Maybe it was the curse of September that troubled the box office numbers this passed weekend. Many of the top films were predicted, by box office analysts, to top $20 million and the fact that so many films missed their expected numbers is not a good sign. The top three movies for the weekend essentially grossed around $13 million each and I’ve followed box office stats for several years and I haven’t seen a photo finish quite like this. One thing that stood out as puzzling to me was that the problem with the box office this weekend certainly wasn’t in the lack of diversity of the product. There were several segments of the movie going public that each had a movie for them, but they didn’t show up to make it a big hit. This just serves as a reminder to keep those budgets LOW! Lets take a look at what was released and speculate why it didn’t do well:
End of Watch
This point of view filming reminds me of the found footage genre, with the extra gritty realism of the streets but this is somewhat bogged down by predictable cliches. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have believable brotherly chemistry and I suspect that the Latino audience would love Pena’s character in ‘End of Watch.’ Purely as a film I think it’s similar to “Act of Valor” in many ways but with much better acting, but also with a lower quality of cinematography. The rave reviews seemed unjustified but audiences should find this crowd pleaser both amusing and moving as shown with the high “A-” Cinema Score. An urban crime thriller full of foul profanity and bloody violence might be too excessive to most average audiences tastes but out of all the wide release movies I’m glad this one ended up number one.
Trouble With the Curve
This Clint Eastwood baseball movie didn’t do well because, to my surprise, typically baseball movies usually under-perform at the box office and so do Clint Eastwood movies. I ate crow assuming this would do very well with Middle-American, conservative audiences that are often neglected by Hollywood expecting them to show up to cinemas to support Eastwood. With baseball season coming to a pivotal moment toward October, I now think it was a miscalculation to release it in late September. In fact, I’m believing that its a miracle “Moneyball” did as well as it did last year. The ‘Trouble’ with Mr. Eastwood’s baseball movie was it didn’t know if it wanted to be a Buddy Baseball flick or a relational daughter-father drama with a romantic heavy subplot. It tried to be all of those things, and I liked it, but it wasnt very good due to the shabby directorial debut of Lorenzo. Audiences may or may not agree with a B+ Cinema Score rating.
House at the End of the Street
To my shock, “Hunger Games” hottie Jennifer Lawerence, who’s considered “A-List”, still couldn’t open her new thriller to decent numbers. Her audience full of excitable girls with disposable income didn’t show up as I anticipated. Lawerence get reduced to a “B+” actress after this dismal showing but I think that she’ll rebound soon enough. For a moment, I thought ‘H.A.T.E.S.’ could top $25 million thanks to her devout teenage girl audiences but the movie had no such luck as it grossed half the amount. This core audience would care less about the low critics scores and wouldn’t mind the plot holes that accompanied this confused, poorly shot, hot mess of a teen horror film. Last year we saw”Abduction” prove that separating the star (Taylor Lautner) from the brand (“Twilight”) doesn’t always develop into other successful films.
So who in Hollywood thought it was a good idea to make a Judge Dredd movie? Is anyone shocked this bombed at the theaters? I am not the least bit surprised. (I’m glad I got at least one box office prediction correct.) The trailer did not motivate me to even watch this for free and I seriously had little interest in watching this movie that seemed to get the “Kick-Ass” crowd very passionate about the action pic. The Stallone-Bullock version was a sold B (minus) movie. What’s really shocking is the solid critical response that this film generated online, which showcases that internet critics really do have fanboy hearts. There just wasn’t a large enough audience to justify a wide, big screen release like this.
Though in limited release expansion of 800 theaters, “The Master” preformed rather well during this weekend. The only problem is that word of mouth might not treat this movie kindly. I personally think this film expanded too quickly in select suburban markets where it was a turn off and if you talk to the average movie goer who loves adult dramas, and loathes abstract storytelling, they will express negative feelings toward “The Master.” Coming out of a screening puzzled and confused, many are asking questions they don’t want to explore. There is even a very vocal angry minority of attendees irrationally blasting this film as completely meaningless and poorly made. You are allowed to dislike a movie for not understanding it but its hard to make that case when the dialogue, acting, and cinematography is as stunning as it is in “The Master”. Some moviegoers might have expected a clear cut, solid biopic on the origins of Scientology. They really shouldn’t.
Audiences just didn’t show up to the movies this weekend and this shouldn’t be too shocking as, historically, September is a slow time of year at theaters. You can release multiple products for diverse audiences and they still wont show up. The biggest story here is “The Master” but its beyond box office numbers as the film is not satisfying all audiences, especially compared to what else is available.
If you analyze the top three movies at the box office then you might get to the conclusion that audiences don’t want to be challenged, and that’s fine to a point, but people will pay to be entertained. Elitist cinephiles would categorize the general public as morons for not understanding a movie like “The Master” but that’s not how I see it. The way I look at mainstream audiences I feel that it’s as if audiences are simply “trained” to accept mediocrity and after digesting this from studios for so long that when something comes along with a film that’s “challenging” its mostly rejected. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film is more like the cold and callus “Citizen Kane” then the warm and delightful “The Kings Speech.” I hope more open-minded audiences discover this film. Otherwise, its Oscar chances aren’t looking very promising.