Easter Bunny brings pagan box office bounty for “Clash of the Titans,” Tyler Perry, Dreamworks Animation, and Miley Cyrus

Liam Neeson looks disappointed at his share of the grosses for Performing completely as expected and discussed previously here, Warner Brothers’ “Clash of the Titans” earned a technically record-breaking estimated $61.4 million over this Easter holiday weekend as recorded by Box Office Mojo. I say “technically” of course because ticket prices have been skyrocketing for sometime now. So, while it says something that audiences are still willing to pay the increasing freight in the face of a not so great, but perhaps gradually improving, economy, I personally get a bit irritated with this constant trumpeting of broken records.

Still, as much as this reminds of me of ultra-geek baseball stats, I can’t ignore that the past Easter weekend record holder was, as per Anne Thompson’s resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alessandro, 2006’s “Scary Movie 4” at $40.2 million. I’m no math whiz, but I don’t think ticket prices have gone up by quite a third since then. So, it’s definitely a strong performance for the critic-proof, mythological monster-heavy sword & sandals fantasy remake. However, executives who will use the performance to bolster arguments for retrofitting yet more movies to 3-D might want to examine the trends a bit more closely.  D’Allesandro remarks:

In a last-minute post-production business move that paid off, Warner Bros. decided to 3D-ify Titans, stirring debate among critics and fans that retrofitted visual fare just doesn’t cut it.  No matter if you agree with Zeus or Hades on the dimensional debate, Titans played fine with all audiences, earning 52% of its B.O. from 1,800 3D huts.

Well, yes, but it appears to me that all that discussion about the relative quality of 3-D processes filtered out to the general public. 52% isn’t bad, of course, especially considering the brutal competition for screens. However, compare that to the numbers provided last week by the L.A. TimesBen Fritz.  80% of  the grosses for the technologically game-changing “Avatar” made using 3-D cameras, have come from 3-D and 70% for another 3-D film shot with conventional cameras, “Alice in Wonderland,” which got less criticism for its after-the-fact 3-D. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m guessing that Tim Burton‘s visuals are generally pretty stunning however you slice them and, though some have been certainly been critical, it probably helped that he at least knew the film would be presented that way while he was making the film, unlike “Titans” director Louis Leterrier.

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Why do you think they call them “Titans”?

There really doesn’t seem to be any way around it, “Clash of the Titans” will almost undoubtedly win the box office race this Easter and Good Friday weekend. Just anecdotally, I can see that interest is high for a remake of a swords-and-sandals fantasy flick that is a sentimental favorite for lots of guys, even if the original film is not really seen as the strongest movie in the cannon of the great stop-motion effects man, Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 this summer. I’ve been hearing and seeing fairly enthusiastic chatter about this film from French-export action-guy director Louis Leterrier everywhere for months, including at my local Food 4 Less a couple of nights back.

Clash of the Titans

Critics like our own David Medsker may excoriate it for not even having impressive effects, and the Rotten Tomatoes crew as a whole may give it an unimpressive 34%, but you can’t really stop a titan, can you? Moreover, critics seem to agree that, especially in the post “Avatar” world, the retrofitted 3-D is not worth the extra money and audiences will get just as big a kick — if kick, there is, to be had — in cheaper 2-D. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suspect, will be the way of things and the roughly 2,170 3-D screens will be mighty crowded this weekend.

Indeed, a returning jolly Carl DiOrio over at THR informs us that the consensus among the box office guru types is that the film could well bring in over $60 million. He also mentions in his weekly video that Easter is traditionally a rather strong weekend at the box office. So, on the weekend that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, hundreds of thousands of theoretically Chrisitan people all over the country will be seeing a movie that celebrates ancient pagan deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I don’t really have a dog (or a god) in that particular spiritual fight. Still, maybe I should get a bit more worked up because Warner Brothers’ distribution Dan Fellman told DiOrio that: “We own males over and under 25…” All I can say as someone who falls into one of those categories, neither Warners nor Mr. Fellman own me and I think that’s actually kind of illegal. But, yeah, his movie will make some money and most of it will come from guys.

There are two other new movies coming out, but they both most definitely qualify as counter-programming and are primarily aimed at woman. Adult woman who are also African-American and the men who love them are pretty much the target demo for “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” — a sequel from the Tyler Perry ethnically targeted juggernaut.

Black Dynamite shows his softer side.I will point out, however, that alongside start Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White is in the cast. As everyone who saw him in “Black Dynamite” knows, if the Man wasn’t busy working overtime keeping him down, he’d already be a superstar. So, maybe I hope this does the usual Tyler Perry business and makes between $25-$30 million on a relatively low budget. The film hasn’t been screened for critics it appears. Why bother?

The PG-rated teen-centric weepy romance “The Last Song” starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and guest hunk Liam Hemswroth and adapted from a novel by the ever-popular Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has actually been in theaters since Wednesday — what, you didn’t know that? The film has already done decent business from Ms. Cyrus’s devoted young fans and their moms despite predictably miserable reviews. Still, especially when Disney’s early take is discounted, it will still probably be fairly low on the b.o. totem pole come the Sunday estimates.

There’s no theater count up for it over at Box Office Mojo, and only a handful of critics have eve seen it yet, it appears (of them, currently 58% are favorable at Rotten Tomatoes) but the R-rated “The Greatest” open this weekend in apparently very limited release. Reviewer Jason Newman sure makes it sound like a solid, if heart wrenching, drama. It’s certainly got an outstanding cast with the eternally underrated Pierce Brosnan, the impossible to overrate Susan Surandon, mega-up-and-comer Carey Mulligan, and another potential superstar to be, Aaron Johnson of, dare I say it, “Kick-Ass.” Isn’t it weird that the spill-over notoriety from that couldn’t-be-more-different sure-thing hit will probably help this one move a few DVDs, at least?

Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson in

  

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Wild paranormal law-abiding stepdads to rule box office, almost for sure

Where the Wild Things Are

If you’re craving variety and unpredictability in your movie weekend, then this weekend is for you. Still, most of the smart money seems to agree that the week’s likely fiscal winner is Spike Jonze’s new PG-rated adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s multi-layered picture book classic, “Where the Wild Things Are.”  The family film boasts an outstanding cast, both onscreen and as voice talent, including Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, and Forest Whitaker. It’s also got a director synonymous with high-quality and not-quite-mainstream fare and its hep cred is further bolstered by the name of bestselling author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers on the screenplay. Best of all, commercially speaking, it’s based on a book that’s been read and loved by practically everyone. All told, it seems like a canny blending of mainstream recognition, family appeal, and more than a dash of arthouse appeal, but therein may lie the difficulty.

This is a film that really should bit a big hit with critics, and its advertising certainly sells the film’s visual beauty — always a plus with cinephile critics. However, it turns out our David Medskar’s very mild 3/5 star review is pretty typical of the critical reaction. Rating a good-but-not-great 68% Fresh on the Rotten Tomatoes scoreboard, critics are expressing sentiments similar to Dave, who found it “lacking in terms of emotional weight.” Since emotional weight — laughter and tears, etc. — not arresting filmmaking technique — is what most people are looking for at the movies, you have to wonder about whether the film will show any legs over the long term. Still, jolly Carl DiOrio’s prediction of a $25-30 million dollar weekend seems more than reasonable given the audience’s voracious appetite for strong family films with cross-generational appeal. On the other hand, Disney’s decision to extend the run of the 3-D double bill of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” could cut into the “Wild” numbers just a bit with a terrific package of tried-and-true family fair bolstered by the appeal of 3-D.

Gerard Butler and Jamey Foxx in
For some decidedly non-kid-friendly fair, Director F. Gary Gray and writer Kurt Wimmer’s “Law Abiding Citizen” boasts two more or less A-list leads as Jamie Foxx portrays as a careerist D.A. pitted against against tragedy stricken family man turned imprisoned vigilante serial killer played by Gerard Butler. I think Butler has starred in like 200 million mainstream movies this year. None of those movies has been a hit with the critics so far, and “Citizen” is no exception.

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An important word for the community

For more information on fighting hard drugs among our nation’s preschoolers and first graders, see the FSITO website.

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Now, before you decide to come after me for giving free publicity to really sketchy charities, be aware that this is a nice bit of viral marketing for the upcoming seventies blaxsploitation spoof, “Black Dynamite,” which I was fortunate to see at the Los Angeles Film Festival two months back. From cowriter/director Scott Sanders and cowriter star Michael Jai White (“Spawn”), it’s easily the funniest and best made comedy genre homage in a very long time, and its marketing isn’t bad either. The movie’s official site is worth a look, too.

  

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Comic-Con Saturday odds and ends

Things may be somewhat winding down as the con’s final day unspools, but there was plenty of big movie stuff yesterday.

* I attended part of a live event that was basically the equivalent of a nifty Blu-Ray disc feature for the “Watchmen” director’s cut Blu-Ray disc, in which director Zack Snyder (“300“) performed a live commentary that was really more of an Q&A with users of the “BD Live” feature for the disc and audience members. What I saw didn’t quite rock my world in terms of the level of discussion. When asked whether the Comedian is a good guy or a bad guy, his answer was words to the effect of “I don’t know. That’s kind of the point.” Things were also light in terms of techno-geekery, slightly to my disappointment and slightly to my relief.

Here’s what bugs me, rightly or wrongly: Snyder has basically finished making two huge comic-book adaptations from opposite sides of the political spectrum — not necessarily overtly, but very clearly in their background — and he hasn’t seemed to notice. I’m a political animal by nature, so that kind of baffles me. Not everybody has to be super-political, but morality and politics is very much at the heart of “Watchmen” at least, and I don’t know how you can make the film without having more of a position on it. Also, Snyder says he hasn’t decided whether or not Veidt/Ozymandias is gay or whether Rorschach might have issues there as well. I’m not saying he had to publicly out any fictional characters, but it’s sort of conventional wisdom (and wise wisdom, I think) that a writer or a director should know that kind of detail for himself about major characters in his film, much as the actors also need to , though sometimes they can make differing calls on those matters. It has to do with committing.

There was also some mention, and free XL polyester t-shirts, for Snyder’s new project, “Sucker Punch.”

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