Friday, October 4, 2013

A Brief Update

Oliver just had his first birthday last month! In the mean time, I find myself itching to write again, especially with Oscar season coming up. Coincidentally, the good folks at AwardsWatch formally launched their website in addition to their popular forum, and I feel compelled to contribute. So here is my first article there:, and I hope to continue sharing my thoughts as time permits. Thank you all for your support!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Final Oscar Predictions

Best Picture - Argo
Best Director - Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor - Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Best Original Screenplay - Amour
Best Adapted Screenplay - Argo
Best Foreign Language Film - Amour
Best Animated Film - Wreck-It Ralph
Best Documentary Feature - Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short - Open Heart
Best Editing - Argo
Best Cinematography - Life of Pi
Best Art Direction - Les Miserables
Best Costume Design - Anna Karenina
Best Score - Life of Pi
Best Song - "Skyfall," Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing - Argo
Best Sound Editing - Life of Pi
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Les Miserables
Best Visual Effects - Life of Pi
Best Short Film, Animated - Paperman
Best Short Film, Live Action - Death of a Shadow

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Favorite of 2012

This is not about the impressive box office runs of last year, but rather my own sort of Oscar ballot to recap my favorite films and performances of 2012. There are still a few films that I would like to catch, e.g. Cloud Atlas and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but with Lunar New Year upon us, it is time to write one now.

Top 10 films
1. Lincoln
2. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Amour
4. Skyfall
5. Moonrise Kingdom
6. Life of Pi
7. The Dark Knight Rises
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
9. Argo
10. Les Miserables

The most unique film: Holy Motors (highly recommended, even though I'm not really sure what grade to give it; very imaginative and contains one of the most memorable scenes of any films I have seen in a while)

Best Director - Michael Haneke, Amour (a tough tough call between him, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ang Lee)

Best Original Screenplay - Moonrise Kingdom

Best Adapted Screenplay - Lincoln

Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Best Actress - Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor - Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

Best Ensemble - Lincoln

Best Editing - Zero Dark Thirty

Best Cinematography - Life of Pi

Best Art Direction - Les Miserables

Best Costume Design - Les Miserables

Best Sound - Life of Pi

Best Original Score - Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Song - "Skyfall," Adele

Best Makeup - Lincoln (Cloud Atlas would probably take this if I had seen it)

Best Visual Effects - Life of Pi

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quick Early MLK Weekend Predictions

For the 4-day period:

Mama - $25m
Silver Linings Playbook - $12.5m
Broken City - $10m
The Last Stand - $9m

Zero Dark Thirty - $18m (-26.2%)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

First Look at Zero Dark Thirty's box office potential

Zero Dark Thirty will expand into 2,400+ locations this upcoming weekend. It has performed very well in limited release so far, but the weekend the film shined the most is the past one, where it is able to limit the per-theater-average drop to 28% while increasing its theater count 12-fold. So the question now is how well it could do with this next significant expansion. The good thing is that we have some past examples for some guidance, and let us take a look at them first:

Traffic (2000) - $62,645 PTA in 4 theaters before the expansion (its opening weekend); $10,276 PTA in 1,510 after
Black Hawk Down (2001) - $46,778 PTA in 16 before (its 3rd weekend); $9,226 PTA in 3,101 after
The Bucket List (2007) - $36,408 PTA in 16 before (its 2nd weekend); $6,661 PTA in 2,911 after
Gran Torino (2008) - $34,957 PTA in 84 before (its 4th weekend); $10,500 PTA in 2,808 after

We could see that all of them did well with the expansion. The worst performer is The Bucket List, which unlike the others was not an award contender and whose targeted audience skewed older. Zero Dark Thirty's $45,833 PTA in 60 theaters on its third weekend also compares favorably to all of those films, Gran Torino being closest in term of its impressiveness. Black Hawk Down had the benefit of MLK holiday weekend when it expanded, but Zero Dark Thirty will have the benefit of Oscar nominations happening on Thursday when it was usually announced on a Tuesday in late January. The boost from the announcement will lead right into the weekend and maximize its box office boost to all major players involved, which Zero Dark Thirty will certainly be part of.

If the film stays close to the 2,400 theaters estimate, it will be a lower number than what Gran Torino or Black Hawk Down had, and this normally means a higher per-theater-average, other things being equal. Thus, along with the Oscar boost, I do not see a PTA less than $10,000, and one close to $12,000 would not surprise me either. Overall, I am seeing a weekend in the $27-30m range.

As for its long term prospect, Traffic, Black Hawk Down, and Gran Torino all ended up over $100m, and I expect the same to happen with Zero Dark Thirty. There is a concern that people will be going in expecting an action film from the trailer and end up being disappointed, resulting in a mediocre word-of-mouth. And there is also the controversy of how the film stands on torture. However, the word-of-mouth seems to be just fine from how it is holding so far, and the controversy has not really hurt it either. Having MLK holiday falling on the ensuing weekend will help its overall multiplier as well. I do not expect it to win the Best Picture or Director at the Oscars (although it has a better shot at latter than former), but the constant spotlight the film will be under in the next month will push it to a $110m+ total.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Best Picture
1. Lincoln
2. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Argo
4. Silver Linings Playbook
5. Les Miserables
6. Life of Pi
7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
8. Django Unchained
9. Moonrise Kingdom

Best Director
1. Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
2. Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
3. Ben Affleck, Argo
4. David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
5. Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Best Actor
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
2. Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
3. Denzel Washington, Flight
4. Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
5. John Hawkes, The Sessions

Best Actress
1. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
2. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
3. Naomi Watts, The Impossible
4. Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
5. Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone

Best Supporting Actor
1. Tommy Lee Jone, Lincoln
2. Alan Arkin, Argo
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
4. Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook
5. Javier Bardem, Skyfall

Best Supporting Actress
1. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
2. Sally Field, Lincoln
3. Helen Hunt, The Sessions
4. Maggie Smith, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
5. Amy Adams, The Master

Best Original Screenplay
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. The Master
4. Amour
5. Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Lincoln
2. Silver Linings Playbook
3. Argo
4. Life of Pi
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Film Editing
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Argo
3. Lincoln
4. Skyfall
5. Life of Pi

Best Cinematography
1. Life of Pi
2. Lincoln
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Skyfall
5. Les Miserables

Best Costume Design
1. Anna Karenina
2. Les Miserables
3. Snow White and the Huntsman
4. Argo
5. The Master

Best Art Direction
1. Les Miserables
2. Anna Karenina
3. Life of Pi
4. Lincoln
5. Django Unchained

Best Makeup
1. Lincoln
2. Les Miserables
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Visual Effects
1. Life of Pi
2. The Avengers
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Prometheus
5. Skyfall

Best Original Score
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. Lincoln
3. Argo
4. Anna Karenina
5. Zero Dark Thirty

Best Original Song
1. "Skyfall," Skyfall
2. "Suddenly,"Les Miserables
3. "For You," Act of Valor
4. “When Can I See You Again?", Wreck-It Ralph
5. "Touch the Sky," Brave

Best Sound Mixing
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Skyfall
3. Les Miserables
4. Argo
5. Life of Pi

Best Sound Editing
1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Skyfall
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Life of Pi
5. The Avengers

Best Foreign Film
1. Amour, Austria
2. A Royal Affair, Denmark
3. The Intouchables, France
4. War Witch, Canada
5. Beyond the Hills, Romania

Best Animated Feature
1. Wreck-It Ralph
2. Brave
3. Frankenweenie
4. The Painting
5. ParaNorman

Best Documentary
1. The Invisible War
2. This Is Not a Film
3. The Gatekeepers
4. Searching for Sugar Man
5. Ai weiwei: Never Sorry

Nomination tallies:
Lincoln - 11
Les Miserables - 9
Life of Pi - 9
Zero Dark Thirty - 9
Argo - 8
Skyfall - 7
Silver Linings Playbook - 6
The Master - 4
Beasts of the Southern Wild - 3
Django Unchained - 3
Moonrise Kingdom - 2

Final predictions on Texas Chainsaw 3D, Promised Land, The Impossible, and Not Fade Away

After the theater counts are released, four new films will be in over 500 locations. Here are my final predictions on how they would do this weekend:

Texas Chainsaw 3D - $15.9m in 2,654 theaters ($5,991 PTA)
Promised Land - $2.5m in 1,675 theaters ($1,493 PTA)
The Impossible - $1.9m in 572 theaters ($3,322 PTA)
Not Fade Away - $0.6m in 565 theaters ($1,062 PTA)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thoughts on Jan 4th Openers

Texas Chainsaw 3D

1.  The horror movies have consistently enjoyed good openings for the early January frame in the last decade:

2012: The Devil Inside - $33.7m in 2,285 theaters
2009: The Unborn - $19.8m in 2,357
2008: One Missed Call - $12.5m in 2,240
2006: Hostel - $19.6m in 2,195
2005: White Noise - $24.1m in 2,261

The five films averaged $21.9m for the opening weekend and $9,665 per-theater-average. If we removed the two extremes, the other three averaged $21.2m and $9,326 PTA, not much different.

2. The last Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie opened to $18.5m in 2006, which would adjust to $22.4m today.

1. The last TCM movie was more than 6 years ago, and it did see 39.3% decline in attendance from the previous one in 2003.

2. Steep decline in admissions happened to other horror franchises as well: Halloween II (2009) from Halloween (2007) - -42.8%; Paranormal Activites 4 from 3 - -44.5%; Saw VI from V - -55.7%.

My thoughts: It will see a decline in attendance again from the 2006 film, but 3D will alleviate the drop some. A 40% decline in admissions will put the opening weekend at around $16m, although $20m is not out of the question given the past performance of Jan horror films.

HSX analysis: TXCM3.OW is currently priced at $10.86, and TXCM3's price would translate to a $10.1m opening. Both seem way too low to me, with minimal risk on the downside. A $10m start would mean an over 60% loss in admissions, an extremely unlikely scenario.

The Impossible and Promised Land

Both are expanding to nationwide this weekend, and although I do not expect either to make much noise, between the two, The Impossible is in a little better state after their respective returns so far in limited release. On its second weekend, The Impossible averaged $12,333 per theater in 15 locations, while Promised Land opened to a $7,600 PTA in 25 theaters. If Promised Land indeed expands to 1,500 locations as The Hollywood Reporter suggested, I cannot see a per-theater-average higher than $2,500 given how PTA generally behaves with respect to theater count change in the past. An opening in the $2-3m range will be where I put it.

HSX Analysis: With PRMSD.OW at $7.46 and PRMSD at $16.95 (translating to a $5.57m OW), both are surely overpriced and will continue to come down in the next few days. Without knowing where the theater count for The Impossible will land, it is hard to pin down its exact potential this weekend, but with IMPSB at $8.47, the upside and downside potentials are both small.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some Update on China Box Office

First Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

The last several weeks have been quite exciting in China on the box office front. First it's Life of Pi. In 32 days, it had grossed 567.8m yuan, or $90.8m, 19% more than what it has earned so far in the U.S. Then there is the even more jaw-dropping performance from Lost in Thailand, the sequel to the word-of-mouth hit Lost on Journey from 2010. It set a new opening record for a domestic release with 310m yuan ($49.6m) in 5 days, then on the second week, it saw a 20.8% uptick for the weekly gross, a very difficult task when a film opened on Wednesday. In fact, its second week of 374.4m yuan is the highest ever for a sophomore frame, beating Transformers 362m. It also set an all-time record for admissions in a week with 11.75m, surpassing Titanic 3D's previous mark of 10.5m. After just 12 days, its total stood at 684.4m yuan, or $109.5m, inches away from breaking Painted Skin 2's record. With holidays coming up, 1b yuan ($160m) is for certain, and there is no telling how high the film may go.

Between the releases of those two films, we also have Feng Xiaogang's new film Back to 1942, which was the overwhelming favorite to win December. It still grossed a very respectable 364.4m yuan ($58.3m), but is completely overshadowed by the other performances. Last week Jackie Chan released his latest film CZ12 and set a personal best with a 225.6m yuan ($36.1m) start in 4 days. It is also the first Chinese non-sequel to break 200m yuan in the opening week. It could be looking at a $100m+ total as well.

Here is the current top 10 list for 2012 (CZ12 and Back to 1942 should bump Journey 2 out of the top 10 in the end):

1. Titanic 3D - 975.9m yuan ($154.8m)
2. Painted Skin 2 - 726.4m ($115.5m)
3. Lost in Thailand (*) - 684.4m ($109.5m)
4. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - 646.3m ($102.5m)
5. The Avengers - 576.0m ($91.6m)
6. Life of Pi (*) - 567.8m ($90.8m)
7. Men in Black III - 519.2m ($82.6m)
8. Ice Age: Continental Drift - 457.8m ($72.8m)
9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - 376.5m ($60.0m)
10. Back to 1942 (*) - 364.4m ($58.3m)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Welcome Oliver Letian Xia!

A picture says it all. :-) Our son, Oliver Letian Xia(夏乐天), arrived at 11:44pm on 9/14, and I officially started the life of fatherhood. It has been fantastic so far, but it is also clear to me, something I already anticipated when we first found out he is coming into this word, that I don't really have time for other activities with Oliver being the center of my universe now. So I'm going to retire from doing weekly box office predictions, here on this blog or anywhere else. I first started following box office closely in late 2000 when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon burst onto the scene and began participating in Box Office Mojo's Derby game in 2004. It has been a fantastic experience all these years, and I got to know and become friends with a lot of great people because of the common passion. I'm forever thankful for you all. Although I won't be doing regular weekend box office predictions again, when time permits, I may write more general pieces such as how summer films will do just to see how well my feeling turns out when forcing to provide them early with less concrete data. Box office is just fun any way you slice it. But until then, I'll give my full attention to the lovely Oliver. Thank you again!