The same two movies dominated the top two spots at the box office this weekend, which is normally bad news for me. That means that nothing as interesting as 300‘s $70 million opening happened, of course, but I suppose it’s too much to expect numbers like that every weekend.
300 held on to the top spot this weekend in spite of dropping 56% to $31 million, still a $9.5k average, and raising its impressive domestic total to $127.4 million. What’s interesting, though, is that Zach Snyder’s critically panned (generally) adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel is on the verge of creating an international incident.
Check out this Time article for the details, but the gist of it is that Iranians are outraged by the portrayal of Persians in the film. And what’s more, they’re taking the film’s box office success as an indication of the American public’s support for invading Iran. Now, I’m pretty sure this is absurd. I’m willing to bet most of the people that bought tickets to 300 aren’t even aware of the connection between Persia and Iran, and in spite of a few articles suggesting the contrary, I’m also betting that most Americans don’t draw much of a connection between the content of the film and our current conflicts in the Middle East.
But that begs the question: why is the film so successful? I spent the weekend checking out Joon-ho Bong’s The Host (review pending) and rewatching The Wild Bunch, and I’m waiting for the crowds to die down a bit before catching 300 on IMAX this week, so I can’t speak to anyone who’s been to see it twice. Last week I expressed my admiration for Warner Bros. marketing of the film. They cut a good trailer, and Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong certainly gave it an interesting look. But at the end of the day, it’s about an obscure historical event, has no stars to speak of, is saddled with an R rating, and is competing with other star-driven vehicles like Ghost Rider and Wild Hogs (number two with $18.8 million, down 31%, for a $103.9 million total).
I know it’s my job to speculate about such things, but I’m actually at kind of a loss. So I put it to you, my faithful flock of moviegasm readers, where is all this success coming from? Am I underestimating the American public? Does the box office reflect some kind of popular support for more conflict in the Middle East? I don’t pretend to have a good sense of the national pulse, but it seems to me opinions are starting to swing the other way, towards pulling our troops out of there. So why the bloodlust at the multiplexes?
That’s a little heavy for Monday morning, I know, so let’s continue down the box office chart in search of a little levity. Aha! There it is! Somehow, Sandra Bullock managed to drive the awful-looking Premonition to a respectable $18 million bow from 2800 theatres for a decent $6k average. I actually like Sandra when she acts (she held her own in Crash, for instance), but this is not helping her make up for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous with me. Premonition is budgeted at just $20 million, so it should be a fairly profitable pre-summer entry for Sony, but it should also fall hard and fast after this week, if word on the street is worth anything. I like Julian McMahon, who plays Bullock’s philandering, sometimes-dead-sometimes-about-to-die hubby in the flick, but he’s got to make better choices than this. His Dr. Doom in last summer’s Fantastic Four was pretty dreadful, too. I also hear this is based on an Asian thriller, but I can’t find anything on imdb to support the claim. Anybody know something about this?
Dead Silence, the first non-Saw movie from director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, opened in fourth place to very un-Saw-like numbers with $7.7 million from 1800 theatres for a $4.3k average. I respected what those guys did with their budget on the first Saw, even injecting a little moral ambiguity into their characters and killer, but to follow it up with a ghost story about ventrilloquist dummies? That whole genre (if it could be called that) should have been dead and buried after Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone take on the subject. Still, I’ll probably see it right after 300, but even with my money it’s going to struggle to turn a profit after it’s $20 million budget is recouped. Hopefully Wan and Whannell will get another shot.
Chris Rock’s surprisingly well-reviewed I Think I Love my Wife fared even worse than Silence, opening in fifth with $5.7 million from roughly the same theatre count for a $3.2k average. The marketing push basically sucked for this movie (I think I saw one trailer that billed it as a straight comedy), but then again, I wouldn’t have the first idea how to sell a remake of Chloe in the Afternoon with Rock as writer, director, and star. At least it looks better than Head of State, his last directorial outing.
Bridge to Terabithia continues to hold up well, falling 24% (best in the top ten) to $5.1 million and bringing its total to $74 million. Kid flicks tend to be Netflix for me, but my curiosity remains piqued by this one. Ghost Rider followed for the second week in a row, down 40% to $4 million and a $110 million total. So much for Wes Bentley’s big comeback; I have yet to hear a peep about his work in GR. Too bad.
Zodiac continues to fall hard and fast, dropping 53% to $3 million, and raising its meager total to $28 million. Theatrically, it’s done. If it does well on video, though, why not capitalize on the critical buzz with a re-release come awards season? Norbit followed in ninth place with $2.7 million, down 36%, for a $92 million total. If it holds up, it might eek over the nine digit mark. Music and Lyrics rounded out the top ten with $2.2 million and a respectable $47 million total.
In limited release, The Host dropped off the box-office radar, but Mira Nair’s The Namesake continues to do well with $629k from 41 theatres, a $16k average, and $1 million total. Better still is Oscar winner The Lives of Others, which has been quietly scaling its way toward the top ten, finishing fourteenth this weekend (up from seventeenth last weekend) with $839k from 163 theatres, a decent $5k average, and a $4.6 million total from a budget of just $2 million. Word is the Weinstein’s are looking to remake this as an English language pic, which sounds like a terrible idea to me.
So that’s it for this week. Check back next Monday to see how a slew of new movies opened, including the well-marketed The Hills Have Eyes 2, the unfortunately titled The Last Mimzy, the well-reviewed but poorly marketed Adam Sandler/Don Cheadle pic Reign Over Me, the painfully familiar Mark Whalberg action flick Shooter, and a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, about which I have absolutely nothing to say.