So, that Indy buzz caught up with the rest of the world this week. Will it hurt the opening weekend? They’ve got four days, which could catch up with the film come Saturday. Y’all were hoping we were wrong, right? I was too. But there you go. There’s still hope, I guess. There’s little out there about the “scary animal/insect” scene that’s like to show up, though that the reviews haven’t focused on it may also say something.
When you look at box office predictions, across the board, they are biased. I’ve been watching the election with a fairly faithful eye, and you see a number of the same mistakes in gauging those results as with box office (both are about margin of error). This is bound to happen – it’s not that we’re completely making it up, it’s that the word given is unreliable, and so much about it is about looking into the tea leaves. I’m not suggesting my own irrelevancy, far from it – I’m awesomely relevant – it’s just that the x factor makes everything hard to gauge well. As I have said from the beginning, some films are obviously going to open and some are not, but it’s also obvious when some people try to force their opinions of the movie onto the box office results.
When we look at the people who often call superfoul – back in the old days when we had talkbacks, or in the massive but easily followed box office thread on the Chud message boards, or when Jeremy posted his stories about the summer box office likely winners and misfires – it’s usually because some readers want to hold their own opinions to the box office. Another example is when a movie geared at a specific audience (be it Tyler Perry or teen girls, etc.) does especially well and it seems like the world has no taste. Or when people poo-poo a gross because ultimately it doesn’t fit into what they see at the box office, or what they think about the film in question.
Now, in my most Poland-esque fashion, this may seem like I’m talking about David Poland specifically. I’m not. Because this is just as applicable to my takes. I tend to factor in some x’s that are just as obviously based on personal bias. I tend to think those biases come out more in the wrap up, when I bemoan a film that looks like poopstick (which, more often than not, I haven’t even bothered with) that ends up doing enough business to warrant more work for those involved. Having recently seen Meet the Spartans, it’s not as if I had to see that film to tell you it was shit, but it’s borderline dishonest and goes against the very principles I should stand for as a critic, in the sense that it is unfair to begrudge a film without having seen it. Some of my favorite films could just as easily look shitty on the surface, including Torque, Knock Off, or Hulk.
The problem with taking an eye to the box office is that if you look at it as a fan, you want what you like to do well, and what you don’t to not. Alas, the American consumer doesn’t really understand the concept of voting with dollars. Mostly because advertising does such a good job of selling most things that a studio wants to sell (or destroying films it doesn’t). But as an “insider” such as that is, you also have a vested interest in talented people doing well because – even if the current film is atrocious – you want them to keep working. And then there’s the fanboy. I feel comfortable suggesting that if you think Sex and the City is not going to open, the blinders are on. Last evening, Devin was bemoaning people who were complaining that Speed Racer isn’t dark enough. Even though it’s a kids film and not specifically aimed at them.
The ability to guestimate well requires a macro-view, in which you need to shake those biases that are often impossible to shake. At the same time – especially with the summer tentpoles, there’s the nagging sense of proportion. When a film supposedly costs $100-$300 Million dollars, that lump sum is usually fabricated. With pay or play deals, with merchandising and product tie-in’s, with international filming and the discounts and tax shelters that come with certain locations, with back end deals and up fronts, you never know. But, you always have to cinsder the reported budget in looking at how well something does. Always.
So, here I am, open arms, nothing to hide. Believe what I say. I’ll try and make whatever biases I have as clear-cut as possible, because it’s only fair.
YOU GIVE PREDICTIONS A BAD NAME (A BAD NAME)
So the question is, who comes out on top? Speed Racer is tacking low, but it’s also a film for children, so it may not show the real numbers. Could it crack $50? The reviews suggest that parents who read such reviews might keep away. Warner Brothers gave it a a loser of a release date, as it comes after the first weekend of summer, and right before the bigger Kids film for the month. It seems that they’ve put their stock in The Dark Knight as their summer film, and they may have let this one go a bit, but also, they’ll get through Memorial Day weekend with this, so they could get over $100 by the end of that four day. Of course, internation may be where the film really cleans house (like Spinal Tap, the film will be big in Japan).
Then there’s Iron Man. The weekday totals were not awesome. They weren’t weak weak, this isn’t just a weekend picture, but the 60% standard may hold here. It’s gonna be close. The question is how word of mouth helps this weekend. Did it get that bump last weekend, or will it benefit this weekend. And the 18-30 set might be turned off by Speed Racer‘s decidedly PG bent. Then again, the light show factor may get those inclined towards drug use/abuse. Though they may say to themselves “hey, it was great last weekend, let’s take the boyfriend/girlfriend/parent/best friend/gay lover/pet parakeet/Supreme Court Judge (I’m taking Justice Roberts)/Jane Curtin.”
It’s going to be a death match, except that Iron Man is solid regardless, and Speed Racer needs some heat. What Happens in Vegas should at least open. I give Iron Man the edge. Then again, we could see a Maid of Honor surge.
1. Iron Man - $52.6 Million
2. Speed Racer - $37.1 Million
3. What Happens in Vegas - $21.7 Million
4. Maid of Honor - $8.7 Million
5. Baby Mama - 5.2 Million
And then on Sunday, I’ll try and sober up from Las Vegas, and get to it in between getting home and the wedding I’m going to.