erik lundegaard

Slumdog Legs

The big story at the box office this weekend was “Watchmen”’s 67-percent fall-off from the previous weekend — meaning it's not going to do as well as either “Paul Blart” or “Taken” (who woulda thought?) — but what leapt out at me, as I perused the names and numbers, was this: “Slumdog Millionaire” is still in the top 10. It fell off only 26 percent from the previous weekend and raked in another $5 million to take sixth place. Its domestic total is now $132 million, or 18th best among 2008 releases. In terms of weekly box office? It hasn’t left the top 10 all year.

Amazing. Since it was released in early November, there have only been five weeks when its weekly box office dropped. This is mostly the result of the way Fox Searchlight rolled it out: nonexistently (10 theaters), slowly (600+ around Christmas), wide after the Oscar noms (1,411), and nearly superwide after the best-picture victory (2,943). But even with this roll-out, the audience had to be there and it was.

This is a type of film we haven’t seen in a while. A word-of-mouth film. A film with legs.

Put it this way: Its opening weekend, according to box office mojo, was the 2,297th-best since 1980. It’s 10th weekend? Second-best. Only Titanic had a better 10th weekend. Only Titanic!

But the question, for me, remains: Does “Slumdog” have the legs to break into the top 10 for all 2008 releases?

As you know, if you read this blog (I’m rather obsessed with it), there have only been seven years in Oscar history in which not one of the best picture nominees cracked the annual top 10 box office: 1947, 1984... and the last five years in a row. But that’s assuming “Slumdog” won’t crack the top 10 for 2008 releases. But might it?  

Let’s calculate. This weekend it fell off 26 percent from the previous. That ain’t bad, particularly since Fox Searchlight is slowly removing it from theaters. So let’s assume a 26-percent weekly dropoff for the rest of its run. What do we wind up with?

By June 11th, “Slumdog”’s weekly box office will be down to around 100K, while its total domestic box office will be up to around $153 million. This will place it 11th for the year, ahead of “Sex and the City” but $1.5 million behind “Horton Hears a Who” for 10th place.

So, give or take some percentage points, it could happen. If it did, it would be the first best picture nominee to crack the yearly top 10 since 2003. And even if it doesn’t? It simply confirms that word-of-mouth pictures, not to mention dramas set in foreign lands (and starring actual foreigners!), not to mention quality pictures, can still sell in America. If anyone in Hollywood is paying attention.

Posted at 07:29 AM on Mon. Mar 16, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office, Movies - The Oscars  
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