Perhaps little exemplifies September more than the fact that The Accidental Husband got its release date bumped again, to sometime in 2009. This is the sort of thing which happened to Charlie Bartlett, to ill effect. It’s not really a read on the quality of the films, but there’s a very real sense that what gets released in September is somehow more disposable. Even in the case of strong performing films, they can never really overcome the second or third tier feeling.
This September? Well, let’s just see.
Prediction: $10m Open, $25m Final
Actual: $8m Open, $15m Current, ~$15m Final
At some point, Hollywood will probably realize that it can’t keep bringing over talented Asian directors to make their own films but in the Hollywood way. It just doesn’t work. The past several years has seen the Asian horror genre crash and burn, especially when the original directors are brough along for the ride. And everyone bemoans the career path of John Woo. Even with the high point of Face/Off, none of his stateside work has come close to the depth or visceral enjoyment of his Hong Kong films.
This remake is really no different. Another talented Asian coming to the US and delivering a stinker. This isn’t an indication of the directoral talent, but it might not be just because of producer meddling, either. With hope it won’t unfairly malign the entire Thai film industry. Unlike Japan or Hong Kong, it doesn’t have a strong base of fan support, so there’s a chance that people will take what they’ve seen in the US and cast the same pall over the original work back at home. That would be a shame, because there are some really good Thai films.
As far as this film, though, it’s certainly in line with other shovel work from Nicholas Cage. Ultimately forgettable, it’s seen drops of at least 65% every weekend.
A suggestion: go see Killer Tattoo.
Burn After Reading
Prediction: For some inexplicable reason, I didn’t predict this. Perhaps I thought it was going to get a platform release.
Actual: $19m Open, $55m Current, ~$65m Final
The Coen Brothers’ followup to their Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men has done very, very well for them. It’s clearly not as great a film, but the business has been very strong. They scored their biggest opening (and first #1), and it’s already cruised past all their other films except No Country to be their second highest grosser.
This is a bit of a turnabout for the Coens, actually. Their work history has tended to gravitate between doing limited release films that are well regarded and strong business (for the style of release), and more commercial fare that’s flawed and not as well received. If No Country for Old Men was the limited release film done good, Burn After Reading would be the flawed commercial film. Except that unlike The Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty, it’s done very well for itself, despite the problems.
A good amount of credit can probably be given to the marketing department of Focus Features. Highlighting the antics of Brad Pitt did quite well to sell the film even if (upon viewing), he’s a supporting player, not the main character.
The Family that Preys
Prediction: $15m Open, $35m Final
Actual: $17m Open, $36m Current, ~$40m Final
The addition of Kathy Bates didn’t have a large effect on Tyler Perry’s latest. In fact, this is going to be slightly on the low side for him, although it’s not too out of line for expectations. Even if it’s his lowest grossing film since Daddy’s Little Girls, it’s still a massive money-maker.
Perry’s managed to make himself a cottage movie industry. He’s able to produce films at a quick rate (up to two a year), do it cheaply (I’d be amazed if any of his films have cost much more than $10m to make), and is able to consistently reap big profits. He’s probably never going to see a huge grossing-film, and might go his entire career without cracking the century mark, but that doesn’t matter. His next film is going to put his career total above $300m, and it’ll likely do so on less than $60m in total costs. Tyler Perry is gold, and even a relatively weak performance like The Family that Preys isn’t going to undermine that.
Next up has him donning the Madea fat suit again in February’s Madea Goes to Jail. Expect it to hit along the higher end of his films.
Prediction: $10m Open, $30m Final
Actual: $16m Open, $38m Current, $40m Final
This isn’t really good news, but neither is it bad. Righteous Kill has had a thoroughly lackluster box office run. Despite the hopeful promise of a good meeting between stars Pacino and DeNiro, the quality of the film wasn’t apparent and audiences didn’t latch onto it, either.
Of the four films released this weekend, it was easily the most expensive, coming in at $60m. While it probably will see a profit, eventually, it’s going to take some time after the DVD release to do so. For the two stars, this probably won’t mean a whole lot. They’re at the point in their careers when they can rest on their laurels pretty well. DeNiro’s going to get a critical bounce-back, at least, with What Just Happened and Pacino’s going to portray Salvador Dali in a film coming out next year.
Director Jon Avnet should be much more worried. He’s had Al Pacino for two films this year and both of them underwhelmed business-wise and were hammered by the critics. Such is not the combination for a long career, unless you’re self-financing (and perhaps not even then.)
Prediction: $10m Open, $40m Final
Actual: $10m Open, $26m Current, ~$28m Final
Picturehouse went all-out on this release. It premiered in more theaters than either Burn After Reading or The Family that Preys. The advertising was out there, if a bit late in coming, and was rather strong to boot. If we were just looking at promised potential, The Women might be a bit underwhelming.
However, it’s still the second biggest release from Picturehouse by a rather wide margin. It won’t get within sight of the $37m that Pan’s Labyrinth earned, but it is well past the $20m for A Prarie Home Companion. Against a $16m budget, it’s done quite well. I felt I was a bit bullish with my $10m opening, but it hit that fairly easily.
The problem is in the legs. Usually there’s an expectation that films marketed to women will have stronger legs. Conventional wisdom has it that guys are the sorts who want to see the film on opening day, but girls are willing to wait. This seemed to be the case for The Women, which had a decent hold on the second weekend. It turns out that the third weekend was the weak point. Competition took the rug out from under it and it’s not managed to recover.
Even so, a decent result, if not a spectacular one.
Prediction: $5m Open, $20m Final
Actual: $15m Open, $36m Current, ~$40m Final
When expectations are low, it’s easy to exceed them. For both director Neil LaBute and star Samuel L. Jackson, Lakeview Terrace is good news. The business isn’t big, but it’s big enough to be considered a success. This is especially true considering the film’s slim $20m budget. If there’s any bad news, it’s the tepid critical response. They may have tried for a taught, awards-potential thriller, but what they gave was a modestly successful but forgettable autumn thriller.
For LaBute, this cancels out The Wicker Man and gives him his biggest opening and total tally ever. He’s still a long way away from being a commercial name, but he could build on this to get something bigger.
For Jackson, it’s a nice uptick from most of his recent starring roles. In fact, it’s a bigger opening and final than the much more heavily hyped Snakes on a Plane from two years ago.
My Best Friend’s Girl
Prediction: $20m Open, $60m Final
Actual: $8m Open, $18m Current, ~$20m Final
It’s fairly easy to see where this film went wrong, but there’s a bigger question of why didn’t anything go right for it. While clearly neither Dane Cook nor Jason Biggs are a draw, this was a poor result for Kate Hudson.
Her previous two films (Fools Gold and You, Me, and Dupree) both opened north of $20 million and finished upwards of $70m. Granted, in those cases she was paired up with male leads who were more recognizable and liked than Cook. But even for her solo efforts Raising Helen and The Skeleton Key, she managed greater than $10m openings and $30m finals.
She’s not a huge draw, but she’s modestly successful. My Best Friend’s Girl isn’t even modestly acceptable, though. The combination of Hudson + Cook opened to a good $5m less than Cook + Jessica Alba. Alba’s not a rom-com draw like Hudson, though. I’m going to assume that what happened here is a mixed message. Dane Cook tells the audience that it’s frat boy humor. Jessica Alba says hot babe that frat boys like. Kate Hudson says more female empowering babe. It doesn’t quite gel with Cook’s message. She doesn’t draw guys, he turns off girls, hence nobody goes to see the movie.
Hudson’s next rom-com is Bride Wars which has her up against Anne Hathaway, which should do a lot better than this one.
Prediction: $15m Opening, $50m Final
Actual: $8m Opening, $18m Current, ~$20m Final
The primary cause for the low gross here is that the visual style of the film far outstripped the quality. Igor looks great, as a sort of cross between Pixar and Tim Burton. However the delivery leaves much to be desired, and certainly doesn’t stand in the company of either.
However, there’s a more important reason for the low final tally. Despite the small opening, Igor held up quite well in its second weekend, dropping under 35% and earning above $5m. However, in its third and fourth weekends, it’s dropped upwards of 60%.
As weak as Igor was on release, it did stand as the only family option for a couple weeks. On its third weekend it got steamrolled by chihuahuas.
Prediction: $10m Opening, $25m Final
Actual: $5m Opening, $13m Current, ~$15m Final
Ironically, this was the best reviewed of the movies that weekend. The opening was pretty anemic, but we can probably chalk that up to the poor marketing. Despite apparently being a good film (and Gervais is a talented comedian), the advertising made it all seem pretty bland and forgetful, so the audience apparently forgot to go see it. Perhaps it will see some life on DVD.
This actually held up well for a couple weeks, seeing second and third weekend drops under 50%. In that sense, it’s a bit like Igor. Unlike Igor, however, there wasn’t any new comedy competition in the third weekend to account for the 66% drop. Perhaps it just saturated its potential audience by that point.
Prediction: $30m Open, $85m Final
Actual: $29m Open, $76m Current, ~$95m final
After three weeks of studios throwing everything they could at audiences to see what would really stick (Burn After Reading, really), this was the first near-certain success. While it’s arguable that Eagle Eye opened at the low end of predictions, it’s held up very well, with two weeks of sub-40% drops.
Shia LaBeouf has done fairly well to establish himself as a bona fide star. While he can’t claim Transformers or Indiana Jones as his, the success of Disturbia and now Eagle Eye has done a lot to build his personal brand, despite some of his off-screen actions. He’s managed the nice trick of appearing in both high-concept blockbusters to get his name and face out, but also strong, smaller fare where his name is the only thing really going for it. Contrast it to Orlando Bloom’s career: managed to get the first part, but hasn’t delivered on the second.
There’s a chance Eagle Eye will see a final tally upwards of $100m. But while it has been holding well, it may just run out of time before the holiday season distracts audiences. The real deadline is November 14, when Quantum of Solace arrives as the next major actioner.
Nights in Rodanthe
Prediction: $15m Open, $60m Final
Actual: $13m Open, $37m Current, ~$45m Final
While the combination of Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and Nicholas Sparks should be some sort of perfect storm for non-comedy romances, this is a slightly underwhelming result. In comparison to previous films in the genre starring Lane and Gere (separately or apart) this is going to finish up almost perfectly average. It probably won’t quite match the $52m the two earned together in 2002 with Unfaithful.
Similarly, it isn’t a great result for Sparks. It will earn more than 2002’s A Walk to Remember, but not as much as 1999’s Message in a Bottle. And it’s far behind the breakout success of The Notebook in 2004, although in that case it was bolstered by the much stronger weekday sessions of a summer release.
To be fair, the breakout potential for a romance is going to be rather limited. With romantic comedies, there’s a better chance for crossover, but without the impetus to laugh, most men will wonder what they’re supposed to be experiencing. (Whether or not this is a real reaction or an instance of societal peer pressure is a top I won’t delve into, though.)
It’s not a bad result for Nights in Rodanthe, but given the pedigree of the people involved, it does feel somewhat underwhelming.
Prediction: No prediction
Actual: $7m Open, $20m Current, ~$30m Final
Sometimes films will come out of nowhere. Despite being on none of the typical radars, Fireproof managed to hit number 4 in the box office its opening weekend and has held on quite well.
It does this because it fits its niche. And that niche is Christianity. For the most part, the general-movie public isn’t going to know about these releases unless they’re anomalous and have a large crossover, as happened with Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia. There will be public perception after the fact in some cases, but it’s usually short lived.
Fireproof is notable not only because it managed a strong release, but also the legs its displayed. Relative to expectations, which were near non-existant, this is a bona fide blockbuster. It’s also helped because it cost a slim $500,000 to make. The return on investment here is huge, and it would probably serve well to the movie studios to take a lesson: they can hit the Christian market and hit it well without needing the films to be the next Passion.
Miracle at St. Anna
Prediction: $10m Open, $35m Final
Actual: $3.5m Open, $8m Current, ~$9m Final
While Spike Lee’s ability to weave stories of inner-city racial tension are well accounted, it seems he doens’t quite have the same keen hand on the keel for war films. It seems the consensus is that Lee had some strong ideas to work with here, but wasn’t able to pull them together in a strongly cohesive whole.
I wonder if there might be a wider war movie backlash at play. Films focusing on the Middle East have failed to work for the past several years, but it seems that even films about World War 2 are starting to falter. After a number of successes in the late 90s and early 00s, there have been fewer of late and those that were released haven’t gotten a toe-hold. Clint Eastwood’s twosome of Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima didn’t even manage $50m between them.
It could be that audiences are likely to tune out anything that has a war sensation until the war is actually over. The WW2 films succeeded in a period of high patriotism for what happened in that war. Right now, the general public is very down on the concept of Americans fighting, so they won’t really respect depictions of such, at least not directly. Transformers managed a rather positive depiction of the US Military.
September wasn’t too surprising this year. It started off with a whimper and then had weeks of the studios throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. In the end, we’ve got two large successes (Burn After Reading and Eagle Eye), and a number of middling performances along with a few failures. On the upside for the studios, just about everything released was cheap, so most will probably see a profit in the end.