Sunday, October 05, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Gone to the Dogs

I can still remember what it was like when I first saw the trailer for BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. Essentially, my eyes were widened in disbelief and my mouth had dropped all the way to my knees. I thought for a second that perhaps I had inadvertently taken acid. There had to be a reasonable explanation for the countless tiny dogs bobbing their heads and singing in unison atop some Mayan temple. No matter though; surely no one would actually see this mess. Once again, North American audiences have proven me wrong.

Disney’s BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA opened to $29 million, laps ahead of the rest. Audiences were clearly starved for supposed family fun, having been disappointed with recent examples like IGOR and FLY ME TO THE MOON. To be fair, it isn’t just dogs in purses singing; these dogs rediscover their Mexican roots. These dogs are not just for show; they’ve got bite and they’ve bitten deep into your pockets. What a treat!

This weekend was ridiculously overcrowded. Hollywood put out seven wide titles and somehow thought that they would each find their own audiences. After all is said and done, only three managed to make a connection. The second would be NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST. The Michael Cera/Kat Dennings modern day romance averaged a solid $5K and should play its run out reasonably with inevitably sound word of mouth. The third would be the latest film from Larry Charles (BORAT), RELIGULOUS, featuring Bill Maher as he gallivants across the planet in search of truth in the world’s religions. Maher’s loyal followers rung up the film’s tally to a strong $7K per screen average. These are solid numbers but nothing to start your own religion with.

Word of mouth was also responsible for many holdovers retaining strong grasps on their audiences. Three titles (EAGLE EYE, BURN AFTER READING and FIREPROOF) all dropped off by less than 40% while the biggest decline wasn’t even that bad (NIGHTS IN RODANTHE with 45%). Then there’s that whole 3300% increase for APPALOOSA, Ed Harris’s latest directorial effort (having seen it yesterday, I will place the emphasis on “effort”). After two successful weeks in limited release, the supposedly modern western expanded modestly for a fifth place finish. The more modest expansion for THE DUCHESS is seeing more promising results. The film added another 72 screens and saw its tally rise another 60%. The film is slated to go nationwide on October 10.

As for the rest of the debuts, they will be listed in no particular order of embarrassment. First up, AN AMERICAN CAROL. This spoof, which apparently makes statements about the downside of free speech, played on three times as many screens as RELIGULOUS and mustered three times as less cash. Critical hopefuls, FLASH OF GENIUS and BLINDNESS debuted outside the Top 10 despite their strong studio pushes. And HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE proved perhaps once and for all that American audiences do not love Simon Pegg, as the movie couldn’t even manage over a grand per screen.

The weeks littlest winner is certainly RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece debuted this week to nine screens before it goes wide on October 17 and pulled in the highest per screen of any film in release. The $33K per screen is nearly four times as much as this week’s ultimate champ, BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. Look for the sequel soon enough … BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA GETTING MARRIED … or maybe RACHEL GETS A CHIHUAHUA.

Next Week: Another four releases go wide, the widest of which is Ridley Scott’s latest Russell Crowe vehicle, BODY OF LIES, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Dennis Quaid gives lessons in football and racism with THE EXPRESS. CITY OF EMBER aims to rob the dogs of some of their family gold. And QUARANTINE will try to trap horror fans into theatres before everyone inevitably gets “sawed” into pieces.

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