In the final frame before Christmas this year, the box office was in sorry shape. With a lackluster slate of new releases that failed to take full advantage of the holiday, and snow storms across the Northeast, the Top 12 raked in just $82 million, down a whopping 45% from the same weekend a year ago. Yes Man topped the charts, with Seven Pounds and The Tale Of Despereaux following in second and third, but all three of the new releases failed to really break out.
Jim Carrey’s antic-laden comedy, Yes Man, earned $18 million this weekend at the multiplex. Considering 2007 saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets debut to $44 million during the same weekend last December, this is not a great result. With poor reviews and a tired concept, Yes Man failed to provide audiences with something new, and it paid the price. Yes Man looked like a 1990’s comedy, and with its underwhelming debut, people made it very clear that they currently prefer the Apatow-style of comedy, which is fast-paced and raunchy, but soulful. The Warner Brothers release had a $5,288 per theater average, which is mediocre for a new release, but all is not lost for Yes Man. The silver lining here is that we are in late December, where every day acts like a weekend day, so the comedy should be leggier than most, but this still has to be a disappointment for both the studio and Carrey, who needs to pursue more dramatic roles, like in The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind. Personally, I’m excited for his role in 2010’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
Seven Pounds, the Sony-produced Will Smith drama, sputtered out of the gates, earning just $16 million in its first three days. Earning an alright $5,801 per theater, Seven Pounds actually had the highest venue average in the Top 12, which shows how weak the frame was overall. The big problem here was in the advertising. From the trailer and commercials, it was almost impossible to figure out what this movie was about, which is never a good strategy for promoting a film. The bad reviews didn’t help things, either. The real loser in this equation, though, has got to be Will Smith, who was hoping for his 9th $100 million earner with Seven Pounds. Up until this point, Smith was untouchable among stars. Unfortunately, with a $16 million dollar opening, this probably won’t stick around nearly as long as December 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness ($163 million finish) or December 2007’s I Am Legend ($256 million finish). It could be that Smith’s recent donations to the Church of Scientology (oxymoron?) are having a Tom Cruise Effect on his career. All I have to say is, “Don’t become crazy, Will!”
The final new release this weekend was The Tale Of Despereaux, which opened to $10.5 million. The Universal film about a gallant mouse got middling reviews, and proved for the umpteenth time that releasing an animated movie is a task best left to Dreamworks or Disney. It seems like whenever a studio (that is not Pixar) tries to release a detailed, realistic-looking animated film, it doesn’t work out at the box office. Films like Ice Age, Madagascar, or Open Season, which have zanier, exaggerated animation, tend to do better. Despereaux had a disappointing per theater average of $3,810, and I fully expect it to get left in the dust when Disney’s Bedtime Stories debuts on Christmas Day.
Among holdovers, drops were a bit steeper than expected, mostly due to the snow storms across the Northeast (and as someone who was in Connecticut during the snow storms, I can attest: there was a lot of snow). Fox’s sci-fi actioner, The Day The Earth Stood Still, nosedived 67% this weekend, earning $10 million for a $48.6 million total. This is yet another case of The Fanboy Effect. Warner Brothers’ well-performing Four Christmases fell 41% to $7.7 million as it crossed the $100 million mark, while Summit’s Twilight continued to show it’s resilience, as it’s 34% drop was the smallest in the Top 12. It earned an additional $5.2 million for a fantastic $158.4 million total.
Disney’s Bolt fell 43% to $4.3 million, as it inches its way closer to the $100 million plateau. The animated dog feature has performed admirably over the past few weeks, and it currently sits with $95 million. Not so lucky was Fox’s Australia, the overblown epic starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Down 44% to $2.3 million, the insanely expensive Baz Luhrmann film has a disappointing total of just $41 million. At the bottom tier of the Top 12, Quantum of Solace fell 42% to $2.1 million, Milk dropped 37% to $1.6 million, and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa declined 53% to $1.5 million. Totals are $161.3 million, $10.3 million, and $172.3 million, respectively.
Up above, I skipped over the one real bright spot of the weekend: Slumdog Millionaire. The Fox Searchlight feature, which audiences and critics are loving, expanded into 589 theaters and earned $3.2 million over the weekend. This was good for a venue average of $5,388, the second-best in the Top 12. The most palatable of this year’s Oscar bait, Slumdog Millionaire has already earned $12 million, and with many awards on the way, look for the Danny Boyle film to keep chugging right along for the next few weeks.
Next weekend brings us seven new wide releases: Amusement, Bedtime Stories, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Marley and Me, Revolutionary Road, Spirit, and Valkyrie. These releases should bring a much-needed dose of flavor to the movies, which will hopefully redeem the performances this weekend. Regardless, with that many new films, things should be interesting… Here’s the chart:
Top 12 for December 19-21
||The Tale of Despereaux
||The Day The Earth Stood Still
||Quantum Of Solace
||Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
What do you think of this weekend’s box office? What went wrong? Do you think things will pick up next weekend? Write your answers in the comments!