Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Friday numbers roll in...

The list.

Ok, so lemme get this straight. Marvel's business strategy is to re-invent a franchise that sputtered back in 2003. The original film cost $130 million (not your money, but Universal's) and made $132 million domestic. It opened to $62 million (a record for June at the time and still number two for the month) but crashed and burned due to word of mouth. So you're Marvel, you now decide to spend $160 million (your money) to reinvent the franchise, casting the same sort of offbeat actors in the key roles (Ed Norton, Tim Roth, William Hurt), but also hiring an accomplished foreign action director with the express edict to make the film as short and dumb as possible. And the end result?

Well... I guess when your much more expensive follow-up to a movie that made $24 million on opening day opens to $21 million (adjusted for inflation, that $24 million 2003 number is probably close to $30 million today), that's success?

To be fair, I'm biased as I didn't care for Hulk 2.0 at all, to the point where it made me appreciate the flawed but interesting Ang Lee vehicle. But I'm not sure what Marvel is aiming at here. Hulk was never going to open to $100 million and even $75 million would have been a miracle. So, best case scenario, it pulls in about the same $62 million that Hulk 1.0 pulled in (a front-loaded $53 million seems more likely), it doesn't crash and burn and ends up with about $175 million in the domestic tab, for a film that cost $160 million. Setting it up for the Avengers movie, you say? Yes, because no one will know who the Hulk is if you don't have a new movie. He's not Thor, he's not Ant Man... he's the frickin Incredible Hulk! It seems like they could have better spent the money on a character that needs to be introduced for that Avengers movie (Hawkeye perhaps?).

Anyway, The Happening basically told all the naysayers (not the critics who honestly didn't like the movie, the press thugs and geeks who were all but bullying Shyamalan for the last two months) to go f-k themselves. A solid $12.8 million Friday means at least a $32 million total, a probable $35 million total, and an outside chance that it will get to $40 million. The latter isn't likely as there is likely a little front loading and I have to assume that word of mouth will be all over the map on this one (haven't had a chance to see it, so no spoilers please).

This is exactly where Shyamalan needs to be. As long as Shyamalan movies are no longer expected to gross $50 million on opening weekend, and as long as his budgets reflect that, he can have a long, happy career doing whatever movies he wants. He will always be a name and there will always be a high curiosity factor, so as long as expectations are kept in check, all is well for him. Ironically, the fact that Lady In The Water flopped was actually a good thing, since so few people saw that stinker and thus his name remained relatively untarnished. Unbreakable numbers, both opening-weekend and total box office ($32 million opening, $96 million total), is where his safe zone should be. Hell, The Happening actually cost about $10 million less than Unbreakable, so even if it crashes and only ends up with $75 million, it'll still be profitable after everything is counted. Congrads on Fox for bucking the odds, and for going for that R-rating (that's right butt-muches, The Happening is rated R!!!!)

Amusingly, I'm wondering if kids had to buy tickets to The Incredible Hulk in order to sneak into The Happening. Why? Because The Happening is RESTRICTED, you loser piss-ants!

I'm sorry, I've been doing that for the last two days in one form or another. My wife approves and it makes my nine-month old laugh nonstop (I think she likes the part where I stick out my tongue, extend only my thumb, pointer finger, and pinkie, and then make loud 'nayyeh' noises while rocking my head).

Moving on...

Kung Fu Panda dropped 50% to $10 million, but hopefully the kid-factor will help the Saturday and Sunday matinees. Although this one has been playing like a general audience blockbuster from day-one, so it might have to settle for a 45% drop this weekend. Still, it'll cross the $100 million mark tomorrow and the word of mouth has been strong all week. This one is going to likely end up in the top-five grosser list at the end of the summer.

You Don't Mess With The Zohan dropped a huge 63% to $5.5 million, which is somewhat normal for a Sandler comedy (big 55% drop on the second weekend, then steady business for about a month).

And that's all the important stuff.

Scott Mendelson

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