You know, the holidays screw everything up. And I don’t just mean in the stereotypical sense that your Uncle Teddy got drunk at Christmas dinner and told everyone that that your cousin Jimmy was an accident. I mean that it makes my weekly (or in this case, biweekly) task of telling you what the weekend box office returns really mean, more difficult. You want to know why?
Because Night at the Museum, one of the worst reviewed films of the year, went up 58% compared to last week, taking in $48.2 million and raising its total to $125 million. Right after that, The Pursuit of Happyness went up 71% to $24 million, making its total a very profitable $103 million, in spite of being in its third week of release. Dreamgirls went up about 8,000% to $18 million, making its total $41 million. In fact, every single movie in the top fourteen went up by double-digit percentages. And you have to go all the way to number fifteen to find a movie that fell. What was it, I hear you asking with eggnog-fueled anticipation? It was The Nativity Story, which managed to slip 60% to just under $2 million, in spite of being the only holiday-themed movie in the top fifteen (unless you count Black Christmas, which I would find disturbing).
The point is that it’s very hard to find a good angle to take, because everything seems to have done extremely well over this long weekend, even compared to the previous long weekend. Even Charlotte’s Web, which appeared to be a surefire bomb, jumped 97% to the number four spot, bringing in $15 million and raising its total to $55 million. With an $85 million budget, it’s still in the red, and will probably finish in the red, but numbers like that strongly increase the chances that Dakota Fanning will wind up the next child star damaged emotionally by too much success too soon, and will probably wind up in Lindsay Lohan’s rehab room (which I imagine has the Shawshank-like inscription Lindsay wuz here, though possibly with her own name misspelled).
I guess the good news is that, so long as everything does well, the things you’re rooting for are making money too. Case in point, Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd, a complex and emotionally muted history of the CIA climbed 43% to $14 million, bringing its total to $38 million in spite of a running time over two and a half hours. Even better is Rocky Balboa, an underdog-movie about an underdog boxer, which had the smallest percentage jump with 13%, but brought in $13.7 million for a total of $51 million on a budget of just $24 million. Sly stands right alongside Arnold and Bruce as my childhood action heroes (I don’t care what anyone says, I love Demolition Man), and Balboa has brought the man back some respectability, which he plans to squander immediately with a fourth Rambo film.
And right in line with that kind of cynicism is the bad news. Two more of the worst reviewed movies of the year also saw substantial gains and more impressive totals. Eragon made $10.5 million and upped its total to $59 million, substantially increasing the chances of a sequel. If there’s a silver lining there, it’s good news for Jeremy Irons, I guess, who’s had a difficult time finding a commercial audience in spite of giving one of the great performances I have ever seen in Dead Ringers. We Are Marshall also improved, pulling in $10 million and raising its cume to $27 million. I can’t find a silver lining there.
At number nine, Happy Feet did predictably well, bringing in $9.7 million and raising its total to $178 million. With foreign totals, it’s approaching a stellar $300 million gross. The Holiday came in at number ten, with $8.5 million and a $51 million total. Like Charlotte’s Web, Holiday carries a hefty $85 million price tag (especially high for a romantic comedy), but with $68 million in foreign totals, it should also wind up a very profitable release for Sony. Blood Diamond couldn’t climb back into the top ten, but word of mouth seems to be working in its favor, as it pulled in $6.5 million for a $37 million total, still substantially below its $100 million budget. This one is good news all the way around, with good notices for the likable cast- DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in particular- but poor box office, which will land squarely on the shoulders of director Ed Zwick, who should have been put in the dog house after The Last Samurai, but was saved by pre-crazy Tom Cruise. After this, he’ll have scale down his budgets, and hopefully the Michael Bay-like subtlety of his films, as well.
In limited release, a couple of Oscar hopefuls debuted well. Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth made $750k from seventeen theatres for a $44k average (of which, exactly $11 was mine). Del Toro’s friend Alfonso Cuaron opened his film Children of Men to similarly good results, with $696k from sixteen theatres for a $43k average. And the racy British drama Notes on a Scandal took in $550k from twenty-two theatres for a $25k average. Look for the first two in particular to continue to do well in the coming weeks, especially after the Oscar nominations are announced.
So that’s it for this week. Keep your eyes peeled for reviews of Black Christmas and Pan’s Labyrinth, and as always, tune in next week when Cedric the Entertainer puts the last nail in his feature film career with Code Name: The Cleaner (and probably takes poor Lucy Liu with him), Hilary Swank sinks back into the box office gutter (as she always seems to do between Oscars) with Freedom Writers, and Lionsgate puts the last nail in the coffin of fairy-tale based CGI movies with Happily N’Ever After.