Sorry to everyone for the delay with getting this one up. Despite my best efforts, real life continues to demand my attention, and doesn’t seem to listen when I shout, ‘But it’s awards season! My moviegasm readers need me!’
And, in fact, there is much to talk about this week, with the Golden Globes being announced (and that’s it, just announced), The Bucket List topping the box office, and some Oscar contenders desperately in need of a box office boost that would normally have come in the wake of the Globes, but in this strange year, nothing is certain.We’ll start with The Bucket List, a film that surprised me by topping the box office in its first weekend as a wide release with $19 million from 2,911 theatres for a $6.6k average, in spite of disappointing numbers in limited release the last few weeks. Rob Reiner’s film was expected to be an Oscar contender while in production, but early word and subsequent reviews have been very poor (just a 39% positive rating on Rottentomatoes.com), with the general consensus being that, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson paired up for the first time, how could Reiner screw this up so badly? Even with that kind of star pedigree, the film was shut out of the Globes, who would normally cater to those kind of names (like Johnny Depp getting a nod for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last year).
I guess the lesson is never underestimate the enduring appeal of Nicholson (the only actor to have a movie over $100 million in four different decades) and Freeman.
Speaking of enduring appeal, Ice Cube’s quiet success continued with First Sunday, which opened to $17.7 million from 2,213 theatres for an $8k average. And that average is the secret to Cube’s success. He’s had his share of duds (Ghosts of Mars, anyone?), but the guy has been mostly profitable as a writer, producer, director, and star for thirteen years by practicing what we here at moviegasm preach- small budgets, niche markets, target your release. Box office analysts, journos, and studio execs love to talk about big summer tentpoles shattering box office records, but the secret to longevity in this industry is stay profitable, and Cube- who has never had a film gross close to $100 million- has been as relatively consistent in his box office turnout since Friday opened in 1995 as any Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, or Johnny Depp. That’s not a reflection on quality, necessarily (‘range’ isn’t a word that springs to mind), but you have to respect the guy’s business sense.
Juno continues to do very well, bringing in another $13 million and raising it’s total to an impressive $70.8 million. But it’s percentage dropped for the first time… well, maybe ever, by 14%, and combined Globe losses in all the major categories (the Coen brothers took the screenplay award for No Country for Old Men over Juno‘s Diablo Cody, although the Globes, unlike the Oscars, do not have separate Adapted and Original Screenplay categories) may be taking some Oscar wind out of the sails. National Treasure: Book of Secrets followed in fourth with $11 million, down 43%, for a $187 million total, followed by perennial top ten-ers Alvin and the Chipmunks with $9.3 million and a $187 million total, and I Am Legend with $8 million and a $240 million total.
One Missed Call, which surprised me with its $13 million opening last week, surprised me again by falling 52% in it’s second week to just under $6 million and a $20 million total. Again, 52% isn’t good, necessarily, but with such withering reviews it easily could have fallen 60% or 70%, and I still insist that these numbers are promising for The Eye, but we’ll see. P.S. I Love You continues to hold up well (man, how many times have I written that now?), slipping 38% to $4.8 million and raising its total to $46 million.
In ninth place was The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (A Veggie Tales movie! I get it!) with $4.2 million from 1,337 theatres for a $3.1k average. Nothing really to mention there, which is good, because the really topic of conversation should be Atonement, which finished tenth with $4.2 million, down 16% in spite of adding 367 theatres, for a $25 million total. See, in something of an upset, Atonement won the Golden Globe for Best Picture- Drama, which should certainly revive it’s waning Oscar hopes, right?
Well, in any normal year, yes. But thanks to the WGA strike, this year is anything but normal. I said last year that, in Hollywood, the Golden Globes are kind of joke. And they are. But what’s not a joke is the publicity all those movies and shows get for a nationally broadcast awards show, and the ability to start producing those ads that say, ‘Winner of 2 Golden Globes, including Best Picture of the Year’. Well, they can still do the ads, but my guess is they won’t mean as much to the crowd that tunes in to see what Keira Knightley is wearing.
The long and short of it is, Atonement and Sweeney Todd (Best Picture winner for a musical or comedy, which finished in twelfth place this weekend $3.3 million and a $44 million total) need the help, the buzz, the publicity and the box office that the Globes usually provide heading into the Oscar race. This year, they aren’t getting that thanks to the strike, and I think it’s going to hurt both films. But what’s great is, we get to test my little theory. I’m sure the marketing folks at Focus and Dreamamount are already spitting out their Golden Globe-touting ads. The results were published everywhere. So next weekend we’ll see if Atonement and Sweeney get any kind of bump in the box office.
But if they don’t, and their numbers keep falling, then I think the writers will have put some real pressure on the studios and networks, because that means that the telecast really matters in terms of getting people out to see their prestige pics, and without an Oscar telecast, welll… then you’re hitting them right in the pocketbook, which is the Achilles heal of any corporation.
That’s the power of the box office, folks.
So that about wraps it up for this week. Check back next week when the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield looks to have a monster weekend against rom-com 27 Dresses and crime-com Mad Money. Plus, Woody Allen’s latest, Cassandra’s Dream gets a limited opening alongside the horror comedy Teeth, whose premise I cannot explain on a family website, but color me intrigued . See you then.