Saturday, September 23, 2006

How Much Will Volver Make?

I don't usually go in for box office prognostication (though I'm happy I did call The Devil Wears Prada's big hit status early -despite many naysayers) but I've become curious about how Pedro Almodovar's Volver, starring the Oscar buzzing Penelope Cruz will fare at the box office. It opens in just over a month.

Now, as part of my Foreign Film Oscar Coverage section, I used to keep a chart on how foreign films did at the box office here in the States. I quit this past year because it was too much work for too little reward --plus it was depressing. Who wants to know that an excellent feature like last year's Kings and Queen (TFE top ten list) made in its entire run what The Covenant made yesterday. But last night, while preparing for a Podcast I was guest-starring on (more on that later when it comes out) I got sidetracked looking at Pedro's Box Office history.

Pedro Almodovar is one of the most consistently successful world cinema directors but he has yet to have a film crossover quite to the extent that something like, say, Amelie did, which made $33 million. Assuming my math is correct (and I claim no real talent in that area) Pedro's biggest hit, adjusted for inflation, is All About My Mother (approx $13). To put that into recent perspective that's about the popularity level of an Y Tu Mama Tambien or a Monsoon Wedding and a shade more popular than say, a City of God or a Run Lola Run, all films with substantial urban market popularity but no real mall crowd action.

That Oscar winner is followed closely, very closely, by Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, approx $12) which functioned as his international breakthrough. Talk to Her is in third with $10ish and, had it managed that best picture nomination it was probably close to getting, I believe it could have finally broken his $13 ceiling. All three of those films were released in November which seems to work for Sony Pictures Classics & Almodovar. So it makes sense that Volver is following suit.

[For those who are way too curious about this (like me) Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and Bad Education complete his American top five (though they're further behind)]

People seem shocked by my Volver Best Picture prediction. I am being a little fanciful but it could happen. If you ignore the 60s and 70s (for which I don't really have numbers and in which foreign films were more widely consumed by Americans) the lowest box office for a foreign language Best Picture nominee comes from, I believe, Il Postino which made about $33 (adjusted for inflation): an Amelie size hit.

So, for Volver to happen in a multiple nomination way, it probably needs to pull in more than the previous Almodovar films. It's not so much the $$ number as making a big enough wave to do so (which is reflected in the money to a degree, you follow). English language films have been nominated with less pre-Oscar nomination box office than Almodovar's previous hits have had but they're operating at an advantage since they're homegrown and get far more media coverage. Capote is the most recent example. After four months in release it had made $15 million. Post nominations it nearly matched that number again.

Any Box-Office inclined readers out there? How well do you think Volver will fare? Will it turn into Pedro's biggest hit yet?

Tags: Pedro Almodovar, movies, Spain, Volver, film, box office, Penelope Cruz, Oscars, Academy Awards

16 comments:

c.p. iñor said...

I'm seeing it tonight!!!!!! I'm so excited.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Well, it all depends really. They will most definitely get a huge opening weekend screen average, but who knows how many screens they're going to be showing it on.

What SPC would be best to do is actually advertise. You need to spend money to make money, folks. Volver isn't gonna get over, say, $20mil without a tv campaign. They need to really play up the Penelope Cruz angle - surely they'll be able to find a few "Penelope Cruz gives the greatest performance of the year!" quotes, or get some Miramax-like voiceover to say "See the film the critics are cheering as the Best Picture of the year!" or something like that. "The must-see sensation of the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals!"

Volver can definitely get a nomination if it tries. Has Spain ever had a Best Picture nominee before? But they need to be out there trying to make it happen. These things don't just happen. Life is Beautiful was past $20mil by the time nominations came out (or, I'm guessing that. the awards that year were on March 31 so I'm guessing a month earlier). I mean, the movie isn't gonna get any help from the HFPA (they can't nominate foreign language films for Best Picture) or SAG.

So... yeah. I certainly hope it can happen.

c.p. iñor said...

I just saw it! and let me tell you this... PENELOPE CRUZ is perfect, but CARMEN MAURA is AWESOME!!!! I would be really happy to see this pic going wiht a BP nod, and actress nods for CRUZ and MAURA

c.p. iñor said...

also SCREENPLAY and DIRECTOR would be really nice

JavierAG said...

Would be first time for Spain. Italy, France and Sweden have had 2 BP nominees each, and Taiwan one. That's all. 7.

Goran said...

What Volver has going for it is that it's a movie that is impossible to dislike - impossible to not love really - as well as impossible to not recommend to all your friends. In this sense it's a lot like All About My Mother - except this time Almodovar's esteem and popularity are all the greater, plus it showcases the comeback of an ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise. I think it's bound to hit $20mil at least.

Anonymous said...

It's Almodovar's birthday today, apparently.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Plus Volver isn't about hookers, trannies and AIDS so the older set won't feel dirty about watching it.

Plus, how pretty does Cruz look in that picture?

Goran said...

Cruz has always looked pretty, but in this movie she is strikingly, stunningly, cardiac-arrestingly beautiful.

15 year old blogger said...

It doesn't need the box office, but it may hurt if it does poorly, but all it needs are the critics awards early in the year. Anyways, I'm prediciting it to do around 12 before the noms.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the film has the makings of a BAFTA smash (though so were 'The Motorcycle Diaries' and 'House of Flying Daggers', so it hardley reflects on Oscar).
The film has earned more than any other Almodovar film at the box office in the UK - quite easily, as it was his first film to receive a wide release and heavy advertising, which in turn effected heavy media coverage.
Should quite easily repeat that in the US provided that they follow the marketing structure that they used here.

Scott said...

The Penelope angle should help it - and she DOES look positively radiant and gorgeous in the film (from what I've seen). Plus, by most accounts, it's Almodovar's most accessible film to a wide audience. I currently have it at around #7 or 8 for Best Picture, but I think it's definitely a strong possibility and I'd love for it to happen.

Kamikaze Camel said...

It's the Almodovar movie you can watch with your Grandma!

Anonymous said...

TAGLINE!

Anonymous said...

"Volver" is a Best Picture contedner, in my opinion. I believe that Almodovar has been looking for the BP race, and he can get it this time with a picture more mature, and more mainstream than, for example, "Talk To Her".
"Volver" is a wonderful movie, it would be a great choice.

maile said...

almodovar is my favorite spanish director by far. i'm happy to see that i'm not alone in my assertions.