‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Heads to Monster $225+ Million Opening Weekend
In case you haven’t heard, Avengers: Infinity War is heading towards an opening weekend that could end all opening weekends.
The Marvel superhero adventure is eyeing a debut weekend of $225 million to $245 million, with a possibility of even crossing the $250 million mark. If numbers reach the end of that range, “Infinity War” could have one of the biggest debuts of all time. The hefty launch should go a long way to justify its wildly expensive price tag of somewhere from $300 million to $400 million.
As of now, the biggest opening weekend of all time belongs to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which bowed with $248 million in 2015 and went on to make over $936.6 million domestically. Only five films in history have hit the $200 million mark in their debuts.
“Infinity War” picks up two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” with the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop the evil Thanos from inter-galactic dominance. The heroic ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.
Joe and Anthony Russo directed from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. “Infinity War,” the sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The original “Avengers” had the highest opening to date for a Marvel film, debuting with $207.4 million. Its sequel, “Age of Ultron,” launched with $191 million. The first movie earned $623 million in North America, while the second made $459 million.
“Infinity War” comes on the coattails of the Disney-owned Marvel’s most recent success, “Black Panther,” which opened to a massive $202 million in February. Ryan Coogler’s tentpole continues to shatter records, and has earned an impressive $1.3 billion worldwide.
Naturally, no other studio considered a wide release for the superhero-intensive weekend. A Quiet Place will likely drop to the No. 2 slot in its fourth frame. The surprise hit, directed by John Krasinski and co-starring Krasinski and Emily Blunt, has made $131 million in North America. Other recent releases, such as Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” and Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage” should also see drops as “Infinity War” will presumably gobble up the rest of the box office.
Netflix Q1 Preview: Another Blockbuster Quarter Despite Price Hikes?
When Netflix reports first-quarter 2018 earnings Monday after market close, investors again will laser in not on revenue or profits — but on the number of net adds, a key indicator of the subscription streamer’s momentum.For Q1, Wall Street analyst consensus estimates are for 1.48 million net streaming U.S. subscriber adds, and 4.84 million internationally. That’s roughly in line with what Netflix’s forecast in January (1.45 million domestically and 4.90 million internationally).
The expected strong showing comes after Netflix raised the price of its streaming plans in the fourth quarter of 2017 for customers in multiple territories, a demonstration of its relative pricing power. In the U.S., for example, the standard two-stream HD plan rose from $9.99 to $10.99 per month, still a great value, analysts observed.
“A steady stream of new content introduced throughout Q1 likely mitigated churn associated with higher pricing on standard and premium plans,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter wrote in a note issued last week.
Analyst consensus estimates for Netflix Q1 see revenue of $3.89 billion and earnings per share of 64 cents. Investors remain upbeat on the company, even as it doubles down on its heavy content-spending strategy (with content expenditures of up to $8 billion this year, vs. $6 billion in 2017).
Netflix’s cash burn (negative free cash flow) is expected to increase from $2 billion in 2017 to $3 billion for the full year 2018, Goldman Sachs’ Heath Terry wrote in a note last week. Terry raised his price target on the stock, from $315 to $360 per share, citing a strong originals slate, new distribution partners and returns from increased marketing spending.
Over the past eight quarters, Netflix has on average topped its total net subscriber addition guidance by around 950,000, mostly on stronger-than-expected international additions, Pachter noted. However, a year ago, Netflix turned in subscriber metrics slightly below forecasts, delivering 4.95 million inQ1 2017
Is Netflix poised for a Q1 2018 beat? Thanks to its continued growth — and bullish analyst forecasts — Netflix’s stock is up 62% year to date, besting nearly every other company on the S&P 500 and outperforming the other stocks in the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Alphabet/Google) cohort tracked by Wall Street.
Netflix has “an increasingly robust content slate,” Cowen & Co.’s John Blackledge wrote in a Q1 earnings preview. He estimated Netflix released some 483 hours of U.S. original programming in the first quarter, up 85% from a year earlier.
In the first quarter, Netflix debuted 18 new original series, including 11 returning series, and 14 new original movies. Those included season 2 of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” and sci-fi series “Altered Carbon.”
But Netflix currently has a weaker originals lineup going into Q1, with nine original series (five returning and four new series), including “Lost in Space” and second seasons of “Dope,” “3%,” and “Marvel’s Luke Cage.”
Wall Street expects 5.2 million net streaming adds in Q2 2018, but that “may be on the high side,” RBC Capital Market’s Mark Mahaney wrote in a note. He cited “what doesn’t clearly appear to be a rock-star spectacular Q2 new content slate” as well as typically weak Q2 seasonality and “tough comps” with Netflix’s huge beat in the second quarter of 2017.
Two wildcards on Netflix’s Q2 content performance remain, according to UBS’s Eric Sheridan: When season 2 of popular teen drama “13 Reasons Why” will be released and whether Netflix “is enjoying success in its local-language content initiatives outside of North America,” he wrote in an April 11 note.
In addition, Netflix’s newly expanded deal with Comcast — under which the cable operator will bundle Netflix service with new and existing TV packages — could give Netflix a boost in Q2, which is historically weak for subscriber additions.
Meanwhile, Wedbush’s Pachter pointed to Netflix’s potential longer-term risk from losing content-licensing deals. It’s worth noting that the bulk of the viewing on the platform remains generated by licensed TV shows and movies — with licensed content estimated to account for 80% of Netflix’s U.S. streams for the 12 months ended September 2017, per a study by 7Park Data.
“[T]he combination of less content from Disney (pulling the majority of its newer content at the end of 2018) and a steady migration of Comcast, Time Warner, and 21st Century Fox content towards exclusive deals with Hulu will ultimately lead to lower subscriber satisfaction,” he wrote.
R. Lee Ermey, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ Golden Globe Nominee, Dies at 74
R. Lee Ermey, best known for his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket,” has died. He was 74.
Ermey’s longtime manager announced the news via a tweet to Ermey’s official Twitter account.
“It is with great sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (‘The Gunny’) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us,” the tweet reads.
In addition to his role in Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-nominated film, which earned him a best supporting actor Golden Globe nod, Ermey had several other mostly authority figure roles to his credit, including Sheriff Hoyt in 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a police captain in “Se7en,” and the voice of the plastic army men’s
Ermey was a former United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and honorary gunnery sergeant, and served as a drill instructor during his tenure from 1961-1972. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for one year until 1968, when he was moved to Vietnam and spent 14 months in country.
His first film role occurred when he was studying in the Philippines, and he played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in “Apocalypse Now,” also serving as a technical adviser to Francis Ford Coppola. He had a series of other small roles until his casting in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
Ermey was originally meant to function only as a technical adviser to Kubrick, but when Kubrick was impressed by an instructional tape Ermey put together in which he went on long rants at extras, he instead cast him in the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Kubrick allowed Ermey to improvise and write or edit his dialogue, and he said Ermey often only needed two or three takes to finish a scene — both unusual for Kubrick films.
All told, Ermey had roles in some 60-plus films, as well as several voice credits, including “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Simpsons,” and “Family Guy.”
On top of his voice acting, he hosted two programs for the History Channel: “Mail Call,” in which he provided expertise on military issues, both modern and historic, and “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey,” which focused on the development of different types of weapons.
R. Lee Ermey
Statement from R. Lee Ermey’s longtime manager, Bill Rogin:
It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (“The Gunny”) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us.
‘Rampage’ Sneaks Up on ‘A Quiet Place’ to Win Weekend Box Office
After a weekend of fluctuating projections, Dwayne Johnson (just barely) owned the North American box office after all.
Though earlier estimates looked like the second frame of A Quiet Place would take the weekend, Johnson’s Rampage snuck up to take the top slot with $34.5 million from 4,101 theaters.
New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.Rampage opened under initial predictions that estimated between $37 million to $40 million. Though the sci-fi actioner has an impressive A- CinemaScore and 80% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes, “Rampage” will need to rely heavily on overseas to carry its costly $120 million budget.
Still, its opening was enough to just narrowly take the box office crown from A Quit Place” which earned $32.9 million in 3,589 locations. “A Quiet Place” has been riding high with rave reviews only dropping 34%. That brings its cumulative domestic gross to an impressive $100 million.
Also benefitting from the Friday the 13th weekend was Universal and Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare starring Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey. The supernatural thriller debuted in third place with $19 million from 3,029 theaters.
“This is an outstanding debut considering the competitive landscape,” Jim Orr, head of domestic distribution at Universal, said. “For original horror, Blumhouse has define the genre for many years. They built a model that is just terrific.”
The third frame of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” made $11 million from 3,661 locations, lifting its domestic gross to $114.5 million.
Rounding out the top five is the sophomore weekend of Universal’s “Blockers.” Kay Cannon’s raunchy comedy starring John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz took in $10 million from 3,418 locations. In total, the pic has made $37 million.
The wide release of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” made $5 million from 1,939 locations. The stop-motion animated film, which has grossed $18.5 million, opened in limited release at the end of March with the best per screen average of 2018 to date.
Another newcomer, Entertainment Studios’ canine-themed “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” made $1.1 million in 1,633 locations. Directed and co-written by Richard Lanni, “Sgt. Stubby” features the voices of Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu.
The 2018 box office is down 2.4% compared to 2017. The same weekend last year, where “The Fate of the Furious” opened with $98.8 million, is down 15.5%
Cannes Lineup Includes New Films From Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard
New movies from Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Jean-Luc Godard (“The Image Book”) and Oscar-winning “Ida” director Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) join previously announced Solo: A Star War Story at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, making for a lineup that’s considerably less starry — at least by Hollywood standards — than in years past.Apart from Lee, films with American connections are few and far between. “It Follows” director David Robert Mitchell will present his 140-minute thriller Under the Silver Lake; Egyptian-made “Yomeddine” was directed by NYU Tisch graduate A.B. Shawky; and Brazilian director Joe Penna (whose English-language “Arctic” will bow in the Midnight section) resides in Los Angeles.
At the press conference in Paris, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux explained that his programming team deliberately selected work by lesser-known and in some cases unheard-of directors. Conspicuous absences include a number of “the usual suspects” — established directors such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Mike Leigh to whom Cannes typically invites high-profile spots for each new film. Also missing is Naomi Kawase from a lineup that is otherwise heavy with Asian directors, including a pair of Iranians: Jafar Panahi with “Three Faces” and Asghar Farhadi, who made opening-night selection“Everybody Knows” (starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem) in Spain.
The competition program includes just three female filmmakers, prompting Frémaux to reiterate his position that “the films that were selected were chosen for their own intrinsic qualities,” not the gender of their directors. Acknowledging the importance of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, he said, “The world will never be the same again … and we will question our own practices about the gender parity” in salaries and jury representation, but stressed that “there will never be a selection with a positive discrimination for women.”
Frémaux countered criticisms that the festival may be losing its power to attract high-profile films, unconvincingly suggesting that prize-winning directors Xavier Dolan and Jacques Audiard had not turned down a formal invitation to screen in Cannes, but rather, were still editing their respective films, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” and “The Sisters Brothers.” And yet, he admitted that American companies in particular can get nervous about how a film’s reception in Cannes can impact its awards and box office chances, admitting, “When you are on a strategy of a late [fall] release, Cannes might not be the ideal place to show a film.”
Even a cursory survey of past lineups reveals that many films chosen for official selection already have French distribution, which is frequently timed to the days and weeks immediately following the festival. This phenom illustrates not only the way French companies leverage Cannes for publicity, but also the enormous influence they wield over the selection of such films in the first place — nowhere more evident this year than in the exclusion of Netflix from competition.
Frémaux explained that he had personally appealed to Netflix honchos Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos not to pull their films from the festival, and yet, under pressure from the French industry (where a law insists upon a three-year window between theatrical release and streaming), Cannes was forced to exclude them from competition unless Netflix agreed to sell theatrical rights to a French distributor. “We made offers on two films owned by Netflix,” said Frémaux, “and there were candidates for the theatrical distribution of those films,” including the restoration of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind,” which Frémaux sorely wanted to invite.
Several more movies may be announced in the days to come, including a couple midnight screenings. Asked about whether Lars von Trier (whose “The House That Jack Built” would be a likely candidate) is still persona non grata with the festival, Frémaux enigmatically replied, “We will answer in a few days.”
At just 17 titles, the competition lineup is currently the smallest in decades, although it should be noted that 2017 Palme d’Or winner “The Square” was a late addition to last year’s lineup. Frémaux specifically hinted that they would have liked to invite Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” which is currently tied up in a legal dispute, and said discussions are still underway with Paolo Sorrentino about his two-part “Loro,” the first half of which opens in Italy before Cannes.
Scheduled to kick off a month after the inaugural television-focused Cannes Series event, the festival will unspool from May 8-19 — which is the earliest the festival has taken place in more than 20 years. The parallel Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs will take place during the same dates, but technically fall outside the “official selection,” and as such, will announce their lineups later in April.
2018 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
“Everybody Knows” (Asghar Farhadi)
“Ash Is Purest White” (Jia Zhang-Ke)
“At War” (Stéphane Brizé)
“BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
“Burning” (Lee Chang-dong)
“Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki)
“Cold War” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
“Dogman” (Matteo Garrone)
“Girls of the Sun” (Eva Husson)
“The Image Book” (Jean-Luc Godard)
“Lazzaro Felice” (Alice Rohrwacher)
“Leto” AKA “Summer” (Kirill Serebrennikov)
“Netemo Sametemo” AKA “Asako I & II” (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
“Shoplifters” (Kore-Eda Hirokazu)
“Sorry Angel” (Christophe Honoré)
“Three Faces” (Jafar Panahi)
“Under the Silver Lake” (David Robert Mitchell)
“Yomeddine” (A.B. Shawky)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Angel Face” (Vanessa Filho)
“Border” (Ali Abbasi) — PICTURED
“El Angel” (Luis Ortega)
“Euphoria” (Valeria Golino)
“Friend” (Wanuri Kahiu)
“The Gentle Indifference of the World” (Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
“Girl” (Lukas Dhont)
“The Harvesters” (Etienne Kallos)
“In My Room” (Ulrich Köhler)
“Little Tickles” (Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
“Manto” (Nandita Das)
“My Favorite Fabric” (Gaya Jiji)
“Sextape” AKA “On Your Knees, Guys” (Antoine Desrosières)
Sofia” (Meyem Benm’Barek)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Le Grand Bain” (Gilles Lellouche)
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Ron Howard)
“Arctic” (Joe Penna)
“Gongjak” AKA “The Spy Gone North” (Yoon Jong-Bing)
“Dead Souls” (Wang Bing)
“La Traversée” (Romain Goupil)
“O Grande Circo Místico” (Carlo Diegues)
“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” (Wim Wenders)
“The State Against Mandela and the Others” (Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte)
“10 Years in Thailand” (Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Netflix’s chief content officer says that the festival sent a clear message with a new rule that bans any films without theatrical distribution in France from playing in competition. Netflix could screen some of its upcoming movies out of competition, but Sarandos says that doesn’t make sense for the streaming service.
“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos says. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”
Netflix made a big splash at the prestigious film festival last year with two movies that showed in competition: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But after the 2017 announcement, French theaters owners and unions protested the inclusion of these films to Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of Cannes. Netflix was amenable to having their movies play on big screens in France, but a law in the country requires movies to not appear in home platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release.
Netflix has had day-and-date theatrical releases for such titles as “Mudbound,” Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father,” “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.”
Sarandos will not personally be attending Cannes in May, but some of his executives will be there. “It is not a coincidence that Thierry also banned selfies this year,” Sarandos says, of another new rule that doesn’t allow guests to snap pictures on the red carpet. “I don’t know what other advances in media Thierry would like to address.”
Here, Sarandos spoke with Variety about the Netflix rule change.
Are you deciding not to participate in Cannes this year? Well, it was not our decision to make. Thierry announced the change in their qualification rules [that] requires a film to have distribution in France to get in, which is completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world. Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution. Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we’ve released nearly 100 films over the last couples of years. And if we did that, we’d have to hold back that film from French subscribers for three years under French law. Therefore, our films they are not qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition.
And you aren’t taking movies to the festival out of competition? No. I don’t think there would be any reason to go out of competition. The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule.
Were you surprised by the rule? Netflix had the two biggest English-language releases at last year’s Cannes. I would say not just on the English-language side. I think they were the biggest films in the world last year with Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach and the star power we were able to bring — Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, it goes on and on. We loved the festival. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema. We are 100% about the art of cinema. And by the way, every other festival in the world is too.
Did you talk to Thierry before he made the rule change?
I believe it was not just Thierry’s decision. I think it was the decision of his board, which is made up of several exhibitors. I know we didn’t have any conversation with Thierry. I read about it in the press.
In interviews, Thierry said that “the Netflix people loved the red carpet,” but your “model is now the opposite” of what Cannes does. Do you agree with that? No, obviously not. Do we love the red carpet? I love our filmmakers being on those red carpets. Of course. It’s a very glamorous, very fun event for filmmakers. That is beside the point. That is true of every festival. Last year we were jointly celebrating the art of cinema at Cannes. The divergence is this decision to define art by the business model. In that way, yes, we have diverged.
Will you or other Netflix employees be attending Cannes? I personally won’t be attending myself. But we will have people there who are in the business of acquiring films, because many films will be there without distribution.
So you could end up buying a movie that’s in competition?
Yes 100%. We don’t discriminate that way.
Netflix acquires movies from film festivals all the time. Ultimately, this rule seems to be about preventing a movie from entering Cannes as a Netflix release. It was a puzzle to me. Keep in mind last year at Sundance, we produced the film that won the jury prize [“I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore”], and we acquired “Mudbound” in the biggest acquisition of the festival.
Have you had conversations with your filmmakers about Cannes?
We’ve talked to a lot of our filmmakers after the rule change. When we went into making these films and acquiring these films, that rule wasn’t in place. That was a change in dynamics.
Do you think Cannes might change its mind in the future? Yeah. I do have faith that Thierry shares my love for cinema and would be a champion of changing that when he realizes how punitive this rule is to filmmakers and film lovers.
What is your message for the international film community? We hope that they do change the rules. We hope that they modernize. But we will continue to support all films and all filmmakers. We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back. Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the Internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.