Well, whatever the state of other current Hollywood fads, comic book movies are definitely still in vogue, and will be for some time to come now that Sony’s Ghost Rider adaptation has opened to a very good $51.5 million over the four-day weekend from 3600 theatres for a $14k average.
And not a moment too late for Nicholas Cage, who was finding it hard to live down The Wicker Man.
Cage is a notorious comic book fan, and has been trying to attach himself to a big screen adaptation since the craze began with X-Men and Spiderman. Most famously, he and Tim Burton were signed to what’s known as pay-or-play deals to do Superman a few years back. What that means is that they got paid their ridiculous salaries ($20 million and $10 million, if you believe the rumors) whether they made the movie or not. Obviously, they didn’t, so Cage wound up in the critically maligned Mark Steven Johnson (of Daredevil notoriety) directed pic. And in spite of that awful-looking hair piece (unless they just CGI’s Cage’s dome), damn if it hasn’t turned out to be a smart decision. Unless it falls off in a Hulk-like collapse, I’m sure everyone involved will get a crack at a sequel, so look for that in the fall of next year.
Bridge to Terabithia also opened well this weekend, bringing in $29 million from 3100 theatres for a decent $9k average. This one brought in some surprisingly good reviews, and I’m betting will wind up eclipsing Ghost Rider in the long run. Good reviews means good word of mouth means good legs, and with only Night at the Museum to compete with for family audiences, Terabithia should leap frog over Rider by next weekend. You can count on that sequel, too.
Norbit slipped to third place with $20 million, down 39%, which is steep considering it had the extra day to sell tickets. Word of mouth is catching up with the Eddie Murphy pic, and my guess is, with $62 million in the bank, it’ll struggle to get much past $100 million. It was followed by Music and Lyrics, the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, which opened decently with $16 million for the weekend and $21 million since Wednesday. I’m not sure I understand the mid-week opening for this one, but I guess it didn’t hurt. Grant’s romantic comedies tend to be mid-level programmers that make their money back and then some, but rarely approach nine-digit territory. Barrymore fares considerable less well, unless she’s opposite Adam Sandler, so look for this to fade away at a respectable rate, leaving theatres and memories at about the same time. Don’t worry; no sequel here.
In fourth place was Tyler Perry’s new film, for some reason called Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, with $14.3 milliion in a carefully targeted opening that yielded a good $6.7k average (it also opened on Wednesday, and has made $19.9 total). I missed the boat on the whole Tyler Perry/Medea thing, and I hear they’re not very good. But the guy came out of nowhere and carved out a very profitable little niche for himself and Lionsgate. So, bully for him.
Billy Ray’s Breach opened at number six with $12.3 million, which doesn’t sound like much but it was only on 1400 screens, so the $8.2k average is actually third among the top ten. Like Ray’s previous film, Shattered Glass, the film has gotten mostly good reviews, especially for Chris Cooper, and I hope Universal will go wider with it so Ray can get some exposure. He’s a talented screenwriter (word is that his very good scripts for Suspect Zero and Color of Night were butchered by the studios) that made a reasonable splash as a director with Glass. If this makes some decent money, I think he’s got some great movies in him down the road.
Hannibal Rising continues to fall hard, dropping 50% to $6.5 million for a $23 million total. Because I Said So is holding up much better, falling 35% to just under $6 million for a $34 million total. Night at the Museum wasn’t hit as hard by Terabithia as I would have expected, still in the top ten with an 18% drop to $4.7 million and $238 million total. The Messengers rounds out the top ten with $4.4 million and a $31 million total. Still nothing like Ring or Grudge numbers, but Sam Raimi’s Ghost House production shingle continues to embarrass Dark Castle by keeping costs and effects low and making movies (even their worst movies) that are scarier than Gothika and Ghost Ship.
Dreamgirls came in at number twelve with $1.8 million, making its total $99.8 million. I only mention this because Dreamworks is in an interesting position. If they have any clout. most actors’ and directors’ contracts contain clauses that pay them bonuses as the film reaches certain box office milestones. So they may get an extra $500,000 if the movie makes $50 million, and $1 million if it crosses the $100 million mark. Dreamgirls continues to fall hard and fast (per screen average is only $1.7k, and it’s only in about a thousand theatres), but when it crosses that $100 million mark today or tomorrow, it’s probably going to cost them several million in bonuses to Eddie Murphy, Jaime Foxx, Beyonce, and director Bill Condon. More, presumably, than it will earn if they leave it in theatres for another few weeks. So it would actually make sense, financially, for them pull it from theatres right now. They won’t do that because then none of those people would ever work with them again, but it’s just an interesting example of how complex the financing arrangements are on big movies, and the difficult position it can put studio execs in.
One last note before I leave you. Paramount/Dreamworks (hereafter, and previously, referred to as ‘Dreamamount’) has actually started pulling Letters from Iwo Jima from theatres. It lost 130 this past weekend, fell about 30% and made only $1.2 million for an $11.7 million total. I went off about this last week, but on the off, off, off chance that some exec over there is actually reading this: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You have a Clint Eastwood-directed Best Picture nominee with a recognizable star in Kan Watanabe, and you’re burying it in the weeks leading up to the Oscars. Do you just not have enough many left over after Flags of our Fathers? All I’m saying is, if Pan’s Labyrinth can make $30 million with Guillermo del Torro directing and no stars, Letters could do at least that and almost certainly more. Clint delivered; you guys dropped the ball. Shame on you.
So that’s it for this week. Tune in next week when Jim Carrey flips out in The Number 23, Billy Bob Thorton tries to bounce back from School for Scoundrels with the unfortunately-titled The Astronaut Farmer, some horror movie called The Abandoned opens, and someone loses their job for thinking Reno 911!:Miami was a good idea.