Sunday, September 14, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: The Coens Burn 'Em All

So I didn’t bother with the box office report last weekend. It’s not like anyone bothered going to the movies last weekend either so no big deal. With four major wide releases all pulling in above $10 million to secure the top four spots, the fall box office is back and up and running. There were even a few surprises amongst the fall colours to keep people guessing and I’m not referring to Nicolas Cage’s BANGKOK DANGEROUS plummeting nearly 70% in its second week after barely making anything in first place last week. That wasn’t the least bit surprising.

First of all, the Coen brothers must most definitely be surprised as they find themselves debuting at number one for the first time with BURN AFTER READING. The Coens’s films do not ordinarily open wide. In fact, after THE BIG LEBOWSKI, THE LADYKILLERS and INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, BURN AFTER READING is only the fourth Coen brother film to open wide right away and it is certainly the first to debut on top with such robust numbers. Of all the major releases this week, this was the only picture to garner critical support. That, in combination with the immensely marketable cast and the buzz they earned with their Oscar win for last year’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, gave the Coens exactly what they needed to finally convince the masses that they can make movies for them too.

Although it wouldn’t be the first time, Tyler Perry might have been surprised to find his latest, TYLER PERRY’S THE FAMILY THAT PREYS settling for second. Almost all of Perry’s previous offerings have surpassed expectations at the box office to the point where racking up $18 million seems below standard practically. Still, the film generated the highest per screen average of any film in the Top 10 and only came up a couple of million shy of this spring’s MEET THE BROWNS.

The good people at Overture must be surprised. After all, how could a picture that boasts the two greatest actors of our generation for the first time together on screen – apparently the marketing folks have conveniently forgotten HEAT – open below a quirky comedy and a movie with a marginalized audience. RIGHTEOUS KILL, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, opened wider than any other film and only managed an average of $5K. It may be modest but it is by no means an embarrassing gross for an opening weekend – that is unless your film stars Pacino AND De Niro. Yes, I’m sure the folks at Overture are still shaking their heads.

Let’s not forget the ladies even though they conveniently forget the men. Diane English’s remake of the 30’s classic, THE WOMEN features Annette Bening, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing and not a single man. That’s right. There are no men to be found in this picture – even if one of the women is walking down a busy New York street. Though the film battled scathing reviews to muster a $10 million dollar debut, I’m sure English was surprised the take was not bigger. After female-skewed hits like SEX AND THE CITY and MAMMA MIA! performed so well, PictureHouse was hoping to capitalize on the trend. Those films were hits because they reached past their core markets and brought in unexpected male audiences though. Maybe it’s because they actually had guys in them.

The final surprise this week is for Alan Ball. The Academy Award winning screenwriter of AMERICAN BEAUTY and creator of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” made his directorial debut this week to mixed reviews and polarized controversy with TOWELHEAD. The film, in which an Arab-American girl struggles with a sexual obsession, scored an impressive average of over $13K on just four screens and secured its expansion.

NEXT WEEK: It is another busy week for Hollywood next week, except with less high profile bows. Still another four wide releases will hit. GHOST TOWN finds Ricky Gervais seeing dead people. John Cusack gets animated in IGOR. Samuel L. Jackson makes trouble for neighbour, Patrick Wilson, in LAKEVIEW TERRACE. And Dane Cook steals Kate Hudson from Jason Biggs in MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL. This is the widest of the four releases. You’d think we cared or something.

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