Much to my, and I think many other analysts’ (man, it’s fun to think of myself as an ‘analyst’), surprise, the family comedy The Game Plan dominated the box office this weekend with $22 million from 3,103 theatres for a $7.3k average. Numbers like this baffle me. I know that parents want a movie they can take their kids to, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as an ex-football star suddenly saddled with a precocious eight-year-old daughter? Not only is it a lame concept, it’s completely unoriginal and accompanied by a painfully unfunny trailer.
Please, stay home and watch The Incredibles again. The Neverending Story. Anything. Your kids will be dumber for having been subjected to comedies like this, and will demand less of movies when they grow up. Or worse yet, become studio executives.
If there’s a silver lining to The Game Plan‘s big win, it’s that I kind of like The Rock. He’s got a certain goofy charisma that worked well for him in The Rundown and the otherwise atrocious Be Cool. And I can only hope that this success will somehow transfer over to Southland Tales, Rock’s next big release. It’s from Richard Kelly, the writer and director behind Donnie Darko, and all of the advance word on it is bad. It was shredded at Cannes, it’s been in the editing room ever since, and now it’s finally set to get a limited release November 9th.
Sadly, at preview screenings, even the Darko friendly have called this film a big misstep for Kelly, and I suspect they’re right (although I love the trailer). Still, Kelly’s recently launched production company has some interesting projects in the works, and I’ve read enough of Kelly’s scripts to know that he’s an amazingly talented, Charlie Kaufman level guy who deserves to get some more work (I especially love an almost-brilliant script of his I read several years ago called Bessie, that is about- and I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to- a talking cow that takes over the world. Now why can’t he find studio financing for that?).
So here’s hoping that Game Plan‘s success translates to some decent returns for Southland and Richard Kelly.
I will have trouble finding a silver lining surrounding the numbers for Peter Berg’s The Kingdom. It was expected to take the top spot, but instead finished second with $17.6 million from 2,793 theatres for a decent but unspectacular $6.3k average. I like Berg as both a director and actor (Very Bad Things is a guilty pleasure, as is his marvelous sap in John Dahl’s The Last Seduction), but he has yet to reach blockbuster status. Universal had high hopes for this flick, which also boasts an impressive cast that includes Jaime Foxx (who’s now officially in trouble as an A-list star), Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Piven, but it’s clearly fallen short of those expectations.
And worse still, this could spell financial doom for many of the upcoming Oscar bait pics. Awhile back, I ran down a short list of the Iraq war related movies being released between now and the new year, and I would have to say they’re all in trouble. The Kingdom is certainly the most commercially geared of them, so if it didn’t hit big, what will happen to the starless Redacted? The talky Lions for Lambs? We’ve already seen the number for Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah fall steadily as the theatre count climbs (it brought in $1.5 million from 762 theatres for a foreboding $2k average), and at this point I wonder if it will even get a thousand-theatre release, Oscar buzz or no.
I’m guessing this attitude will continue, and as these movies fall by the financial wayside- I won’t venture a guess as to their quality- I believe they will clear a path for No Country for Old Men to take Best Picture this year. What does everyone else think?
In other news, Resident Evil: Extinction fell predictably hard in its second week, crumbling 66% to $8 million and a $36 million total. Still, it only has to hit $45 million to match the original’s domestic take, and has already taken in $8 million overseas. Good Luck Chuck followed in fourth, continuing its utterly unremarkable performance by falling 53% to $6.3 million and a $23 million total. And that’s all I have to say about that.
3:10 to Yuma continues to chug along, dropping just 32%, best in the top ten, to $4 million and a $43 million total. As I expected, though, foreign cumes are just $2 million, but who knows how wide the release is. Oscar hopes are slim but not out of the question for James Mangold’s western, and it could use the extra buzz. The Brave One finished sixth with $3.7 million and a $30 million total. It’ll be interesting to see how Foster follows this up. Maybe she’ll try her hand at directing again.
Mr. Woodcock had a decent hold, slipping 39% to $3 million, but total stands at a disappointing $19 million. My predictions of good word of mouth leading to great legs for Eastern Promises were… overstated, lets say. Promises fell 48% to $2.8 million and an $11 million total. I love Cronenberg and wish he had an easier time getting moves made, but the numbers for this one won’t help. There’s a glimmer of hope for a Viggo Mortensom nomination for Best Actor, but that’s always a crowded field and looks to be long shot. Sydney White was ninth with $2.6 million, a 48% drop, and an $8 million total. And Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe crept its way into the top ten after adding 63 theatres. It grossed $2 million from 339 theatres for a $6k average and a $5.5 million total. Word around the campfire is that Taymor is now teaming up with U2′s Bono and the Edge (can that guy really just call himself ‘the Edge’? Really?) for a Spiderman rock opera on Broadway. I have no idea what to say about that except… Bessie still can’t find financing? Come on!
Briefly, Wes Anderson’s latest, The Darjeeling Limited, opened to very mixed critical reaction but decent numbers, earning $140k from two theatres. I’m tempted to discuss what effect Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt might have on it’s box office chance, but it just feels sort of wrong, so forget it. Also, Ang Lee’s Lust,Caution opened to similarly mixed reviews but earned $61k from just one theatre. As of right now, I’m putting Oscar hopes at slim to none for those two flicks right now (does anyone know if Lust,Caution is even eligible for the Foreign Language Oscar?).
And that about wraps it up for this week. Tune in next week when Sony opens Feel the Noise, which I’m tempted to say will bomb but after this week, who knows. More likely, The Ferrelly brothers will return to box office gold after a long hiatus with The Heartbreak Kid, which arrives on a wave of Apatow-like good buzz, and Fox tries to counter with the curiously under-marketed The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Also, Clooney’s latest, Michael Clayton, gets the limited release treatment. See you then.