The Theory of Chaos

Sunday, May 14, 2006

May 12-14, 2006: Another ship proves, sadly, all too sinkable

It was a soft, cushioned fall for most movies at the box office this weekend – Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day clearly inspire similar numbers of stay-at-homes. And we still haven’t had the true explosive opening of the summer 2006 movie season, so eyes turn now to next week, which carries a double bill of The DaVinci Code and Over the Hedge. Both should have drastic impact on the fortunes of this weekend’s contenders, and either could potentially bring out that audience that’s been pining for the popcorn season.

But this weekend the new wide releases, without exception, failed to turn out the masses, which is particularly damaging to the backers of the $160 million-budgeted Poseidon. Stop, for a moment, to consider that for director Wolfgang Peterson, who once made the beguiling Neverending Story and the devilishly ingenious Das Boot on such small budgets, this is actually cheaper than his most recent picture, Troy.

But for once the egos behind Mission: Impossible III have something to gloat about – this time of year, winning two weekends in a row is a rare feat indeed. And so that’s where we begin.

1. Mission: Impossible III

Weekend Take: $24.5M
Current Domestic Total: $84.6M

This is more victory by default, than anything. These numbers are merely estimates, but if they hold up they indicate a 48.7% drop from the previous weekend, which is an enormous relief considering the dire possibilities I talked about last week. This could be a response to the belated spread of the word that – you know, this movie isn’t really that bad, its space-cadet star notwithstanding. But the less-than-inspiring midweek numbers show that this is too-little, too-late, and Mission: Impossible III seems destined to finish as that new and peculiar breed of Hollywood bird: the “blockbuster” that surpasses $100M and is still perceived a failure. I’d put the over-under for its final domestic gross at about $122M right now. Not nearly enough.

The rest of the top 10 behind the jump.

2. Poseidon
Weekend Take: $20.3M
Current Domestic Total: $20.3M

Warner Brothers was lowering expectations like a campaign handler before the big debate on this one, and there is a grain of truth in its argument that the target audience for a movie like this skews older, and therefore doesn’t just dash out on opening day. They bide their time and consider the critical reaction, which isn’t a good portent in this case. Between the reviews and the likelihood of grown-up moviegoers flocking to The DaVinci Code next weekend, Poseidon is in big, big trouble.

So what happened? Some of it you might chalk up to confusion, since NBC produced a TV adaptation of the very same novel as a sweeps event last November. Both were remakes of an original that was already a well-known hit; Warner Brothers did not do quite a good enough job making the case that there was any good reason to re-re-tell the story, except that special effects have advanced beyond the old models-in-the-swimming-pool phase, and thinking up new things is hard.

I also wonder if American audiences have given up on these goofy disaster scenarios that we’re supposed to treat with gravitas. We live in a world where an almost numbing streak of horrendous real-life disasters have altered their potential for escapism – we’ve all watched too much of the evening news to think anymore that problems like these only happen to pretty movie stars.

3. RV

Weekend Take: $9.5M
Current Domestic Total: $42.8M

A frankly stunning 13.5% drop-off is a sign that this movie essentially has the family comedy audience to itself for another week; smart calendar positioning for Sony. Releasing this in the height of summer, which might be the first impulse with a star like Robin Williams in this genre, would likely have caused it to get lost in the crowd. Now they’ve got a safe mid-range performer under their belt heading into this weekend’s big DaVinci tentpole release.

4. Just My Luck

Weekend Take: $5.5M
Current Domestic Total: $5.5

Yet another exhibit in the sad finding that being famous doesn’t necessarily make you popular, Lohan’s debut as a grown-up romantic comedy lead proves the fickleness of the teen-and-tween girl audience which has so far paid for all her fancy clothes. Three years ago, this number for a $10M high school comedy would have been fine and dandy, but her star power was put to a higher test here and failed. Before she turned into the feud-starting, album-recording, Fez-snogging party girl, there were glimpses of real talent and charisma. Her next release is a range-widening effort in the ensemble of Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, perhaps it will have a rehabilitative effect.

5. An American Haunting

Weekend Take: $3.7M
Current Domestic Total: $10.9M

The relatively small drop-off is good news for director Courtney Solomon, whose last movie was the unintentional comedy masterpiece Dungeons & Dragons. Reactions to this new effort of his have been mixed to say the least but enough of the curious are coming out, my guess is from that undernourished “Gimme That Old Time Religion” crowd responding to the exorcism content and its angle of being based on a supposedly-true story. This will end up a minor success financially but an enormous boon for its distributor.

6. United 93

Weekend Take: $3.6M
Current Domestic Total: $25.6M

A solid hold for a risky project, Universal took that first tentative step into the marketplace with a 9-11 story; they did it smartly and without sensation and they’re now reaping the benefit of it. Whether the forthcoming big-budget Oliver Stone piece has the same future remains to be seen. Did I say “without sensation”? Aye, there’s the rub.

7. Stick It

Weekend Take: $3.2M
Current Domestic Total: $22.2M

Stick It is leaving the top ten with a relative whimper, never having made much noise at the multiplex to begin with. It can look forward to profitability without having ever really roused the masses.

8. Ice Age: The Meltdown

Weekend Take: $3.0M
Current Domestic Total: $187.4M

This is the last weekend that Ice Age gets to hoard the kiddie crowd, and it made the most of it, taking another healthy bite from the trough in spite of shedding a number of its screens. When it steps aside for Over the Hedge, it will damn near be courteous. The only possible thorn in Fox’s side is that breaching the $200M barrier, which often triggers bonuses and higher home video pre-buys up and down the board, is now only a remote possibility.

9. Silent Hill

Weekend Take: $2.2M
Current Domestic Total: $44.5M

There are a finite number of screens in America, and with new wide releases every week exhibitors must pick and choose among the older movies in order to make room. They’ve waved the white flag on Silent Hill, pulling it off 700 of its almost 2,500 screens in its fourth weekend, with more to come this weekend. Formerly this would be a sign of meltdown, in today’s Hollywood it’s practically business as usual, and we can look forward to this movie easing into the black via 5,000 airings on the Sci-Fi Channel.

10. Hoot

Weekend Take: $2.1M
Current Domestic Total: $6.2M

A soft drop is a help to Hoot, but not its savior. This is little more than a toe stub to Walden Media, still fat from Narnia dollars, and the movie should have a long ancillary life among fans of the book if handled properly.

12. Goal! The Dream Begins
Weekend Take: $2.0M
Current Domestic Total: $2.0M

We’re dipping out of the top ten to mention this other wide release for the weekend. Now, conventional wisdom would hold that a $2M opening for a movie with a $30M budget is a nightmare in the making, but that disregards the international flavor of this piece, which is positioned to capitalize on overseas soccer-mania and the forthcoming World Cup tournament. The producers will not be relying on the domestic take for make-or-break solvency here; it’s a loss, but it’s also a sacrifice to get some experience catering to the growing Latino audience. It remains to be seen if this will affect plans for the other two episodes in a planned trilogy.


Post a Comment

<< Home