A Weekend of Big Names With Big Bombs

The box office is a fickle and funny thing. It rules on high as the sole judge of the movie industry really. It is a gentle lover, and yet a harsh mistress at the same time (I have no idea why I’m spouting that stupid analogy). We all know that the last few weeks have been hard at the old box office for Hollywood… but a couple of movies with some VERY big names attached have really bombed harshly.

It’s not that any of these films were expected to be blockbusters by any stretch of the imagination… but when you have a solid premise for a film (which all of these have) with some major and talented star power attached (which all these have) you hope for at least respectable numbers. But no… the box office was truly a harsh mistress this week:

1) Gone Baby Gone – Opening Weekend of $6 million
A fantastic cast, critics are raving about it, and some people are already whispering the word “Oscar” about the film and it’s first time director (Ben Affleck), and yet… no one bothered to see it.

2) Rendition – Opening Weekend of $4.1 million
Reese Witherspoon in her first real role since winning her Oscar and Jake Gyllenhaal in a movie with a relevant topic (that no one really wants to hear about). Man, I don’t know if $4.1 million was enough to even pay Jake’s hairstylist alone.

3) Things We Lost In The Fire – Opening Weekend of $1.6 million
Two leads, two Oscar winners. Zero money. Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro failed to catch anyone’s attention. I know the marketing was bad for the film… but come on… $1.6 million? Wow.

Oh yeah, there were other failures this week for sure… but these three all had major names with seemingly solid ideas behind them. Enough to at least expect double digits. But no one cared. Personally I just think everyone is staying at home watching the Transformers DVD.

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25 thoughts on “A Weekend of Big Names With Big Bombs

  1. Celebrities draw certain movies, but it’s hard to decide what a real “celebrity” is these days. I think it’s more about BIG celebrity.

    As for the types of movie successes lately, I can only speculate that it has a lot to do with what Kristina mentioned: the big bang factor. Never mind the human element. Let’s see who gets blown up this week (that’s the mood people are in right now anyways). Political movies won’t live up to expectations because they never go for the jugular. They don’t push enough buttons. People right now know the world is in shit, but don’t care. They want to go to the movies and forget about the real world. In January, I think that’d be a better time to play movies like Gone Baby Bone and Rendition. Right now, everyone is gearing up for some ass kicking.

    Just a personal thought.

  2. Ugh, whoever said BIG names sale?
    It’s not the celebrities that draw audience and cash, it’s the human interest. Really, does anyone cared to watch a kid gets kidnapped (Gone Baby Gone), or US /Middle-East politics (Renditions), and Halley Barry movie, whatever that’s about. Give me Science Fiction and Action movie anyday.

  3. ya..how many horror movies have been released? Next week is crappy crappy Saw 4. Is that all? I look on RT and “Dan in Real Life” is coming out and “The Martian Child”. Depressing comedies and depressing dramas.

  4. “It is a gentle lover, and yet a harsh mistress at the same time (I have no idea why I’m spouting that stupid analogy).”


    This is why I read ‘The Movie Blog’.

  5. “At 1500 screens, anyone who wanted to see Gone Baby Gone, could have.”

    I can go with that one though I’m not sure the average movie goer is aware that this is directed by Affleck – plus I’m not convinced that Casey is a box office draw yet.

    “Rendition” looked like it was going to be a loser of a flick and “Things We Lost In the Fire” is playing on 1 screen in all of Vancouver. Not much of a wide release.

  6. The only reason I have heard about “Gone Baby Gone” is because I am on the web everyday and been reading alot of good buzz about it. The bad part is it’s not showing in the multiplex near our place which is bizarre, I guess it all has to do with the marketing and having a more well-known actor as a lead. I doubt that there’s a lot of people who is familiar with Casey Affleck.

  7. Hey Jonathan,

    You said:

    “The per theatre average is FAR more important when deciding if a movie “bombed” or not. Gone Baby Gone made $3,502 per theatre”

    I see what you’re saying Jonathan, but that number is totally irrelevant.

    At 1500 screens, pretty much anyone anywhere could have seen Gone Baby Gone. So with a lower theater count, the amount per screen automatically goes up.

    You’re making the false assumption that if theater “A” played GBG, and made $3000 per screen, then if thetaer “B” across the street also played GBG, it would have made just as much. That’s false. People who wanted to see GBG went to see it at Theater “A”, and theater “B” played something else, therefore “A”‘s per screen stat went up.

    The per screen number is only relevant if you’re comparing it to other movies released on the same number of screens. For example 30 Days of Night would have made $10,000 per screen if everyone who wanted to see it went to 1500 theaters instead of spread out over 2855.

    At 1500 screens, everyone who wanted to see GBG, had the opportunity to see GBG. The $3400 per screen number becomes totally irrelevant.

  8. Box Office returns usually suck in October. Why? Because of NFL and College Football and because of Fall TV shows….Who has time to go to the theater when you’ve got 6 hours of shows from the week TiVo’d and your team is playing a huge game Saturday night?

  9. John, if anything, the total weekend gross is misleading. The per theatre average is FAR more important when deciding if a movie “bombed” or not. Gone Baby Gone made $3,502 per theatre, which certainly isn’t a bomb. Not very good, but not a bomb.

  10. Hey Peter,

    I think Theater Counts are a little misleading to be honest.

    Once a movie gets on more than say… 1100 screens, that pretty much means it’s available in every market and people who want to see it, can see it.

    At 1500 screens, anyone who wanted to see Gone Baby Gone, could have.

  11. Originality, AjaxLou? Rendition, Elah, A Mighty Heart and then Lions for Lambs, Redacted and Charlie Wilson’s War are all clones of the same theme. Whether you agree/support the war in Iraq or don’t, how many times can you watch the same film?

    John, you seems surprised that the star power attached to these films failed to generate any money. My question is: What star power? Reese and Jake? Halle and Benecio? I love the movies, but these names don’t impress me. They certainly don’t draw me to the theater. Gone are the days when Julia Roberts can open a film about a guy dying of cancer.

    With football season and spectacular weather in New England, who wants to pay $10 to see a bunch of dour dramas?

  12. Personally I go to the movies to see the big screen and hear the great sound system. Oscar worthy movies usually don’t deliver on these things that I’m paying $10 movie ticket + $15 popcorn and drinks, for 2 people. I’ll rent Oscar worthy movies. Enis

  13. And here we go, more proof that the movie going public does not care about originality, they want something identifiable and easy to grasp.

    Where were all the moaners of originality this weekend? The message is clear bring on the next Spidey, Pirates, Indy, Star Wars, Meet the Fockers, American Pie XXX, blah, blah, blah

    With BO weekends like the most recent one, the message being sent to the studios is quite clear.

  14. I have to agree a little with what Peter said above, but I also have to respond to the int’l friends:

    I saw all the commercials. Lots of promos and critics’ praises for ‘Gone Baby Gone’ – not to mention the unfortunate real life situation that created additional press about it. It only cost 20 m to make, and I suspect it may hang around.

    I am disappointed in the response to ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, and ‘Rendition’….but the more I look at the films that opened up, including the recent ‘Clayton’ and ‘Elizabeth: Golden Age’? Way too many dramas in a month usually reserved for films like…say…30 Days Of Night. 30 is the only horror film…(until Saw 4) that is out there.

    Shouldn’t these films have small openings in New York, LA, Boston, Detroit, wherever USA, and then open bigger around Thanksgiving(US) Christmas or January? They would still qualify for Golden Globes and Oscars.

    I have heard nothing but praise and love for Rendition (directed by a fella whose next picture will do better…you think?) I heard nothing but praise for Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. in ‘Fire’. While I’m sure these films and the actors and directors might be slightly hyped during awards time…will these pictures be nearly be forgotten about? I’m thinking one or more of these dramas might pull a ‘Shawshank Redemption’ -a film that does shockingly poor on its opening week, fades from theatres, then at awards time gets nominations up the rear end, and the audiences respond to it a little bit better when it comes to video.

    At least one can hope. But I don’t want to hear ‘Where was that film?’ when the sheep decided to put money down on The Comebacks…or a that other horror film coming out soon…

  15. John,

    To be fair, most of the films mentioned are limited releases. Gone Baby Gone was only in something like 1500 theaters, about half the number of a 30 Days of Night (which made a little more than double GBG and is considered “the winner of the weekend”)

    Rendition got a 2,300 theater release, yet didn’t even come close to Gone Baby Gone ($4.1 million to GBG’s $6 million in 500 less theaters)

    Numbers bore me, so I’ll leave at that, but to talk about weekend box office numbers without mentioning screen counts, gives everyone no perspective to the actual accomplishment or failure.

  16. I’m not sure the masses want “ice cream.” 30 DAYS wasn’t ice cream, not exactly meat and potatoes… but nachos with a side of fresh guac…? People just don’t want to be told what to eat. It’s been a month and a half of “the world is a shitty place….” And not only are we being reminded it’s a shitty place; we’re being reminded in the exact same way. RENDITION, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, THE KINGDOM… boring (same goes for LIONS FOR LAMBS when it opens).

    GONE BABY GONE (19 mil) and MICHAEL CLAYTON (22 mil) will have legs because, in the least, they’re talking about human nature as apposed to human politics.

    And EASTERN PROMISES was awesome, but it lacked the balls a Cronenberg movie usually gives us. Something hard to swallow, morally, if you know what I mean.

    JUNO, DAN IN REAL LIFE, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, these might surprise money-wise because they present an alternate, idiosyncratic meal.

    AMERICAN GANGSTER is going to explode. NO COUNTRY, THERE WILL BE BLOOD are going to do amazing boxoffice.

    THE GAME PLAN has no competition and parents need safe entertainment for kids (and kids need safe entertainment to cover when they check out some R rated brilliance). I had a handful of 14 year olds, unaccompanied, at the GONE BABY GONE screening. My guess, they bought tickets for THE COMEBACKS or The Rock. That’s what I used to do.

  17. @Donald

    You need only look at the list of the top-grossing films every year to see that audiences are dumbed down. People don’t flock to see stuff like, I dunno, Eastern Promises(which was BADASS). They want to see cinematic ice cream: something tasty and sweet and forgettable. Yes, as much as I like Transformers, it is a dumb as fuck movie. But, it’s a crowd-pleaser. And the B.O. has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. It has to do with the fact that stuff is being released that people either don’t want to see or don’t even know is being released due to shitty marketing.

  18. This in fact scares me a little. I talked to my brother who watched Transformers four times over the weekend. Ok, most people liked it. It was a good popcorn flick. But there is more to cinema, people! Does anyone else get the feeling that too many movie goers have really dumbed down to a level where anything more complex is beyond them?

    Or, if one prefers a more sociological argument, is there a link with the current wave of misery in the west, particularly the USA? Many analysts point to part of the original Star Wars success as being linked to the end of the Vietnam War. The nation was hurting big time. They needed something light.

    Between Iraq, a possible Iran, our dying soldiers, the housing crisis, a flat lining economy, corrupt politics etc, are people just not in the mood to pay $9 – $11 to be further depressed?

  19. Marketing matters. Repeat that to yourself. No matter how good your movie is, if I don’t know when it’s coming out, I won’t be there opening weekend. I never saw ONE commercial for Things We Lost At The Box Office. Gone Baby Gone’s lead actor is untested in terms of opening a movie, and I don’t think many people were excited to go see a flick directed by punching bag Ben Affleck. Note that his name is conspicuosly absent in all the TV ads. The ads weren’t very enticing, anyway. As for Rendition, again, I NEVER saw ONE commercial for it, and it’s not like I don’t watch a lot of TV. I saw one clip when Reese was on Leno, and it put me to sleep. Hell, I saw an ad for the Transformers DVD on almost EVERY commercial break last week. I knew when that thing was being released. They’re STILL playing ads nonstop for it. Whenever they flash to a replay during the baseball playoffs, the Transformers logo flashes on the damn screen! I don’t know why people are acting so shocked about this box office result. It’s very simple. Marketing matters.

    And I find it HILARIOUS That The Nightmare Before Christmas, a film in REISSUE, beat Rendition’s ass. Friggin’ hilarious. Can’t wait to see that shit in 3-D next weekend.

  20. Hey John,

    Do you really think that everyone is watching the Transformers DVD or is this a pisstake on those who are claiming Halo 3 was the reason that “The Heartbreak Kid” failed to open big?

  21. I think that Michael Clayton might be a sleeper hit because two weeks in a row its still in 4th place so who knows. I never saw any ads for Gone Baby Gone so i dont know maybe it had to do with the marketing.

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