Alright, look- I’m not completely cured of my movie snobbery. I suppose I knew it would take more than Black Christmas. People don’t change overnight, after all. So you’re going to have to forgive me as I tap out my gut reaction to the news that Stomp the Yard catapulted to the top of the weekend box office with $26.4 million from two thousand theatres for a $12k average per theatre.
Of course I didn’t contribute to that $26 million, so it only adds to my liberal elitism that I am content to trash a movie I haven’t seen. And what do I know? Maybe it’s a good movie. I mean, a 25% rating on Rottentomatoes.com isn’t the only way to gauge a movie’s worth. And everybody seems to agree that the dancing is pretty good. But I took one look at the trailer for Stomp the Yard, and I knew instantly just about everything that was going to happen in this movie. It’s the same formulaic tripe studios have been cranking out for years, just superimposing the same story over different “worlds”. Check out Center Stage, set in the ultra-competitive world of ballet, You Got Served, set in the ultra-competitive world of break dancing, or Save the Last Dance, set in the ultra-competitive world of… I don’t really know what world that one was set in.
These kinds of movies don’t quite fall into that old moviegasm adage about piggy-backing on the artistic success of someone else because there is no originator, or if there is, it’s been buried under decades of repetitive, predictable and uninspired story telling. But I don’t blame the kids that go to see them for encouraging such movies to be made. If they’re satisfied with paying $10 to see the same story over and over again, who am I to judge? What I want to know is, where are their parents? Where are their older brothers and sisters? Where are the people who want- nay, expect- more from a movie than that?
I will continue to preach this in the box-office wrap until the studios put a hit out on me, which I expect any day now: as film goers, we have a voice. Studios love it when a movie like Stomp the Yard does well, because it’s easy. They can churn out movies like that by the dozens, and will do so as long as it remains profitable. What they don’t like is a demand for originality, substance, or something… you know… good. And the apathy of people who would like more from major studios only encourages them. Why did Stomp the Yard make more in one weekend than Babel has in twelve? Why hasn’t Letters From Iwo Jima, even in limited release, made even $1 million dollars yet? Children of Men came in at number seven this weekend with just $7.4 million, bringing its total to $22 million. Even if it comes from behind to land a best picture nomination, it almost certainly won’t make back its $76 million budget. That doesn’t just mean that studio heads won’t greenlight apocalyptic movies anymore. It makes it harder to get that kind of budget for thematically complex and character-driven movies. It means that Alfonso Cuaron will have a harder time getting his next film made, and Clive Owen will have to do a Batman movie to get back in the good graces of the money men.
We have the power to change that just by showing up. Maybe you won’t like those movies; they’re not easy. They’re not formulaic. You have to think about them some. But I’d rather be let down by a movie that’s trying to challenge me than not be disappointed by a movie that’s not trying to do anything. Or at least, I’d like to have the option, and if we don’t exercise our voices a little differently, it won’t be up to us anymore.
That was, by leaps and bounds, the most pretentious, self-righteous ivory-tower rant ever given by someone who actually found kind words to say about Black Christmas. As Doc Holliday might say, it would seem my hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Since I’m sure to get a barrage of comments to that effect from irate Stomp the Yard fans, I’ll breeze through the otherwise-uneventful box-office numbers. Night at the Museum continues to rake it in, coming in second place with $21.5 million and raising its total to $190 million. Numbers like that are only going to solidify a trend toward using comedies as summer tentpole pics, especially if the forthcoming Evan Almighty brings in the same kind of numbers. Pursuit of Happyness hung on to the number three spot with $11 million, bringing its total to $138 million, in spite Will Smith’s strangely declining Oscar buzz. Dreamgirls finished in the four spot with $10 million dollars, something of a disappointment after more than doubling its theatre count. Cume stands at $67 million. Freedom Writers had a decent hold, falling only 6% (over a four day weekend, of course) to finish at number five with $8.7 million and a $20 million total. Budgeted at just $21 million, Writers looks to at least be profitable, though finding good vehicles for Hillary Swank will continue to be an issue for her agents.
Alpha Dog opened at number six, bringing in $7.5 million for a decent $5.8 thousand per theatre. Believe it or not, Justin Timberlake is getting some decent and some better-than-decent reviews for this film, and even I am a little intrigued. Until I hear otherwise, though, AD’s just a Netflick. Children of Men fell 27% to $7.4 million, and has taken in just $22 million so far. Primeval- a better than average killer crocodile movie- opened poorly with $7 million and a $2.8 thousand average. Something called Arthur and the Invisibles came in at number nine with $5.8 million. Somehow this one is completely off my radar, and I am, frankly, too lazy to look into it. Anyone know anything about this? Charlotte’s Web rounded out the top ten with $4.9 million, bringing its total to $73 million.
Outside the top ten, Pan’s Labyrinth added 150 theatres and brought in $2.7 million for a $5 million total. Picturehouse is showing good restraint in the release pattern, letting word of mouth and awards recognition spread before getting it out of the arthouses and into the multiplexes. A foreign language nomination is almost a sure thing, and if it wins, I’m looking for Pan’s to do at least $45-50 million.
That’s it for this week, folks. Tune in next week when The Hitcher opens against basically nothing with very little competition already in theatres, thus putting the future of gory remakes to a real test, and a slew of Golden Globe winners expand to try and capitalize on those little gold statues.