erik lundegaard

Movies - Box Office posts

Monday June 14, 2010

Hollywood B.O.: The B-Team

In the battle of the 1980s remakes, “The Karate Kid” kicked the butt of “The A-Team” at the U.S. box office last weekend: $56 million to $26 million. This is gratifying on several levels:

  • “Kid”'s Rotten Tomatoes rating is almost 20 points higher than “A-Team”'s, 70% to 53%, or among top critics 66% to 48%, and I've been a longtime proponent of the notion that quality matters.
  • Jackie Chan. I've been a fan since the days when the U.S. feared Japanese economic might rather than Chinese economic might, and I'm always happy when he does well at the U.S. box office.
  • “Kid” is a formulaic underdog story. “A-Team” is a formulaic overdog story. If you're going formula, I'll take the underdog.
  • “The A-Team” cost $110 million, stars three white guys and an angry black guy, and was futzed over by 11 screenwriters hired and fired by Fox, a studio which is infamous for dumbing down its product. “The Karate Kid” cost $40 million, stars a black kid and a Chinese guy, lists only one screenwriter, and its studio, Sony, was able to keep itself out of the conversation.

As for why it did well? I don't think any of the above really had much to do with it. I think it opened well for the following reasons:

  • It stars a kid who looks like a kid. Kids identify.
  • It's rated PG (rather than the more covetted PG-13) so kids can actually see it.
  • One line from the trailer: “I get it. You're Yoda and I'm like a Jedi.” 

What kid wouldn't want to go after hearing that line? It's a real-life Yoda-Luke thing!

As for the rest of the top 15? A steady if unremarkable decline for the crap May/June releases. It looks like “Sex and the City 2,” currently at $84.7 million, will peter out (sorry) before $100 million. It looks like “Robin Hood,” at $99.6 million, won't.

But the worst performer seems to be “Marmaduke.” After 10 days, in over 3,200 theaters, its domestic box office stands at a mere $22 million. Not good for a family comedy with a budget of $50 million. But this should be expected: its RT rating is only 11%. And its studio? Fox.

“I get it: You're Yoda and I'm like a Jedi.” The irony is that the old master, “Star Wars,” is a Fox film, but from its wiser, 20th Century days.

Posted at 08:49 AM on Jun 14, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday June 06, 2010

Hollywood B.O.: “Shrek” Holds off “Marmaduke” with One Hand

Dreamworks should send a thank-you note to Fox. This weekend, Fox's “Marmaduke” opened to bad reviews (12% among RT's top critics) and weak box office ($11 million in 3,200+ theaters, or sixth place), allowing Dreamworks' tired, overweight “Shrek” to huff atop the weekend charts for the third time.

Of course if Dreamworks begins its “thank you”s there, where do they stop? Thanks, Lions Gate, for putting so much money and effort into another Ashton Kutcher movie. Thanks, New Line, for trotting out Carrie and the girls (on camels!) one time too many. Thanks, Disney, for attempting to build a franchise around a video game even though only one video-game adaptation, “Lara Croft,” ever grossed over $100 million, while the streets are strewn with pieces of the rest: “Max Payne,” “Doom,” “BloodRayne,” “Street Fighter.” Thanks, everyone. 

Here's the weekend top 10. Reverse some positions and the top-10 grossing movies are also the top-10 movies in terms of availability. We're seeing what's out there. Which is why we're not seeing much:

* top critics only

A year ago “The Hangover” opened with an RT rating of 78% and grossed $44.9 million in its first three days. Pixar's “Up,” in its second week, with an RT rating of 95%, finished second with $44.1 million. “Land of the Lost” and “My Life in Ruins” both received scathing reviews and died out of the gate. They keep sending us movies to die out of the gate.

Here's the good news if you just want Shrek to go away: “Toy Story 3” arrives in two weeks.

Me, I've only been seeing SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) movies the past two weeks. Thus far? “Restrepo.” Repeat: “Restrepo.”

Posted at 12:45 PM on Jun 06, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office, Restrepo
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Sunday May 30, 2010

Hollywood B.O.: Ladies Second

Two years ago "Sex and the City" made $59 million during its three-day opening weekend: $26M+ and $17M+ and $12M+. This year, "Sex and the City 2" is estimated to make $46 million over its four-day opening weekend (Thurs.-Sun.): $14M, $13M, $10M., $9M. Adjust for inflation and it's even worse: $63M for three days vs. $46M for four. Take out Thursday's total for "2" and its opening weekend is about half of what "1"'s was. 

Now it could be that the fashionistas are waiting until Monday to celebrate Memorial Day with the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse. But I doubt it. So why the comedown?

Last week I argued the latest "Shrek" faltered because the previous "Shrek" stank. There's carryover.

I'd argue that the previous "SATC" wasn't that good, either. In fact, I did argue it. But I think "SATC 2" mostly suffered because, well, it just looked awful.

I saw a clip a few weeks ago on "The Daily Show." The four women are out in the desert riding camels. Samantha complains of hot flashes, to which Carrie states the obvious: You're in the desert; you're supposed to have hot flashes. That's a joke. Then Charlotte gets a call on her cell but she's having trouble with the connection and does the "Can you hear me now?" bit. She keeps leaning and leaning. And then she falls off the camel. That's a joke, too. And that was the clip.

And I thought: "If that's the clip, what's the rest of the movie like?"

I'm probably not the only one to have this thought.

Women, I've heard, tend to pay more attention to movie critics than men. That's one of the problems Hollywood execs have with women: they care about quality.

"SATC," of course, is a fairly critic-proof franchise but not completely. It can squeak by with a not-horrible 53% rating, as the first movie garnered from top critics at But "SATC 2" garnered a 9% rating from top critics—and it was a pretty loud 9% rating, too. People heard. Women heard.

My guess is that "2" won't gross more than $115M. If word-of-mouth is bad, as it seems to be, it might not break its $100-million budget.

In other news, "Prince of Persia" (23%) proved it was no tentpole in the desert, finishing third with $30 million.

Their loss, "Shrek"'s gain. It fell by only 38% to remain no. 1 for the weekend. The lesser of three evils.

Posted at 06:42 PM on May 30, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday May 24, 2010

"Shrek" Sinks Because "Shrek" Stinks

Dreamworks' "Shrek Forever After" opened with the third-highest opening weekend of the year—behind only "Iron Man 2" and "Alice in Wonderland"—with over $70 million domestic (estimated). 

A triumph? Not really.

Here are the opening weekends for the four "Shrek" movies. All numbers are adjusted to 2010 dollars:

* Top Critics Only
** All numbers are adjusted to 2010 dollars

That's quite a comedown.

Obviously new films tend to open weaker than sequels, which is what happened with the first "Shrek." But because "Shrek" was good (86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) it went on to gross $375 million, or no. 3 for the year.

And because "Shrek" was good, its sequel, "Shrek 2," opened gangbusters: $138 million. And because "Shrek 2" was good (88% rating on RT) it went on to gross $564 million, or no. 1 for the year. In fact, until "Dark Knight" and "Avatar" came along, it was the no. 1 movie of the decade.

And because "Shrek 2" was good, its sequel, "Shrek the Third" opened gangbusters: $140 million. But because "Shrek the Third" wasn't good (49% on RT) it went on to gross only $372 million. I know: "only." But that's a $200 million drop from the previous film.

And because "Shrek the Third" wasn't good, its sequel "Shrek Forever After," opened with half the numbers of "Shrek the Third": $71 million. And because "Shrek Forever After" isn't good, either (40%), I assume it'll gross even less. Will it gross $250 million? Will it outdo "How to Train Your Dragon," which is already at $210 million?

Other factors could be at work, of course. The world's complex. Maybe there were simply better options this weekend. Maybe people are finally tired of this 10-year-old franchise. Maybe we don't have the patience for any fourth movie.

But in general I think the above is how moviegoing works—and it tends to be ignored by the powers-that-be. If you keep making a quality version of a beloved product, people will show up. Once the quality slips, the audience slips.

BTW: When referring to "good" and "bad" versions of "Shrek," I'm talking about the general critical reception, which, I argue, and have argued, is on par with general audience reception and word-of-mouth. Me, I only saw the first "Shrek," which I didn't like.

Look, Donkey! Maybe people are finally sick of us!

Posted at 06:40 AM on May 24, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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Friday March 12, 2010

Box Office Stat of the Day: Average Weekly Movie Attendance for the Last 100 Years

Via George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success: How much we loved movies (or not) in the first year of every decade:

Year U.S. Pop.* Avg. Movie Att. (Weekly)**
1910 92 26
1920 106 38
1930 123 90
1940 132 80
1950 151 60
1960 179 25
1970 203 17
1980 226 19
1990 248 23
2000 281 27

* in millions
** ditto

I believe Edward Jay Epstein, in his book The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, said '46 or '47 was the big year in terms of weekly movie attendance. 95 million? Something like that? After the war people wanted to do nothing so much as go into a dark theater for 90 minutes. Similar to 1930, though, on this chart.

What's surprising is the reversal since George Lucas' 1970s. I didn't know that. As a percentage of population, weekly attendance hasn't risen much, going from 8% in 1970 to 9% in 2000. But percentage of populaton shouldn't matter as much as asses in the seats, which, despite TV and VHS and video games, has risen 62%. And that's not the volume of our asses, either. Plus, these are merely domestic figures. Imagine the global numbers.

It'll be interesting to see what DVDs have wrought this past decade. Or what 3-D will do to get moviegoers back into the theaters this year. "I see you" indeed.

The beautifully refurbished Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Minn.

Posted at 07:21 AM on Mar 12, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office
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