Second Week? Or Second Coming?

It’s bad enough that we can’t seem to find a truly objective source for news about politics or sports in this day and age.  But that truth now seems to be spreading to even the rather mundane world of entertainment journalism.

I’m a regular reader of THE HOT BUTTON, the daily newsletter from veteran movie reporter David Poland.  I respect his history and his often nuanced takes on what’s going on in the world of cinema.  So I was surprised to see what even for him was an atypically high level of snark and vitriol.

Here are the 4 Penske trades story promos on Sunday about the Inside Out 2 second weekend box office. It was the top story on only 2 of the 4 digital papers. The Hollywood Reporter proudly led with Taylor Swift bringing Travis Kelce on stage at her London concert. You know, important industry news.

The stories are all rather positive, which you would expect given that the movie is setting a variety of records. But we live in a moment of damning with faint praise or worse.

Do you get the sense from these most-read pieces of box office insight – the headlines – that after 10 days, Inside Out 2 has made, by estimate, $5 million more than Barbie, last summer’s movie that saved the industry? Or that the 10-day total is $60 million more than Top Gun Maverick, which was 2022’s movie that saved the industry?

But if that weren’t enough, Poland saved his bullets for an even more POd swipe at another competitor:

(W)hy do I care so much, you may ask?

Because this is the tip of the excrement iceberg.

Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw, who is generally 3x more insightful than his podcast pal Matt Belloni, writes of the Inside Out 2 second weekend:

“It’s a cultural phenomenon, and proof that the movie business is increasingly one of feast or famine. The big hits, like Inside Out 2 and Barbie, are massive cultural moments. They go viral just like the Eras Tour or Baby Reindeer. But if there is no momentum behind your movie, it dies.”

This is not only destructively wrong on its face, but it speaks to a long history of dumb ideas – like ”the theatrical business is dying” – which once taken seem to inspire endless rationalizations for why the dumb idea wasn’t really wrong for years to come, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Does anyone really believe that Inside Out 2 is the culture explosion that was Barbie last summer… much less BarbieHeimer? I’ve been to the movie theaters a few times this last week and I haven’t seen a single person dressed up as the Inside Out characters.

I’d say that the idea of comparing Inside Out 2 to The Era Tour or Baby Reindeer is just simple dog crap, except it would be an insult to dog crap.

Ouch.  And double ouch.

Look, I’ve got my own biases against the likes of Belloni, who has unashamedly used his access to C-suite executives he has curried favor with to establish a wealth that rivals many of those he gives a voice to, directly or indirectly.  And his PUCK site is among the most expensive and self-selective sources of news out there.  Shaw is clearly cut from the same cloth, and with a masthead like Bloomberg at his disposal he is clearly more than willing to play along for similar access and, one suspects, personal success.

But Poland is hardly without his own skeletons.  Witness what a longtime friend, Anna Thompson of INDIEWIRE wrote about him when he made a career pivot in 2018:

Back in 2002, at a Melrose tea shop, David Poland, Jeffrey Wells, Nikki Finke (via speakerphone), and I met to discuss launching a joint online venture. We were all early online adopters who saw the future that freedom from print could bring.  We threw plenty of ideas around that afternoon, many of which wound up on our respective websites, and opted to go our separate ways.   I created the first blog at The Hollywood Reporter, Risky Business, followed by Thompson on Hollywood at Variety, which I took to IndieWire in 2009; and Poland founded Movie City News, which he is finally letting go.

In his Wednesday farewell The Hot Blog post, Poland tries to assess the changing media landscape that led to his desire “to work for the other team, if they will have me.”  

Guess they didn’t have him.

Poland describes himself on his Substack feed as a 40-year industry veteran, 25 as an industry journalist and critic.  Sounds a lot like my own curriculae vitae.  And believe me, I more than relate to the level of frustration he clearly seems to express.  And I’m as guilty as anyone when I see things going wrong on an industry level.

But INSIDE OUT 2 is a bona fide winner, even if it’s not quite at the level of game changer than Poland is holding it up to.  The numbers speak for themselves.  Sure, it had little new competition this past weekend, and a great deal of America was suffering from a heat wave that in many parts of the country broke century-old records.  So perhaps that nine-figure box office was inflated by a bunch of people without A/C who simply wanted to cool off with white noise.

Regardless, that’s a win for an industry that desperately needs one.  For the entire ecosystem of studio, exhibitor, creatives, ancillary services and yes, media that benefits from it.  And maybe, just maybe, expanded opportunities for so many of us that want to work for ANY team that will have us.

Maybe Shaw suffers a notch from youthful overexuburance.  Certainly, a side-by-side comparison of him and Poland would suggest that possibility.

But one might also think that a “40-year industry veteran” might be able to educate, rather than insult, his competition?  Take a higher road that say, those associated with Baloney?

Hey, David, if I can hold my tongue, so can you.

Until next time…


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