This weekend, audiences decided to make it to the multiplexes and see a movie. I am not sure how this happened. Maybe people caught the season premieres of network television shows and were made aware of new features. This is hard to pinpoint for me. Usually the last weekend in September is the strongest week of a rather dismal month. The following noticeable trends occurred:
The Family Factor
“Hotel Transylvania” reminds us to never underestimate when parents take their children to the movies. Adam Sandler’s sophomoric efforts bombed with the R-rated “That’s My Boy,” but rebounded significantly with his new animated hit. Remember: if the humor is going to be juvenile, do not restrict a large chunk of your target demographic from seeing it! Estimates seem to show $43 million weekend which is a record breaker for September weekend besting 2002’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” I remember during my undergrad college years when sororities literally bum rushed the local theater to see this movie selling it out for days! Leave it to Adam Sandler and Andy Sandberg to hinder the box office one quarter, only to save it the next. Keep your movies PG, Adam!
Strong Second Weekends
Thankfully, the three movies from last week, “End of Watch,” “Trouble with the Curve,” “House at the End of the Street,” and even “The Master” performed modestly their second weekends easing less then 45% in attendance! This is a strong sign that these movies are doing well among their target audiences. What a relief! I’m rooting for “End of Watch” to do well. It wont get the indie buzz that “The Master” is getting, but ‘Watch’ surprisingly deserves every ticket purchased from crowds who desire quality, appealing films that try to do something different. Seek this movie out!
Original Sci-Fi Scored
A week after audiences rejected “Dredd,” “Looper” debuted above $20 million. Personally, I think the rave reviews added a few million dollars to its total. There are very few wide release features with such strong reviews which will peak curiosity among eager moviegoers. As a movie, “Looper” is moody and arty for standard sci-fi flick thanks to filmmaker Rian Johnson. If you love movies, check out his previous works “Brick” and “Brothers Bloom.” Filled with a few long silent montages with minimal explanation, “Looper” was a refreshing change of pace of typical action pics. It was wildly original and could become a cult sci-fi hit.
Limited Releases Soared
“Pitch Perfect” had a stunning debut to make Universal very pleased. $5.2 million on less then 350 screens is earth shattering business. This reminds me of how “Paranormal Activity” did around this same time in 2009…before becoming a pop culture phenom. Combining elements of “GLEE,” “Bring it On,” and “Bridesmaids,” “Pitch Perfect” is an amusing and funny performance musical a Capella comedy. The catty one-liners and Rebel Wilson were a hoot in this crowd pleaser. When it expands wide this upcoming weekend, this is a needed escape among general audiences. I would expect a sequel and maybe even a NBC reality competition show. Also expanding strongly is the adaptation of the bestselling book “Perks of Being a Wallflower” which grossed $11,000 per location as it played in over a hundred theaters. Like a John Hughes movie for the hipster generation, ‘Wallflower’ relishes in the joys and pain of high school. Well done acting from young talent and introspective writing are great reasons for older audiences to relive their youth among teens currently experiencing it. Both these movies will play srongly for their target audience and well into October.
A Box Office First From China
Whats surprisingly noticeable was, according to Deadline.com, “Looper” grossed more money in China then America. The site reported that Looper “pulled off a huge upset in China by opening #1 its first weekend with between $23M-$25M grosses.” This was a first for the nation and a tipping point for the global box office. Also of note from the article: “Chinese actress Xu Qing was added to the cast as Willis’ wife. All this helped Looper’s chance of premiering day and date in China so it could take advantage of the country’s cinema building boom.” Hollywood better take note and hope to repeat the success with future movies by casting Chinese actors (as well as famous ones from India). I expect this to be a major trend.
Unfortunately, There Was a Dud!
Another near record breaker occurred this weekend: the lowest gross for a wide release feature from the education drama “Wont Back Down.” And the studio got it backwards. They had too many advanced screenings for educators and the general public. This happened two years ago with “Hot Tub Time Machine” when Hollywood decision makers decided to screen the movie almost a dozen times in the Denver area alone. You cant give away your movie for free or it will bomb. This is too bad for “Wont Back Down” which is essentially “Waiting for Superman” remade as an inspiration, true life story like “The Blind Side.” Viola Davis gives another stellar performance, and like in “The Help,” rises above melodramatic moments and cartoonish villains to soar. What an actress! Set in Pittsburgh, I noted that if ESPYs gave an art direction award for sports memorabilia this would win it. Liberal critics blindly reacted to its anti-union bent clearly killed “Wont Back Down.” What a shame. It deserved a thoughtful, open-minded audience willing to put children’s education before bureaucrats. It was reported that conservatives financed the movie and thus it was labeled propaganda. Funny how when liberals do this, its not labeled so by the industry. And I’m NOT a right-winger by any means.