Archive for the ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’ Category

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?

Advertisements

Weekend Fix: Gran Torino, Bride Wars, And The Unborn All Have Strong Openings

January 11, 2009

What a great weekend at the box office! Amidst reports of peaking unemployment, retail failures, and recessionary woes, the box office continues to shine throughout this winter season. It appears that people are eager to escape from all the depressing news bogging them down by taking a good ‘ole trip to the movie theater. The Top 12 movies grossed a cumulative $129 million, an increase of 22% over last year. While many of the holdovers got hit harder than expected, the three robust debuts of Gran Torino, Bride Wars, and The Unborn set a promising tone for the rest of 2009.

The number one film this weekend is Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, which earned a fantastic $29 million, after expanding into 2,808 theaters. I believe that this debut will be considered massively important, as it marks another milestone in the ever continual internationalization of cinema. Truly, I can’t remember another film with a large Asian cast to have such audience support. Of course Clint Eastwood was the main draw here, but it’s still a promising sign for the industry. The debut gave the Warner Brothers Oscar bait a per theater average of $10,337, the best in the Top 12. Let me take a moment to break down how great of a venue average that is: Last weekend Gran Torino was playing in 84 theaters and had a per theater average of $33,571, which means that while the theater count increased 3,300% , the per theater average only fell 69%, which is pretty incredible. After five weekends in theaters, Gran Torino has amassed $40 million, and with awards season kicking into high gear, I’m thinking that this shouldn’t have any trouble making it to $100 million in the near future.

Let’s talk about this next film as little as possible. I’ll try to sum it all up in one sentence and then move on to something worth talking about. Fox’s Bride Wars debuted in second place with $21.5 million, which gave it a pretty good (but not surprisingly Satanic) venue average of $6,665. Why, Anne Hathaway? Why?!

The Unborn came in thrid place, with a stronger opening than anyone was expecting. The Universal horror flick scared up a solid $21 million, effectively marking that the 2006-2007 horror slump is over. The recognition here really belongs to Universal’s marketing department, who put together genuinely creepy trailers and television ads that gave people a good of the story (A long-lost, evil, unborn twin is coming to terrorize his sister). I’m usually not a fan of horror movies, but even I wasn’t unexcited for The Unborn. Whereas a movie like Seven Pounds opened poorly because people had no idea what it was about, The Unborn showed that the opposite was true, and I’m thinking that The Uninvited will reap similar benefits later this month. The film had a great $8,950 venue average, but any hope for longevity is pretty doubtful. First, there is the simpe reality that horror releases are notoriously front-loaded, and on top of that, there is a new horror title coming out for the next three weekends. It doesn’t really matter, though, because these movies are so cheap to produce. The Unborn will be pretty fortunate to make it to $50 million, before selling well on DVD.

Wait a second, is it Christmas Weekend all over again? The four Christmas Day releases fill up the next four spots on the chart, albeit with much lower numbers and some fairly steep drops. Provided with fresh titles on the scene, audiences forgot about the old films. Fox took away some of its own audience with Bride Wars, and consequently, the Jennifer Aniston starrer, Marley And Me, dropped 53% to $11.3 million, and has earned $123 million overall. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button fell 49% to $9.4 million for the weekend, and a $94 million cume. Perhaps poor word-of-mouth has spread, because Bedtime Stories fell a harsh 58% to $8.5 million, giving it $97 million total. The Brad Pitt and Adam Sandler features will each surpass $100 million in the next week. Tom Cruise’s comback movie, Valkyrie declined 53% to $6.6 million, and has found a solid $71 million overall.

The Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man fell 56% this weekend to $6 million. After its dispappointing $18 million opening, Warner Brothers’ Yes Man has been leggier than anyone would have guessed, and it has now earned a total of $89 million, which represents an impressive 5.0 multiplier.

In ninth place, we have Not Easily Broken, a marital drama from Sony released in just 724 theaters. Proving that melodrama is a genre that does have some life in it, Not Easily Broken earned $5.6 million, which gave the film a good $7,735 per theater average. While this result is a nice surprise for the weekend, it pales in comparison to the kind of numbers that Tyler Perry can pull in for a similar movie. He truly does have the golden touch.

Moving down a notch to another overly dramatic film, the Will Smith snoozefest Seven Pounds dropped 61% to $3.9 million over the weekend frame. With $66 million in the bank after four weekends, the ultra serious Sony drama will go down as one of the few missteps in Smith’s otherwise impeccable career.

Future Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire (that is, if Wall-E isn’t nominated) dropped just 20% to $3.7 million this weekend for a $34 million total. It’s still pulling in a solid $6,206 venue average, but Fox Searchlight needs to pump up the advertising and the theater count, because there is certainly lots of life left in this vibrant title, especially as it rakes in the awards.

Down in 12th place is Twilight, the teenage vampire movie from way back in November that can’t be stopped. Perhaps it’s just riding on the news of star Taylor Lautner returning for the sequel, but the Summit Entertainment feature fell just 40% to $2.8 million, and it has grossed a stunning $181 million over eight weekends. Here are the full weekend results:

Top 12 for January 9-11 2009

# Movie Title 3-Day Gross
% Change AVG. Total
1 Gran Torino $29,025,000 888% $10,337 $40,065,000
2 Bride Wars $21,500,000 $6,665 $21,500,000
3 The Unborn $21,095,150 $8,950 $21,095,150
4 Marley And Me $11,350,000 -53% $3,263 $123,710,171
5 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $9,450,000 -49% $3,247 $94,330,000
6 Bedtime Stories $8,550,000 -58% $2,435 $97,180,000
7 Valkyrie $6,662,000 -53% $2,347 $71,509,383
8 Yes Man $6,155,000 -56% $2,083 $89,411,000
9 Not Easily Broken $5,600,000 $7,735 $5,600,000
10 Seven Pounds $3,900,000 -61% $1,588 $66,830,000
11 Slumdog Millionaire $3,730,000 -20% $6,206 $34,074,855
12 Twilight $2,789,000
-40% $1,902 $181,395,000
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

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.)

Weekend Fix: Everything (But The Spirit) Holds Well, Slumdog And Doubt Shine

January 4, 2009

The first weekend of 2009 provided Hollywood with a strong start for the year. Marley And Me, Bedtime Stories, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Valkyrie remained the top four choices for moviegoers, and the top seven features each held their rank from last weekend. Though there was very little movement on the chart, solid holdovers and tiny drops led the Top 12 to earn $130 million in total box office, a 7% increase over the first weekend of 2008. It’s a happy new year, indeed.

Marley And Me again took the top spot, grossing $24 million, for an eye-popping $106 million total. The Fox production dropped 34% from last week and had a solid $6,682 per theater average, which guarantees that it will keep playing in theaters for a good while longer. Marley And Me has firmly re-established the box office vitality of both Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, and it really is a victory for all those involved. Between this and last year’s Alvin and the Chipmunks, Fox has demonstrated that they know how to open a movie in late December to great success, so if you’re wondering about the prospects of Fox’s next December title, James Cameron’s Avatar, which is being released on December 19th of this year, I’m making an early prediction that it’s going to be HUGE.

Disney’s Adam Sandler vehicle, Bedtime Stories, evaded any backlash from its horrendous reviews and managed to drop just 26% to $20 million. Proving that the holidays are kind to family films, Bedtime Stories earned a $5,507 venue average, as parents took advantage of the winter break and flocked to the theaters with their kids one last time, before they had to go back to school. The film has grossed a nice $85 million so far.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button fell 31% in its second weekend, raking in an estimated $18 million dollars. The Paramount picture had a good $6,158 per theater average. There’s something nice about seeing a true-blue, old-school Hollywood drama starring A-list leads like Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett do so well at the box office. It just makes me feel like there is normalcy in the world, which is comforting. After twelve days, the picture has amassed a very good $79 million.

United Artists’ Valkyrie continued its surprisingly strong run this weekend, adding $14 million to its box office total, with a $5,505 venue average. The WWII drama starring Tom Cruise has caught on quite well with male viewers, and with $60 million already in the bank, it could be headed to a $90 million total. So while Tom Cruise may not be all the way back to his Mission: Impossible/ Top Gun glory days, he’s well on his way to career redemption.

The next three spots are filled by three films that can’t seem to get enough of each other, for they have been stuck together on the chart since they debuted three weeks ago. In fifth place is the Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel comedy Yes Man, which earned $14 million. The Warner Brothers film has performed admirably after its lackluster start, and it now sits with $79 million total. In sixth is Seven Pounds, the Will Smith flick that just didn’t ever catch on. This weekend the Sony drama found $10 million, pushing its total to $60 million. And in seventh is Universal’s The Tale Of Despereaux, which grossed $7 million, for a modest $43 million total.

Doubt came in eighth place this weekend, as the effects of awards season begin to show their strength. The religious drama from Miramax fell only 6% to $5 million. It’s $3,909 venue average isn’t amazingly strong, but its enough to keep it around for a few weeks, and if it can pick up some awards, it will keep up its slow burn at the box office. Thus far, it has earned a pretty-good-considering-the-subject-matter $19 million. The Day The Earth Stood Still, a film that won’t be winning any awards, earned $4.8 million this weekend for an alright $74 million total.

And now for the film that I am unabashedly in love with: Slumdog Millionaire. I’m serious, it’s not like I just liked this movie a little bit- I LOVED it. I’m talking Wall-E levels of affection here! To my great pleasure, the Danny Boyle masterpiece did great at the box office this week, actually increasing 11% to $4.7 million, for a $29 million total. Even better, it’s $7,794 per theater average was the best in the Top 12! Fox Searchlight has mastered the art of rolling out lovable, artistic flicks like this one, and they’re doing a great job with Slumdog Millionaire. Seriously, go see it.

Filling up the last two spots are November stalwarts, Twilight and Bolt. The Summit vampire movie sucked another $4.5 million out of Americans’ pockets for a $176 million total. It will be interesting to see how the third Underworld movie, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans, which debuts later this month, will perform in this newly-invigorated vampire genre. Finishing off the Top 12 is Disney’s Bolt, a film that has recovered nicely after a very slow start. This weekend, it grossed $3.2 million for a $110 total, which represents a great 4.23 multiplier. (For the uninitiated, a multiplier is calculated by dividing a movie’s total gross by its opening weekend.)

From here on out, look for things to cool down a bit now that the holidays have come to a close. The box office should return to its regular cycle of low weekday and high weekend numbers. Next weekend will see the debut of three new films: Bride Wars, The Unborn, and Not Easily Broken. Check back next Thursday for my Weekend Preview, throughout the week for new industry-related stories. For now though, here are this weekend’s results:

Top 12 for January 2-4 2009
# Movie Title 3-Day Gross
% Change AVG. Total
1 Marley And Me $24,050,000 -34% $6,862 $106,510,250
2 Bedtime Stories $20,317,000 -26% $5,507 $85,351,000
3 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $18,400,000 -31% $6,158 $79,011,000
4 Valkyrie $14,042,000 -33% $5,055 $60,691,979
5 Yes Man $13,850,000 -17% $4,033 $79,413,000
6 Seven Pounds $10,000,000 -24% $3,626 $60,308,000
7 The Tale Of Despereaux $7,019,816 -21% $2,271 $43,741,816
8 Doubt $5,031,000 -6% $3,909 $18,730,000
9 The Day The Earth Stood Still $4,850,000 -37% $2,075 $74,299,426
10 Slumdog Millionaire $4,770,000 11% $7,794 $28,778,672
11 Twilight $4,530,000 -4% $2,399 $176,815,169
12 Bolt $3,271,000 -3% $1,892 $109,897,000
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Friday Estimates: Marley Stays On Top, Bedtime Stories Holds Well, And Go Slumdog Millionaire!

January 3, 2009

After a magnificent debut last weekend, Marley And Me will again take the top spot, and based on its $9.7 million Friday numbers, it’s looking like the dog movie should drop by about 30% for the weekend. Bedtime Stories only fell 16% from last Friday to $8.5 million, while The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button dropped 30% to $7.1 million. Overall, things at the box office are looking pretty similar to last weekend, and it looks like my holiday prediction method will end up working out pretty well. The biggest news on the charts might belong to Slumdog Millionaire, which actually increased 13% from last Friday on the heels of massive awards buzz. I saw the film last night, and let me go on record as saying that Slumdog Millionaire deserves all the critical and financial praise it’s getting. Out in 612 theaters, it’s already earned about $25 million, and I’m very hopeful about it’s prospects, but I will not be satisfied until it has earned at least $75 million. Anyway, here are the Friday Estimates:

Top 12 for January 2, 2009
# Movie Title Friday-to-

Friday
Daily Gross
1 Marley And Me -31% $9,700,000
2 Bedtime Stories -16% $8,500,000
3 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button -30% $7,100,000
4 Yes Man -7% $5,600,000
5 Valkyrie -33% $5,400,000
6 Seven Pounds -18% $3,900,000
7 The Tale Of Despereaux -12% $2,800,000
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still -32% $1,900,000
9 Doubt -2% $1,800,000
10 Twilight +12% $1,800,000
11 Slumdog Millionaire +13% $1,600,000
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Weekend Preview: 2009 Picks Up Right Where 2008 Left Off

January 2, 2009

Wow, my job is made a lot easier when there are no new wide releases to report on! My job is also made easier during the week after Christmas, when films tend to earn the same amount of money pretty much every day, regardless of their time in the week. Thus, as you can probably predict, holdovers will rule the first weekend in 2009, and surprise blockbuster Marley And Me will again take the number one spot on the charts.

Here’s how I figured out this week’s numbers- it’s actually ridiculously simple. With everyone out of school and work, and weekdays and weekend days acting essentially the same this week, I took the Tuesday numbers and multiplied them all by by about 3.3. It would be just 3.0, but the weekend does matter a little bit. And Oscar bait that is marketed solely to adults I multiplied by 3.8, since there are adults that have been working this week. And that’s really all I did. Will my little experiment work? We’ll see. All I know, is that Marley And Me will cross the $100 million mark, Bedtime Stories and The Curious Benjamin Button should end up around $80 million, and Valkyrie might make it to $60 million. Also, of note, after a weak $10 million start, The Tale Of Despereaux is doing alright for itself. It has currently earned $32 million, and might finish the weekend with $42 million. It could ultimately outgross Seven Pounds. Here’s the full forecast for the weekend:

Predicted Top 12 for January 2-4
1. Marley And Me – $25 million
2. Bedtime Stories – $21.5 million
3. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – $18 million
4. Valkyrie – $14 million
5. Yes Man – $12 million
6. The Tale Of Despereaux – $8.5 million
7. Seven Pounds – $8 million
8. The Day The Earth Stood Still – $4.3 million
9. Twilight – $4 million
10. Doubt – $4 million
11. Slumdog Millionaire – $3.8 million
12. Bolt – $3.5 million

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!

Weekend Fix: Marley And Me Shuts Out Competition On The Biggest Christmas Weekend Ever

December 28, 2008

Fueled by the powerful debuts of Marley And Me, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Bedtime Stories, and Valkyrie, the box office was in full force this weekend, pulling in record numbers for the Christmas frame. It appears that in the midst of a recession, while retail sales are rapidly declining and unemployment is on the rise, the movies offered American audiences a perfect escape from the harsh realities of life. If only the holidays could help our economy as much as they help the movie industry! Over the four day weekend, the Top 12 pulled in an amazing $264 million. Over the three day weekend, the Top 12 pulled in an estimated $194 million, an increase of 15% over the same weekend last year.

Marley And Me nabbed the top spot this weekend, with a humongous $51.6 million opening. Based on the popular bestseller by Josh Grogan, Fox’s already successful Marley And Me officially shuts up all those who claimed that Jennifer Aniston would never be able to become a full-fledged movie star. Between this and 2006’s The Break Up, it seems she has found her niche in relationship movies that are not quite romantic comedies. This is also a big victory for Owen Wilson, as this marks his comeback from his unfortunate and highly publicized suicide attempt last year, so it’s nice to see him doing better. Marley And Me had a fantastic per theater average of $14,849 ($10,632 for the 3-day), the best in the Top 12. Fox has advertised this movie so well. Just like with last December’s Alvin And The Chipmunks, they sold the cute-factor, with commercials that showcased the adorable canine, and it payed off in a big way! In fact, cuteness, sweetness, and schmaltz are all perfectly acceptable in the holiday season. With great family playability and good enough reviews, this should continue to do solid business over the next few days and weeks, and I don’t see any reason why Marley And Me shouldn’t breeze all the way to $170 million in the near future. A true success in every way.

In second place this weekend was David Fincher’s Oscar bait, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which took in a great $39 million. The Paramount picture exceeded expectations and had a brilliant per theater average of $13,052 ($9,103 for the 3-day). Audiences responded to the fresh and innovative storyline, proving that a good story is the best way to sell a movie. But the story didn’t do all the work here- Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett definitely pulled in some viewers, and the good reviews and Oscar buzz pulled in even more. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button fought against its long playtime, avoiding the three-hour-curse that plagued King Kong in 2005, and performed like a champ. With awards season already upon us, Button should continue to perform strongly, and I’ve gotta say, it is nice to see a movie that can be considered both mainstream and an awards-contender. If it wins some major honors, the sky is the limit in terms of box office, but even if it doesn’t, $140 million is all but assured.

Disney’s Adam Sandler picture (oxymoron?), Bedtime Stories, came in third place this weekend, earning $38.6 million over four days. Bedtime Stories is a classic case of a movie that is a victim of high expectations. Even if its $38.6 million debut isn’t necessarily bad, everyone was expecting this to do better, and absolutely no one thought that The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which was playing in 700 less theaters and is over an hour longer than Bedtime Stories, could match its debut. So why wasn’t it bigger? Well, I think there are a couple of factors that led to this result. To begin, reviews were bad. Very bad. On top of that, people associate Adam Sandler with a very specific kind of character (see: slacker and/or raunchy), and perhaps that didn’t work so well during the holiday season, where wholesome characters are more welcome. But don’t get me wrong- Bedtime Stories is far from a failure. In fact, with a very large theater count and a good $10,630 venue average ($9,103 for the 3-day), Bedtime Stories should stick around for a while, and will have no trouble making it to $140 million.

Proving that he’s still a star, Tom Cruise also had a good weekend at the cineplex, as United Artists’ Valkyrie took in an estimated $30 million. This movie had a lot working against it. The first problem, Tom Cruise. Mr. Cruise has wisely toned down his antics and raves over the past year, and it looks like audiences are finally ready to move on from Oprah-gate and Lauer-bash. The second problem , a war theme. In the past few years, films about war have not done well at all. You see, movies are about escapism, and when our country is currently at war, no one wants to go to the theater to see what’s already on the news 24/7. It appears, though, that Valkyrie, which takes place during WWII, is far enough removed from our current situation to be affected by the poor receipts that have plagued movies about the Iraq War. With a good $11,075 average ($7,942 over the 3-day), Valkyrie could return Tom Cruise to his $100 million days.

The next four spots on the chart were occupied by last weekend’s top four releases. Warner Brothers’ Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey, did pretty well, dipping just 10% over the three day weekend ($16.5 million), and pulling in $22 million over four days, for a total of $50 million. The Sony drama Seven Pounds was also down 10% ($13.4 million over the 3-day), grabbing an additional $18 million over the four day weekend, which gives the Will Smith vehicle a very underwhelming $40 million total. The Tale Of Despereaux held it’s own, making $11.4 ($9.4 million over the 3-day, a 7% drop) million for a humble $27.7 million total. And sci-fi actioner The Day The Earth Stood Still notched a $10.3 million weekend ($7.9 over the 3-day, a 20% drop) for a $63.3 million total.

Way back in ninth place was Lionsgate’s attempt at Sin City, a much worse movie called The Spirit, which only managed to earn $10.4 million in it’s four day debut, but just $6.5 million over the regular weekend. Despite a cast made up of Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, and Scarlatt Johannson, The Spirit had a weak $4,125 venue average ($2,595 over the 3-day). This was a movie marketed to teens and fanboys, and it’s front-loadedness is already apparent. Look for The Spirit to disappear quickly.

December stalwart Four Christmases added an extra $7.1 million ($5 million over the 3-day) to it’s great $111.8 million cume. The Warner Brothers comedy will probably disappear pretty quickly now that Christmas has passed. Next on the list was Miramax’s Doubt. After expanding into 1,228 theaters, the dramatic Oscar contender starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, did pretty well, considering its dour subject matter. Over four days, it pulled in $7.1 million for a $6,294 per theater average ($5.7 million over the 3-day, for a $4,479 average). Doubt has currently earned $8.8 million. Rounding out the Top 12 was Twilight, a movie that has done quite well for itself over the past six weeks. Summit’s teen vampire flick found another $6.5 million this weekend, boosting its total to $167 million. (As a side note, I just learned about all this drama going on among Twilight fangirls! The studio wants to recast Taylor Lautner in New Moon for someone with bigger muscles, but the fans want Taylor as Jacob! Read more here…it’s kind of hilarious.) Results for both the 4-day and 3-day weekends are below:

Top 12 for December 25-28 2008
# Movie Title 4-Day Gross
Total
1 Marley And Me $51,675,000 $51,675,000
2 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $39,000,000 $39,000,000
3 Bedtime Stories $38,598,000 $38,598,000
4 Valkyrie $30,000,000 $30,000,000
5 Yes Man $22,400,000 $49,591,000
6 Seven Pounds $18,100,000 $39,026,000
7 The Tale Of Despereaux $11,400,000 $27,945,000
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still $10,400,000 $63,615,000
9 The Spirit $10,350,000 $10,350,000
10 Four Christmases $7,300,000 $111,817,000
11 Doubt $7,100,000 $8,825,000
12 Twilight $6,000,000 $167,063,207
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Top 12 for December 26-28 2008
# Movie Title 3-Day Gross
1 Marley And Me $37,000,000
2 Bedtime Stories $28,069,000
3 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $27,200,000
4 Valkyrie $21,531,000
5 Yes Man $16,450,000
6 Seven Pounds $13,400,000
7 The Tale Of Despereaux $9,367,000
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still $7,900,000
9 The Spirit $6,510,000
10 Doubt $5,675,000
11 Four Christmases $5,045,000
12 Twilight $4,518,000

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Friday Estimates: Marley Remains Top Dog

December 27, 2008

The Friday Estimates chart looks almost identical to Thursday, as Marley And Me stayed on top the day after Christmas with a fantastic $14 million. It’s looking to earn around $55 million over the weekend, when all is said and done. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Bedtime Stories each took in around $10 million, and both should finish the four-day weekend with $40 million under their belts, which is great for Benjamin Button but a bit underwhelming for Bedtime Stories. Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, continues to exceed expectations, notching another $8 million on Friday. It looks to be heading for $30 million by Sunday. The Spirit is already revealing it’s front-loadedness, falling 25% to $3 million from Thursday to Friday. It’s should match my original prediction of $12 million over the four days. Also of note, Doubt and Slumdog Millionaire are still doing their thing near the bottom of the chart. Here are the rest of the results:

Top 12 for December 26, 2008
# Movie Title Daily Gross
1 Marley And Me $14,o00,000
2 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $10,200,000
3 Bedtime Stories $10,100,000
4 Valkyrie $8,000,000
5 Yes Man $5,500,000
6 Seven Pounds $4,550,000
7 The Spirit $3,000,000
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still $2,200,000
9 The Tale Of Despereaux $2,100,000
10 Four Christmases $2,000,000
11 Doubt $1,470,000
12 Slumdog Millionaire $1,280,000
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Christmas Day Estimates: Oh My Dog! Marley And Me Opens To $14.5 Million On First Day!

December 26, 2008

Wow, I don’t think anyone saw this powerful of a debut coming! And that applies to more movies than one! The top three films had the top three Christmas Day debuts EVER. Marley And Me just broke the all-time record for best Christmas Day box office with an estimated $14.5 million! It could be looking a sizzling $58 million debut! The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button didn’t do too badly either, with $11.8 million. The long play-time will cut into it’s gross a bit, but a $45 million projection ain’t too shabby. Assumed front-runner Bedtime Stories took third place with $10.5 million, but I believe it will do much better in the next few days, considering Christmas is a day when many families do choose to stay in. It might finish with $45 million. Even Valkyrie (to my chagrin, I’ll admit it) managed to pull in $8.5 million in ticket sales! The Tom Cruise starrer could make it to $30 million by Sunday. Thanks goodness for The Spirit, which helped maintain some predictability at the box office by only earning $4 million. Give it a still-way-better-than-it-deserves $15 million weekend. Wow, what an amazing day at the box office! Unlike last weekend, the new releases have captured moviegoers’ attention, and people flocked to the theaters in droves this Christmas. Here are the estimates:

Top 12 for December 25, 2008
# Movie Title Daily Gross
1 Marley And Me $14,500,000
2 The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $11,800,000
3 Bedtime Stories $10,500,000
4 Valkyrie $8,500,000
5 Yes Man $6,000,000
6 Seven Pounds $4,750,000
7 The Spirit $4,000,000
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still $2,750,000
9 Four Christmases $2,250,000
10 The Tale Of Despereaux $2,000,000
All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

It’s funny, though. My family has never even considered going to the movies on Christmas Day, and I’ve always felt like a lot of people are in the same boat as me. I don’t even change out of my pajamas, much less go out! It just wouldn’t feel appropriate to me. Anyone else agree? Or do YOU go to the movies on December 25th? Let me know in the comments! Happy holidays!