Sunday, October 12, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Little Dogs, Big Business

Last week, I was shocked. Well, not so much shocked as disappointed. This week, I’m not the least bit surprised. There it is. BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA still sitting pretty on top of the box office chart. I guess we’ll be seeing litters of little kids dressed like fashionable dogs this Halloween. Their parents can carry them around in little purses while they wear giant sunglasses.

This week’s top debut might come as a surprise for some but not I. QUARANTINE opened stronger than most expected, capturing the number one spot on Friday. It was no match for the family friendly pooches though and it ultimately lost the weekend to the dogs. Still, it does have the highest average in the Top 10 and it did beat out Ridley Scott’s BODY OF LIES, starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Huge stars, giant director, no interest. The film did solid business but nowhere near what it should have given the caliber of names attached. It did feel like they might have been trying a little hard. Don’t try at all next time, Ridley. That approach worked wonders for the chihuahuas.

The Top 10 saw two other flat debuts and one disappointing expansion. The first is football film, THE EXPRESS, starring Dennis Quaid. After this spring’s dud, LEATHERHEADS, Hollywood will probably spend a little more time in the huddle before rushing any other football picks to the 10-yard line. And Gil Kenan’s follow-up to the Mouton d’Or winner for Best Animated Feature, MONSTER HOUSE, CITY OF EMBER, flickered out in 10th place. Maybe the underground city could have used a few more pint size pups. I’m just saying … Chihuahuas clearly equal gold. It worked for the Taco Bell people and Paris Hilton. Lastly, THE DUCHESS had been playing so well in limited release, it was only natural to go wide but the film failed to connect with the rest of the continent. The trials of beautiful royalty didn't seem to matter much to rural America as the film saw its averages drop from tens of thousands to under $3K.

On the specialty front, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED continued to dazzle. 18 screens were added in the last weekend before it goes wider. While it pulled in a per screen average of over $17K, two other films picked up per screens of over $20K. The first is the seemingly drastic departure for Mike Leigh, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. Well, it’s a departure in the sense that it is supposed to be happy, which Leigh’s films generally are not. The second is a film that so needs to do well in order to save a flailing career. Guy Ritchie’s supposed return to form, ROCK’N’ROLLA, has the highest average of any film in release on just 7 screens. The film goes wide by Halloween and goes head to head with wife, Madonna’s directorial debut, FILTH AND WISDOM, next week. My money’s on Guy; don’t tell Madge.

NEXT WEEK: Are you ready for a painful experience? MAX PAYNE, that is. The video game adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg is the week’s biggest release. SEX DRIVE has the teen sex romp market covered. Oliver Stone’s highly anticipated Bush biography, W. has the controversy market covered. And THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES has the cherished-literature-turned-into-sappy-feel-good-movie market in check.

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