Another so-so weekend at the box office, with Mel’s Apocalypto taking the number one spot with $14.1 million and a $5.7 thousand average. Obviously, this isn’t in the same league as the $83 million opening for The Passion of the Christ, but I remain dully impressed that American audiences are willing to turn out for a subtitled film with no stars, either in spite of or because of the controversy. Apocalypto is pulling about 65% on Rottentomaoes, but almost every review notes that Mel is a competent, visual filmmaker, and at least some of the bad reviews seem influenced by the controversy. In light of my last column on how actors need to reunite with certain directors to get their careers on track, I’m going to quickly lay out what Mel needs to do. First and foremost, the guy needs to disappear for a year. No headlines, no interviews… just kill the exposure until two or three other stories take all the heat off him. Then, summer 2008, Mel reunites with Happy Feet director George Miller for a much-anticipated, hard-R Mad Max movie (and NOT another Lethal Weapon movie). Feet has been successful enough that Miller’s got the clout to get this puppy off the ground, so get crackin’ on that script George. Then hang back, and come back with another acting/directing effort that’s more in line with The Man Without a Face. Step back from the violence, show us you’ve got something more. It’s going to take years live down that traffic stop, but by all accounts, the guy’s got the chops to do it. That’s the roadmap, now it’s up to you.
Nancy Meyer’s The Holiday opened at number two with $13.5 million and a $5.1 thousand average. A decent showing for counter-programming, but we’ll have to see if it has the kind of legs it needs to reach Something’s Gotta Give numbers. Still, kudos to Meyers for seeing a romantic lead in Jack Black. That’s more balls than you’re likely to see in any chick flick next year. Happy Feet followed in third with $12.7 million, down just 27% for $137 million total. The penguins’ perpetual runner-up Casino Royale came in fourth with $8.8 million and a $128 million total. Leo DiCaprio countered his Departed success with a weak $8.5 million showing for Blood Diamond, which landed in fifth place.
I’m not sure I plan on seeing this one, but Djimon Honsou is getting a lot of award attention for his supporting performance, although Leo’s definitely depending on Scorcese for his shot at an Oscar this year. Unaccompanied Minors opened in sixth with $6.2 million and a poor $2.2 thousand average. DÃ©jÃ Vu was seventh with $6 million for a $52 million cume. It looks to come in on the low end of that Denzel box office range I mentioned last week, but still, what’s the last absolute bomb anyone can remember that guy anchoring?
The Nativity Story held up reasonably well with $5.5 million, down 29% for a $15 million total, but with a $35 million budget and only a little over $1 million from overseas, this is going to struggle to turn a profit. Big apologies to Christian family audiences, but in spite of the Weinsteins opening a specialty arm catering just to you, I’m betting this is the last we’ll see of these widely-released, overtly religious-themed films. That’s the power of box office.
Deck the Halls came in at number nine with $3.9 million and a $30 million total, followed by The Santa Clause 3 with $3.3 million. I’ve talked a bit of trash about being subjected to more Tim Allen movies thanks to the returns for the latest Santa Clause movie, which is up to $77 million. But just for good karma, I’d like to point out that I worked briefly for Bobby Newmyer, who produced all three SC flicks, when I first came to Los Angeles,
and he was decent guy who didn’t mind chatting with a starry-eyed intern and had a weakness for sappy family films like this when he wasn’t getting movies like Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Training Day made. I only mention this because he died pretty suddenly about a year ago, and there is some part of me that’s happy to see the franchise still connecting with folks, even if it isn’t me. It’s easy to be snippy with all the bad movies that get made, but it’s important to remember that there are good folks behind a lot of them.
Borat finally fell out of the top ten, collecting $2.5 million and topping $120 total, and Turistas absolutely crumbled 62% to $1.3 million for a really poor $5.8 million total. Figures like this always make me really appreciate The Ring, probably the only horror film in recent memory that generated its box office total on word-of-mouth and being a genuinely good, studio-generated horror film, instead of pulling in the bulk of its bucks in the first weekend, before word could get out about how badly it sucked. If anyone can think of another example, I’d love to hear it.
So that’s it for this week, folks. Keep your eyes peeled for some awards-season coverage, some more reviews, and tune in next week when Charlotte’s Web tries in futility to surpass the original, Eragon tries in futility to match Lord of the Rings numbers, and The Pursuit of Happyness tries with some success to get Will Smith taken seriously. I’m telling you, that guy’s got the chops to be a real actor. Seriously. Stop laughing.