Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
August 21, 2007

Colin Firth says Go Arsenal!

Summer of Seth

Kim Hollis: Superbad opened to an estimated $31.2 million, making it the fifth highest R-rated comedy opening of all-time despite having no star power whatsoever. How did this happen?

David Mumpower: I think that this is the expected range for a movie of this sort in the current box office era. Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, and Dodgeball all finished in this area. Superbad is more of the same, as it were.

Tim Briody: Pretty simple, really. It looked funny, was marketed properly and had its wagon hitched to the fortune of Knocked Up from the get go. When that was a hit, this was almost assured to be as well. It's the least shocking zero star power $30 million opening ever.

Calvin Trager: It had producer star power. Judd Apatow has become a comedy brand akin to what National Lampoon had going back in the '70s. This will unfortunately lead to Apatow making a terrible Van Wilder prequel/reimagining sometime around 2032. For the time being, though, his credibility is the envy of Hollywood.

Jim Van Nest: I can't say i'm surprised by this at all. The commercials hyped 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up almost as much as Superbad. Show everyone that Seth Rogan is in it and there's your $30 mil. I will say this, though. The popularity of Seth Rogan does give hope to all of us fat ugly guys out there.

Michael Bentley: I'm actually mildly surprised that it didn't do just a little bit better even. It really was marketed very well. Though I have gotten very tired of seeing the McLovin part in the ads. But you're right, Calvin - Apatow is the new National Lampoon. The one key difference is that Apatow has a band of actors that like each other and work well together, and if he can keep that together he's going to be a very rich man.

David Mumpower: I agree with your point about Apatow, but to be fair about its opening, it torched tracking by a full $10 million. So, its opening weekend has to be considered best case scenario for the production team and studio.

Dan Krovich: They also did a lot of advanced screenings of the film so it had great word-of-mouth even before it opened.

Reagen Sulewski: They took a lot of pages out of the playbook of another late-summer R-rated comedy release, There's Something About Mary, with the advance screenings and whatnot. But the important thing is that they delivered. They knew they had something with potential, and got out of the way of the buzz to let it build organically, or at least as much as that's possible.

Max Braden: Although the simplest reason - "It just looks really funny" - can account for a lot of the box office, certainly the pedigree of Knocked Up helped as well. Given the context of the movie, this could have been released in late spring. I don't think it could have bee released then and before Knocked Up and still managed the same opening figures.

Seth Rogen vs. Seth Rogen

Kim Hollis: Which opening weekend is more impressive to you, Knocked Up or Superbad?

Tony Kollath: As Tim suggested in his answer to the first topic, Superbad was attached through review and word-of-mouth to Knocked Up. Knocked Up had to blaze its own trail to a larger extent, so I'd give that film the nod.

Jim Van Nest: Without a doubt, Knocked Up. The only thing Knocked Up had going for it was it was by the same folks that did 40 Year Old Virgin and it starred that guy. You know...the really funny one that kept giving Steve Carell a hard time. He has a beard and stuff. You know him.

Michael Bentley: Knocked Up was more impressive to me because it was more of a "chick flick". Sure it's a more manly chick flick than we're used to, but I have no doubt that the general plot scared away a few young males from seeing it.

Max Braden: I'll say Knocked Up not just because of cast, but because of story. The general plot of Superbad - guys trying to get girls - is pretty standard and commercial, so you can expect regular business for it. The fatherhood theme of Knocked Up just seems to be more indie. Either movie could have been a run-of-the-mill sub-$20 million opener, and did well based on strong trailers and piggybacking off of previous titles, but I think Knocked Up was something riskier and managed to come out strong.

David Mumpower: I'll say Superbad for the same reason Michael used to justify Knocked Up. Whereas the last Apatow movie had demographic appeal to men and women, Superbad was as much of a guy film as has been released since 300. The fact that it had a $2.4 million better opening despite appealing to a much smaller core audience impresses me. If we look at the four R-rated comedies that have done better on opening weekend (American Pie 2, American Wedding, Scary Movie and Wedding Crashers), all of them were much less male-focused than Superbad. This is a strong performance on its own but when placed into that perspective, it's magnificent.

Kim Hollis: I'm with David on this. Knocked Up had more of a built-in female and older audience, whereas Superbad is really more limited as a film for young men. Yes, it was able to ride Knocked Up for a few months, but tracking was certainly not showing any real traction.

Superbad has some magificent art if you stay to the end credits

Kim Hollis: Knocked Up has earned $146.3 million domestically. How close do you think Superbad will get to that amount?

Tim Briody: With a 2.55 weekend multiplier, it was even more front-loaded than I expected in the Friday Box Office Analysis column, whereas Knocked Up was above a 3. While Superbad's got a small head start in terms of weekend opening, that doesn't bode well for its long-term prospects. It's going to get $100 million, no doubt, but I think it peters out around $110 or so.

Michael Bentley: Barring some incredible word-of-mouth that lasts into the start of the school season, Superbad will fall short of Knocked Up. I think Tim's $110 million sounds reasonable.

Dan Krovich: Superbad also has time against it. Where Knocked Up had the entire summer, Superbad is going to be running into Fall. It will still do well in the long run, but not quite as well as Knocked Up. Also, Knocked Up skewed a little older, which generally helps legs.

Max Braden: We have only two more weekends before Labor Day. Fewer people on vacation and the younger crowd concerned about restarting school. I think the box office is going to dry up pretty quickly. I wouldn't be surprised though if Superbad outpaces Knocked Up on DVD.

Kim Hollis: With actual numbers in, it looks like Superbad isn't quite so front-loaded as we would have believed earlier. I think it still will lag behind Knocked Up, but weekday totals should be somewhat telling. Of course, kids here have been back in school for almost two weeks, so it is probably already hard to retain audience, especially college youth.

Have you ever heard of The Invasion?

Kim Hollis: The Invasion earned only $6 million this weekend, which doesn't even pay for the $10 million in reshoots they performed in January. With a budget approaching $70 million, can't this movie stake a claim as biggest bomb of 2007? Why do you think it failed so miserably?

Michael Bentley: Well, granted I don't watch a lot of TV anymore, but I haven't seen a single ad for this movie. I don't know if just wasn't marketed much or if I just wasn't seeing them. But given its abysmal critical reviews, I'm guessing the studio knew it had a stinker.

Jim Van Nest: I'm by no means a numbers guy. I know very little about budgets and openings and how everything correlates. I leave that stuff to the smart guys at BOP. What I do know, however, is that even as a staff member at a rather large movie site, I've never heard of The Invasion. It wasn't until I was looking at the weekend recap that I even knew the movie existed. Again, I'm not a numbers guy, but that can't be good, can it?

Max Braden: I think if by some miracle the critics had praised it as a scary movie, audiences might have gone, but I think everyone - studio, critics, audiences - had that sixth sense that this was going to be a dud and just abandoned it. On top of that, I wonder if we're all pretty much over Kidman. I hate to say so, having been a fan in the early years, but does anyone really decide to see movies because she's in lead anymore?

Reagen Sulewski: Change "anymore" to "ever" and you've got it. She's always been long on style and acting chops, but rarely if ever has this translated into box office. She's been in some hits, but almost never as the main draw. The Others would be the closest to that. Even Moulin Rouge wasn't about her as much as it was about the entire package.

Dan Krovich: Maybe a box office-proof career was part of her divorce agreement with Tom Cruise.

David Mumpower: Some of these discussions aren't complicated. In the case of The Invasion, the studio abandoned it. That's all there is to it.

Wait, wait. So you've sort of heard of The Invasion. But have you heard of The Last Legion?

Kim Hollis: Before we cede the biggest bomb of the summer title to The Invasion, maybe we should consider The Last Legion. It earned only $2.6 million against a budget of $67 million. Be honest, did you even know this movie existed?

Tim Briody: The what? Cost that much? Someone is so fired.

Calvin Trager: The thing is, it has a killer premise - basically a King Arthur backstory - and is well-cast to make money overseas. I'm sure they were hoping to make a bigger splash in the US, but I'll still allow some chance that Last Legion ends up in the black when all receipts are counted.

Michael Bentley: In a word: no. I did not know this movie existed. Who's in it?

Kim Hollis: *sigh* It's a largely British cast, including one of my personal favorites, Colin Firth. The Weinsteins simply cannot market films anymore. I do suspect it will have better success overseas as Calvin mentioned.

Jim Van Nest: Add me to the "nope, never heard of it" column.

Max Braden: Am I a supernerd for admitting that I've been waiting for this movie to come out for a while? A bunch of years ago I read an interview with Kingsley where he said he wanted to play a military commander, and I was interested to find out he was doing The Last Legion. So I knew it was coming, and I actually saw a trailer for it on tv. But even though Kingsley and the subject matter interests me, I wound up seeing Sunshine instead.

David Mumpower: Who is Colin Firth and what is The Last Legion? Is this another British music invasion? What do they sing?

$67 million for this? Was it produced by Countrywide Financial?

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song?

Kim Hollis: Judd Apatow was recently quoted as saying, "I think a genuinely funny movie always has a shot at doing well, because so few movies are really funny."

Do you agree with this opinion?

Marty Doskins: I think I would generally agree with this opinion. The thing that is hard for the movie makers to do is to make a movie funny without going over the top. They have to walk a pretty fine line. If there is too much bathroom humor, you lose an older crowd. If the humor is too sophisticated, the youngsters with all the cash won't want to go. If you take a look at a typical Hugh Grant movie audience, there aren't too many young people in the crowd. His films do well with critics and have decent numbers at the box office, but generally don't have a HUGE box office take. Now look at something like the Austin Powers series. There is enough low-brow humor without totally dragging it into the gutter. People enjoyed the amount of silliness in these films and they did extremely well.

Michael Bentley: Oh yeah, I agree. It's easy to tell a single joke or two, or to make something a little bit funny. But really funny is much harder to achieve. That said, I don't believe that the converse is true: just because something isn't funny doesn't mean it won't do well.

Jim Van Nest: I totally agree and I think a lot of it has to do with movie makers shooting for mass-appeal. Look at Ace Ventura, Austin Powers, the Farrelly Bros...all pretty low brow humor, but they don't pretend to be anything else. If you're going for dick and fart jokes...then go all the way and make the funniest dick and fart jokes you can think of.

If you're going for more intelligent humor (and Hugh Grant is a great example...from above) then don't mix in any dick and fart jokes. Leave the gross out humor to another movie and focus in on what you're main theme is.

It's when people try to mix in brands of humor that things go awry, in my opinion. When I'm in the mood for Airplane, I don't want a few Annie Hall type jokes mixed in. And when I'm watching Annie Hall, I don't want any poop jokes. Try to mix this stuff and you alienate BOTH audiences, I think.

Max Braden: I'm paraphrasing someone else (whom I forget, sorry) here: there's no such thing as a bad joke, it's just that you need the right audience to get a laugh. So sure, something really funny is going to get a good response, but how to define funny for everyone is the trick. Charlie Chaplin and Billy Wilder are a couple of history's funniest entertainers, but their work just wouldn't be blockbuster material these days. It's too whimsical by today's standards. The British have produced solidly funny work (Richard Curtis et al) for years, and there's an audience for it, but not on the order of some of the big hits we've seen. Unfortunately, even they've crossed into gross out humor - Death at a Funeral throws in a scene with some really crude toilet humor that seems out of step with the rest of its wink-wink-nudge-nudge comedy.

Jerry Simpson: I'm not sure if that's what Judd meant. I read the quote to mean that really funny movies will be a hit regardless of budget, marketing, etc because people will find them. Whereas really good other genres have a harder time finding an audience.

David Mumpower: I guess it depends on how tightly we interpret his phrasing. Every movie has a shot at doing well if it's marketed well. Similarly, every good movie has a better chance than a lousy one. Just being funny isn't anywhere near enough on its own, though. If it were, EuroTrip would have been a blockbuster for the Scotty Doesn't Know bit alone.