Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Box Office Blather: Unstoppable Potter and the 127 Tangled Swans

No, not that BOB.
Box Office Blather. Let's call it "BOB".

One should probably discuss it weekly (and not on Wednesday? Shut it. I'm late.) if only to be more "in the world" and less hermetically sealed in one's own bubble, he said to himself while gazing at his navel in his 360º mirror.

In all seriousness this is a problem. I sometimes stare at box office charts and think "'The Warrior's Way'?  What the hell is that?" And, bear in mind, I think and write about movies 7 days a week so these blind spots can be problematic. And yet, when you live in a big city and you have options you don't always notice what's playing in thousands of theaters when you can obsess over something like Black Swan which is playing in just over a dozen. Thus one stays sealed in one's bubble.

Box Office Blather Bakers Dozen
("Bobbed!"...why do I need names for everything? It's a sickness)
  1. Tangled (2nd week) $21.6 [cumulative: $96.5] -55%
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (3rd week) $17 [cumulate: $244.5] -65 %
  3. Burlesque (2nd week) $6.1 [cumulative: $26.9] -48%
  4. Unstoppable (4th week) $5.9 [cumulative: $68.7] -47%
  5. Love and Other Drugs (2nd week)  $5.6 [cumulative: $22.5] -42%
  6. Megamind (5th week) $4.9 [cumulative: $136.6] -60%
  7. Due Date (5th week) $4.1 [cumulative: $90.8] -42%
  8. Faster (2nd week) $3.9 [cumulative: $18.2] -53%
  9. The Warrior's Way DEBUT $3.0
  10. The Next Three Days (3rd week)  $2.5 [cumulate: $18.3] -45%
  11. Morning Glory (4th week) $1.6 [cumulative: $29] -54%
  12. 127 Hours (5th week) $1.6 [cumulative: $6.6] -5%
  13. Black Swan DEBUT $1.4
A few random or obnoxious observations about that chart [src] come after the jump

Let's start off by alienating all of you! Wheeeee. Back in 2001 and 2002 I was incensed with Hollywood for being so lame / literal when the first two Harry Potters emerged and they were like books on tape only the tape was film. Then, through sheer force of ---FULL STOP. We should save this for the "Year in Review, Cinematic Shame" section later in December.

About 127 Hours... should it or shouldn't it be doing better business? It's a matter of perspective I suppose. One of my friends shared this on Facebook and said I could share it here. It's just too amusing while also illustrating a box office obstacle to the movie.
My parents' review of 127 HOURS (they went with another couple): "We all really enjoyed the movie a lot. But we didn't see the one you wanted us to see. We got to the theater, and Rhonda didn't want to watch the arm-cutting, so we saw 'Morning Glory' instead. It was adorable."

I'm sad that Burlesque isn't a smash. Now, we'll never get the sequel Burlesque 2 that Joe Reid pitched like so...
Burlesque 2, where Cher and Xtina must deal with a rival burlesque club that moves in across the street, run by a wizened Madonna and her protégée Britney Spears.
I would pay a month's wages to see that movie.

Moving on... Black Swan's $77,000 per screen average is a feat (a record for Fox Searchlight) as is the #13 status when it's only on 18 screens. But it remains to be seen how well that ballet thriller will transfer once it widens. "Weird" movies don't tend to play all that well at the box office, no matter how brilliant they are. You could counter with Inception but how weird is that? It explains the weirdness to you to make sure you don't get confused and the dream imagery, for all its gargantuan f/x thrills, isn't surreal like actual dreams. I'm trying to think of a strange movie that did well at the box office and I'm coming up blank. Do bizarre movies -- even the thrilling ones -- ever make a splash at the box office? (Post 1970s I mean.) Think of the fervor for Mullholland Dr (2001) and remember: it only managed $7 million in the States. My friend who I was discussing this with thinks I'm underestimating the accessibility of Swan but agreed that there's still going to be a ceiling; maybe Precious sized grosses? Help me out in the comments. What do you think the ceiling is for the high/low mix of psychological ballet thriller and camp horror hallucinatory artistic metaphor? 

Argh! And there I go again with the bubble. 127 Hours and Black Swan are only 451 screens between them and that's immediately what I start talking about. Perhaps this will be a project for 2011. Go to more mainstream movies. Experiment. (Didn't Tim Brayton agree to review anything that opened at #1 at the box office. Or did I imagine that? Think of the things you'd have to review!) My point is this: My brother called last week wanting to talk about Skyline which opened on 2800 screens and Megamind which opened on nearly 4,000. I hadn't seen them. Total bummer because I don't talk to my brother enough and he called about movies, sniffle, my favorite topic.

Tangled has nearly equalled the entire The Princess and the Frog gross
in its first two weeks.

So outside the bubble... Tangled. Do you think Disney will attribute its success to that misleading obnoxious ad campaign positioning it as a Shrek-like affair or to the fact that it's a throwback to their late 80/early 90s musical princess heyday. Or will they attribute it to both and advertise all future movies as the opposite of the type of movie they actually are?


The Awards Prognosticator said...

I think perhaps word-of-mouth has something to do with Tangled's success. I know tons of people who only decided to see it after they heard that it wasn't like the marketing would lead them to believe.

Owen said...

I agree, I think it's probably word-of-mouth that's helping Tangled. I know that's why I'm seeing it today!

It helped a lot that Nathaniel, that hated the trailer for all the same reasons I did, liked the movie a lot.

I just hope that Disney takes the right lessons from this and doesn't decide to make more of their movies in the Shrek vein.

Volvagia said...

As a December movie? Maybe $50-80 million. As a Halloween movie? This could have been a big (read: $100 million+) movie. Seriously. The studio didn't look at this at TIFF and think: "We've got to push this monster up NOW"?

Deborah said...

I have the parents' squeamishness on 127 Hours. I feel like it's a movie I "should" see but the premise is freaking me out.

You may fire at will, but I am actually kind of jazzed by The Warrior's Way. It's Crouching Tiger Upon a Time in the West, ferfuxake!

adam k. said...

The problem with Halloween is that they'd have needed to roll it out slowly BEFORE Halloween in order for it to build the way platform releases always do. It couldn't have managed a big wide opening, even on Halloween, before generating any positive word of mouth. It would've needed to start like 2 weeks beforehand and then gone wide on Halloween, I'd think. That's tricky.

Plus I don't think anyone had any idea that the film had major box office potential at all. Did you hear Natalie's story about how the budget was apparently so low that they didn't have a medic on set? (even though it says on Box Office Mojo that the budget was like $13 million)

Andrew David said...

I am really looking forward to "Tangled", but honestly I think it's the vapid campaigning that's helping it a lot. Your figure on its gross compared to "Princess and the Frog" is really sad, because I LOVED that film. Amazing music, unforgettably great villain, great addition to/examination of Disney princess mythology.

Unknown said...

@ Adam K. - I personally think 13 million is nothing, too small of a budget for a film like Black Swan, I really think most of the money went into production (production design)and post-production, don't think the actors got any money out of it and the lack-of-medic-on-set story proves that they really made sure not to "waste" money here and there hahahaz, for a weird, 13-million budget film it's gonna do REALLY well, I'm quite sure and I think Europe will love that film.

Volvagia said...

I know that. But, it would have received more attention and notice in the lead up to Halloween then during the lead up to CHRISTMAS. Especially since it was going up against a lotta nothings (PA 2, Saw 3D, Red and Jackass 3D), by the way, while now it's going up against: Narnia, The Tourist, Yogi Bear, Gulliver's Travels, How Do You Know?, Tron, Litte Fockers and True Grit. December is a slaughter these days.

Dean said...

While I excruciatingly wait until the wide release date that it's thankfully getting later in the month, I have found that interest among non cinephiles is there. 90% of which I would say is around the idea of Portman/Kunis steamy scenes.
I predict $35-50 million which would be a gigantic hit for this type of film.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you make me sad, Nathaniel. Deathly Hallows P. 1 was the first one to actually satisfy Harry Potter fans.

Jake D said...

I'm so mad about Tangled. My friends are all losing their shit over it, but I all I can see is a largely derivative by-the-numbers Disney musical with a few memorable character and a few memorable sequences, but shouldn't we be expecting more?

Whereas Princess in the Frog was deliciously exuberant, specific, and kinda weird, really. And no one cared. People just never got in the theatres to appreciate that one. Too bad.

Kevin said...

Yet another good piece of news about Black Swan that you evaluate with "yes, but..." methodology. If you have the time, I'd really like to read a full write-up from you on Swan so we as your devoted followers could know what you truly, honestly feel about it.


Kevin -- i'm not trying to be cagey it's jsut i'm swamped. but i'll definitely keep writing bits about it or a full thing before the wide opening.

Jake -- i get this reaction but a few memorable characters and sequences is more than most movies manage truly, isn't it?

here's the truth about The Princess and the Frog with me: I never ended up caring because of Randy newman. I think his work is SO boring in everything so i just couldn't be excited. i did mean to see it though but it didn't happen.

anon -- i just don't understand why harry potter fans want books on tape... i mean film. don't you want an honest to god MOVIE something thrilling entirely on its own the way Lord of the Rings is even if you have no connection to the books? blah. nothing happens in that movie. a 2 hour commercial that you have to pay to watch which is advertising a movie coming out next year.

Evan said...

People are lamenting the lack of success on the Princess and the Frog, but wasn't Disney pretty happy with its box office haul? Plus, it got great press... I imagine many people are more amenable now to Disney films than they were when making junk like "Chicken Little" and "Meet the Robinsons."

Evan said...

People are lamenting the lack of success on the Princess and the Frog, but wasn't Disney pretty happy with its box office haul? Plus, it got great press... I imagine many people are more amenable now to Disney films than they were when making junk like "Chicken Little" and "Meet the Robinsons."

Bryan said...

I think Black Swan will attract Oscar-lovers and average theater-goers as well. For example, I have a gay roommate who wants to see it because "it looks fun, and Natalie Portman is GOR-geous," and a straight roommate who said "weren't there two girls kissing or something? I'm in."

So, no matter how superficial, I think people will come out to see it, perhaps not in droves, but still.


evan -- good point. It's not like PRINCESS AND THE FROG flopped. I just think it wasn't a big enough hit to get them to return to 2D which disappointed a lot of people (like me... i get so tired of all animation looking the same when there are so many different things you can do with it.)

Volvagia said...

They're returning to it. There's a Winnie the Pooh adaptation due next year, and it could be really great. (Personally, I think they should do it that way: Disney does 2-D, Pixar does 3-D.)

IslandLiberal said...

"Winnie the Pooh" is the last scheduled 2D film for now, and the underperformance of "Princess and the Frog" led to the cancellation of a couple of other 2D projects (most notably "The Snow Queen").

It didn't lose them money, but it didn't do the business they wanted, and it exposed their business model as only being innately appealing to girls - hence, the revamped marketing campaign. Notably, boys appear to have loved "Tangled", so they didn't actually have to change the product, just trick them into seeing it.

RC said...

The 127 hour review is great - we almost switched our 127 hour viewing to Morning Glory at my wife's request - but the time's didn't line us so we saw 127 hours even though my wife tried hard for a last minute switch.