Friday, April 20, 2012

Will Hunger Games meet its match with The Lucky One? Or do you Think Like A Man? Dish LA Viewers while Direct TV offers deal or NFL Fans. CW affiliates unhappy and could bail.




The Lucky One could be the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
 Photo: Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron star in "The Lucky One." Credit: Warner Bros.

From the LA Times Company Town blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

"The Hunger Games" will finally cede control of the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend, though it's unclear to which contender.

Both the romantic tear-jerker "The Lucky One" and the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man" are poised to open to around $20 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Meanwhile, after four weeks in the lead position, "The Hunger Games" is expected fall behind with a weekend gross of between $10 million and $15 million. The blockbuster, based on Suzanne Collins' popular book, has already collected $341 million.


The third new film hitting theaters this weekend, the nature documentary "Chimpanzee," will likely start with under $10 million.

Not surprisingly, "The Lucky One" is appealing strongly to young females — the fan base for its star, Zac Efron. Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the movie features the 24-year-old actor as a marine trying to track down the female subject of a photograph he believes kept him out of harm's way during wartime. The picture, which has earned tepid reviews, was financed by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow for around $25 million.

Efron rose to stardom after the success of the "High School Musical" franchise, which began with two television movies and later spawned a feature film that grossed $90 million domestically. The teen pinup's most successful big-screen turn came in another musical, 2007's "Hairspray," which raked in $119 million.

His more recent efforts to tackle more serious fare have been less well received: the weepy 2010 release "Charlie St. Cloud," about a young man struggling to come to grips with his brother's death,  grossed only $31 million.

But this time, Efron has Sparks on his side. "The Lucky One" is the seventh of the author's books to be adapted for the big screen, and Sparks' saccharine tales of romance have proven to be reliable successes at the box office. His biggest hit has been 2010's "Dear John," starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, which took in $80 million.

"Think Like A Man" is also based on literature — a relationship advice book penned by comedian Steve Harvey. The actor stars in the film about five couples as part of an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Hart and Regina Hall. Sony's Screen Gems label spent about $13 million to produce the film.
Aimed at an African American audience, "Think Like A Man" is expected to perform best in cities such as Atlanta and Memphis. The movie should start with at least  $15 million more than the comedy "Jumping the Broom" — which also featured an ethnically diverse group of actors — debuted with last May. That movie ultimately collected $37 million.

"Chimpanzee," which follows a baby chimp and his family over the course of four years, is the fourth production from Walt Disney Studios' Disneynature. The division, which produces inexpensive documentaries about nature and wildlife, has yet to see one of its films open to more than $10 million or gross more than $32 million.

The Skinny: I could use a long weekend. Is it Memorial Day yet? Friday's headlines include a look at the tough lives of visual effects artists, a preview of the weekend box office, and whether "Think Like a Man" can top "The Hunger Games." Also a review of HBO's "Veep."


Think Like a Man
 Photo: "Think Like a Man." Credit: Alan Markfield/Sony.

Will the streak end? For the last four weeks, "The Hunger Games" has been No. 1 at the box office. But industry observers expect a new champion when Sunday rolls around. They're just not sure whether it will be either Zac Efron's tear-jerker "The Lucky One" or the comedy "Think Like a Man" starring Kevin Hart that grabs first place. Box office projections from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Daily Dose: Satellite broadcaster Dish Network  is in a spat with regional sports network Fox Sports West. At issue are 25 Angels games that Fox has moved from its broadcast station KCOP-TV to Fox Sports West. Dish doesn't want to pay any more money to carry the games so Fox isn't making the additional games available to the service. At least one subscriber was able to get a rebate ($10 per month for six months) from the satellite broadcaster but a Dish spokesman said there is no blanket policy on rebates. "All our customer service representatives are empowered to make decisions they feel appropriate," the spokesman said.

Electronic sweatshops. There's no shortage of work for visual effects artists these days but there's no glamour in it. As Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Verrier notes, many complain that they are "employed in electronic sweatshops, work inhuman schedules and without health insurance or pensions." Now some are trying to change that by unionizing. A look at the grueling lives of visual effects artists.

No end in sight. More than 40 new cases seeking damages from phone hacking by News Corp.-owned tabloids were filed in Britain this week. According to the Guardian, among those with claims is  Sir John Major's former daughter-in-law Emma Noble.

Might be time to subscribe. Satellite broadcaster DirecTV is slashing the price of its Sunday Ticket package which gives subscribers access to every NFL game. Typically costing about $325 per season, now it is being offered for $200 in the hopes of bringing in new subscribers. Until the Redskins show me they are competitive, I'll keep my money in my pocket. Details from Bloomberg.

Stream can muddy waters. The CW's aggressive approach of putting its shows online right after they're broadcast,  including "The Vampire Diaries," is starting to cause concern among the network's affiliates. That's because they fear people will stop watching TV and perhaps even stop paying for it, if they can watch the shows for free on the CW's website. More on the CW's juggling act of trying to please viewers while not alienating its customers or hurting its own business model from the Wall Street Journal.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "Water for Elephants" director Francis Lawrence is closing in on a deal to direct "Catching Fire," the sequel to "The Hunger Games." Robert Lloyd on HBO's "Veep."

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I bring May flowers. Twitter.com/JBFlint
Photo: "Think Like a Man." Credit: Alan Markfield/Sony.

 From the LA Times Company Town blog. Click here for the latest industry news.

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