erik lundegaard

Movies - Box Office posts

Wednesday April 30, 2014

What Disney's 'Frozen' Has In Common with the Most Popular Movies of All Time — Part II

Frozen Elsa Let It Go

The Sound of Music

This post from the other day, in which I argued that Disney's “Frozen” has something in common with the most popular movies of all time—specifically a framework in which a girl has to choose between two boys against a backdrop of tragedy—sparked a not-bad discussion on Facebook. 

A mother of three commented this way:

My girls love it because it's not the traditional “the prince saves the day” movie. They love the princess factor, but are beyond sold on the higher sister solidarity factor. And of course the music. 

Her husband added:

For my kids (and me), the sister/sister relationship was far and away the most important aspect of the film. The music and humor were the next tier of goodness. The 'choice' part was not really that significant to them--and in fact my girls specifically said they liked that the boyfriend storyline in the movie didn't matter much--particularly because (spoiler alert) Kristof was 'brotherized' until the very end, when Hans abruptly revealed himself as a jerk.

No doubt. But the choice factor isn't really big in most of the movies I mentioned. We all know Scarlett should choose Rhett, Rose should choose Jack Dawson. We're more split on Edward and Jacob, Gale and Peeta. And we watch all of these movies for reasons other than the framework. For “The Sound of Music,” it's the music and Julie Andrews. For “Gone with the Wind,” it's the operatic tragedy and the machinations; the single raised eyebrow and the fiddle-dee-dee. For “Titanic,” the special effects, the love, and the final sacrifice. 

Yet the framework remains the same: a girl ... choosing between two guys ... against a backdrop of tragedy. 

Is it ever reversed, by the way? Is it ever a guy choosing between two girls against a backdrop of tragedy? 

Rarely among our most popular movies. In “Dr. Zhivago,” yes, Yuri has to choose between Lara (Julie Christie) and Tanya (Geraldine Chaplin) against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution; but more often, the girl, even when she's obviously the girl, is incidental to the story. It's either her or the adventure, and most heroes choose the adventure. Luke learns the Force, Moses ascends Mt. Sinai, Ben-Hur drives a chariot, Indiana finds the lost ark of the covenant. If they didn't, we'd want our money back. 

With male leads, the choice is to be with the girl (and be happy) or act upon the world (and get bloody). With female leads, the choice is which guy to be with as the world is acting upon you: Atlanta burning, Nazis invading, the Titanic sinking.

I suppose that what's changed within the framework. The tragedy used to be historical and now it's fictional. And the girl chooses to act upon the world rather than have the world act upon her. 

Other thoughts welcome.

Posted at 05:45 AM on Apr 30, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday April 27, 2014

Weekend Box Office: ‘The Other Woman’ is On Top, But Does It Have Legs?

The Other Woman: Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton

Enjoy the moment. 

The headlines are all about the trio from “The Other Woman” taking down super-soldier Captain America, but that’s the usual misleading. It’s more like the first weekend of “The Other Woman” prevented “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from remaining atop the box office for a fourth weekend in a row.

Here’s the top 5, according to Box Office Mojo:

  1. The Other Woman: $24.7 million
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: $16 million
  3. Heaven is for Real: $13.8 million
  4. Rio 2: $13.6 million
  5. Brick Mansions: $9.6 million

“Woman”’s $24.7 million is similar to what “Bridesmaids” grossed when it opened in May 2011 ($26.2m), but don’t expect a repeat. “Bridesmaids” had legs because it was good; “The Other Woman” won’t because it’s not. Word will spread. Female moviegoers tend to have higher standards than their male counterparts; they don’t want to see shite. I don’t make many predictions but I’ll make that one: a steep fall-off for “The Other Woman” next weekend.

Overall, “Captain America” has now grossed $224.8 million domestically and $645 million worldwide. That’s the best of 2014 and 73rd all-time.

Will it soon be swamped by “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”? The sequel to the reboot opened overseas this weekend and grossed $132 million, which is almost twice what “Captain America” did the weekend before it opened in the U.S. ($75.2 million). We’ll see how Spidey slings it in the U.S. next weekend. (The reviews so far have been mixed.)

Back home, Johnny Depp’s “Transcendence” dropped 62% to finished sixth, and “God’s Not Dead” broke the $50 million mark with a $2.8 millon weekend and 11th place.

Until next weekend. (Thwip!)

Posted at 12:27 PM on Apr 27, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Friday April 25, 2014

What Disney's 'Frozen' Has In Common with the Most Popular Movies of All Time

Frozen

So apparently everyone’s writing about why Disney’s “Frozen” is so popular: 19th all-time domestically in box office grosses ($399.96 million); sixth all-time worldwide ($1.129 billion).

Let me rephrase that. Websites interested in generating hits are generating unremarkable pieces about why “Frozen” is so popular.

Vox gives us three reasons: 1) Inflation (obvious, but not really an answer); 2) foreign earnings (ditto); and 3) “because people like it (duh)” (yes: duh).

Vulture gives us eight reasons: 1) It’s a throwback to classic Disney; 2) the wisecracking sidekick as in the Shrek films; 3) the songs; 4) the “villain” who is not the villain (i.e., Elsa); 5) a resonant tale with real-life overtones (i.e., it’s about Elsa becoming her own person ... through her ability to freeze everything); 6) girl power! (i.e., the twist ending); 7) two Disney princesses (see: William Goldman); and 8) that amazing preshow short. Of these, 6) is probably the most important. 6) and 7). Again: see William Goldman.

Pop Matters? It’s just confused on the subject. It doesn’t get why “Frozen” is so popular. It doesn’t even like the movie.

Anyway, I can only read so many of these things before getting pissed off, because they so miss the point. If you’re doing a piece on the popularity of “Frozen,” surely you mention what the movie has in common with some of the most popular movies of all time. They’re all about this:

A woman choosing between two men against a backdrop of tragedy.

“Gone with the Wind,” the biggest all-time domestic hit (adjusted for inflation), is about Scarlett choosing between Rhett and Ashley against the backdrop of the U.S. Civil War.

“The Sound of Music,” the third-biggest all-time domestic hit (adjusted for inflation), is about Maria choosing between Capt. Von Trapp and God against the backdrop of Nazi invasion.

“Titanic,” the second-biggest all-time domestic and worldwide hit (unadjusted for inflation), is about Rose choosing between Jack and Cal as the Titanic sinks into the North Atlantic.

And now “Frozen.” Here, Anna has to choose between Kristoff and Hans against the backdrop of a perpetual winter.

To this formula you can add the “Twilight” series (Bella/Jacob and Edward/high school) and the “Hunger Games” series (Katniss/Gale and Peeta/dystopian inequality).

Yes, of course, other facets of these movies matter. “Let It Go” matters. Looking up to the beautiful, powerful older sister matters. Comedy relief matters. Quality matters. That twist ending matters. 

But if I were in Hollywood and wanted to make a lot of money? I would only try variations of this story. You do it right (“Frozen”) and you gross a billion dollars. You do it wrong (“Pearl Harbor”), and you only gross half a billion dollars.

Posted at 06:51 AM on Apr 25, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday April 20, 2014

Weekend Box Office: 'Captain America' Threepeats; Christian Movies Play Smallball

Last year, the first movie to reign atop the box office charts for three weekends in a row was “Gravity,” released in October.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has just won its third weekend, and, though it’s only mid-April, it’s the third movie this year to threepeat—following “Ride Along” (Jan. 17-Feb. 2) and “The LEGO Movie” (Feb. 7-Feb. 23). Not sure what that means.

Well, it means this anyway: Not many people were interested in Johnny Depp’s “Transcendence,” which got weak reviews and finished a weaker fourth place with $11.1 million. Why weak reviews would matter in a world in which “Transformers” dominates I have no idea. Maybe it’s the type of weak review? Critics called “Transformers” loud and stupid and teenage boys went “Alright!” (Shots of Megan Fox bending over a car’s engine didn’t hurt, either—at least not that way.) Critics call “Transcendence” a “snooze-fest” and teenage boys went, “Yeah ... no. And it stars the Pirate of the Caribbean guy? What is he—like 60?”

“Heaven is for Real” is for real, though. So, apparently, are small-ball Christian movies. I.e., Don’t go for the big bucks of “Passion” or the big production values of “Noah”; just make something small and awful and very, very Christian, and gross in the $40-$60 million range.

So far this year, that’s been done with “Son of God,” patched together from a European TV movie with a superhot Portugese actor (Diogo Mrogado) in the role of Christ ($59.4 million); “God’s Not Dead,” in which an annoying and bland college freshman proves the title thesis to his atheistic and Mephistopholean philosophy professor ($48.3); and now “Heaven,” about a young boy who dies for a moment and then comes back with a certain knowledge of the after-life. It grossed $21 million this weekend for a five-day total of $28 million.

These three films, on Box Office Mojo’s Christian movies chart (1980-present), already rank fifth, sixth and tenth. Caveat: a movie like “Noah” isn’t considered a Christian movie. Because it mentions the Creator but not God? Because it’s Old Testament? Because it isn’t vengeful enough? Who knows?

The Breitbart site, no doubt, will trumpet all of this even though, in box office predictions, it overplayed its hand:

Deadline reports that this Easter weekend at the box office we have two openly Christian films perched in the top ten. Meanwhile, Darren Aronofsky's anti-God “Noah” sailed over a cliff, failing to even rank.

Yes and no. Both “Heaven” (No. 3) and “God’s Not Dead” (No. 10) made the top 10. But so did “Noah,” which shed 745 theaters but still grossed $5 million for ninth place.

So far, “Noah” has grossed $93 million domestic and $290 worldwide. Breitbart dismisses this against its production budget ($125 million according to B.O. Mojo), and calls the film “anti-God"; but imagine if they’d just embraced the movie rather than throwing it to the culture-war wolves. Then they could claim three Christian movies in the top 10. But to do that would require ... what’s the word again? ... charity.

Breitbart site: Christ, America Dominate Box Office

A Breitbart site screenshot this weekend. 

Posted at 09:22 AM on Apr 20, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Sunday April 13, 2014

Box Office: Captain America's Legs are So-So, But He Still Wins Weekend

Captain America: elevator fight scene

Cap wins the fight, but not without effort.  

Captain America has a nice ass but how are his legs? Turns out ... so-so. So far.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” dropped 56.4% in its second weekend for a $41.3 million haul and first place. It held off new releases “Rio 2” ($39 million), Oculus ($12 million) and Kevin Costner’s “Draft Day” ($9.7 million), which finished second, third and way fourth, respectively.

What kind of drop is 56.4%? It’s not horrible, particularly for a much-anticipated movie that did well on its opening weekend, but it’s nothing to write home about, either, particularly for a criticially acclaimed movie that’s been getting great word-of-mouth. On Box Office Mojo’s chart of second-weekend drops for super-saturated movies (3,000+ theaters), Cap ranks 526th out of 701 listed. That’s closer to the bad end. But it’s still better than the second weekend drops of “Thor: The Dark World” (57.3%), “Captain America: The First Avenger” (60.7%), and “Man of Steel” (64.6%)—not to mention the mother of all second-weekend suphero drops, Ang Lee’s “Hulk” (69.7%).

“Divergent,” which will never be “Hunger Games,” shed 500 theaters and dropped 42% for $7.5 million and fifth place. “Noah,” which Christians are still railing against, shed nearly 300 theaters and dropped 56% for $7.4 million and sixth place. “God’s Not Dead,” which gained 100 theaters, dropped 42% for $4.4 million and seventh place.

(BTW: The headline on the Breitbart site for all this? BOX OFFICE: ANTI-GOD ‘NOAH’ DIVES, ‘GOD’S NOT DEAD’ SOARS. Astonishing.)

For the year, domestically, it goes “The LEGO Movie” ($251), “Captain America” ($159) and “Ride Along,” the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy ($134). “Divergent” is fourth with $124.

Worldwide, it’s Cap ($476), “LEGO” ($411), “300: Rise of an Empire” ($325), then “Noah” ($246).

All-time worldwide, “Frozen” is now in eighth place ($1.11 billion), having surpassed “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Skyfall.” 

Posted at 09:04 AM on Apr 13, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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