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You know, normally when I sit down to discuss the weekend’s box office returns with you, I try to come up with some angle, story, or take on the figures that you won’t find anywhere else. For the most part, that won’t be the case today, because everyone who keeps even half an eye on these figures is talking about 300 and its extraordinary returns this weekend.
Just to get the boring old numbers out of the way, 300 opened with $70 million dollars this weekend from 3100 theatres for a $22k per screen average.
Additionally, of course, a major new director has announced himself, and graphic novelist Frank Miller (on whose book the film is based) will now be giving Spiderman a run for his money as the hottest cinematic comic book property in the world.
Just to put 300‘s numbers in perspective, it set a record for the biggest March opening in history (beating out the family-friendly kid pic Ice Age: The Meltdown by about $2 million). It is the third highest opening for an R-rated pic in history (behind only The Matrix Reloaded and The Passion of the Christ), and generated more revenue on its 62 IMAX screens than any movie in history.
Now certainly, that’s a story all by itself. But what will be more interesting to me is the fallout from this. Budgeted at just $65 million, the profit margins on the film are sure to generate a slew of CGI-heavy sword-and-sandal pics the way Gladiator did, even though they almost certainly won’t reach 300-type numbers (piggy-backing on someone else’s success rarely pays off, as the moviegasm faithful well know).
But more importantly, director Zach Snyder has suddenly leapt into the category of A-list directors, and I’m fairly certain that’s a good thing. He was basically an unknown before being handed the daunting task of remaking Romero’s Dawn of the Dead a few years ago, and damn if he didn’t rise to the challenge. He and equally talented screenwriter James Gunn (check out his under appreciated directorial debut Slither for a gory, fun time) chose to toss Romero’s sledgehammer satire of consumerism out the window, and instead made a giddy, violent roller coaster ride with a style and exuberance all its own. I saw it in the theatres twice in one weekend, and new instantly that Snyder had a profound sense of what appeals to audiences about the ‘zombie apocalypse’ genre. And, of course, it was very profitable.
Still, sophomore efforts frequently fail to live up to the promise of directorial debuts. And a film based on a Frank Miller graphic novel, CGI’d up the way Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City was but without that film’s amazing cast or neo-noir feel seemed like a long shot. Apparently, it paid off handsomely. Warner Bros. should be commended for their marketing campaign; they cut a great trailer, a series of well-designed posters, and overcame the challenge of convincing audiences to turn out for a movie with basically no stars. Personally, I’m hoping this propels not just Snyder and Miller, but also Dominic West of HBO’s The Wire to some better work. And we’ll have to see what Snyder does with his new found artistic freedom (after this, he can basically do whatever he wants, which is not always a food thing; just ask M. Night Shyamalan), and what work of Miller’s is optioned, especially after Sin City 2 comes out. The artistic fallout from financial success like this is always fascinating to watch.
The artistic fallout from Wild Hogs continued success, however, will not be very interesting. Even against 300‘s success, Hogs managed to hold up very well, falling just 29% to $28 million, maintaining an impressive $8.5k average and bringing its total to $77.4 million. A quick note to John, Martin, and Tim: you’ve been given a second chance with this movie’s success. Don’t screw it up.
Bridge to Terabithia finally fulfilled my prediction of overtaking Ghost Rider, slipping 22% to $6.8 million and raising its total to $67 million. I continue to hear nothing but good things about this movie. Not so for Rider, though, which was down 41% to $6.7 million and a $104 million total. I’d say it’s on the bubble for sequel potential (overseas box office stands at $61 million), and the greenlight will probably hinder on Nicholas Cage’s interest in doing another one. Maybe he’s tired of the critical drumming he’s taking for GR, but it’s equally possible he thinks they can get it right with a second picture. Here’s hoping, but don’t hold your breath.
Zodiac fell hard in its second week, 49%, to $6.7 million and a paltry $23 million total. Paramount’s taking a bath on this one, but it’s their own fault. This reminds me a bit of the way Michael Mann’s The Insider was received by audiences, another well-reviewed but long-ish movie that was basically sunk by marketing and a poorly handled release. Hopefully, Zodiac finds the same kind of interest on video.
They’re finally reporting the budget on The Number 23 at about $30 million, which means Carrey definitely took a pay cut to do the project. That’s good news for New Line, because after falling 33% to $4.3 million, the total stands right at $30 million. If it can keep the declines in about that range, and bring in decent cash overseas (total stands at $7 million so far), they just might wind up making a few bucks on the movie. Depending on Carrey’s back-end deal, of course, which was probably substantial considering that absence of up-front money.
Norbit came in at number seven with $4.3 million, down 32%, for an $88 million total. I think I’ve said everything I have to say about this movie. Music & Lyrics continues to do well thanks to a general lack of competition, bringing in $3.8 million and raising its total to $43.8 million. Breach actually climbed a spot to number nine with $2.6 million, down a reasonable 27% to $29 million. Word of mouth seems to be helping this one more than Zodiac, due at least in part to the shorter running time. Amazing Grace was tenth with $2.5 million for an $11 million total.
In limited release, Joon-ho Bong’s fascinating Korean monster film The Host opened to decent- but not spectacular- numbers, making $320k from 71 theatres for a $4.5k average. It’s already made $69 million overseas, and is riding a startling 94% positive rating on Rottentomatoes.com, so I expect word of mouth will be good enough to put totals in the $15-$20 million range. Also, Mira Nair’s adaptation of The Namesake, featuring what is apparently a very good dramatic turn by Kal Penn (I’m telling you, that guy’s going places), opened to $251k from six theatres for a $41k average. Reviews are generally positive, and this could turn into a reasonable arthouse hit for Fox Searchlight.
That’s it for this week, kids. Check in next week when Sandra Bullock continues her painful career slide with the thriller Premonition, Chris Rock continues to make strange choices as a director and star with the oddly serious I Think I Love My Wife, and those guys from Saw try and fail to break out of the franchise with Dead Silence.