So Pirates underperformed, but still made shitloads of money. In that way, it’s good to be Knocked Up. Nobody’s summer rests on your shoulders, and if you only make $60 million then the only people disappointed are those with good taste. In Hollywood… they are few and far between.
THE WEEKEND’S MOST INTERESTING MOVIE
The challenge of Knocked Up is that it’s a quality film that stars Seth Rogen, and Zyzzyx Road‘s Katherine Heigl. Does "From the director of The 40-Year-Old-Virgin" have pull? Does the fact that the film plays like gangbusters with a crowd (any crowd) mean a god damned thing?
I hope so, and I hope so for the reasons why I hope for a lot of things – that the best possible sort of obvious thing happens. This isn’t a Fight Club, this isn’t a Memento, this isn’t a Spirited Away. And this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. It’s a very funny comedy that, above all else, is concerned with humans acting human. And frankly, and god damn it, this is a rare occurrence in the world of American cinema these days. It’s also not a brand name, it’s just people that should be trusted to make funny making funny. And I hope it makes $200 million dollars. But let’s get to my actual job here.
Virgin made $109 million after opening to $21. But it was a mid August release that played well into the fall. Knocked Up is positioned in the eye of the summer, and here is going to be the biggest problem for this movie. Evan Almighty opens three weeks later in a crowded marketplace, and Universal will likely sacrifice some screens of Knocked Up to get multiple prints of their reported $200 million dollar fiasco on screen. The production budget of Virgin was $26 million, and it’s likely that Knocked Up was around the same – it’s possible the most expensive thing in the production was the amount of film shot, which was more than a million feet. (How do I know this? I was on the set, like, a year ago.) Now Knocked Up has had quite a bit of pre-release hype (Dev gave it 10 out of 10, and Jeremy 9 out of 10), but it’s still (at best) only getting to second this weekend.
Pirates, even if it takes a 70% hit, gets to $35. Likely it will end up around $50 million. Shrek the Third dropped 56% last weekend. That’s not good for a holiday weekend, and took most estimaters (including yours truly) by surprise. So if it takes a 50-60% hit, it’s circling $25. It would be awesome to see Knocked Up in the high $20’s to $30 million, and that’s not impossible. But one can only hope. Realistically, I’ve can’t ignore the possibility of low twenties and not be afraid of saying $18 million.
Those numbers aren’t bad, and for the fact that you’re launching a Seth Rogen vehicle, fuck if $15 million isn’t pretty damned great, especially if this was done on the cheap. But why $25-30 Million becomes so important (and legs) is that Universal’s got another picture coming right down the barrel, and Disney and Paramount are going to want their Pirates and Shreks on screen as long as they can – they spent a lot of money on these films, and though they won’t get to $400 from all evidence, they’re still juggernauts. Paramount’s going to at least want to play their Shrek into Transformers (though they may prove generous and give up the evening shows before that date, as kids films are as useless as a ninety-year-old dick sans Viagra come nightfall), and Pirates into Ratatouille, both of which come out after Evan – and trust me, Studios get pissed if you have two of someone else’s films and none of theirs. There’s three wide pictures this week, three next week, three after that, and then Evan, 1408 and Captivity all going wide on 6/22 (along with September Dawn and You Kill Me also listed as going wide). So there’s fourteen pictures going "wide" within the next four weekends… but you don’t fuck a good gross over for a little picture that’s doomed to play two weeks, and by the same token DOA (listed as 6/15) and Mr. Brooks are two week pictures in most of non-competitive markets that will bother with them (Note: I’m cribbing these listings from boxofficemojo.com and wide can mean anything from 4000 to 800). Maybe one or both will play evening shows with second prints of Shrek after a week or two. But since everything is so front-loaded, a theater’s going to want to have multiple but quickly disposable prints of Ocean’s 13, or Fantastic Four 2, or Evan, cause it’s all about the first week numbers.
And if you’re talking about fourteen wide pictures in the next four weekends, do the math on the multiplexes. Of course, you can wheedle that fourteen down to half that. The real "wides" are as follows: Hostel II, Surf’s Up, Oceans 13 on 6/8, and that’s mostly going to hurt Spidey, especially since it’ll be done by the end of this weekend. Fantastic Four and Nancy Drew are 6/15 – though it’s hard to know if Drew will be successful counter-programming… likely not, though – in a summer like this – a $50 gross is a win. Evan is the only important picture come 6/22, but 1408 I suspect will go wide. And a theater’s got to contend with multiple prints. On the plus side for Knocked Up, it’s the only real comedy until Evan. Which looks as funny as ovarian cancer.
The problem is studios will eat their own if they need to, and if Knocked Up doesn’t play super-healthy, and if Universal is serious about chasing profitability with Evan (which may be literally impossible), they will fuck Knocked Up over if it’s viable, or that is to say, they’ll ruin some if not a lot of its legs. Thankfully for everyone, there aren’t that many three or four screen markets left in the US, but even an twelve or fourteen screen has to do a lot of juggling when you’re dealing with the summer business, and studio politics play an important part of that. The question becomes: how long can Knocked Up stay on screen? Because word of mouth is already killer. Let’s hope all summer.
THE MOST INTERESTING INDEPENDENT FILM OF THE WEEK:
I liked Night Watch, and so I’m going to say Day Watch, which hits five screens this weekend. And a dude gets hit by a bus in this one. Yeah, it’s an amalgamation of a bunch of difference influences (and a lot of Western ones), but it’s also a crazy Russian Sci-Fi vampire movie. And I like that.
PREDICTIONS! NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!:
Pirates takes a bite, but keeps on ticking, Shrek drops another big percentage, and Spidey falls under ten million for the returners. Gnah. Truth be told, Pirates could take a much nastier hit than I’m predicting. If so, there’s a fork in the franchise. The film has a listed production budget of $300 million. If it doesn’t clear that stateside, that’s embarrassing, it should, but it’s not going to challenge the Dead Man’s Chest numbers. It’s also following a holiday weekend, which is supposedly beneficial for the numbers. If Knocked Up opened to number one, somehow hit $40 while Pirates hit $38, it would be exactly like the end of Rocky II, or more to the point, the mirror image of the opening of Rocky III.
Mr. Brooks goes wide, but the reviews are mixed, and Costner’s no longer a great draw. Fifth place and six million sounds a bit generous. Insert Dane Train joke here( I think… I can’t?). Gracie is a soccer movie for little girls (and Devin), and hits 1000 screens. This would need to be a word of mouth hit, and it’s likely to be playing art-houses, and faux-art-houses. It is from the director of An Inconvenient Truth. If it cracks the top ten, that’s a small victory. I’m going to hope for the best for Knocked Up, so Im going to intentionally go high on it.
1. Pirates: At World’s End – $50.5 Million
2. Knocked Up – $26 Million
3. Shrek the Third – $24 Million
4. Spider-Man 3 – $7.5 Million
5. Mr. Brooks – $5.7 Million
And Sunday, I’ll hope that Apatow and Co. cleaned up.