Maybe I’m just getting lazy, but as I sit down to write this, I find I’m drawing a blank on clever titles, so feel free to improve on this one in the comments section.
Needless to say, director James (Walk the Line) Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma captured the box office crown this weekend with $14 million from 2,652 theatres for a $5k average. Not bad, but even with a fairly restrained $55 million budget (period pieces tend to be more expensive, especially with stars like Russell Crowe and Christian Bale), it’s going to be hard pressed to get too far into the black, especially since Westerns don’t play especially well overseasNeither is it the triumphant return of the genre to box office glory. Many thought that Westerns were coming back into style, with a number of them on studios’ development and production slates, but after this opening, I don’t think they’ll be scrambling to get them into theatres the way they were with sword-and-sandle flicks after Gladiator or 300. There’s still the oft delayed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which starts a platform release in two weeks. That’s been getting some very enthusiastic reviews out of the festivals, but even with Brad Pitt headlining, it’s looked at as more of an awards contender than a box office powerhouse (Roger Deakins cinematography in particular is being talked up, especially after the equally enthusiastic reception for the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, which he also shot).
So the Western isn’t dead, but it isn’t back, either. I’m hoping that Kevin Costner will come along with something to really restore it to prominence, but after Mr. Brooks, that sure feels like a long shot.
I’ll run through the rest of the numbers, but first I want to skip down to the sixth place opening of Shoot ‘Em Up, which brought in just $5.4 million from 2,108 screens for a disappointing $2.5k average. I thought this one had a decent marketing push, cool trailers… it looked like it might do Transporter type numbers. Obviously, that was not the case (and I was clearly very wrong in predicting it would fight 3:10 for the top spot last week), but with all those things going for it, not to mention very little competition, I’m afraid there’s really only one conclusion to be drawn here, and it pains me to say it: Clive Owen is not a movie star.
Don’t get me wrong. He’s a terrific actor, and I enjoyed him immensely in Children of Men, Sin City, and Closer. He’s a good looking guy, a versatile actor, and directors clearly like him. In the eleven movies since he popped up on Hollywood’s radar in Croupier, he managed to work with Robert Altman, Spike Lee, Mike Nichols, and Alfonso Cuaron, which is pretty distinguished company. But he’s also proven time and time again that he cannot open a movie, no matter commercially appealing the material seems to be, or how enthusiastically the movies are received by critics. His biggest box office successes have always come as a second fiddle to bigger A-list actors (opposite Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster in Inside Man, which did $88 million, and one of a slew of stars in Sin City, $74 million). But even with that kind of exposure, not mention a richly deserved Oscar nomination for Closer, if I were a studio head, I’d still be hard pressed to have him headline a $100 million feature.
Of course, for whatever reason, Hollywood is much more forgiving to its leading men than its leading ladies. Owen has at least one more shot at carrying a film to box office success with Tom (Run, Lola, Run) Tykwer’s thriller The International, which is scheduled for release this time next year. But after that, he may find himself recruited for supporting roles and the occasional lead in an indie, and that’s a damn shame. If you haven’t done it yet, go rent Children of Men; you’ll thank me, and believe it or not, those studio execs look at video revenue, too.
But enough of that. Back to the top of the numbers. Halloween dropped a hefty but expected 61% in its second week to $10 million and a $44 million total. Man, am I getting hammered by my friends for kind-of sticking up for that one. Superbad continues it’s amazing run in third with $8 million, down 35% for a $103 million total. Balls of Fury was fourth with $5.6 million, down 50%, for a $24 million total. It’s not a total disaster for Rogue Pictures, but I bet other studios are thinking twice about their formulaic comedies (an attitude compounded by the 22nd place opening of The Brothers Solomon this weekend, which managed just $750 a print. Yikes.).
The Bourne Ultimatum took it’s first real hit in a while, presumably because of 3:10‘s competition, and lost 47% to $5.4 million, although the $210 million total is still outstanding. As previously mentioned, Shoot ‘Em Up was sixth, followed by Rush Hour 3 with $5.3 million and $129 million total. I’m not sure how wide the overseas release is so far, but the foreign cume of $52 million isn’t going to cut it for the $140 million picture.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday was eighth with $3.3 million and a $25 million total. The Nanny Diaries continues to hang around, dropping 35% to $3.3 million and a $21 million total. Still a big disappointment. And Hairspray, the movie that wouldn’t die, somehow found its way back into the top ten with $1.9 million and a $114 million total.
On a final note, I mentioned last week that I was starting to here some serious Oscar buzz about the Weinstein’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And since I was wrong about Shoot ‘Em Up‘s box office chances (and god only knows how many other things over the last year of writing this little column), I want to go ahead and point out that said buzz is already dead. It screened in Toronto to painfully awful reviews (Variety‘s Todd McCarthy- who knows his stuff- calls it, “melodramatic, narrowly concerned with portraying her human vulnerabilities, and, thanks to a constantly pounding musical score, bombastic,” although my favorite quote comes from Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells, who calls it, “an affront to the lost art of story-telling, to logic and clarity, to the tradition of historical costume epics and to God Herself.”) Interestingly enough, the biggest edition to the cast compared to the first Elizabeth? Clive Owen.
So, sorry, Harvey. At least you’ve got some coin after Halloween‘s opening.
And that about wraps it up for this week, folks. Check back next week when Jodie Foster’s The Brave One kicks ass, Dragon Wars doesn’t, and Billy Bob Thorton squares off against Sean William Scott for some reason in Mr. Woodcock. Plus some Oscar hopefuls like David Cronenberg’s History of Violence follow-up Eastern Promises and Paul-don’t-hate-me-cause-I-made-Crash-Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah start their platform releases. See you then.