How One American Cinema Turned Four Weddings and a Funeral Into a Hit

YouTube
YouTube

by Simon Brew

With four BAFTAs, two Oscar nominations (including one for Best Picture), and nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in the bank, the 1994 British romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral more than rewarded its $4.5 million investment. And yet the fortunes of the low-budget film—which effectively launched Hugh Grant's career as a leading man—may just have hinged on a single cinema in New York City.

While the film proved to be a hit in the U.K., it was arguably its breakthrough at the U.S. box office that turned it into a bigger event. And yet its American distributor, Gramercy Pictures, barely had the promotional budget to put the film out.

As such, instead of paying for hundreds of prints up front and a big advertising campaign, it gambled on an initial release on just five American screens: two in New York, three in Los Angeles. If the film could sell those screenings out, then the figure for the average amount of money taken per individual screen would be high. As such, Gramercy figured, it would persuade more exhibitors to book the film, and Four Weddings and a Funeral could build toward a wider release.

The problem, as producer/distributor Michael Kuhn recounted in his book One Hundred Films and a Funeral, was that the early projections on the film's opening weekend in America were "soft." Kuhn and his team had only hours to turn these numbers around before the weekend was over, because by Saturday lunchtime, the movie was looking dead and buried.

Gramercy worked out that the problem centered on just one of the New York City cinemas: It was a multiplex that had programmed Four Weddings and a Funeral on its smallest screen. Showings of the film were sold out, but because there were no more seats available, the box office wasn't at the level that Kuhn and his team needed.

In spite of the fact that said multiplex's larger screen was booked to a rival film, the manager of the cinema agreed to move Four Weddings and a Funeral to the bigger auditorium. Which was a gamble on the manager's part, particularly if the studio behind the rival film found out.

It never did.

"On that single initiative hinged much of the subsequent history of Four Weddings and a Funeral," Kuhn wrote. A weekend gross that was set to be $18,566 across five screens was suddenly boosted to $176,000, "way ahead what we had hoped for." When the box office chart for the weekend came in, exhibitors took note, and Four Weddings and a Funeral secured the extra bookings it needed.

Gramercy Pictures had its first major hit.

Four Weddings and a Funeral would go on to earn more than $52 million at the U.S. box office, which, at the time, was an unheard of number for an independent British romantic comedy. Yet had one theater manager in New York made a different decision, the history of Four Weddings and a Funeral (and Hugh Grant's career) would likely be very, very different.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)