Beyond the Screen #23: Avatar Rerelease, Aubrey Plaza, John Williams, National Cinema Day and 10-Year Low for Local Box Office

We take a look back at news of note in the world of film.

Invitation Declined: An Extraordinarily Weak Box Office Weekend

As the summer box office winds down we can conclude that it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times. With major releases came major grosses, and some major surprises, though predictably, small releases and original IP have largely faltered. And so, this week was the worst of times. Topping an incredibly depressed weekend was The Invitation, a horror mystery that only managed to scare up an opening weekend total of $7 million (nearly matching its $10 million budget all the same).

Still a better showing than the $2,876,000 opening of George Miller’s lightly romantic fantasy Three Thousand Years of Longing, which landed in a disastrous seventh place, a poor start especially in the face of its $60 million price tag. Another Idris Elba vehicle, Beast, held up just enough to place third with a $4.9 million second weekend, following a pretty steep 58% drop from its opening.

Bullet Train returned to second place with $5.6 million, while Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, which topped last week’s domestic chart (unprecedented performance for an anime film), cratered with a 78% drop to $4.5 million this weekend. Outside of wide release, Breaking starring John Boyega put up a serviceable $1 022 000, though the highest per theater average went to the rerelease of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Academy CEO Pushes for Return of Host, All Categories Presented Live

The latest Academy CEO, Bill Kramer, revealed a few plans being taken under consideration for the next Academy Awards ceremony, due to air on March 12th, 2023. “We’ve been talking to ABC [the Oscars’ longtime broadcast partner] from the minute I started about what the show is going to look like, and there will be some announcements soon, but we’ve had incredibly productive and engaged conversations with them… The Oscars are a live television show. It’s very important to us that we work with producers who have expertise in that area… A host is very important to us, we are committed to having a host on the show this year and we are already looking at some key partners on that… We want to see all disciplines equitably acknowledged on the show… That is our goal.”

He went on to say “There are many ways to do that and we’re working that through with ABC right now. It’s our 95th anniversary. We want to return to a show that has reverence for film and 95 years of the Oscars. It’s a moment to really reflect on our membership, all craft areas, our changing industry and our fans. There are ways to do that that are entertaining and authentic and that are tied to our mission to honor excellence in moviemaking.”

2021 A 10-Year Low Point for Local Industry’s Box Office

Local films made up less than 1% of the year’s box office revenue on the theatrical circuit. South African theaters brought in R325 million total over the course of the year, spanning 155 releases, of which local productions only comprised 14. These 14 films generated a total of R2 517 014, almost exclusively contributed by the three highest grossing local films (those being New Material, Barakat and Kaalgat Karel – all comedies). 5 of the 14 films were live stage recordings of State theater productions, while the fourth highest grossing local film was Lesotho’s This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection. These grosses have been labelled “poor performance” in the National Film and Video Foundation’s official report.

Original Avatar’s SA Rerelease

In the leadup to the December premiere of Avatar 2: The Way of the Water, the original Avatar will be rereleased worldwide, including in SA. This is yet another example of a swath of rereleases which theaters are falling back on in response to low engagement with the current theatrical slate. Some footage from the sequel was recently showcased in China, all but guaranteeing an increasingly rare Chinese release: we can expect the film to pull in a significantly larger gross than if it had been banned or left off the release slate as many American blockbusters in recent release have been.

Aubrey Plaza Joins Coppola’s Megalopolis

The latest casting announcement from Francis Ford Coppola’s hugely expensive, self-funded dream project. Coppola has described Megalopolis as follows: “The concept of the film is a Roman epic, in the traditional Cecile B. DeMille or Ben-Hur way, but told as a modern counterpart focusing on America,” he said. “It’s based on The Catiline Conspiracy, which comes to us from ancient Rome. This was a famous duel between a patrician, Catiline (Adam Driver), and the famous Cicero, who will be Forest Whitaker. He is now the beleaguered mayor of New York, during a financial crisis, close to the one that Mayor Dinkins had. This story takes place in a new Rome, a Roman epic sent in modern times. The time set is not a specific year in modern New York, it’s an impression of modern New York, which I call New Rome.”

U.S: $3 Tickets on Sept. 3 for National Cinema Day

Saturday September 3rd marks the first National Cinema Day, as decided by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), who have requested that major theatre chains offer film tickets for every film, and in every format for the price of $3 a pop. The film most likely to benefit from this Top Gun: Maverick, which may see remaining stragglers and repeat viewers swarm to capitalize on a cheap chance to catch the hottest film of the summer while they still can. It remains to be seen whether or not grosses will inflate as a result of this push, but the National Association of Theatre Owners seem to be thinking long term; they hope that the initiative will encourage moviegoing by getting butts back in seats.

John Williams Wants To Score Bond 26

After previously considering retirement, the 90-year-old Williams has expressed an interest in scoring the next James Bond film, which is still years away from starting production. During Williams’ previous interview with the Associated Press, he had stated: “At the moment I’m working on Indiana Jones 5, which Harrison Ford – who’s quite a bit younger than I am – I think has announced will be his last film. So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also.” Though upon being questioned over his interest in scoring the next Bond feature during an interview with Classic FM, Williams declared “I’d love it”. If EON doesn’t take notice, we may miss out on something very special.