Y’all know I love my dancing, but cooking is now coming in fourth as one of my favorite activities (after movie watching and something else). I bought three different curries and some Angus beef today. True story.
I’M WAY TOO NICE ABOUT THESE NUMBER GAMES
We recently had a bit of a flare-up on the message boards about box office predictions, as a column the esteemed Jeremy Smith wrote before any of the May titles hit has proved to be right in some ways and wrong in others. He low-balled Indiana Jones IV, and high-balled Speed Racer, but was absolutely right in what he was saying, with the former the film was not particularly good, and with the latter, Warner Brothers and company had a much harder sell then they realized (or Warner Brother realized it and decided not to sell well). For myself, on my early weekend guesstimates, I thought Speed Racer would – at the very least – open (though I was not as wrong as some other guestimaters), and with Indiana Jones I went four million higher than it opened, which in this world is damn good cricket – even though my response to the film was mixed in that I enjoyed it without thinking it particularly good. Where I’ve been less than kind (and often wrong) with Indy is its weekend holdover power, which I thought would diminish more each week than it usually did.
The problem here is that the math is the math, and the math don’t lie. Speed Racer cost way more money than it’s made, including international, and it was a big ole belly flop, while Indiana Jones will easily gross over $700 Million worldwide before all is said and done. And, in essence, the world rewarded George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford for shitting in a hat (or a fedora) and calling it a taco, while punishing the Wachowski’s for making a children’s film that had more ideas than most, and tried to do something different and interesting.
Outside of awards season, critics don’t mean shit. Sure, that Wall-E is getting incredible reviews (and will likely be a Rotten Tomatoes fave for the rest of year) doesn’t hurt the film, but if it was getting a number of pans, well, that probably wouldn’t hurt too much – all things considered, and critics are often soft on the larger kids films because they hate being alienating in the MSM. But – as with all arts – there’s only a couple of truly great writers, and many of them have to worry about staying employed. But even so, they can only do so much to help or hinder a film.
The reason why this is a problem, the reason why numbers are at the core of what’s wrong with Hollywood filmaking is that it’s a numbers game. And though we moved out of one of the greatest years in cinema history, remember that Zodiac (33 Mil), Into the Wild (18 mil), The Assassination of Jesse James (4 Mil), and There Will Be Blood (40 Mil) collectively did the business that 10,000 B.C. (95 Mil) did this year.
I see the “entertainment” defense coming down Broadway, and I get it. But ultimately, cinema is what we make of it. And yes, for most of its lifetime, it’s been viewed as a distraction, but that’s not stopped the great artists (from Hawks to Bresson) from understanding, and representing both the best and worst of the human condition in film, which even an action film can do (cfi: The Bourne Ultimatum).
But what the numbers do is encourage the studios to make films that are easy sells, so they can have huge opening weekends, because the long play is unimportant, and the fall off is expected. But those are easy sells, so when things get harder to sell it’s that much easier to not make it because that opening weekend, and no legs, and then the weekend then becomes part of the conversation of the film, to which it must either be heralded or defended. But it does put weight on the film, in the sense that box office used to mean people liked things, and therefore it does become the thing to talk about. It works out, the studios don’t have to worry about critics (or a critic) or audiences finding a picture. They can just sell the shit out of it, and know that people will likely show up if they’re familiar enough with the brand labels. And sometimes those labels are Will Smith and Steven Spielberg, but they’re moving away from those. It’s much harder to control people than Transformers. Essentially the system is horribly fucked. And one of the biggest parts of the problem is the thing I devote two columns to a week.
FACE DOWN, ASS UP, THAT’S THE WAY WE LIKE TO PREDICT!
The biggest opening weekend on record for a Pixar film was The Incredibles, which did $70.4 Million. Can Wall-E top that? Sure, it could, but will it? On a non-holiday weekend, etc. etc. It depends on how many weepy men-children go to the evening shows, hoping to be touched by the Pixar magic (like a trip to Neverland [Ranch]). Most are predicting in the mid 50’s range. I’m going to go high 60’s. It’s the legs that matter with this one, and they might be there.
Wanted also opens, and it has been sold well, and a good R-rated brain-dead action film should make for a nice relief from superhero antics that play light. Though some may have moral qualms about the violence and its purpose, enough people like watching people get shot to get this to a $30 Million opening. Lord knows I love a good bullet shooting, and so does the Supreme Court. YEE-HAW!
In the Get Smart vs. Kung Fu Panda battle, the question is how badly will the Panda get reamed by the new animated film. I’d say: Blood in the stool. Then again, Wall-E might sell out, so there’s some hope for it to not completely die like it was directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Keep it on the down-low. Nobody has to know:
1. Wall-E: $68.5 Million
2. Wanted: $31.5 Million
3. Get Smart: $19.8 Million
4. Kung Fu Panda: $12.5 Million
5. The Incredible Hulk: $12.0 Million
Sunday, I’m going to go the State Fair!