Archive for the ‘Oscars’ Category

Why Sandra Bullock Should NOT Win The Oscar For Best Actress!

January 21, 2010

Two weeks ago, Sandra Bullock won the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress for her work in The Blind Side.  I wasn’t too happy, but I managed.  This past weekend, Bullock won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, and once again, I was less than pleased.  You see, with every award that Sandra Bullock racks up, her chances to win the Oscar for Best Actress improve, and that, my friends, is a big problem.  The way I see it, the Best Actress Oscar is cursed.  For the past decade, every woman that has won that award has been reduced to nothing more than box office poison, and Sandra Bullock is far from box office poison!  In fact, the Quigley Publishing Company ranked Bullock as the top box office draw of 2009!  Audiences connect with her down-to-earth attitude, accessible personality, and comedic chops, and she is one of the few stars whose star power alone can open a movie.  With The Proposal having just earned $165 million in 2009 and The Blind Side pushing $230 million, Sandra Bullock is at the top of her game, and I fear that if she wins the Academy Award for Best Actress, her box office viability will quickly deteriorate.  It’s happened to hordes of actresses already, and I can only assume the trend will continue this year.  Look no further than the career trajectories of the last ten Best Actress winners for my reasoning why Bullock should not win the Oscar:

1999 – Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry)

Since her famous gender-bending role, Swank has hardly been box office gold.  Her biggest hit since her 1999 Oscar came from her 2004 Oscar-winning performance in Million Dollar Baby, which earned $100 million.  Swank has starred in movies like Insomnia ($67 million) and P.S. I Love You ($53 million) that weren’t total failures, but other than that, with movies like The Affair Of The Necklace ($471,210), The Core ($31 million), The Black Dahlia ($21 million), The Reaping ($25 million), and Amelia ($14 million), her resume isn’t particularly impressive.

2000 – Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)

Roberts had a banner year in 2001, following her Oscar win.  The Mexican earned $66 million, America’s Sweethearts found $93 million, and Oceans Eleven grossed $183 million, but of those films, really only America’s Sweethearts was opened on Julia Roberts’ star power.  Since then, her performances in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind ($16 million), Mona Lisa Smile ($63 million), Closer ($34 million), Charlie Wilson’s War ($66 million against a $75 million budget), and Duplicity ($40 million) haven’t justified the actress’ $20 million salary demands.

2001 – Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball)

Sure, Halle Berry has had a few hits since her brilliant performance in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, but they were all in action franchises. The success of Die Another Day ($161 million), X2: X-Men United ($215 million), and X-Men: The Last Stand ($235 million) had more to do with the famous characters of James Bond and the X-Men than the actors playing them.  Mostly, Berry has just made poor decisions about which films to star in.  Gothika ($59 million), Catwoman ($40 million), Perfect Stranger ($24 million), and Things We Lost In The Fire ($3 million) all not only under-performed at the box office, they were also all just bad movies.

2002 – Nicole Kidman (The Hours)

Studios, if you would like to lose money on a major investment, then by all means, have Nicole Kidman star in your motion picture!  She’s proven box office poison!  She can help expensive sitcom film adaptations like Bewitched earn just $63 million!  She can encourage just $14 million worth of ticket buyers to see Invasion, which cost $80 million!  Even more impressive, she can turn a $180 million blockbuster like The Golden Compass into a sad $70 million earner, or a $130 million epic like Australia into a small $49 million picture!  Truly, there is no box office poison quite as potent as the fair-skinned Ms. Kidman!

2003 – Charlize Theron (Monster)

In the six years that have passed since 2003, Charlize Theron has just one successful movie under her belt, and that’s Hancock, which earned $228 million.  It was no small secret, though, that Sony completely hid her character in the advertising, instead focusing exclusively on Will Smith and his drawing power.  Indeed, I don’t blame them!  With meager grosses from films like The Road ($7 million), North Country ($18 million), In The Valley Of Elah ($6.7 million), and The Burning Plain ($200,730), Theron’s biggest hit that was opened on her appeal comes from the laughably bad Aeon Flux, which only earned $25 million.

2004 – Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)

See 1999 above.

2005 – Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line)

Immediately following her beloved performance as June Carter Cash, Witherspoon starred in two remarkably unsuccessful movies: Rendition ($9.7 million) and Penelope ($10 million).  When she got back to doing what she does best in the 2008 comedy Four Christmases ($120 million), her audience returned.  I can only hope that if Sandra Bullock is unfortunate enough to win Best Actress at the Oscars, she also will remember that audiences like her for her comedic chops, and no amount of Academy Awards will change that.

2006 – Helen Mirren (The Queen)

To be fair, a woman in her sixties can’t be expected to be a major box office draw, but the reality around Mirren, as well as the next two actresses on this list, is that she’s always been a critical darling, but not a box office heavyweight.  National Treasure: Book Of Secrets grossed a great $220 million, but again, the action sequel was its own draw, not the supporting actors.  Her other recent films include Inkheart ($17 million) and State Of Play ($37 million), both of which disappointed.

2007 – Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)

Starred in the pretty well-performing Public Enemies ($97 million), a film marketed solely on Johnny Depp and Christian Bale’s appeal, but she also starred in Nine ($18 million), which has disappointed in every sense of the word.

2008 – Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Ironically, the woman who starred in the biggest (soon to be second biggest) movie of all time, Titanic, has a wholly unremarkable box office record.  She hasn’t starred in anything since The Reader, but a quick look at her 2000s movies reveals ample evidence.  With movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind ($34 million), Little Children ($5 million), and Revolutionary Road ($23 million), it’s clear that Winslet chooses material that can be hard to market, but there’s just no excuse for the mega-flop of All The King’s Men, which only found $7.2 million, despite a star-studded cast.

2009 – Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

Sandra Bullock has infinitely more box office appeal than these actresses, for she can actually open a movie on her star power alone!  Hollywood mistakenly believes that because the above women have Oscars, it makes sense to pay them ridiculously high salaries, but from a box office analysis standpoint, they provide very little bang for your buck!  Bullock deserves a high salary because of her wide appeal, and I’d hate to see her fall prey to the curse of the Best Actress Oscar- It’s a career killer!

The New And The News: The End Of The World Will Involve Foxes And Pirates… Probably

November 9, 2009

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the New and the News.  This week, we’ve got three new wide releases hitting theaters and a slew of interesting news about the world of film.  Come on inside and check it all out!

The New

2012 (Sony) – 3,000 theaters – Reviews
Roland Emmerich is one of those high-profile Hollywood directors that only produces big budget popcorn flicks like Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, and most recently, 10,000 BC.  With the release of 2012, Emmerich is probably hoping to erase any memories of the universally disliked 10,000 BC by hopping 12,012 years into the future.  I’m sure there is a story somewhere inside 2012, but basically, it is an epic disaster movie that will showcase a global cataclysm in the year that the Mayans famously predicted would be the end of the world.  A Summer-style action film in the middle of Winter, 2012 looks like an expensive, exciting thrill ride, and it should do very well at the box office.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox) – Wide Release? – Reviews
As if Roald Dahl was not strange enough, his book is getting the big screen treatment from cinema’s resident oddball, Wes Anderson.  Fantastic Mr. Fox looks like a visual treat, as its animation style looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It is some sort of mixture of stop motion and traditional animation, and it looks pretty interesting. That being said, I do not think that this animation will help it out very much.  I think it will be visually exhausting to watch this unconventional visual style for almost two hours, for it seems more fit for a YouTube video, and I will be surprised if this is actually a hit.  This is a movie that appears to have been made much more for Anderson-loving critics than the public.  On another note, I’m not sure what to believe about Fox‘s release.  Yahoo! Movies states that it will be getting a wide release on Friday, though Box Office Mojo’s theater counts only have it being released into 4 theaters.  I think it actually will get a wide release, but I can’t be sure. 

Pirate Radio (Focus) – 900 theaters – Reviews
This story follows a group of 8 rogue British DJs who defied authority in the name of rock ‘n roll music in the 1960s.  Broadcasting from a boat in the North Atlantic, this “pirate radio” station had to avoid the British government to play the music they loved.  I’m not much into these movies about drugs, rock music, and liberation, and I’m not sure I can buy the studio’s provided synopsis that “the songs that they played united and defined an entire generation.”  That seems like a bit much.  Anyway, this is probably a little too off-beat to be a huge hit, but the ads have been strong and interesting, and it should be able to carve out a small slice of box office pie for itself in the coming weeks.

The News

Avatar’s New Trailer

James Cameron’s long-in-the-works, psychotically expensive science-fiction epic, Avatar, has been surrounded by huge buzz for years.  Reports of groundbreaking technology, incredible 3D sequences, and an incredible story had people very excited.  Thus, when a lackluster trailer debuted a few months ago, people were more than a little disappointed.  Thankfully, a new trailer has been cut for the film, and it’s is so much better.  It gives a strong sense of the story, and it features some pretty dazzling special effects.  It’s hard to not be excited.  Watch the new-and-improved trailer below.

Baldwin And Martin To Host Oscars

Hugh Jackman declined the offer to return as host of the Oscars this year, but the LA Times was quick to report that the Academy had contracted Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to co-host the Oscars this year.  In an era of dwindling ratings for the Oscar telecast, you would think that the Academy might want to try to appeal to a younger crowd, but who knows how these decisions are made… The early reaction has been more than a little mixed, and many people are downright unhappy with the decision.  As a hater of the Oscars, that makes me very happy!

2012 in Theaters = 2013 on TV

If 2012 succeeds in theaters this weekend, it is appearing increasingly likely that we’ll see an ABC spinoff on screens this Fall.   Director Roland Emmerich told EW, “The plan is that it is 2013 and it’s about what happens after the disaster…”  Producer Mark Gordon claims that ABC “will have an opening in their disaster-related programming after LOST ends.”  Interesting for sure, but I’ve never seen this type of movie-into-a-TV-show stunt work.  Anyone remember My Big Fat Greek Life?

“The Tourist” Is Suddenly Very Intriguing

Tom Cruise, Sam Worthington, and Charlize Thereon are out, and THR writes that Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Alfonso Cuaron are in.  Suddenly, The Tourist, a remake of a 2005 French thriller, has gone from white bread to dark and edgy.  This could be a magical combination that makes for a very cool movie.

I’m So Over The Oscars.

January 22, 2009

If you read The Box Office Junkie, you know I despise the Academy Awards, but I’m a film blogger, and I feel obligated to post these. The most boring, stilted, pretentious, fickle, unreasonably admired awards show of all of time just released their 2009 nominations. Of course, fan favorites The Dark Knight and Wall-E were shunned from the Best Picture race because they were released in the summer and actually appeal to large audiences. Instead, we get The Reader?! Ugh. Here are the nominations for the 81st Annual Academy Awards, announced this morning: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Best Picture
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“Frost/Nixon”
“Milk”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Actor
Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Actress
Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”

Director
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant, “Milk”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”

Check here for a full list of nominations. Gosh, the Academy sure is in love with Benjamin Button… The only parts of this entire list that makes me happy is the fact Slumdog Millionaire is being recognized and that Robert Downey Jr. got nominated for his work in the uproarious Tropic Thunder. I’m pretty angry that Wall-E did not get the Best Picture nomination it deserved. Being stuck down in the Best Animated Picture category is a slap in the face to the beautiful, flawless film.

Honestly, if the Oscars didn’t effect theatrical box office tremendously, I wouldn’t bother reporting on them at all. They are boring and completely out of touch with the collective consciousness. In their efforts to prove they have good taste, they look over any film that is remotely mainstream, which just isn’t fair and makes for a very uninteresting awards season. I truly don’t understand their mystique and appeal. They are the very last show in the whole awards season, and they nominate the exact same films that everyone else does! I will certainly not be tuning in. But what about you? Do you agree with me, or am I just a cynic? Anyone else over the Oscars?

Oscar Bait Roundup + Golden Globes Effect

January 13, 2009

The Golden Globes were last night, and as I’m sure you have already heard, the evening undoubtedly belonged to Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire, which picked up the fimmaker’s trifecta of awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. The other big story was Kate Winslet, who nabbed the trophies for both Best Actress and Best Suppoting Actress, for Revolutionary Road and The Reader, respectively. For Best Actor, comeback kid Mickey Rourke was awarded for The Wrestler. Also, Wall-E won Best Animated Picture, which is kind of a backhanded compliment, considering it’s good enough to be Best Picture, without the “animated” stipulation… But anyone could tell you the winners of the night- let’s get to the main point of this post: How will the Golden Globes victories affect the box office performance and Oscar chances of the Oscar bait films?

As you can see below, all of the winners in the Comedy/Musical categories are no longer playing theaters, so they won’t be included in this discussion. I’ll post a list of the winners at the bottom, but first, let’s analyze film by film:


Gran Torino – With a $29 million weekend, Clint Eastwood doesn’t need to worry too much about the fact that he didn’t win any awards. Reviews aren’t really good enough to merit huge Oscar attention, but with a massive $10,000+ venue average, it’s well on its way to $100 million.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – It fell 49% this weekend, and with no major award victories, it will probably continue its descent. Still, it’s made $94 million, and $125 million seems like a likely final total. With or without an Oscar, this is a major financial success for Paramount.

Slumdog Millionaire – I gush about this film enough, as it is, so I’ll keep this short. After $34 million worth of great word-of-mouth and three Golden Globes, Fox Searchlight would be fools to not expand this in the very near future. It’s $6,206 per theater average (in its ninth week!) is strong enough to sustain an expansion, especially with the free advertising that comes from the Golden Globes.

Doubt – It’s banked a surprisingly good $22 million, but it’s $1,945 average isn’t great, and without much awards attention, I doubt it will make it past $30 million.

Revolutionary Road – Could the picture that’s so depressing it’s nigh-unmarketable turn into a success? The awards recognition will certainly help, but the reality is, this is not a story that many people are excited to see on the big screen- they go to see the acting. While it’s $10,667 per theater average looks great on paper, keep in mind that Gran Torino basically matched it, and that film is two weeks older and playing in 20 times as many theaters! Road probably won’t make it past $15 million.

The Reader – This film has more to gain than any other after the Golden Globes, because it hasn’t exactly been blowing up in the last few weekends, and mediocre reviews probably aren’t helping. Out in 507 theaters, it ony managed a $1.3 million weekend, which gave it a fairly poor $2,667 venue average. Weinstein needs to sell the Kate Winslet full force and hope for the best.

Milk – I continues to plug along rather steadily, and it’s earned a pretty good $19 million thus far, but Slumdog Millionaire has really taken away it’s Oscar mojo. If it can manage to pick up an Oscar or two, it might have a chance yet, but it’s momentum is definitely slowing down.

Frost/Nixon – It’s still doing alright, but it’s hardly the flashiest title of the bunch. With $7.6 million so far, it should be able to hit $15 million overall. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke’s Golden Globes win should give this the much needed exposure it needs in order to continue expanding. It’s got a nice venue average right now and about $3 million already, and if Fox Searchlight can play their cards right, they could be looking at a modest hit here. At least $10 million seems likely.

Here are the winners (full list here), with numbers below:

2009 Golden Globe Winners In Film

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle –
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actress – Drama
Kate Winslet –
Revolutionary Road

Best Actor – Drama
Mickey Rourke –
The Wrestler

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy
Sally Hawkins –
Happy Go Lucky


Best Actor – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell – In Bruges

Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet – The Reader

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

Here are the numbers:

Oscar-Seeking Titles for January 9-11 2009
# Movie Title Wk
3-Day Gross
Change Theaters
PTA
Total
Reviews
1 Gran Torino 5 $29,025,000 +888.4% 2,808
(+2,724)
$10,337 $40,065,000 75%
5 The Curious Case
Of Benjamin Button
3 $9,450,000 -49.4% 2,947 (-41) $3,207 $94,330,000 72%
11 Slumdog Millionaire 9 $3,730,000 -20.5% 601 (-11) $6,206 $34,075,000 94%
14 Doubt 5 $2,503,000 -49.9% 1,287 (-) $1,945 $22,941,000 76%
16 Revolutionary Road 3 $1,440,000 +46.1% 135 (+97) $10,667 $3,170,000 67%
17 The Reader 5 $1,352,000 -15.4% 507 (+109) $2,667 $5,516,000 60%
19 Milk 7 $1,251,000 -33.8% 295 (-14) $4,241 $19,125,000 92%
20 Frost/Nixon 6 $912,000 -34.9% 205 (-) $4,449 $7,652,000 90%
21 The Wrestler 4 $874,000 +99.6% 60 (+42) $14,567 $2,848,000 98%
26 Rachel Getting Married 15 $179,805 +7.9% 98 (+31) $1,873 $10,379,000 87%
All Numbers Courtesy Of Exhibitor Relations

Oscar Bait Roundup: Gran Torino Picks Up The Pace In The Oscar Race

January 5, 2009

Now that we are officially in 2009, it’s time for the major awards shows to start handing out their trophies to Tinseltown’s most lauded films. Like I said last week, I find all these award shows pretentious, self-important, and obnoxious, though I have to confess, now that I have watched Slumdog Millionaire, I suddenly find myself caring that it wins stuff! Ah, I’m a victim of hypocrisy! Oh, well. Despite my conflicted awards show attitude, one thing that is definite is that they do have a tremendous effect on many movies’ box office. This week was very good for the Oscar bait movies, as they all saw either tiny drops or solid increases.

Making more money than most of the others can dream of, David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button earned itself $18.4 million this weekend, a drop of 31%, which is by far the largest drop of any of these movies. Of course, this also has the largest audience and theater count of any of these movies, so that’s a loaded statistic. It’s already amassed $79 million, and it’s got tons more on the way.

The only other Oscar bait in wide release is Doubt, which is playing in 1,287 theaters. The religious adaptation, which stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the usually sunny Amy Adams, fell 6% to $5 million. Even if it’s venue average of $3,909 isn’t breaking any records, that small of a drop is utterly fantastic given the serious subject matter and the larger theater count. It’s sitting with about $18.7 million so far.

My beloved Slumdog Millionaire had a great week as well, increasing 11% to $4.7 million. Since last week, it’s added a full $10 million to its total, giving it a $29 million cume. Fox Searchlight continues to impress me. (Hmm, I think I’ll do a post about them later this week.)

Both of Kate Winslet’s films saw major expansions this week. The Reader expanded into 398 theaters, and found $1.6 million, for a $4,070 per theater average. There’s not much awareness for The Reader, and these kinds of numbers just aren’t enough to keep it hanging with the big contenders. On the other hand, Revolutionary Road expanded from three to 38 theaters, and it’s weekend gross increased by a whopping 415% to about $1 million over the frame. It had a nice $25,763 average. The “Kate and Leo are back together!” angle seems to be helping this title for now, but its utterly depressing plot will hurt its chances at box office success. Look for further expansion in the near future.

Milk, which seems to be getting a bit lost in the shuffle, grew 5% this weekend, and it earned an additional $1.8 million. After six weeks in theaters, it’s per theater average of $6,019 is pretty solid, but I see its awards chances dwindling in the face of flashier films. (A fate Frost/Nixon could suffer from as well.) Need an example of one of those flashier films? The Wrestler. This is being painted as the little engine that could of awards season. Critics and audiences are loving Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in the film, and Fox Searchlight is wisely letting the film continue to build buzz before any major expansions. It increased 11% this weekend to $432,000 for an early $1.7 million total.

The performance of the week, though, has got to be Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Despite the fact that it did not add any theaters to its count of 84, the drama increased a whopping 21%, for a $2.8 million weekend. This gave the movie a tremendous $33,571 per theater average. Warner Brothers, who plans on expanding Gran Torino into about 2,600 theaters next weekend, has to be excited with these kinds of numbers. Here are all the numbers:

Oscar-Seeking Titles for January 2-4 2009
# Movie Title Wk 3-Day Gross
Theaters PTA Total Reviews
3 The Curious Case
Of Benjamin Button
2 $18,400,000 2,988 (-) $6,158 $79,011,000 73%
8 Doubt 4 $5,031,000 1287 (+20) $3,909 $18,730,000 76%
10 Slumdog Millionaire 8 $4,770,000 614 (-2) $7,794 $28,778,672 94%
15 Gran Torino 4 $2,820,000 84 (-) $33,571 $9,699,000 73%
16 Milk 6 $1,860,112 309 (-2) $6,019 $17,124,399 93%
17 The Reader 5 $1,620,000 398 (+282) $4,070 $3,575,000 57%
18 Frost/Nixon 4 $1,441,150 205 (-) $7,030 $6,330,150 90%
21 Revolutionary Road 3 $979,000 38 (+35) $25,763 $1,369,000 68%
23 The Wrestler 2 $431,884 18 (-) $23,994 $1,756,112 98%
26 Rachel Getting Married 14 $186,000 67 (+2) $2,776 $10,326,000 87%
All Numbers Courtesy Of Exhibitor Relations

Which of these movies have you seen? Are you happy with their box office, or do they deserve more money? And what do you think should win Best Picture? (Hint: Wall-E or Slumdog are acceptable answers.)

Oscar Bait Roundup: Slumdog Millionaire Is Not In The Slums Anymore

December 30, 2008

I’m not sure if you are aware, but I’m not a fan of the Academy Awards. They’re pretentious and self-important, and they often award films that are truly depressing and pessimistic. This would all be forgivable if the actual awards show were at least entertaining, but no- The Oscars Awards is the single most boring, drawn-out telecast on TV each year (and that includes American Idol results shows). By the time they finally arrive, at the very end of Awards Season, you can already predict each and every winner, and I think the fact that everybody fawns over them so much makes me dislike them a little bit, as well. That’s not to say that many of the films that are rewarded are not good, I just find The Academy to be an extremely overrated entity.

But oh well, I’m a box office blogger, and I’m committed to serving you with analysis about how much money movies are making, and whether or not I care, The Oscars (and other awards shows) definitely mater when it comes to how much money a movie makes. If you need an example, look to 2004’s Million Dollar Baby or 2007’s Juno, two films that never could have broken the $100 million barrier without the awards boost. It works the other way around too. Oscar voters can’t vote on movies that they haven’t seen, so earning more at the box office can definitely contribute to a movie’s chances at a nomination and win. Because of these factors, I thought it might be useful to delve into the performance of the current releases that have been labeled as front-runners in the Oscar race. All of these films, with the very notable exception of Benjamin Button, are either in limited release or in the process of expanding.

Among Oscar bait, the most impressive performance may look like David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which certainly had a great opening weekend, but that film came with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and a ton of promotion. To me, when I look at this weekend’s numbers, I am without a doubt most impressed by Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Even after expanding into a release of 614 theaters, it was still able to to earn a fantastic per theater average of $7,006. When you consider the fact that Slumdog Millionaire has been playing for seven weeks, that number is even more amazing. Meanwhile, films like The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon are newer and have lower theater counts, but still have smaller per theater averages. Now, these films aren’t doing poorly, they just aren’t having the kind of Cinderella run that Slumdog Millionaire is having. To be clear, audiences are in love with this movie, its reviews are amazing, and it’s chugging along at the box office. I attribute a lot of its success to the fact that it has a happy ending. People love seeing an awards-caliber film that leaves them feeling hopeful and happy, and Fox Searchlight (who was distributing Juno this time last year) understands that. I wish it all the success in the world.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is Revolutionary Road, a movie about miserable people being miserable. The reunion of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is attractive, and enough for a great opening gross from just three theaters, but the story will limit its potential tremendously, both awards-wise (not even Oscar-voters are that depressed, but I expect some acting nods) and financially. Meanwhile, there’s The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky’s critically beloved film starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. This movie falls somewhere between Slumdog Millionaire and Revolutionary Road in terms of tone and box office potential. Even with incredible reviews, I think the story may be a bit too sad for this to truly break out, but the ultimately heroic spirit of Mickey Rourke’s super-buzzy performance will keep earning this one earning money at a slow burn for some time. It’s started off very strongly. Finally, Clint Eastwood’s drama Gran Torino has started off very strongly, but its reviews have not been as good as everyone was expecting. It will be interesting to see whether its massive buzz can overcome reviews that, for Eastwood, are just “okay.” In conclusion, even though I’m still looking for Wall-E to take Best Picture, here are the weekend’s results for what I’m calling Oscar bait:


Oscar-Seeking Titles for December 26-28 2008

# Movie Title Wk 3-Day Gross
Theaters PTA Total RT Reviews
3 The Curious Case
Of Benjamin Button
1 $26,853,816 2,988 $7,457 $38,725,647 73%
10 Doubt 3 $5,339,742 1267 $4,214 $8,484,863 76%
13 Slumdog Millionaire 7 $4,301,870 614 $7,006 $19,476,395 94%
15 Gran Torino 3 $2,322,781 84 $27,652 $4,220,824 73%
16 Milk 5 $1,762,638 311 $5,668 $13,533,585 93%
18 Frost/Nixon 4 $1,355,186 205 $6,611 $3,539,426 90%
21 The Reader 3 $664,013 116 $5,724 $1,243,690 57%
22 The Wrestler 2 $387,530 18 $21,529 $907,631 98%
28 Revolutionary Road 1 $189,911 3 $63,304 $189,911 68%
30 Rachel Getting Married 13 $131,440 65 $2,022 $10,017,383 87%

What do you think about the Academy Awards? Do they matter to you, or do judge movies for yourself? Is anyone with me on the Wall-E train? Be a critic in the comments!