Kim Hollis: August's releases were:
Summer in Review: August
By BOP Staff
November 3, 2008
Swing Vote: $16.3 million domestic, $20 million budget
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: $102.3 million domestic, $391.6
million worldwide, $175 million budget
Pineapple Express: $87.3 million domestic, $97.0 worldwide, $26 million budget
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: $44.0 million domestic, $27 million budget
Tropic Thunder: $110.1 million domestic, $176.7 million worldwide,
$105 million budget
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: $35.1 million domestic, $67.2 million
worldwide, $8.5 million budget
Mirrors: $30.6 million domestic, $63.8 million worldwide, $35 million budget
Vicky Cristina Barcelona: $22.0 million domestic, $38.7 million worldwide, $20
Fly Me to the Moon: $12.1 million domestic, $20.6 million worldwide,
$25 million budget
The House Bunny: $48.2 million domestic, $65.1 million worldwide, $25 million budget
Death Race: $36.1 million domestic, $61.8 million worldwide, $65 million budget
The Longshots: $11.4 million domestic, no budget info available
The Rocker: $6.4 million, $8.5 million worldwide, $16 million budget
Babylon A.D.: $22.5 million domestic, $65.2 million worldwide, $55
Disaster Movie: $14.2 million domestic, $27.0 million worldwide, $20
College: $4.7 million domestic, $5.6 million worldwide, $7 million budget
Traitor: $23.3 million, $22 million budget
In a few sentences, please offer your final thoughts on each of these box office performances.
Swing Vote - I know that you folks at Disney run the happiest place on earth, but that still does not excuse you from dumping this film on us.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Considering that the first Mummy movie came out nine (gulp!) years ago, I still think that this is a solid success.
Pineapple Express - An Oscar-worthy director made a commercially viable comedy about stoners. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - $43.1 mil can buy you a whole lot of pants. Especially at Target.
Tropic Thunder - It's nice to finally see a comedy that pokes fun at Hollywood make some money. Genre / parody movies can be tough sells, even with Iron Man and the Kung Fu Panda on your team.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - There is no way a film with "Star Wars" in its title should make this little money. What a travesty.
Mirrors - Forgettable remake of a better horror film. How many times have we heard this before?
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Woody's back! His best and biggest film since Match Point. Good for him!
Fly Me to the Moon - Fly me to a planet where this movie doesn't exist. Please.
The House Bunny - Anna Faris finally proves that she's a box-office draw.
Death Race - While Statham doesn't win his late August weekend, he proves that he's still a force to be reckoned with.
The Longshots - Who knew that Fred Durst could make such a quiet, sensitive sports movie? Who knew so many people would ignore it?
The Rocker - All I'll say is that I did NOT need to see Rainn Wilson in his tighty-whities.
Babylon A.D. - Don't go see this movie. I heard that it sucks . . . from a very reliable source.
Disaster Movie - Dear Hollywood, please stop making these types of movies. They are not funny anymore. They ceased to be funny four movies ago. Sincerely, everyone.
College - Once upon a time, they tried to make a funny, successful teen comedy about college. They decided to not spend a lot of money so that they would reach profitability more quickly. It succeeded and they made $25 million. This is not that movie.
Traitor - Frankly, I think this is a nice win for fledgling studio, Overture Films.
Swing Vote - I blame election fatigue and the studio's lack of promoting the film. The ads were sparse and fairly unimpressive. If it's a comedy, then you should probably make the commercials funny. Given the zero international appeal of this film, Swing Vote is just short of profitability, like our stock market.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Who knew Arnold Vosloo was such a box office draw? That spells good news for his role as Zartan in next summer's G.I. Joe. With only half the domestic take of The Mummy Returns, this sequel seems like quite simply a disappointment. Luckily, the rest of the world bailed out Fraser and company and made this one a moneymaker.
Pineapple Express - The public acceptance of Apatow, Rogen and Franco is nearly ten years late. If only it was 1999, then, Freaks and Geeks would be making new episodes for many seasons. $60 million over its budget is great, but this one seemed to be a prime example of frontloading. With its first five days (Wednesday-to-Sunday) equaling $41.3 million, Pineapple Express already had almost half its end result.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - This is a victory for Warner Bros. Keeping the budget reasonable was the key. Since it was never going to be a runaway hit or even a sleeper, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 performed in a way that had to at least give the studio another reason to smile. Not that they were a bunch of sad sacks, with stacks of money flooding in from Batman.
Tropic Thunder - With a debut of $25.8 million, it wasn't widely believed that this one would pass its lofty budget but it did. Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black had a stellar summer.
Star Wars - That is a tiny budget. Monetarily, Clone Wars is a hit but there has been much loathing and venomous rage spewed about how Lucas is betraying the fans and the series. As he is credited on IMDb, George Lucas created the "characters and universe". Sorry, fanboys, he can do with them whatever he wants but to protest you don't have to watch the TV series when it starts.
Mirrors - There was a dearth of horror/suspense options for fans this summer. The Strangers did well but the Happening and Mirrors didn't make much of a ripple. Mirrors eked out its budget but this one got some regular advertisements on TV, which didn't yield a great box office haul.
Fly Me to the Moon - It amazes me that this film had a steeper budget than Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This film seems interchangeable with Space Chimps and therefore, releasing this so late in the summer meant diminishing its potential box office. Just a little bit more mileage would have put it in the black. Poor Buzz Aldrin was even hawking this on The Colbert Report to no avail apparently.
Disaster Movie - And here is the second step for redemption. Like Meet Dave before it, the fact that audiences ignored this tripe restores my faith in humanity.
Swing Vote - Wait, this movie happened? Huh. I didn't notice.
The Mummy 3 - On the one hand, this could pretty easily be considered a miss and a victim of The Dark Knight. On the other hand, Brendan Fraser starred in $512 million worth of worldwide box office in the space of eight weeks. I'm going to go watch Airheads and think about that for a while.
Pineapple Express - I blame the mediocre returns fully on the fact that "Paper Planes" did not appear once in the actual film. Seriously, though, as much as I love that Judd Apatow is the undisputed king of the Universe and everything, he could start spreading out his projects a little bit more. There may be an overkill factor here.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - They could've focused on the stars that have emerged among their cast between the two films, but instead just marketed a direct sequel with little or no mention of the celebrities they had on their hands. The film wasn't exactly a bomb, but think of what they could've done with more pointed marketing.
Tropic Thunder - The legs were the real story on this one. A lot of it can, obviously, be put on weak competition, but the fact that this managed to dethrone The Dark Knight, stay at number one for three weeks, and remain in the top five for over a month is really something, considering the hard-to-market nature of true parody. Also, how did
Robert Downey Jr. become the most bankable person in Hollywood not
named Will Smith overnight?
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, this movie might've made a lot more money. (Is that the only pun I can work into this comment? Wait for it...wait for it...) Thankfully, its dismal performance gives us a new hope for moviegoers. (Yes!)
Mirrors - The fact that this only barely clawed its budget back worldwide should be seen as a huge failure. Horror has a substantial built-in audience, and with a little marketing and halfway-decent buzz, should be a pretty sure thing. This was especially true since Mirrors was the first horror flick to hit theaters since The Strangers and The Happening - two months without a scare, and Jack Bauer couldn't rustle up a decent audience. Maybe if Alexandre Aja had made a movie that didn't, you know, suck.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - It certainly wasn't a huge success, but Woody Allen long ago stopped regarding things like money and audiences. (He mostly regards Scarlett Johansson these days. Hey-oh!) Vicky Cristina Barcelona was perhaps the most mainstream Allen film of the decade, and successfully transitioned Javier Bardem from murderous pageboy into European Casanova. Good enough for our yearly entry from
Fly Me to the Moon - Pixar called, they want their everything back. Seriously, in a summer where Wall-E, the most visionary animated film in years, utterly dazzled us with a perfect plot and beautifully created outer space landscapes (spacescapes?,) why did Fox and Summit, respectively, think that anyone would bother with Space Chimps or Fly Me to the Moon? Planning? Anyone?
The House Bunny - It's great that Anna Faris is becoming a star. It's just a shame that it had to be in a clunker like The House Bunny. Still, praise to them for hitting a specific target of the demographic - 12-17 year old girls and the boys trying to make out with them - and turning a nice little profit.
Death Race - Breaking news: the American public will no longer buy a ticket for anything with an explosion and boobs. Details at 11.
The Longshots - Obvious "appropriately named film" jokes aside, I can't help but fault the marketing. They could've pulled in the urban market, the children's market, and a chunk of the sports-movie fans, but they pulled in no one. Even just releasing the film to a decent number of screens probably would've done it. Sort of a bewildering result, here.
The Rocker: I guess this one just lost a footrace with The House Bunny (and suffered because of Tropic Thunder, furthermore,) but I can't quite figure out why. The film was amusing enough, if not particularly memorable, and Rainn Wilson certainly has a big enough following via The Office. Perhaps it's a result of taking a character from a more highbrow TV show and putting him in a lowbrow comedy, thus losing the audience, but still, this result is alarmingly low. Sorry, Dwight. Back to your day job.
Babylon A.D. - Vin Diesel, you've become the poor man's Jason Statham. Congratulations. Try putting on a ridiculous accent, maybe.
Disaster Movie - If you saw this movie and enjoyed it, please let us know. We'll be dispatching a horde of rampaging killbots to your home to eliminate you and thus substantially improve the gene pool. That being said, these films have become no-longer-automatically-profitable - celebrate!
College - was this movie actually based on the t-shirt John Belushi wore in Animal House? Is that what we're down to? Basing films on t-shirts? Draw inspiration where you find it, I guess. The filmmakers here forgot one key thing: the people who really, really, really liked Old School are perfectly content to get drunk and watch Old School again. They do not need to come to the theater to see your third-rate knockoff.
Traitor - This is a decent enough result for an under-the-radar thriller. It's a shame that Don Cheadle isn't a great big star yet, but generic action movies aren't going to change that.
...in conclusion, there were too many movies released in August...
Swing Vote - This looked like a nice, comfy role for Costner, but I just don't think people needed to be thinking about voting in a year where everything on the television and radio is discussing the election. I'm honestly not sure where Costner needs to go from here, but I'm pretty sure Bull Durham 2 isn't the answer.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - It's not too surprising that this thing cleaned up overseas given its China setting. I did perhaps expect a little better from it stateside, but I think a little bit of blockbuster fatigue had set in by the time this hit theaters. It's not a very good movie, so it really didn't deserve to be a huge winner.
Pineapple Express: If you really think about the fact that this is a stoner flick from an indie director, its end result is kind of amazing. What's even more impressive is the early dedication of its target audience. They were incredibly focused on those few opening days. I think Seth Rogen is actually a box office draw, incredible as that may be.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: This movie's end box office was fine, but I can't help but think that some money was left on the table. With Blake Lively being a legitimate TV star and huge amongst that target demographic, this might have behaved like Sex and the City for girls.
Tropic Thunder - I would have liked to see it do better domestically, but it's definitely wound up profitable in the end. DVD is going to be the big financial boon for the studio anyway. It's probably the funniest movie of the year (though Forgetting Sarah Marshall is hilarious as well), and will be one of those movies that endures through the years as people quote it.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Ugh. I hate to even note that such a blatant cash grab was profitable. Granted, it's not making massive dollars or anything, but there's nothing about this release that would discourage the studio from doing something similar down the line.
Mirrors: This one is only profitable thanks to overseas box office. It looked terrible, but I do think it was as well marketed as it could have been. It's just hard to make mirrors look scary.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - A profitable Woody Allen movie? Who woulda thunk it in this day and age? I sadly missed this while it was in theaters, but I actually think Woody is on a roll with his last few films. Lots of people talk about Match Point as his return to glory, but I really enjoyed the heck out of Scoop, too.
Fly Me to the Moon - I don't know who the genius was who decided that flies would make great protagonists in a movie but I think that's all you really know to understand why this failed miserably.
The House Bunny - Yay for Anna Faris. I just really like her and think she has a wonderful sense of humor. Here's hoping this opens some doors for her to be the next big female star.
Death Race - I was a little surprised this one didn't do better, but I guess it looked like Generic Prison Action Movie A in the end.
The Longshots - I expected a little more from this movie, as well. It offered something unique to its target demographic, but they didn't support the film. I do think there's a little bit of sports movie oversaturation going on, which probably didn't help things any.
The Rocker - This is pathetic even for a movie with a $16 million budget. Rainn Wilson is obviously not a draw outside of The Office. Poor Dwight. No wonder he's willing to pay top dollar for a hug from Phyllis.
Babylon A.D. - As I discuss these movies, all I can find myself thinking is "My god, the studios unleashed a lot of crap during August. What a sucky month."
Disaster Movie - I guess the best thing to say about this is that at least audiences seem to be coming to their senses.
College - See: my Babylon A.D. comment.
Traitor - I think this was a pretty good result, and it will be a solid performer on DVD. It's not lights out or anything, but for a movie that seemed like it could be a limited release or straight-to-DVD flick, I have to believe the studio is pretty content.
17) The Rocker - Due to the sheer volume of August releases, I'm not going to spend much time discussing the obvious losers. Fox spent no time marketing The Rocker so why should I waste any time stating what is readily apparent: it was a bomb.
16) College - See above re: bomb (wait, did Kim Hollis already do this joke?)
15) The Longshots - It was well aptly named if nothing else.
14) Swing Vote - Kevin Costner has made a lot of money betting on his own movies by financing them himself. This time, the practice finally came back to bite him. What had seemed like a timely release capitalizing on a divided country's exhaustion with the election process proved to be further demonstration of just how sick we are of the election.
13) Fly Me to the Moon - A cheap acquisition by Summitt Entertainment, Fly Me to the Moon was an unheralded victim of the Batman phenomenon this summer. This Belgian animated title had been expected to capitalize on a burgeoning number of IMAX-enabled theaters. In mid-August, those exhibitors were unwilling to drop The Dark Knight for some unknown commodity, leading to a very small domestic run for the title that had larger ambitions prior to that.
12) Babylon A.D. - If nothing else, Babylon A.D. provided us with the joy of a bitter director washing his hands of a project prior to its release. The difference between this and the film in 11th place is negligible, but the key as I see it is that most of this film's box office came abroad, which I have mentioned is the lesser way to make money on films.
11) Death Race - I cannot help but feel that a lot of money was left on the table here. Death Race had a killshot of a trailer ending and the premise itself has already stood the test of time. For whatever reason, it was unable to capitalize on the presence of Jason Statham in his best film concept since The One. A near miss, Death Race should have been a big hit.
10) Traitor - My love of Don Cheadle not withstanding (woohoo, Iron Man 2!), even I am not surprised by this result. Traitor promised a stubbornly complex film of treachery and deceit, knowing all too well that this practice would alienate mainstream audiences. I give Overture Films a lot of credit for not misleading would-be movie-goers in order to trick them into theaters. They preached to their choir and it worked well enough without a need for duplicity.
9) Disaster Movie - Again, this title was well named. Its pathetic domestic performance is indicative of the long hoped for idea that North American audiences have grown tired of this sort of film. Thank God for that. It's been a brutal few years and I just don't think I could have taken another ill-considered spoof movie. What's that you say? There are three more scheduled for release over the next 12 months? Sonuvabitch!
8) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - As I referenced above, part of box office analysis is opening one's mind to the idea that actual dollars earned is not the only consideration. Opportunity cost is also a factor, particularly for titles that should have earned much more than they actually did. Such a scenario exists for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, a title featuring four women who have all frontlined popular television programs. The second film failed to significantly surpass the performance of the original despite the fact that Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty are a huge part of the current pop culture zeitgeist. That is a troubling turn of events for a sequel that should have done much better. Sure, it's still profitable given the frugal production budget, but an opportunity was missed here.
7) Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Oh, Woody Allen. You creepy old pervert of a man. Thank God you are taking time out from what should be your schedule of trenchcoat flashing all the strangers you meet and diddling your not-daughter in order to convince hot actresses to kiss. Finally, you are doing the lord's work once more. You can prove that the Saul/Paul conversion is complete instead of temporary with your next outing, Scarlett and Penelope Make a Porno.
6) Mirrors - Yeah, I'm surprised by this as well. This film and the third and fourth place entrants on this list are both relatively anonymous success stories. Mirrors didn't make a lot domestically, which is always problematic, but its worldwide results are good enough to slot up high up on the list of August releases. A lot of that is due to the lack of winners for the dumping ground of summer, but Mirrors earned enough worldwide during its domestic run to make its home video release pure profit.
5) The House Bunny - I keep telling you people. Anna Faris is not only funny but also something of a box office draw in films like this. She has made a career of portraying the well-intended dumb blonde punching bag. While The House Bunny is no Legally Blonde, it is clearly one of the most pleasant surprises not just of August but the entire summer as a whole. Let's hear it for bunny love!
4) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - The early press for this film's box office bordered on hostile. Situations like this are exactly why it's important to go back to re-examine all of the titles after the fact. A broader picture exists for the most recent Mummy production that shows it is a huge international hit. This is exactly why it was set in China with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh added to the cast. Universal Pictures was aiming for those worldwide grosses and they succeeded in the attempt. Sure, the title is the least successful of The Mummy films to date, but it is still a shockingly profitable endeavor despite the fact that it earned only $102.3 million domestically. Opportunity cost combined with the knowledge that foreign grosses are less lucrative is what prevents it from being higher on the list.
3) Star Wars: The Clone Wars - What the hell is wrong with these people who are Star Wars fans? It's like George Lucas points at something and his brain-dead minions blindly follow no matter the directive. In fact, there is a fine line between the remaining Star Wars fans and zombies. George Romero should look into this connection for his next film. But I digress. The point is that while this is by far the least successful Star Wars film, it was never intended to be on the same scale as the others. Instead, this is a slight release that was originally intended to debut on cable television. The simple fact that five million North Americans were gullible enough to pay money to see it in theaters speaks volumes. Make no mistake on the point. I am deeply disappointed in all of you who made such a mistake. It's been 30 years now. You have had plenty of time to reflect on what a fraud the franchise has proven to be. Flip Lucas off for the deception and move on with your lives.
2) Tropic Thunder - Less well established than the concept of opportunity cost is the idea of positive box office buzz. While Tropic Thunder's domestic take is in fact a financial loss relative to production budget, I would still call this one a moderate win even without the international receipts. The key is the fact that the film was number one at the box office for three straight weeks during the summer. While the revenue makes it only 13th most successful title of the season, that positive press would have carried it to a dominating home video run even if it wasn't in the black when it left theaters. This relatively arcane interpretation of its box office run is why I have it so highly rated even if the numbers don't completely justify such a lofty position. Perception does matter and Tropic Thunder is going to be remembered as a very funny and successful film.
1) Pineapple Express -All of the splits on Pineapple Express are what a Hollywood bean counter wants to see. The film opened well enough to almost match its budget ($23.2 million earned versus $26 million invested). 90% of the money it earned came from domestic receipts. Not only has the title succeeded in the same manner as previous Judd Apatow blockbusters, it has done so despite a frugal budget and in the manner that is most lucrative for films these days. It made its money early, it made its money domestically, and it was done cheaply. That's the holy grail of moviemaking these days. Pineapple Express' accomplishment in these three fields makes it the clear cut choice as the triumphant release of August 2008.