erik lundegaard

Movies - Box Office posts

Friday May 29, 2015

The Annotated Kyle Smith: What the NY Post Critic Gets Wrong About George Clooney, and Why

The following appeared in yesterday's New York Post under the headline “Face It, George Clooney Sucks.” The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is famously conservative, while the actor George Clooney is famously liberal. The piece is written by Kyle Smith (conservative, semi-famous), while the comments in bold are mine (liberal, not famous):

It's time for Hollywood to face facts: George Clooney is not a star. Because...?

If you matched them up head-to-head, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson would crush him — and I don't just mean literally. Ah, this is about box office. I've written about George Clooney's lack of box-office clout, too, a year and a half ago. I was just less of a douche about it. 

Clooney's latest is the gargantuan flop “Tomorrowland” — a $190 million bomb (not including $100 million or so in worldwide marketing costs) that looks like it's going to gross a little more than half of that at the North American box office. It'll be interesting to see how it does internationally, but, yes, it's not a hit in the U.S.

It's delicately being referred to as an underperformer because no one in Hollywood wants to hurt the fragile petals of Clooney's feelings. Isn't that the usual Hollywood euphemism: “underperformer”? I'm asking not telling. BTW: “fragile petals”? That's an example of the douchiness.

The failure of this supposed tentpole release is yet another sign that Clooney, who has been headlining movies for 19 years, just doesn't sell tickets. If his movies took in a dollar's profit for every magazine cover and breathless infotainment tidbit on him, they'd earn more money than they actually do at the box office. Clooney is on the cover of magazines because he sells magazines. It's called the free market. And if he doesn't open movies it's because not many actors open movies anymore. Characters open movies: Iron Man, Captain America, Katniss. (You could add “The Rock”; he's more character than actor.) Also because Clooney tends to make serious movies that open small. He's an adult in a kiddie culture. 

Stars like Johnson get fans excited enough to actually go to the movies. Clooney doesn't. That's a stretch, too. I like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson but he hardly opens movies. His three biggest hits are the three latest “Fast/Furious” films, where he's a supporting player. When he's the star, the movies do so-so: “Hercules” ($72m), “Pain and Gain” ($49.8), “Tooth Fairy” ($60).“ Don't even get me started on ”Doom“ ($28). Maybe things will change for him with ”San Andreas,“ but even there what's opening the film will be the spectacle: the apocalyptic porn, to quote ”Birdman.“

One role for which he was perfect — Danny Ocean — has created a lot of value for movie studios. Apart from the three ”Ocean's“ movies, the only other time he ever toplined a major hit was ”The Perfect Storm“ in 2000 — a movie whose star was a wave. Clooney wasn't pictured on the poster of that one and barely featured in the ads. Except in (sic) those four films, audience interest has been sparse. And ”Gravity.“ If you count the ”Fast/Furious“ films for Johnson, you have to count ”Gravity“ for Clooney.

From ”One Fine Day“ (1996) to ”Batman & Robin“ (1997) to ”Solaris“ (2002) to ”Intolerable Cruelty“ (2003) to ”The Good German“ (2006) to ”Leatherheads“ (2008) to ”The Men Who Stare at Goats“ (2009) to ”The Ides of March“ (2011) to ”The Monuments Men“ (2014), if Clooney was the main attraction, the movie was somewhere between a disappointment and a flop. Agreed. And most of those films were not only box office disappointments but critical disappointments. ... 

Of his 25 starring movies, four made a significant amount of money — that's a .160 batting average. That ain't cleanup hitter. That isn't even big-league. If Clooney were a shortstop, his only prayer of staying on the team would be if he were the owner's son. First rule of Hollywood: Most movies lose money. So the baseball analogy doesn't quite work. Or to make it work, you need to give us other batting averages.

It's not like Hollywood lacks for stars, defined as ”people who actually sell tickets.“ Again, look at Johnson: His notorious flop ”Hercules,“ from last year, still managed to gross $73 million in North America, $243 worldwide. Johnson is an odd choice to make this case. In the early 2000s, he was all but annointed the next Arnold Schwarzenegger and it never happened. He had muscles and personality, but the box office didn't arrive until he was attached to established vehicles, notably ”Fast/Furious.“ 

That's better than any of Clooney's movies has done since ”Ocean's Thirteen“ eight years ago. Except for ”Gravity,“ which grossed $716 million worldwide. 

Johnson's ”Journey 2: The Mysterious Island“ didn't land him on the cover of GQ — but so what? It banked $335 million worldwide. Clooney has only starred in two movies that did better than that in his entire career (the first two ”Ocean's“ films). And ”Gravity.“ And Johnson landed on the cover of GQ in Oct. 2003 for ”The Rundown.“ Which underperformed at $47.7 million.

By contrast, Johnson's three ”Fast and Furious“ films are by far the three highest-grossing entries in that seven-film series. True, I think his addition helped that series financially. Plus I prefer him to Vin Diesel. But if you give The Rock ”Fast/Furious,“ you gotta give Clooney ”Gravity.“ Which you're not doing. (See: douchiness.)

Hell, even Johnson's dumb ”Tooth Fairy“ movie did better than most of Clooney's. ”Tooth Fairy“ grossed $60 million U.S., $112 worldwide. Eleven of Clooney's films have done better domestically; 11 have done better worldwide. 

If the success of ”Gravity,“ which grossed more than Clooney's five preceding live-action star vehicles combined, is any indication, any producer hiring the actor for his movie would be best advised to kill him off in the first 20 minutes. (Sandra Bullock, on the other hand, has top-lined four hugely profitable films in just the past six years.) True. But she was box office ”meh“ (basically 1996-2009) until she wasn't. Now that would make an interesting article: the box-office turnaround of Sandy Bullock. 

Clooney isn't ”America's Leading Man“ (Vanity Fair, in 2006, breathlessly promoting his flop ”The Good German“) or ”The Last Movie Star“ (Time magazine, 2008, breathlessly promoting his flop ”Michael Clayton“). ”Breathlessly.“ Beware of writers lugging adverbs.

Clooney isn't even a movie star. He's just a guy who keeps getting highly paid to make movies nobody wants to see. The overall point is correct: Clooney's box office is less than one would expect from his status in the culture. But (one more time) it's mostly a consequence of the types of movies he chooses to make, who his audience is, and who goes to movies and why. You know this, Kyle. Or should. Or maybe you have blind spots to those who enrage your corporate masters—as you did in your review of Steve Coogan in ”Philomena." 

I'm sure I'll see more of you soon. 

George Clooney, Up in the Air

George Clooney waits patiently while Kyle Smith pleases his corporate masters.

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Posted at 07:55 AM on May 29, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday May 25, 2015

Box Office: 'Tomorrowland' Wins a Ho-Hum Memorial Day Weekend

Let's see ... 

“Tomorrowland” with George Clooney opened to $32 mil (kind of meh) and finished first, “Pitch Perfect 2” fell 55% in its second weekend (not great, not bad) to finish second, and both “Mad Max 2” (in its second weekend) and “The Avengers 2” (in its fourth) fell about 45% (not bad). The reboot of “Poltergeist” opened poorly ($22.6 mil, fourth place).  

As usual, the movies I most want to see are farther down the list: “Far from the Madding Crowd” (8th, $2.2), “Ex Machina” (11th, $1.4), and “Clouds of Sils Maria” (24th, $84K). Interestingly, the Apu trilogy, which I did see this weekend (yesterday at Pacific Place as part of SIFF) also made the cut, bringing in $16K. Glad to be part of that anyway. 

The Box Office Mojo numbers here


Posted at 01:13 PM on May 25, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday May 17, 2015

Box Office: What a Lovely Day ... for 'Pitch Perfect 2'

Pitch Perfect 2

Perfect studio pitch.

“The Avengers” sequel fell 50 percent in its third weekend  to $38.8 million (about right), “Mad Max: Fury Road” debuted at $44.4 million domestically (a bit low considering the great reviews), but the big story this weekend is “Pitch Perfect 2” and its $70 million debut.

What the hell?

The first “Pitch Perfect,” which was released three years ago September, debuted at $5 million in 335 theaters and grossed a total of $65 million. This one has already slammed past that. $70 million? That's “Star Trek” territory. What are these things about again? Girls singing and quipping and being empowered? Or something? Well, Universal knew what it was doing with this one. It got decent enough reviews, 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, but that’s not close to “Mad Max”’s 98%. Yet look who killed at the b.o. Maybe “Max”’s good reviews scared off the action-adventure crowd.

I found this interesting: “PP2” is the directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks, whom I just saw in the Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy” (recommended), and who always kills as Effie Trinket in the “Hunger Games” movies. Good for her and for female directors in general. Get those stories out there. Even if I have zero interest in seeing them. 

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Posted at 08:59 AM on May 17, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday May 10, 2015

Box Office: Second 'Avengers' has Second-Best Second Weekend of All Time

Avengers Age of Ultron

Avengers smash.

It's usually never good for a movie to drop nearly 60% off its first weekend box office total; but when that movie debuted at $191 million, well, then it's not so bad. 

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” won the weekend again with an estimated $77.2 million haul. If that number holds, it will be the second-best second weekend of all time, after, of course, “The Avengers,” which grossed $103 million in its second weekend. There are six other movies whose second weekends landed in the 70s: from “Avatar” and “The Dark Knight” (both $75 mil), through “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Iron Man 3” and “Shrek 2,” to the original “Spider-Man” ($71). There are only four movies with second weekends in the 60s, so this is rarefied territory.

Meanwhile, “Hot Pursuit,” the road-trip comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, wasn't exactly in hot pursuit of “Ultron,” as it debuted at $13 mil. That was good for second place. The rest is piddly stuff: $5 mil and below. It's all about “Ultron” right now. It's “Ultron” being “Ultron.”

Except at the worldwide box office, where there's still intrigue whether “Furious 7,” which is in fourth place all-time with $1.46 billion, can catch the original “The Avengers” at $1.51 billion. It might seem easy, a mere $50 million away; but “Furious 7” is winding down, grossing, for example, $5 mil at the domestic box office this weekend. That said, and despite it being a muscle-head muscle-car movie, “7” is getting its real juice from non-Americans. It's ony the third movie in history to gross more than $1 billion abroad. The others are Cameron films, “Titanic” and “Avatar,” which are in leagues by themselves.

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Posted at 11:45 AM on May 10, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday May 03, 2015

Avengers Can't Beat Themselves as 'Ultron' Grosses a Mere $187 Million at U.S. Box Office


The box office of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” couldn’t live up to the domestic opening of “The Avengers,” grossing a mere $187 million instead of the $207 million its predecessor grossed in May 2012.

Of course, that $187 is the second-highest-grossing opening ever. “Iron Man 3” at $174 is third. Avengers assemble.

Avengers symbol“Ultron,” which opened a week earlier abroad, is already at $626 million worldwide.

All of this box office slowed the furious ascent of “Furious 7,” particularly domestically (it wound up in third place with $6 mil), but worldwide the muscle-car movie is now fourth all-time at $1.42 billion. Will it catch the first “Avengers” at $1.51 for third place? And will “Ultron” then catch it? Questions for the months ahead. 

The only other movies opening this weekend were women-centric: the well-named “Far from the Madding Crowd,” which opened in only 10 theaters and grossed $172K; and the darkish Kristen Wiig comedy “Welcome to Me,” which opened in two theaters and grossed $38K. Both look interesting.

I was also far from the madding crowd this weekend, seeing, instead of “Ultron,” the Kurt Cobain doc “Montage of Heck,” which is ending its run in Seattle today and premiering on HBO tomorrow. 

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Posted at 10:54 AM on May 03, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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