Demographics matter. You want to say, well, screw the numbers, let’s just make a movie for everyone! But considering the multiple sources of entertainment in our multimedia worlds, whatever doesn’t automatically turn us on will turn us off. Because of this, Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” turned people off. It was an action fantasia, a genre normally attractive to teenage boys, but it featured only girls, an immediate turnoff for that demographic. And it didn’t appeal to women, who noticed the marketing campaign centered around cacophonous violence and mayhem, not usually a drawing point for females. It wasn’t made for kids, but the heavily-CGI’d special effects made it look like a candy-coated kids’ entertainment to adults. Four quadrants, all disinterested.
Now “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” there’s a film that plays to certain demographics. Specifically kids, tweens and early teens who know the source material and had been marketed to extensively on cable networks. Here’s a KID’S movie, FOR kids, WITH kids. Hijinks and slapstick, etc. “Wimpy Kid” is a project with no illusions, the second part in what looks like a legit series, rushed out after the decent success of the first film a year ago, and designed specifically with the bottom line in mind. It cost zilch, and after the $22 million opening (roughly equal to its predecessor), a final domestic gross of $50-$60 million means Fox is going to party like a rockstar tonight. In case you were wondering, it’s entirely irrelevant as to whether it’s a good movie or not.
So, here’s what you can do: you can bemoan the death of originality. Few filmmakers have the clout to push an expensive, entirely original project without any names through the studio system. Zack Snyder, who previous adapted comic books and one horror classic, got his shot to make something that everyone knew would be a marketing challenge, but it would serve as a distinct experience for the audience, one that transported them to multiple worlds to see sights created through CGI imagery that, to many audience members, would be wholly new. A big-budget film based on no previous material and, ostensibly, geared to teens, was less-attended than a cheap-looking, low-budget children’s film off the assembly line.
Or, you can celebrate. Snyder, director of primitive, deadly serious blockbuster offal, got to make his definitive auteurist statement. And it was dismal, the enablers (Warner Bros.) now paying in full for this folly. “Sucker Punch” muddies the waters for similarly ambitious original films in the pipeline (and, in this case, it seems the word original should have quotation marks), some made by actual storytellers, and not commercial charlatans like Snyder, who earnestly believes the sledgehammer in his hand is some sort of societal microscope. It was a naked attempt to pander to an always-fickle fanboy audience, and another confirmation that said audience is exceedingly vocal, but fairly tiny in the grand scheme. Simply put, it was a nail in several coffins, some of which shouldn’t be shut. WB just became that much more nervous about 2012’s Snyder-directed “Superman.”
Somewhat surprisingly, muscular holds were posted by last week’s number one, “Limitless,” and the legal drama “The Lincoln Lawyer,” as people over twenty years old needed to see something. With this weekend’s numbers, “Limitless” has out-grossed all three of Relativity’s all-time domestic releases combined, and the film has a shot at scoring $60-$70 million stateside, surprising considering a PG-13 drug movie is kind of an anomaly. “The Lincoln Lawyer” is considerably behind “Limitless,” but the film boasted the week’s best hold, dropping only 22%. It’s too early to tell if this is going to be a significant over-performer, but Lionsgate knows full well that Matthew McConaughey’s lead character appears in several other books, suggesting the support is there for an Alex Cross-type franchise.
“Rango” is now safely above $100 million, though in week four, the film is definitely on the low-end of CGI-toon performers. The film is the highest grossing 2011 release so far, and it’s a lock to cross $200 internationally within the week, but with a reported budget of $135 million (which some suggest is very generous), the film’s going to have to perform strongly on the home video market, since the merchandising and ancillaries aren’t exactly heating up. It’s not exactly “Mars Needs Moms,” but all involved were hoping for a warmer reception. For the record, if you told studio execs in early January that only one 2011 release would cross $100 million by the end of March, they would have started making significantly more affordable vacation plans.
Among alien movies, “Battle: Los Angeles” has out grossed “Paul” globally by more than a 2:1 ratio. And yet, “Paul” is the bigger winner. “Battle,” currently enjoying a healthy life overseas, won’t pass $100 million domestic and might even find difficulty cresting $200 global. “Paul,” however, has pulled in strong overseas receipts, and domestically it will be the biggest of the Simon Pegg–Nick Frost collaborations after this weekend. “Battle” was spearheaded by a massive global marketing campaign, whereas “Paul” was a cheap one-off paying unexpected dividends with a possible $70+ million international tally. “Battle” director Jonathan Liebesman was wise to immediately set up another tent pole (“Wrath Of The Titans”), but the studio takes some heat, considering it was originally looking like the year’s first big springtime blockbuster.
Warner Bros. saves face on “Red Riding Hood” considering the cost, though this is a misfire for all involved with the likely $40 million final. Meanwhile, “The Adjustment Bureau” closes out its theatrical run as a modest success, no doubt a big earner on the DVD market. It was able to leapfrog the disastrous “Mars Needs Moms,” which tumbled in weekend three after Disney definitively cut bait, shedding almost a thousand screens in an attempt to distance themselves from something that just did not work. If this were a western, “Mars Needs Moms” would ride back into town months later for revenge on the distributor that left him to die.
In indie theaters, “Win Win” expanded into twenty-three locations, garnering $471k, a solid $20k per-screen average. Again the week’s best per-screen belonged to the doc “Bill Cunningham New York,” which averaged $23k on three metropolitan screens, though it seems a bit NY-centric to be an expansion candidate. Julian Schnabel‘s “Miral” debuted, grabbing $65k on four screens, while French children’s film “Mia And The Migoo” took home an impressive $17k on only one screen. Speaking of the French, Sony Pictures Classics has continued the slow rollout for “Of Gods And Men,” and the Oscar nominee had its best weekend yet, a $370k tally at 120 screens bringing the film’s total to $2.1 million. Support your local arthouse, boys and girls.
1. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Fox) – $24.4 million
2. Sucker Punch (WB) – $19 million
3. Limitless (Relativity) – $15.2 million ($41 mil.)
4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) – $11 million ($29 mil.)
5. Rango (Paramount) – $9.8 million ($106 mil.)
6. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) – $7.6 million ($73 mil.)
7. Paul (Universal) – $7.5 million ($25 mil.)
8. Red Riding Hood (WB) – $4.3 million ($32 mil.)
9. The Adjustment Bureau (Universal) – $4.2 million ($55 mil.)
10. Mars Needs Moms (Disney) – $2.2 million ($19 mil.)