a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Weekend Boxoffice #14 (In Retrospect)

I missed making my predictions last week because of all the other stuff going on, though I doubt they would have been very accurate: who could have guessed that "Stomp The Yard" would make $26 million in its first four days, particularly given the largely-unenthusiastic reviews that it got?

Still, looking at the box office in retrospect is important, because let's face it: how movies are performing drives the kind of scripts that sell, and for us aspiring screenwriters (you know who you are) it's all about what genres are hot, and what no one will buy in a million years.

For me, there's the added element that, as a reader, I can guess what I'll be seeing more of in the future. I think everyone is currently dusting off any old urban dance screenplays that they have.

Other things the current box office tells us:

FOR CERTAIN GENRES, HIGH CONCEPT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN REVIEWS. If you are going to make a serious drama, you better get the critics behind you, but for movies like "Stomp the Yard" and "Night at the Museum", critical plaudits haven't been necessary. "Night at the Museum" made another $21.5 million over the four-day weekend, and has made a remarkable $190 million in 5 weeks, especially considering that its stars Ben Stiller and Robin Williams aren't sure box office draws.

SOMETIMES, EVEN GOOD REVIEWS DON'T HELP. The most surprising underperformer is "Children of Men", which is supposed to be great (I haven't see it; I am pitifully far behind), but which did a relatively-disappointing $7 million or so for the 4-day weekend, dropping off more from the previous week than the other big movies did. "Children of Men" cost $76 million, and has only made $22 million so far, while the Golden Globes ignored it completely. Unless it gets some surprising Oscar nominations, it could fade away, which is unfortunate; these are the kind of movies that one wishes did really well, to encourage studios to bankroll intelligent action-thrillers.

THERE'S STILL ROOM FOR UPBEAT, WELL-MEANING MOVIES. Perhaps as the reaction to our uncertain times, movies like "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Freedom Writers" are doing well; "Freedom Writers even made more money than "Children of Men" this weekend, after trailing it last weekend. People apparently want earnest stories of hope, especially when the buzz on them is pretty good. That may also explain why "Stomp The Yard" made almost 4 times as much as "Alpha Dog" did.

GOOD MUSICALS WILL MAKE MONEY. Just because no one wanted to see the mediocre "Rent" didn't mean that the musical is dead. "Dreamgirls" has already made $67 million, and it's likely to keep performing well for a while, particularly in the wake of its Golden Globe wins.

ANIMATION IS NO LONGER A SURE THING.... "Arthur and the Invisibles", which cost $86 million, made only $5.8 million in its first 4 days. I don't know if kids were aware of (or cared about seeing) this movie, but they certainly weren't advertising it during anything I was watching.

... BUT HORROR MOVIES PRETTY MUCH ARE. "Primeval" made $7 million in its first 4 days, even though I still have no idea if the killer is a man, an animal, some sort of supernatural entity, or a combination of all three.

SOME BIGGER SERIOUS MOVIES WITH NAME CASTS ARE TAKING A BEATING. "Blood Diamond" cost $100 million, and has only done $48 million in North America, though it may do well worldwide. "The Good Shepherd" has only made $54 million. "Babel", for all its plaudits, has only made $21 million. "The Good German" is completely taking; it has made less than a million dollars, and took only $73,000 from its 23 theaters last weekend. "Bobby" has only made $11 million.

GOOD SMALL MOVIES ARE BUILDING WELL.... "Pan's Labyrinth" made $2.7 million last weekend, despite playing in only 194 theaters. "Notes on a Scandal" made almost $2 million on 200 screens.

... EXCEPT WHEN THEY AREN'T. Neither "Miss Potter" nor "The Painted Veil" is doing all that well, while "Venus" desperately needs a Peter O'Toole Oscar nomination to find an audience.

Anyone see anything good this weekend?


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Robert Hogan said...

Primeval SPOILER

The killer is a crocodile. The real life croc the film is based on is named Gustave, and National Geographic did a special on him. He is a massive creature that’s over 20 feet long and is estimated at weighing more than a ton. He lives and hunts along the Ruzizi River in Burundi, Africa.

Supposedly the film (which I will wait to catch on DVD) is about a news crew that is sent to investigate the beast.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

First off, I'm sorry about your wife's father. I've been through a similar situation with a similar father and know what it's like. Not fun!

Second, I saw Children of Men. It's excellent - great performances, wonderful direction, stunning set design - but it's so intense and depressing that it literally gave me nightmares for a few nights. Nightmares! So, I told my sister not to see it - she is a bigger wimp than I am and is easily disturbed by war movies (and this is a war movie). I imagine other people have cautioned their weak-stomached friends and family not to see it for similar reasons. That's why I think it's not doing well at the BO. I do hope it gets Oscar recognition, especially for Clive Owen.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Joseph said...

I personally wasn’t too impressed with Children of Men. Yes, the acting and directing was good, but the story just wasn’t there for me. Some of the scenes just made it way too easy for the good guys and the people chasing after them didn’t seem all that bright. Plus I didn’t see the importance of it all, especially to Clive Owen’s character. I could get into more specifics, but don’t want to mention any possible spoilers.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

i've always heard that what's hot right now doesn't affect scripts being bought (other than the usual "we've already seen that"), because there's such a lag time between script purchase and film distribution. has that changed because of the quicker to-market time of films? do you really see the type of scripts you read fluctuate based on whats hot in the theatres?

i had the opposite reaction to 'night at the museum.' my first thought was, "damn! that ben stiller is box-office gold!' im not that familiar with him or his movies and his popularity surprises me, but it seems he's been very consistent and very successful, especially in the past ten years.

and robin williams in a funny role? almost always golden.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

If something hits unexpectedly, it tends to renew interest in that kind of film. So yeah, I expect a lot of urban dance scripts will get another look, and musicals will be seen to have more potential.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I'm interested to see "Smokin Aces" and "300". I read the script for Smokin Aces and was a little disappointed by the ending, but maybe the action will make up for it. I do like the director and his film "Narc" was pretty good.



At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion Narc is the best police thriller since LA Confidential and Se7en. I have high hopes for Smokin' Aces even though on the surface it looks similar to Tarantino. Joe Carnahan is a major talent.

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

Five years ago, I would have seen many of the movies you mentioned on opening weekend, Scott. Today, the only reason I have to do that is if I knew Kate Winslet was going to be at the concession stand buying Twizzlers. And unfortunately, you can never plan for that sort of occurence.

The last movie I went out and saw right away was Babel because it looked bold and different. Many of the titles you mentioned look like they might be pretty good, but why risk it, when I can just wait for the DVD?

It costs about three bucks. If it's great, I can keep it forever. If it's bad, I can throw it in an envelope and send it back to Netflix and do something else. I can listen to the director commentary. I can see the scenes that were cut due to running time, or to avoid an NC-17 rating. Options.

Either I'm a cultural freak, or I represent the next wave of the moviegoing public. Your thoughts?

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I definitely think we're headed that way, for better or worse.

Still, if Night At The Museum can make $190 million and counting, the theatrical exhibition biz ain't dead yet.

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Formerly, The Dude Spoke said...

Theatrical is far from dead, but expect more "enticements" from theaters. (Digital projection, 3D- which Cameron is working on for his Avatar, I believe. etc).

With regards to Stomp The Yard, though, I feel like I've seen this movie before. Like a few years ago, when You Got Served was released, and did about the same amount.

The audience is there for these films, but nobody ever gives it a second glance, then are all shocked to see the film taking #1.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

First of all, do we really need to write Seven as Se7en? That was only a marketing gimmick, people. How would one pronounce Se7en?

Also, I figured Stomp would make $, it's just like You Got Served & Step Up-ish, there's a big market there.

And I must take issue with Joseph, regarding Children Of Men.

"Some of the scenes just made it way too easy for the good guys and the people chasing after them didn’t seem all that bright."

I won't spoil it anything, but, what the hell are you talking about? That was EASY? Did you not see the costs of their journey?

"Plus I didn’t see the importance of it all, especially to Clive Owen’s character."

The importance of it all? Oh my Christ. I can't get into specifics, but this comment makes me want to puke. Maybe you saw Stomp The Yard by mistake. I would say the theme of the film, and their journey was pretty damn important, and it was certainly important to Clive's character.

I will defend this movie to the death, it was the best film I've seen in YEARS.

Scott - See it.

At 12:57 AM, Anonymous chris soth said...

Yes, stunned to learn killer is crocodile. Just posted little Children of Men review chez moi...

Smokin' Aces...yes, high hopes. But...January is a dumping ground.

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Joseph said...

Ok, I have to defend myself so there will be minor spoilers about Children of Men.

There’s a scene where the bad guys could easily blow out their tires and catch them, but they don’t. Instead they let them roll away very slowly in a car. How is that not easy? Not all scenes are like this, in fact some of the action scenes were very exciting, but there were a few that were.

Also, as far as the importance of it all. It’s one kid. Are they really going to repopulate the earth with one child? But if you make it more than one kid, the significance of the child and her mother is lessened so I can understand why they did it. I knew this going in and would have still enjoyed the movie if it wasn't for scenes like the one I described above.

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marketing gimmicks aside, my DVD says "Se7en". So that's how I write it. I pronounce it as "seven". Hope this has helped with the trouble.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger dannyboy52472 said...

Yeah, I agree with Patrick - COM just kicked my ass all over the theatre. I remember sitting there, after it was over, just ... WASTED because of all the kick-ass-osity.

It's definitely a see-it-on-the-big-screen movie. The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission, to say nothing of the performances, the direction, the production design, etc.

Speaking of which, it was really disturbing to see this flick go Golden Globe-less. I sure hope this gets Oscar nods.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Kinda spoliers of COM in response....

It's actually NOT EASY to shoot a car's tires out, especially when it is rolling away from you - you risk SHOOTING THE PREGNANT CHICK...the only one on Earth. And the "bad guy" even yelled out for the other bad guys to NOT SHOOT at them.

Way at the top of my list. I'll review it a bit more on my blog, but I agree that it MUST be seen in a theater. MUST.

I also hope it at least gets some nominations, at least for direction, cinematography, and possibly script (it just won the 19th-annual USC Scripter Award (recognizing the film's book-to-screenplay adaptation), beating out Notes on a Scandal, The Illusionist, Prada & Scotland, so that's a plus.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Nobody's brought up Pan's Labrynth yet? That was the most amazing film I've seen in ages. It was beautiful and horrifying at the same time. I can't stop thinking about it.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

There are scientists (who are film fanatics) who can accurately calculate with their computers how much a movie will earn at the box office. Tho can't remember their names nor their program I'm sure you guys heard of them.

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