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