Sunday, October 19, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: The Reign of Payne

Calling it a reign is most certainly premature but seeing as how movies have a shelf life shorter than milk these days, winning one weekend is a lot like a reign. The reign this week belongs to MAX PAYNE, starring Mark Wahlberg. The film, which is based on a popular video game (as opposed to all the games based on unpopular video games, I suppose), pulled in $18 million after a $7 million strong Friday. This is significantly lower than Wahlberg’s summer entry, THE HAPPENING, which opened north of $30 million but that isn’t quite fair. It was summertime. The name, M. Night Shaymalan preceded the title. MAX PAYNE would probably be better compared to last fall’s WE OWN THE NIGHT or the previous spring’s SHOOTER. MAX PAYNE falls right in between these two and as long as he keeps coming out on top, than Wahlberg will continue to pull up the rear of the Hollywood A-list.

The week’s two other top entries battled it out and finished within very close proximity of each other. Ultimately though, audiences flocked to THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES like bees to honey (c’mon, you were expecting that) over Oliver Stone’s potentially premature biopic of George W. Bush, W. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES played on 500 screens less than W. and pulled off the highest average in the Top 10. I guess people were more in the mood for something sugary sweet than something pretending to be real. This doesn’t mean that W. is a disappointment. Given that American audiences may be exhausted talking about President Bush after 8 years and that audiences have not shown a lot of support for many political films in recent years, it was not clear at all whether Stone would be able to make this work. Critics are split on his success but the film brought in a solid average and should manage a modest take overall.

As far as platform releases go, a number of films found their expansions holding up quite well. The highest per screen average of any film this week belonged to Mike Leigh’s HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. The film added but five screens and saw it’s gross increase by nearly 50% for a healthy average of $12K. Guy Ritchie’s ROCKNROLLA added a little over a dozen screens and saw its average drop from $20K last week to just under $6K now. Still, a wide release is imminent and it should play well to the action crowd. This next one I am following very closely, if only because I feel it to be one of the year’s best and I pray it finds the audience it so deserves … Jonathan Demme’s RACHEL GETTING MARRIED added another 42 screens this week and it still average over $10K per screen for the third weekend in a row. Do not miss this picture. I mean it.

Oh, wait, I forgot about SEX DRIVE. Whatever, so did everyone else.

NEXT WEEK: This should be interesting. For the last five years, a SAW movie has come out just before Halloween and built on or maintained its audience from the year before, within reason. There is no reason other than sheer exhaustion to think that this year should be any different but there’s a new kid in town. Actually, there are several of them. Disney has decided to counter program with HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3. I don’t know … I think SAW’s days are done. Warner Bros. throws its hat into the ring, why I do not know, with PRIDE AND GLORY, starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. And Disney gives us back THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS one more time to continue the tradition of releasing it year on year. They also just re-released it on DVD and blu-ray so why would we go see it in theatres again? Oh, right, it’s in 3D.

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