Sunday, April 05, 2009

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Big Cars, Big Names, Big Money

Friday was my birthday. Every year when my birthday roles around, there are two things I wonder about. The first is whether all the snow will be gone by that day and the second is what horrific mess Hollywood will unleash on my special day. You see, April is considered in the industry to be the biggest dumping ground for films after January and the first week of April is the worst of all. This year was no different and nothing was expected to fare well. Certainly no records were expected to be smashed. Hollywood will learn a new lesson though now. April should not be dismissed and Vin Diesel should never be underestimated.

I’m sure no one at Universal saw this coming. They brought back the original cast of a waning franchise and instead of pulling in modest returns that would eventually justify its budget, FAST AND FURIOUS pulled out of the garage and way up in front of the rest. Not only did it outpace the entire domestic gross of the last installment, it also boasts the biggest April opening weekend ever and the second biggest opening for any film outside of the summer or holiday seasons and frames, behind THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. It’s $20K per screen average exceeds every other title in release but its true test will be longevity. Fast out of the gate does not always mean a first place finish in the end. Still, if I was wearing a hat right now, I would tip my it to Universal; you definitely pulled a fast one on me and have left me somewhat furious.

This weekend’s only other Top 10 debut fell in line with expectations, as ADVENTURELAND opened in sixth place. The film stars TWILIGHT sensation, Kristen Stewart but she cannot open pictures yet and this is hardly her picture to open. Someone should have told helmer, Greg Mottola that teenagers don’t like their movies with perspective, just profanity. Meanwhile, indie favorite, SUNSHINE CLEANING snuck into the Top 10 in its fourth week of release. In its widest expansion yet, the film seems to have reached its saturation point, seeing its per screen average dip below $4K.

Two sophomore efforts debuted to solid starts this weekend in the art house world. LES CHORISTES director, Christophe Barratier returns with PARIS 36. Opening on just 7 screens, this amusingly theatrical romp pulled in an average of over $10K. And you would think that after making a splash and directing Ryan Gosling to an Oscar nomination in their first effort, HALF NELSON, that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck would be looking to make bigger inroads toward Hollywood but they played things very indie with SUGAR. Unfortunately, the baseball film opened on 11 screens to the tune of a mediocre average of under $7K. Good word of mouth will be needed for both to flourish.

NEXT WEEK: April tries to earn back its reputation as a garbage month with DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION (2100 screens). Seth Rogen will try to fly without a mustache in the second comedy this year to have a mall cop as a protagonist in OBSERVE AND REPORT (2500 screens). Neither will be able to trump Miley Cyrus though. HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE will be rolling out on over 3000 screens. Cover your ears; the screaming girls are coming this way.

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