So with all the critical attention (garnering 82% on Rotten Tomatoes) and film festival trumpeting (premieres at Venice and Toronto), how did George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” perform over the weekend? For the Wall Street Journal Online (“Have George Clooney’s Poll Numbers Plateaued“), I looked at how the film worked at the box-office with respect to other art-house Clooney offerings and the “political” genre, in general.
What I discovered wouldn’t be considered a landslide victory, but it might just be enough to put Clooney’s latest in the winner’s circle.
Box Office Mojo’s Ray Subers called the opening “a solid start,” slightly ahead of 2007’s “Michael Clayton,” a similarly sophisticated drama that starred Clooney and also began its run in early October.
“However, it was down from a handful of other low-end Clooney movies,” continued Subers, citing “The American,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” “Leatherheads,” and “Intolerable Cruelty.”
But with a per-theater average of $4,729, Clooney’s political thriller actually fits squarely within those previous efforts, whose own venue-averages ranged from $4,668 (“The American”) to $5,201 (“Men Who Stare at Goats,” which was, after all, a comedy).
The fact is political movies rarely produce a mandate at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, “Ides of March” had the 8th best opening among “political campaign/election” movies, but it’s rare for such a film to open much higher than Clooney’s latest. Political movies such as “The American President” (#4), “Primary Colors” (#7) and “Bullworth” (#11), for example, all yielded similar opening results, with debuts around $10-12 million.
And while there may be stronger Oscar contenders out there, I have little doubt that Sony will be pushing this one all the way to the bank (and the Kodak Theater), with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood all turning in the kind of commanding performances that generate Oscar buzz.