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Cinema Chat: 'Avengers' Record-Setting Weekend, 'Her Smell,' 'Long Shot,' And More

Michigan Theater
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Film festival season is getting started, and box office records are being shattered!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest Hollywood news and all of the new films arriving on the big screen this weekend.

"Avengers: Endgame:" A Record Setting Blockbuster

One April weekend in 1964, the Beatles achieved the impossible when they notched the top five spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.  That achievement — never accomplished before or since — erased any remaining doubts about their dominance.  Marvel’s three-hour “Avengers: Endgame” (Disney) was expected to set a record as the biggest domestic opener ever.  But Disney accomplished more than one record-breaking film this week.  The now mammoth studio made film business history.   Last weekend, “Endgame” had notched an estimated $350 million domestic gross.  Worldwide, it has already reached $1.2 billion (Russia is the sole major market not included; it opened Monday).  Those numbers alone are a big story.  Here are some significant box office achievements included in this massive result:

Records broken

All-time opening records are no rarity: this is the third time in under 3.5 years after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”  What is staggering is that new records usually are set by marginal amount.  $350 million is a whopping 36% better than either of the two previous top performers.

The movie is in profit

Normally, a film that cost a reported $350-400 million, then added another $300 million in marketing and advertising costs, could open huge and still not immediately get into profit.  A $1.2 billion global gross will return substantially more than 55 percent to the studio, so the movie is already in profit.  In this case, the only surprise is that it isn’t a surprise.

“Endgame” and its roughly 30 million domestic attendees (that’s 13 million more than initially watched the recent season premiere of “Game of Thrones” at home) made up 89% of the tickets sold this weekend.  Previously most dominant?  “Avengers: Infinity War” at 82%, “Star Wars: Force Awakens” at 79%.  Again, not only a record, but a massive increase.

Commercial Film Contrasted to Specialty Films: Why Local Art Houses are Important

“Avengers: Endgame”

Apr 26–28 National gross sales for weekend-$350,000,000

Michigan Theater sales-$16,706 – 0.0048% of total national weekend sales

Average sales/theater-$75,075 (State/Michigan did 22% of national per theater gross)

Weeks in release-1

Total Gross sales for run-$350,000,000 (in US)

“The Chaperone”

Apr 26–28 National gross sales for weekend-$71,557

Michigan Theater sales-$2,418 – 3.4% of total national weekend sales

Average sales/theater-$1,431 (State/Michigan did 164% of national per theater gross)

Weeks in release-5

Total Gross sales for run-$333,001

“Amazing Grace”

Apr 26–28 National gross sales for weekend-$519,597

Michigan Theater sales-$3,412 – 0.7% of total national weekend sales

Average sales/theater-$2,121 (State/Michigan did 154% of national per theater gross)

Weeks in release-5

Total Gross sales for run-$2,145,538


The Cinetopia Film Festival is an annual, curated festival in metro Detroit, featuring more than 50 of the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best film festivals (Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, and more).  This year, there will be about 120 total screenings of the 50 films selected for the festival AND Cinetopia also includes the Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival. Cinetopia takes place over the span of 10 days with venues in Detroit, Dearborn, Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak and Ann Arbor.  Created in 2012 for the people of Southeast Michigan, Cinetopia brings many cinema artists to participate in special pre- and post-film events, including presentations, discussion panels, and Q&A sessions with directors, writers, and actors.  The 2019 Cinetopia Film Festival comes with major support by Michigan Medicine and the Knight Foundation.  For more information, visit

·       Framing John Delorean – Starring Alec Baldwin in a documentary

·       The Farewell – Starring Awkwafina – Russ’s favorite film from Sundance

·       Mavericks & Makers Symposium– Nancy Savoca, Household Saints, + 2 other films, UM Symposium

·       Ancient Law – Silent Film with live music by Donald Sossin and Alicia Svigals

·       Bite Me – Subversive Romantic Comedy about a real vampire and an IRS agent!?!

·       Styx – ER doc, a German woman, on a solo sailing voyage comes upon a sinking board of refugees

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·       One Child Nation – doc on the long-term and family impact of China’s one child policy

·       Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am – doc by Timothy Greenfield sanders about the acclaimed novelist

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·       Closing Night Film, Malcolm Gladwell’s - AUTONOMY


"Her Smell"

At the State (Opens Friday, May 3): In this film, Becky Something (played by Elisabeth Moss) is a '90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy, all-female trio Something She.  Now she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom.  When Becky's chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone.  Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.  

"Woman at War"

At the State (Opens Friday, May 3): This film follows Halla, who is a 50-year-old independent woman that leads a double life as a passionate environmental activist.  Known to others only by her alias "The Woman of the Mountain," Halla secretly wages a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry.  As Halla's actions grow bolder, from petty vandalism to outright industrial sabotage, she succeeds in pausing the negotiations between the Icelandic government and the corporation building a new aluminum smelter.  But right as she begins planning her biggest and boldest operation yet, she receives an unexpected letter that changes everything.  Her application to adopt a child has finally been accepted and there is a little girl waiting for her in Ukraine.  As Halla prepares to abandon her role as saboteur and savior of the Highlands to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother, she decides to plot one final attack to deal the aluminum industry a crippling blow. 

"Ask Dr. Ruth"

At the Michigan (Opens Sunday, May 5): This film chronicles the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America's most famous sex therapist.  With her diminutive frame, thick German accent, and uninhibited approach to sex therapy and education, Dr. Ruth transformed the conversation around sexuality.  As she approaches her 90th birthday and shows no signs of slowing down, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and unlikely path to a career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.  


"Ash is Purest White"

At the Michigan (Plays Sunday, May 5 – Wednesday, May 8): A tragicomedy initially set in the jianghu-criminal underworld-setting, this film is less a gangster movie than a melodrama.  With a three-part structure, it begins by following the quick-witted Qiao (played by Tao Zhao) and her mobster boyfriend Bin (played by Fan Liao) as they stake out their turf against rivals and upstarts in 2001 postindustrial Datong before expanding out into an epic narrative of how abstract forces shape individual lives and continues Jia Zhangke's body of work as a record of 21st-century China and its warp-speed transformations.  


At the Michigan (Plays Thursday, May 9 & Friday, May 10): For Diane (played by Mary Kay Place), everyone else comes first.  Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son (played by Jake Lacy) from himself.  But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by a past she can't forget and which threatens to tear her increasingly chaotic world apart.  Built around an extraordinary, fearless performance from Mary Kay Place, the narrative debut from Kent Jones is a profound, beautifully human portrait of a woman rifling through the wreckage of her life in search of redemption. 


"The Matrix"

This film plays Saturday, May 4 at 10:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of Late-Nights at the State.  Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix?  Neo is contacted by Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus.  They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents.  It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.

"Last Days of Chinatown"

This film plays Wednesday, May 8 at 7:00 PM at the State Theatre as a part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival Screening Series, presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  Admission is free for Ann Arbor Film Festival members and Michigan Theater Gold Card Members.  Otherwise, regular Michigan Theater prices apply.  When the largest sports development in the country takes over Detroit, one place is built; another, erased.


"The Chaperone"

At the Michigan: This film follows Louise Brooks, the 1920s silver screen sensation who never met a rule she didn't break, epitomized the restless, reckless spirit of the Jazz Age.  But, just a few years earlier, she was a 15 year-old student in Wichita, Kansas for whom fame and fortune were only dreams.  When the opportunity arises for her to go to New York to study with a leading dance troupe, her mother (played by Victoria Hill) insists there be a chaperone.  Norma Carlisle (played by Elizabeth McGovern), a local society matron who never broke a rule in her life, impulsively volunteers to accompany Louise (played by Haley Lu Richardson) to New York for the summer. 

"Amazing Grace"

Shot in 1972 over a 48-hour period in Watts’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, this stirring documentary captured the live recording of the most successful gospel album in history by Aretha Franklin.  This album marked Franklin's thrilling return to her gospel roots after she'd earned 11 consecutive No. 1 pop and R&B singles, won five Grammys and released more than 20 albums.  

"Avengers: Endgame"

At the State: In this film, adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle.  Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers -- Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, and Bruce Banner -- must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos -- the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe. 


In this film, Taylor Schilling delivers a delightful and layered comedic performance.  Laura Steinel's debut feature has heart, reminding us that family can be found in all different forms.  Kate Stone (played by Schilling) is career-focused and enjoys her life that way.  Her brash attitude keeps relationships at arm's length, making her an outcast in her own right.  When her estranged brother calls asking her to babysit her tween niece Maddie, Kate reluctantly agrees to help. But babysitting overnight unexpectedly turns into a week, and Kate's life spins into chaos.  As Maddie reveals stories of being bullied and of wanting to run away and be a Juggalo, the two form a unique bond.  


"Long Shot"

Fred Flarsky (played by Seth Rogen) is a gifted and free-spirited journalist who has a knack for getting into trouble.  Charlotte Field (played by Charlize Theron) is one of the most influential women in the world -- a smart, sophisticated, and accomplished politician.  When Fred unexpectedly runs into Charlotte, he soon realizes that she was his former babysitter and childhood crush.  When Charlotte decides to make a run for the presidency, she impulsively hires Fred as her speechwriter -- much to the dismay of her trusted advisers.


In this all-new story, the UglyDolls will go on a journey beyond the comfortable borders of Uglyville.  There, they will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don't have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.  In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special, and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye.  Here, the free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDoll friends live every day in a whirlwind of bliss, letting their freak flags fly in a celebration of life and its endless possibilities.  Features voices from Emma Roberts, Kelly Clarkson, Gabriel Iglesias, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, and more!

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at

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