It’s interesting that amidst all of this “October is the new December” talk, that October is turning out to be the 2007’s first real stinker of a month at the box office. It’s now half-way through the month, and the only two hits are a family sports comedy starring The Rock (“The Game Plan“) and another Tyler Perry movie (“Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married“). The former continued to see mild slips (just 33%, beating out the opening weekends of “Michael Clayton” and “We Own The Night“) this past weekend, inching toward a final cume just south of $100 million. And Perry’s film came out of nowhere to lead the box office this weekend, doubling most expectations to do $21.3 million. Neither’s final outcome will likely even make the year’s top 30 films. And them to September’s biggest hit (yes, that is “3:10 To Yuma“‘s $52 million), and the combined fall success rate is downright laughable. Is October actually the new January?
I realize the first two fall months are not the months of the months when it comes to the box office (“Meet The Parents” holds the final cume record with just $166 million, while “Scary Movie 3“‘s 48 million opener holds the weekend record), but still… after a summer that led scores of newspapers and magazines to hail the power of the box office, how come such a hyped season is falling so flat? A whopping total of 18 films will go wide over the course of October (yes, according to math, thats over an average of 4 per weekend), many of which star some the supposed biggest stars in the world. But my guess is that in the end, The Rock will still be the month’s champion, bringing in one of the weakest October reciept totals in a while. Or maybe I’m wrong and “Rendition” will overcome its major suckage and make a pile or “Saw 4” will defy the recent horror-no-longer-equals-cash trend and become the highest grossing of the series (none have topped $100 million).
Here are the final numbers for last weekend. Aside from the aforementioned top two, newbies “Clayton” and “Night” met the low end of expectations (and “Clayton” dropped almost 10% from the estimates) and will likely both manage $30-40 million (“Clayton” maybe more, depending if Oscar season bites, which I’d guess it will). “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” without any golden reviews, made just over $6 million. I didn’t expect anything more, but Universal can’t be happy with a $3,000 average. “Across The Universe,” in its 5th weekend, is averaging more than that. So maybe, even though they knew the reviews were going to hurt it, Universal should have considered a platform release, so that “Elizabeth” wouldn’t have been so dead on arrival. I’m sure 2 screens in New York its first weekend could have given it a $15K average.
Nonetheless, “Universe” seems to be one of the few platformed “success stories”, and that is a term Im using mildly. Entering the top 10 for the first time, the film has a shot at $25 million (its almost at $13 now), which would beat out: “Eastern Promises,” “The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,” “The Jane Austen Book Club” and “In The Valley of Elah” without much problem.
The only potential other studio sub-division success stories are “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Lust, Caution“, both chugging along nicely in their third weeks. But I imagine both might run into problems as they head outside the top dozen or so markets. Though I must say I’m impressed with “Darjeeling”‘s staying power despite lukewarm reviews and the Owen Wilson tragedy. I just don’t know if it will even top “The Life Aquatic“‘s $25 million, let alone “The Royal Tenenbaums“‘s $53 million. And considering its NC-17 rating, not-so-marketable subject matter and foreign language (and also mixed reviews), “Caution”‘s final cume will be impressive if it hits $10 million, which is a reasonable goal considering these past few weeks.
There also some notable happenings farther down the chart: “Into The Wild” looks like it might be stalling a bit as it expands, and Sean Penn will need the expected accolades to bring it much farther. “Control” was stunning in its one screen debut, but I wonder how many of those patrons were Joy Division fans and how well it will do beyond the top few markets. Even so, I’d say $10 million is a reasonable finish line, and one Harvey should be happy with. Somebody not happy would be anyone working for Sony Pictures Classics. “Sleuth” disappointed opening with a $5,000ish average, despite good reviews; “The Jane Austen Book Club” is becoming the indie bomb of the season ($549 average!); “My Kid Could Paint That” is squandering all its Sundance and TIFF buzz and going nowhere…
But the weekend’s story remains at the top with Tyler Perry. On just over 2,000 screens, its managed $21 million. And beat the likes of Clooney, Wahlberg, Blanchett and poor Yari Film Group’s “Final Season” (with a $657 average in its first weekend, they should join the team at Sony Pictures Classics for a stiff drink tonight). But it makes sense. Tyler Perry is almost the only person making wide-release black films made by an African-American and starring them. Long gone are the days of Spike Lee Joints (not to say Spike isn’t doing good these days, but Katrina docs are no “Do The Right Thing“) or “Waiting To Exhale” style ensemble pieces. Black representation in mainstream cinema is almost as sorry a state as it is on television (The CW can’t do it all…). Sure, Denzel, Forest, Jamie and Halle get great roles that win them Oscars, but when “Barbershop” is the last good black ensemble picture (and I’m sorry, “Dreamgirls” doesn’t quite count. It might have had some great black talent, but it was a white man’s project) I can think of, why wouldn’t the largest minority in America embrace a man whose doing it his way (and making money to boot). People shouldn’t have been surprised that Perry beat Clooney and Wahlberg, they should realize there is a hungry market out there who aren’t being fufilled by garbage like “Norbit,” “Are We Done Yet?,” “Stomp The Yard” and “Daddy Day Camp” (the four biggest “black films” of 2007). Not that “Married” is a masterpiece.. It isn’t.. But stick it beside those four films and Perry looks like he should win an Oscar himself.