You know, I started writing today’s piece talking about The Simpsons Movie‘s better than expected take of $71.8 million for the weekend (3,922 screens for an $18k average), and then criticizing Fox and director David Silverman for spending $75 million to bring it to the big screen. I had figures lined up from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Team America to back up my point that there’s no reason the movie should have cost so much. I was going to lament the mediocre $11.7 million opening of No Reservations and the fact that it would confine director Scott Hicks to obscurity for the foreseeable future. I was going to hammer more nails in the coffin containing Lindsay Lohan’s career after the dreadful $3.4 million opening of I Know Who Killed Me. I was going to chastise the Weinstein’s for even putting Who’s Your Caddy? into theatres, and beg Jeffrey Jones to do more period pieces (his Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus is one of those small brilliant performances that makes it hard to believe he could be so convincing as Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
Normally when I sit down to write these box office columns, they flow pretty easily, but even with all this lined up to rant and rave about, it just wasn’t flowing the way it usually does. And I think it’s because I read so many moving obituaries to Ingmar Bergman this morning before I got around to this.Now, I’m not going to use this as a soapbox to profess my love and respect for the man. Too many other people with a better appreciation of Bergman’s work have already said those things better than I could. As a matter of fact, the only Bergman films I’ve seen are Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal (Persona and Hour of the Wolf have finally crept into the top ten on my Netflix que, though; I’ll probably bump them up to the top this afternoon). But I did watch a fascinating interview with Bergman on Dick Cavett a while back, and in retrospect I am struck by the fact that the man was, first and foremost, an artist. He had very little interest in the business of movies, and at one point discussed a stint he did directing commercials. He spoke of them with pride, because he loved putting images on film.
Here at moviegasm, I’ve always been a little proud to focus on the business side of things. The goings-on at studios and at the box office fascinate me, especially the way those things translate into what finally gets released into theatres. But it’s equally important, if not more important, to remember the power that film has to express things we can’t always find words for, or to say things that maybe we are too scared to say. In movie theatres they can be an exhilarating communal experience, or alone they can force us to look inside ourselves.
As Bergman himself said, “No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
So I’ll run down the box office numbers for the weekend, in case you’re curious. But with the passing of an artist of Ingmar Bergman’s caliber, I think we should take some time, as movie lovers, to think about the movies that have moved and affected us as art, regardless of their box office take. Please leave some thoughts of your own in the comments, if you’d like. For me, it’s 21 Grams, for sure. Shawshank. Schindler’s List and Empire of the Sun. Crimes and Misdemeanors. The Straight Story and Five Easy Pieces, on the right day. Lately, I’ve been really struck by Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and 2046. I’m not going to run home and watch Wild Strawberries again, but I’ll probably watch one of these. Something just to remind me why I love movies so much. I think that’s the best tribute to Bergman I can imagine.
For the record, here’s how the box office shook down this weekend. As mentioned, The Simpsons Movie topped the box office with $71.8 million, followed by I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry with $19 million, down 44%, for a $71 million total. Harry Potter was third with $17 million, down 47% for a $241 million total. Foreign cume stands at an astonishing $450 million. Hairspray had a decent hold in its second week, slipping 43% to $15 million and a $59 million total. No Reservations opened in fifth with $11.7 million and a $4.8k average. Transformers followed with $11.5 million, also down 43%, for a $284 million total. Ratatouille is finally starting to show some legs, falling 33% to $7 million and a $179 million total. For the second week in a row, though, Live Free or Die Hard had the best hold in the top ten, falling just 24% to $5.3 million and raising it’s total to $125 million, the highest domestic total for the franchise. Worldwide, it should finish with over $300 million. Lindsay Lohan furthered my assertion that there is such a thing as bad press by helping her thriller I Know Who Killed Me open disastrously in ninth place with $3.4 million and a $2.5k average. Expect a sitcom deal within a year. Who’s Your Caddy? fared even worse, opening in last place with just $2.9 million. I don’t think I have to elaborate on that one.
Hope this wasn’t too pretentious or too much of a downer for everyone. Just wanted to throw a little perspective out there, I guess. I should be back to form next week, when The Bourne Ultimatum is sure to dominate against Bratz, Hot Rod, and Underdog. See you then.