Shout it from the rooftops. The trades have revealed that an essentially South African film with a previously unknown, first-time feature director, a cast of complete unknowns, and an R-rating is not only #1 at this week’s highly competitive box office, it significantly over-performed even the highest expectations I mentioned last time. Forget those more optimistic numbers of $25 million+, it has earned an extra-profitable estimated $37 million.
As Nikki Finke points out, the outstanding showing of “District 9” is especially mighty considering that the film’s budget was only an extremely modest by sci-fi action standards $30 million, not including its no doubt pricey viral and not-so-viral marketing campaign. Oh, and it got excellent reviews, too and that’s supposed to be box office poison because movie goers hate writers or something. Weird. I don’t think Peter Jackson’s name in the credits alone can do that alone, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt.
Meanwhile, wither “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra“? Stephen Sommers PG-13 sci-fi actioner with a budget of $170 million, not including its no doubt expensive damage-control oriented marketing campaign, met its expectations with an estimated $22.5 million, dropping 59% — fairly typical for this kind of Hollywood product. It should be noted, however that “Joe” was on 4,007 screens, while “District 9” was at 3,049. In terms of per screen averages, it amounts to a real trouncing with Blomkamp’s film netting a huge $12,135 per screen as compared to the unofficial “Team America” remake’s merely solid $5,615 average. (Okay, I admit it. It’s not right, but I haven’t even seen this movie and I really have it in for it; I was provoked.)
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I’m still very much at at Comic-Con so I’m going to be keeping this one simple.
As usual, my Thursday preview was wrong, wrong, wrong. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” only managed an estimated $30 million, somewhat below the $31 million Carl DiOrio suggested as a kind of “floor.”
Meanwhile, the poorly reviewed but family-friendly guinea pigs of “G-Force” showed extra strength and became the highest grossing film with a weekend take of somewhere in the neighborhood of $32.2 million. That marks a new success for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who certainly has a history of high profitability, medium-to-low quality hits like the “Pirates of the Carribbean” and the “CSI” franchise, to name only two of the more recent examples.
It’s possible that the progression of the Potter story arc makes the films extremely safe bets but somewhat self-limiting to those who are not up to speed on the Potter epic. I hope it isn’t true that stronger than usual reviews somehow damage the sixth Potter film. Still, the news wasn’t all bad for the kid from Hogwarts, as the latest chapter in the story did win the international derby with $84.4 million.
The number 3 spot went to the film that many thought would take second. The R-rated rom-com, “The Ugly Truth,” seduced enough audience members to earn an estimated $27 million, which is not bad at all. “Orphan,” however, turned out to be the red-headed stepchild at the nation’s cinemas with a relatively forlorn $12.8 million, making it a somewhat disappointing weekend for movies involving young people from Warner Brothers.
A slightly rushed Comic-Con box office preview….
This week sees the release of three movies with a certain degree of box office potential, middling-to-awful reviews, and little hope of outdoing the projected $31 million-floor for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The most likely runner-up, says THR‘s Carl DiOrio, is “The Ugly Truth,” which got a facially challenged 08% “fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes. DiOrio says the tracking augers about $20 million worth for the R-rated comedy featuring beefcake Gerard Butler and beauty Katherine Heigl.
Also hitting theaters is the 3-D CGI animated “G-Force,” a critically derided action-comedy focusing on what Jason Zingale terms “the goldfish of the rodent world.” This one, of course, has the benefit of family appeal, and 3-D doesn’t seem to be hurting movies these days. Variety is calling $20-30 million, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see either a photo finish or a minor upset here with “The Ugly Truth.”
“Orphan” has aroused some minor controversy and outright disdain with its horror variation on the old “Bad Seed” storyline, but apparently its tracking (whatever that is, I’m still trying to figure) isn’t showing all that strongly. Ironically. This is actually by far the best reviewed of the three new releases, with a not-even-close-to-steller 50% “fresh” RT rating. Everything is relative.
Finally, a couple of smaller films are continuing to gradually grow wider as they show some promise of breaking through. Kathryn Bigelow’s highly acclaimed and buzz-heavy “The Hurt Locker” continues to roll on to what I’m guessing is a more than possible “Best Picture” nomination given the doubled number of slots this year. “(500) Days of Summer” is already experiencing what may be the start of a small critical backlash, which is seemingly inevitable with successful indie comedies. Given the track record of “Juno,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” etc., this is probably a good sign, commercially speaking.