93 min
Director – 
Paul Schrader
From the brilliant minds of Edward Bunker and Paul Schrader comes this unhinged pulp comedy at a million miles an hour; the story of three hardened criminals and the final, simple crime which will bring them all down.

France, 2016
US Premiere, 131 min
Director – Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven’s debut in French cinema highlights an incredible Isabelle Huppert in a dramedy that first subverts then transgresses the rape-revenge narrative. 

United States, 2016
Regional Premiere, 77 min
Director –
 Nick Pesce
After a traumatic event, a young girl begins to associate pain and death with love and friendship in increasingly dangerous ways.

United Kingdom, United States, 2016
US Premiere, 111 min
In a dystopian future, young Melanie must go on a trip with the soldier who needs to kill her, the doctor who wants to use her and the teacher who wants to help.

Japan, 1968
Special Screening, 84 min
Director – Hajime Satô’s
An airplane crashes under mysterious circumstances and the survivors find themselves stalked by an evil blobby presence bent on world domination.

South Korea, 2016
U.S Premiere, 145 min
Director – Park Chan-Wook
In the 1930s, country girl Sook-Hee is hired as a handmaiden to Japanese heiress Lady Hideko, who lives a secluded life with her uncle. However Sook-Hee is not what she seems… and neither is Lady Hideko, Count Fujiwara or Uncle Kouziki.

Austria, France, Italy, 2015
Texas Premiere, 90 min
Director – Andreas Horvath
Filmmaker Andreas Horvath (EARTH’S GOLDEN PLAYGROUND) offers a deeply personal and unblinking portrait of Helmut Berger, the Austrian film star of the ‘60s and ‘70s best known for his work with director Luchino Visconti. 

Poland, 2016
International Premiere, 97 min
Director – Wojciech Kasperski
Father/son bonding time takes an extraordinarily dark turn when a former guard and his two teen boys receive an unexpected guest in their remote cabin along the Poland-Ukraine border.

India, 2016
North American Premiere, 240 min
Director – Rajeev Raji
Aging gangster Krishnan returns to his hometown after receiving a distressing phone call from a friend, only to find that he’s picking up the pieces after thirty years of bloody gang war.

Japan, Canada, 2016
U.S. Premiere, 64 min
Director – Nick DiLiberto
Painstakingly hand-drawn by a single animator over four years, this saturated slice of lo-fi sci-fi pulp recalls both Moebius and Miyazaki as it ambitiously realizes an eclectic post-apocalyptic future populated by lion-men, brain-leeching slugs and Saturday Morning Cartoon villainy, the latter most memorably personified by the sublimely named Dr. Mindskull.

France, 2016
US Premiere, 98 min
Director – Julia Ducournau
Part sister bonding, part coming-of-age story, part gross-out horror flick, Julia Ducournau’s debut feature is the terror discovery of 2016.

France, 2017
North American Premiere, 81 min
Director – Michaël Dudok De Wit
A castaway ekes out an existence on a deserted tropical island guarded by an enigmatic red tortoise in this magnificent animated fable from the imagination of acclaimed Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit (FATHER AND DAUGHTER) and produced in part by the legendary Studio Ghibli.

Japan, 2016
US Premiere, 98 min
Director – Kôji Shiraishi
The showdown of the century is about to begin and no one in Tokyo will be spared: Ring’s Sadako vs The Grudge’s Kayako in a fight to determine the future of humanity.

Australia, United States, 2016
World Premiere, 85 min
Director – Chris Peckover
Chris Peckover, director of 2010’s UNDOCUMENTED, returns to Fantastic Fest with this playfully twisted suburban Christmas thriller in which babysitter Ashley must protect twelve-year-old Luke during an unusual home invasion.

Japan, 2016
International Premiere, 103 min
Director – Hajime Hashimoto
Dora is a lowlife con man who runs a marriage scam with his associates. But a badly timed encounter with a yakuza will plunge Dora into a new, deep world of darkness, both ugly and enticing!

United States, 2016
World Premiere, 76 min
Director – A.D. Calvo
Adele is a friendless young woman living with her wealthy but agoraphobic aunt. She meets Beth and the two become fast friends, but Adele may be drawn to a darkness within her new companion, a darkness that threatens to overtake everything.

New Zealand, 2016
International Premiere, 92 min
Director – Gerard Johnstone
Teenaged cat burglar Terry Teo turns crime fighter when his estranged father is killed by local gangsters in this revival of the classic New Zealand character.

Germany, 2016
U.S. Premiere, 162 min
Director – Maren Ade
A father tries to reconnect with his repressed, career-driven daughter in the funniest movie to ever come out of Germany.

Italy, 2015
Texas Premiere, 118 min
Director – Gabriele Mainetti
A lowlife thug finds his grimy, pornography-filled existence disrupted when he accidentally acquires superpowers that force him to become a better man against his will.

Ireland, 2015
International Premiere, 84 min
Director – Peter Foott
The day after the largest drug bust in Irish history, with massive packages of cocaine washing up along the shoreline, two go-nowhere teens make a most sensible decision: They will ride to the coast on stolen bicycles and claim a bundle of that wondrous cocaine for themselves.

United States, 1971
World Premiere, 85 min
Director – Tom Hanson
AGFA and Something Weird present a brand new 4K transfer of this sanity-defying, tabloid-horror vortex that was produced with one goal in mind: to capture the real-life Zodiac Killer.

Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” will open Austin Film Festival

LOVING_onesheetAustin-based filmmaker Jeff Nichols‘ latest film, “Loving” will open the Austin Film Festival in October.

Nichols, whose “Midnight Special” has become one of the year’s best and least-seen sci-fi movies,  premiered “Loving” at Cannes in May. “Loving” is a look at the struggle of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), whose civil rights case, “Loving v. Virginia,” made Supreme Court history.

The complete list of programming at the 23rd annual AFF, including short films, competition titles, and conference panels, will be announced in mid-September, but here is the second wave of films announced:




Opening Night Film
Texas Premiere

Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols*

Cast: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who waged a decade-long legal battle that led to the overturning of the state of Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage.

The Big Spoon

World Premiere
Writers: Mallory Culbert*, Carlyn Hudson*

Director: Carlyn Hudson

Cast: Zach Knighton*, Nick Stevenson*

Long-term couple Mallory and Ben plan to enjoy a romantic weekend alone in Mallory’s house, but their plans are ruined when Elle, Mallory’s flighty roommate, shows up with a surprise lover. As tensions rise, each couple is forced to question the strength of their relationship.

The Harvest Run

World Premiere

Writers/Directors: Steven Balvanz*, Aaron McAdams*

The Colby’s, a third generation farming family, gear up for the annual Harvest Run – a demanding seven-month journey that is essential to producing America’s annual yield of wheat and corn. Faced with the insurmountable hardships of the American economy and climate change, the year’s run proves more challenging than ever.


Holding Patterns

World Premiere

Writers/Director: Jake Goldberger*

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush, Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Meloni

Mid-twenties, unmotivated, and still living at home with his mother and stepfather, Charlie Brenner is given a surprising boost of confidence when he meets Amber (Odeya Rush,) a local barista. As they become closer, the line between friendship and intimacy is blurred, and the situation forces both of them to examine where they are in their respective lives. Charlie’s situation is further complicated by the sudden appearance of his estranged father.


Texas Premiere

Writer: Luke Davies

Director: Garth Davis

Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara

Adapted from the non-fiction book A Long Way Home, Lion follows the challenges a young Indian boy faces after taking a wrong train, being separated from his family, and being adopted by Australians. Twenty-five years later, armed only with sparse information and Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family.


The Man Who Was Thursday

North American Premiere

Writer/Director: Balazs Juszt*

In a mind-bending metaphysical thriller, disgraced local parish, Father Smith, is called to Rome for spiritual rehabilitation. Upon Smith’s arrival, his spiritual mentor, Charles, tasks him with a mission to go underground to ascertain the mysterious leader of an archaist group of renegades.


No Retreat
World Premiere
Writers: J.D. Singer, Nicholas Zafonte*

Director: Nicholas Zafonte*
Fifteen years after graduating college, two college friends reconnect at a weekend writers’ retreat. As they struggle to attempt one last shot at a creative lifestyle, the drama of old regrets, insecurity, and unfinished romantic business takes its toll.


Suburban Cowboy

World Premiere

Writer: Ryan Colucci*

Directors: Ryan Colucci*, Dragan Roganovic

In this gritty story based on real events, a Long Island drug dealer find himself in over his head once one of his soldiers robs a dealer with a connection to ruthless Serbian gangsters. Now responsible for the debt, he is forced to take drastic measures.

Three films that influenced Fede Alvarez’s thriller ‘Don’t Breathe’ (and two that didn’t)

Since it played South By Southwest in March, buzz has been building for Fede Alvarez’s thriller “Don’t Breathe,” a tightly told tale of three amateur thieves who break into the wrong house.

In an interview, the director discussed three films that influenced “Don’t Breathe” and two that he made sure did not. “Don’t Breathe” is out Aug. 26.

Psycho_(1960)“Psycho” (1961, directed by Alfred Hitchcock): Generally considered one of the greatest thrillers ever made, Hitchcock’s film never sacrifices plausibility for shock — the shocks are baked in.

“The main thing with ‘Don’t Breathe’ was to try to do something scary in the realm of the real, not the supernatural. ‘Psycho’ is a good example of structure and style,” Alvarez said. “You start with characters with shady morals that are doing bad things in the beginning which goes great with this kind of story. Hitchcock did that many, many times. It makes it hard to anticipate the end of the movie with those sorts of characters because that makes it very hard to know who deserves to live and who deserves to die. In ‘Don’t Breathe,’ we didn’t want classic hero, we wanted something else.”

“Bande à part” (“A Band Apart”) (1964, directed by Jean-Luc Godard): As sweet and audience-friendly as the world-historical French filmmaker gets.

“The characters’ dynamics for ‘Don’t Breathe’ come to a certain extent from the French film ‘A Band Apart,’ the triangle of robbers, two guys and a girl, both of them love her. There was actually a dance scene for ‘Don’t Breathe’ at a diner, just like in ‘A Band Apart,’  that we ended up taking out. It was pretty cute.”

“Panic Room” (2002, directed David Fincher): A locked room heist movie starring Jodie Foster as a mom dealing with home invaders, as she and her daughter (a young Kristen Stewart who looks an awful lot like a young Jodie Foster) are stuck in you know where.

“‘Panic Room’ was definitely an influence. I saw that when I was in film school and it really impacted me in terms of all the things you could do with a camera to tell the story, how to place the audience in the house. It showed me how you could give the audience little details and things that the characters in the movie might not know. There’s a shot in the beginning of ‘Don’t Breathe’ where (the robbers enter the house) and I show the hammer and I show you the rock and I show you a lot of elements that will come back and the audience is trying to figure out how those things will return and how they will impact the story. I never thought ‘Panic Room’ was a great movie, but I thought it was visually unique when it came out. There are things in there that are magnificent.”

wait_until_dark“Wait Until Dark” (1967, directed by Terence Young): A movie about a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) dealing with home invaders; great score, great climax.

” ‘Wait Until Dark’ was not really an influence. I saw it once I was done with the script and told my mom what the movie was about and my mother’s like, ‘Oh, it’s just like that Audrey Hepburn movie’ (soft, ‘Thanks, Mom’ laugh follows). So I had to watch it. But the script was done first.”

“Evil Dead” (2013 directed by Fede Alvarez): Alavarez’s first feature was the 2013 remake of (that is also maybe a sequel to) “Evil Dead.” 

“In some ways, (‘Don’t Breathe’) is a reaction to making ‘Evil Dead.’ That movie opened a lot of doors and I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, I got to control a lot of it but it still needed to be an ‘Evil Dead’ movie. It needed to be always that. That movie had a lot of blood, so for this movie I wanted a not in-your-face shock; I wanted this to be all about suspense. That’s where ‘Psycho’ comes in again. We didn’t use to talk about ‘scares’ in a horror movie; we used to talk about how suspenseful the movie is. When we started to think about making a more classical horror movie, that’s what we talked about, the feeling of hope versus fear in every shot.”

Four movies to see this weekend: “Kubo and the Two Strings,” two King Hu films and James Bond

“Kubo and the Two Strings.” Our critic loved it and it is getting stellar reviews all over the place.

“A Touch of Zen.” This masterpiece from director King Hu, who made it over a period of several years, is one of the most beautiful martial arts films ever made. 8 to 10 p.m. Friday. $10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

MV5BMTk4NTU2Mzk1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzY5MDg0NA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_“You Only Live Twice.” Perhaps best known as the start of bonkers Bond films (and the first one to jettison the plot of the Ian Fleming book on which it is “based”), “You Only Live Twice” features a totally gaga screenplay by Roald Dahl, a memorable appearance by Blofled, some space stuff and ninjas. As you might imagine, it is awesome. 11:45 as.m. Saturday, Alamo Drafthouse, 320 East Sixth St. Tickets.

“Dragon Inn.” Another King Hu stunner, this time the story of a hunted, exiled family watched over by a trio of renegade martial arts experts. 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, 8 to 10 p.m. Aug. 26. $7-$10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.


This week’s special screenings: A mess of King Hu, “Final Fantasy XV” and Norman Lear

TouchofZen_poster_800“A Touch of Zen.” This masterpiece from director King Hu, who made it over a period of several years, is one of the most beautiful martial arts films ever made. 8 to 10 p.m. Friday. $10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.” The magical kingdom of Lucis is home to the sacred Crystal, but the menacing empire of Nifheim is determined to take it. 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Tuesday, 4 p.m. Sunday, 10:10 p.m. Monday and Aug. 25, 10 p.m. Wednesday. $11.25. Alamo Lakeline, 14028 U.S. 183 #F. drafthouse.com/austin/theater/lakeline.

“Dragon Inn.” Another King Hu stunner, this time the story of a hunted, exiled family watched over by a trio of renegade martial arts experts. 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, 8 to 10 p.m. Aug. 26. $7-$10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.” Legendary television producer Norman Lear, creator of shows like “The Jeffersons,” remembers his adventurous life in entertainment. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. $7-$10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

220px-Hitch-Hiker_poster“The Hitchhiker.” A pair of fishing buddies pick up a  hitchhiker who happens to be an escaped convict. This Ida Lupino picture might be best known as the first film noir made by a woman,. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 25. $7-$10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

with Arianna Auber

“Serenity,” Tombstone” and “Django Unchained” will screen at Salt Lick

It’s a tremendous combination: Barbecue, a six-gun and Reavers.

p89596_p_v8_acOn alternate Sundays starting Aug. 28, the Alamo Drafthouse will co-host three screenings at the Salt Lick’s Pecan Grove, the  scenic outdoor space adjacent to the original Driftwood restaurant.

The theme is contemporary Westerns and neo-Westerns: George P. Cosmatos’s “Tombstone” (surely we all remember Val Kilmer absolutely kill it as Doc Holliday) on Aug. 28, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” on Sept. 11 and Joss Whedon’ sci-fi Western  Serenity (9/25).

Each screening event will kick off at twilight with a barbecue buffet featuring the Salt Lick’s signature brisket, ribs, and sausage, although each screenings will still be BYOB in true Salt Lick fashion.

In the upcoming weeks, the Drafthouse will announce several more screenings for the fall and winter.

Get ready for more of the DC Comics movies people love (and critics hate)

The dark and dreary "Suicide Squad." Contributed by Clay Enos
The dark and dreary “Suicide Squad.”
Contributed by Clay Enos

This past weekend, a woman who called herself “Gracie Law” published an essay called “An Open Letter To Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara About Layoffs, Zack Snyder, and Donuts.”

The writer, who identifies herself as “former employee of Warner Bros,” rails at Tsujihara for the general crappiness of “Suicide Squad” and the Warner Bros. 2014 slate of movies and a mess of layoffs that happened about that time.

“Zack Snyder is not delivering,” writes Law about the “Batman v Superman” director who “is a producer on every DC movie,” including “Suicide Squad” and the upcoming “Wonder Woman,” the latter for which he also has a “story by” credit. Snyder is also directing the upcoming “Justice League” movie, which is essentially the sequel to “Batman v Superman.”

Is Snyder delivering aesthetically? Absolutely not.

I did not like “Suicide Squad.” I did not like “Batman v Superman.” I did not like “Man of Steel.” And man alive, I usually love Superman and Batman to pieces.

But financially? As the ol’ Magic Eight Ball says, signs point to yes.

Let’s look at some numbers.

According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, “Batman v Superman” has grossed $872.7 million worldwide, $330.4 domestically (37.9% of its gross) and a whopping $542.3 million (62.1%) overseas.

According to this excellent story by Forbes, “Batman v Superman” was budgeted at about $250 million in production costs and about $150 million in marketing. That’s about $400 million. So it HAD to make $800 million at LEAST. Which it did. (Seriously, read the Forbes piece — the gent who wrote it projected $895 million back in April and explains what that number means for Warners.)

Did the terrible reviews hurt it? Maybe, maybe not. According to this Hollywood Reporter piece, Warners was “blindsided and deeply rattled by the tepid response to ‘Batman v Superman,'” which led to a lot of second-guessing during the production of “Suicide Squad.”

Except here is the thing: Ultimately, “Batman” made the studio money. Was it “Captain America: Civil War” successful? No; that movie has made $1.15 billion worldwide and is the year’s No. 1 film.

But, interestingly, “Batman” actually made a slightly higher percentage of its money domestically than “Captain America” did (37.9% vs. 35.4%).  And “Captain America” had a far better Rotten Tomatoes score, at 90%, than “Batman v Superman,” which had 27%.

Which is to say, the student who got an F from critics made almost as much money as the A student.

Not the C student, not the B student, but the F student.

Let’s look at “Suicide Squad.”

Rotten Tomatoes score? 27%.  It made $133,682,248 its first weekend, which is an August record. It dropped 67.3%  on its second weekend, which is big but not a disaster. (“Batman v Superman” dropped 69% on its second week.) “Suicide Squad” has been open for about 12 days and has made $466 million worldwide, $222.6 million domestically (47.8%) and $243.4 (52.2% overseas). These seem to be perfectly reasonable numbers for a movie with $175 million production budget (no idea about the marketing).

All of which indicates that DC Comics movies are pretty well critic-proof and poor-buzz-proof.

Look, I would love it if people stopped going to see these movies. But there is zero evidence that they will. “Wonder Woman” is looking at a June 2, 2017, release date. “Justice League” is slated for Nov. 17, 2017.  If “Suicide Squad” breaks, say, $600 million, some sort of sequel seems in the offing.

Unless costs just spiral out of control on the next round of movies, there is no financial reason for Warners to get rid of Snyder. Get used to him.




Four movies to see this weekend: “Pete’s Dragon,” “Hell or High Water,” “Author: The JT Leroy Story” and “Belphegor”

Petes-Dragon-Eliott-with-Tree“Pete’s Dragon”We dug it in Austin.  And director David Lowery is a swell fellow as well.

“Hell of High Water”We dug it at Cannes.

“Author: The JT Leroy Story.” In this riveting true story, Jeff Feuerzeig examines the mystery behind the young gay male novelist from West Virginia, JT Leroy, who took the literary world by storm. 8 to 10 p.m. Friday. $7-$10. AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. austinfilm.org.

BelphegorPoster_240_356_81_s_c1“Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre.” Originally broadcast on French television over four weeks in 1965, the titular character  is haunting the Louvre. Commissioner Menadier and a young student namedAndré Bellegarde, are determined to catch him (it?).  Based on Arthur Bernède’s 1927 novel, this remains the definitive cinematic version. Noon. Saturday. Alamo Ritz, 320 E 6th Street.   drafthouse.com/austin/theater/ritz.