To my adoring fans, I want to apologize for not getting a column up last week. We were experiencing some technical difficulties here at moviegasm, which is to say I was moving and couldn’t get the folks at Time Warner Cable out to install my internet until Thursday. But fear not, for I have returned with another exciting installment of Sutter Cane’s box office wrap up.
Sadly, the title today does not refer to the Cypress Hill frontman, but rather to the Jerry Seinfeld/Dreamworks animation flick that surprisingly ascended to the top of the box office in its second week. I expected it to take a bigger hit than Ridley Scott’s excellent crime epic American Gangster thanks to the arrival of the dismal-looking Fred Claus, but Claus debuted to less than spectacular business, and the two-and-a-half hour runtime for the R-rated Gangster seems to have caught up with it, clearing the way for a Bee Movie gold medal.For the record, Bee Movie raked in $26 million in its second week, down 31%, for a $72 million total. Budgeted at $150 million, Bee is holding it’s own, but isn’t running close to the kind of numbers Shrek puts up for Dreamworks Ani. Generally speaking, I tend to pull for Dreamworks pics, even in the wake of the Paramount sale. I like the way they do business, and they’ve given a home to talent as diverse as Robert Zemekis, Sam Mendes, and Denis Leary. But when the financials started tanking for DW awhile back, animation president Jeff Katzenberg got together with fellow founders Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and spun off the animation division in an IPO in order to raise funds.
They’ve had mixed success with their non-Shrek fare, with movies like Madagascar, Shark Tale, and Over the Hedge pulling in some decent numbers, while Flushed Away and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (which I loved, by the by) have pretty much floundered. Bee Movie looks to finish somewhere in the middle of those two groups, and DW Animation’s stock has taken a hit the last few weeks. IPO’s are dangerous business for movie companies; Brian Grazer and Row Howard- two of the most financially savvy minds in the biz- tried it with their Imagine Entertainment awhile back, and wound up selling everything back to Disney.
The aforementioned American Gangster, which I saw last weekend and was duly impressed with, took a sizeable hit in its second week, slipping 44% to $24 million for an $80 million total. Production costs on this one came in at a slightly more reasonable $100 million, and with glowing reviews and a glut of family programming in the coming weeks, it should hang on to be a very profitable entry for Universal and Ridley Scott, not to mention a triumphant return to box office glory for Russell Crowe, who was coming off a bomb in Scott’s A Good Year and modest returns for 3:10 to Yuma. Co-star Denzel Washington is getting most of the buzz, but Crowe definitely holds his own in the pic. It’s interesting to see the two square off here, after Crowe was visibly upset at losing the Best Actor Oscar to Denzel in Training Day. No offense to Crowe, who did fine work in A Beautiful Mind, but big D deserved the gold for his brilliant performance.
Also mentioned previously was Fred Claus, which opened below expectations in the number three spot with $19 million from 3,603 for a $5k average. Star Vince Vaughn had been on a good roll after Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, and The Breakup (not to mention a small part in Sean Penn’s critical darling Into the Wild). Let this be a lesson to him: cashing paychecks is okay every once in a while, but a great comedic voice like his can only do it so much before he turns into Eddie Murphy. And nobody wants that.
Robert Redford’s troubled Lions for Lambs followed in fourth with an even worse opening, bringing in just $6 million from 2,215 theatres and a $3k average, despite names above title like Redford, Meryl Streep, and of course Tom Cruise. Better critical response might have helped; it’s riding a 26% positive rating on rottentomatoes.com. Cruise is hoping for better numbers when he and director Bryan Singer join forces with a who’s who of great old English actors (Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, and Terrence Stamp) for Valkyrie, due out next June.
Saw IV continues to tumble, dropping 52% to $4.9 million, but the $58 million total all but guarantees we can be looking for Saw V next Halloween. Yippee. In seventh place was The Game Plan, also known as The Movie That Won’t Go Away, slipping just 37% in it’s seventh week to $2.4 million and an $85 million total. 30 Days of Night followed with $2.1 million, down 42%, for a $37 million total. Poor Wes Bentley’s second wind as a bad guy took a serious hit with the opening of P2, which debuted in 2,131 theatres but brought in just $2 million dollars for a dismal $977 average. While no one was raving about it, P2 did manage a few positive reviews (more than Lions for Lambs), but the Ghost Rider-prompted career surge for Bentley, who was really terrific in American Beauty, seems to be over. Hopefully there’s still some good character work for him in some indie pics. John Cusack’s The Martian Child rounded out the top ten after a disappointing opening, bringing in $1.8 million, down 45%, for just a $6 million total. Here’s opening for a better performance out of Cusack’s Grace is Gone, in which he plays a father unable to tell his children that their mother was killed in Iraq. Still, if Lions for Lambs (among others) is any indication, any movie with even an allusion to our current Middle East conflict seems doomed.
Two quick notes about flicks in limited release. The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men, which is receiving rave reviews and should be seen this week by yours truly, opened spectacularly in 28 theatres, bringing in $1.2 million for a $43k average. The Coens tend to play well in the big cities, though. We’ll see what happens as it goes wider, but that many critics can’t be wrong. Also, and it may well be that no one cares about this besides me, the second After Dark Horrorfest opened much worse than last year, bringing in $450k from 323 theatres for a $1.3k average. This fascinating marketing play basically takes eight direct-to-video horror flicks and packages them together, releasing them for only a week and saving a bundle, collectively, on marketing costs. Whichever film brings in the most earns itself a wide release, although last year’s big winner, Captivity, turned out to be a bomb (the best film of the series by far, and probably one of the best horror films of the year, was Takashi Shimizu’s criminally unseen Reincarnation). These movies tend to do most of their business on DVD and on cable anyway, but these numbers don’t bode well for a wide release, even though Tooth and Nail, one of the entries, is supposed to be worth a look.
And that’s it for this week, folks. Check back next week when Robert Zemeckis’s motion-capture animation experiment Beowulf squares off against Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and poor Mike Newell’s Love in the Time of Cholera doesn’t stand a chance. But even more exciting, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales FINALLY opens, and even though buzz is bad, you’d better believe I’m going to be first in line for it. Also, Noah Baumbach follows up last year’s The Squid and the Whale with Margot at the Wedding, and Brian DePalma offers us another Iraq war pic sure to tank in Redacted. Can we stop giving DePalma money now? Please?