Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
February 11, 2009

Just look at all that roid rage.

Now! Fabulous scares in 3-D! And smell-o-vision!

Kim Hollis: Do you see the price of 3-D tickets continuing to skew overall box office revenue or do you expect more of a balance as Real-D technology becomes more ubiquitous?

David Mumpower: There are two main reasons why I expect the pricing inequality to continue. The first is that as long as the technology is considered high-end, a mark-up is to be expected under the same rationale that currently makes Blu-Ray disc pricing so outrageous. The second is that in order for a movie chain to exhibit the Real-D technology, they have to go through expensive upgrades of their facilities. While Real-D does have some revenue sharing incentives in place to offset the costs somewhat, major movie chains have strongly hinted that we won't see heavy penetration of this technology until such a time as movie studios are willing to subsidize the expenses in order to sell the best (and most expensive) versions of their products.

Moving forward, this is a crucial aspect of 2009 movie discussion. We have already seen the introduction of two Real-D titles, My Bloody Valentine and Coraline, into the marketplace. The rest of the 2009 schedule currently shows 13 (!) more Real-D titles. That means we will be at least somewhat discussing this topic every three weeks from now until the end of the year. In case you are curious, here are the Real-D titles expected in 2009: Jonas Brothers: Burning Up Concert, Monsters Vs. Aliens, Up, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs , G-Force, Final Destination: Death Trip 3D, Toy Story (3-D re-release), Astro Boy, Horrorween, A Christmas Carol, Planet 51, Avatar (the biggest of the bunch) and The Princess and the Frog.

Brandon Scott: Yeah, the disparity will continue and the upgrade cost for theaters is noteworthy. We touched on this in past weeks, but I feel that theaters are going to need this in order to attract audiences in the next decade or so. Again, with DVD/Blu Ray discs in home theaters being a more affordable alternative (once the upgrades to a widescreen TV, for example, have been made), theaters will continue to need to offer something more unique to keep asses in seats. Yeah, current economic situation seems to insinuate that this might not do well, but it's a double or triple-edged sword in that regard, I think.

Max Braden: That list of 13 titles is more than I expected, but it still represents a small fraction of the total number of movies a theater will show in a year. So the theaters are going to have to decide if those markets - animation, concerts, and horror - are going to be worth upgrading for and will sustain the cost. I would think that parents with a gaggle of kids would rather pay the conventional price than the higher price for 3-D. Eventually as it just makes sense to replace old technology with new then we'll see closer ticket pricing, but I don't think it will be in the next two years.

Scott Lumley: I had no idea that Monsters vs Aliens was going to be released in 3-D. I wish I could actually see things in 3-D so that I could appreciate these movies fully.

Ben Farrow: Are you saying that in general or just at theaters?

Scott Lumley: I have an ocular defect. 3-D movies do nothing for me aside from generating a massive headache.

Jason Lee: If you'll allow me to put on my social science hat for a second, I personally think that the recent trend towards 3-D is part of a much larger consumer migration towards more immersive media. You have the Wii that provides physical participation in their video games, touchscreen cell phones that provides a sensory experience beyond just pushing buttons, you have 3-D that immerses audiences in the world of their film. I think this movement towards participatory media is here to stay.

Pink Panther 2: The Panthering was not a resounding success

Kim Hollis: The Pink Panther 2 opened to $12 million, far behind the 2006 release's $20.2 million debut. Why did the sequel fail to capture the magic of the first one?

David Mumpower: I am a firm believer that reviews never impact a film's opening. The marketing alone carries a title through its first few days until word of mouth begins to determine a title's overall fate. Having said that, the buzz on this sequel has been disastrous for a long time now, and the reviews for this are the worst of Steve Martin's long and storied career, even including Mixed Nuts, The Out-of-Towners and My Blue Heaven, his most regrettable films. Now, does any of this matter? Well, it didn't for the last Pink Panther movie and we know from Paul Blart: Mall Cop that nothing much has changed today. For whatever reason, people were willing to give Martin a chance to prove he could be worthy of Peter Sellers' legacy once with Inspector Clouseau, but certainly not twice.

Brandon Scott: It was damaged by olw awareness and a boring concept that has a been there, done that sort of feel to it. I am surprised it did that much, if you want to know the truth. This had a direct-to-DVD title written all over it. This kind of begs the question - is Steve Martin done?

David Mumpower: I expect there to be work for Steve Martin in Hollywood as long as he wants it. Personally, I am frustrated by his taking the money and running in lowest common denominators works such as Bringing Down the House and the Pink Panther franchise. Shopgirl is much more the type of story he should be telling, but it's an issue art versus commerce when he chooses his projects.

Max Braden: I think the reaction to the first movie's trailer was probably "This is a perfect project for Steve Martin. We should go see this because it will be funny." I think the reaction to the second trailer was "It looks like more of the same and frankly I wasn't that impressed with the first movie once I saw it." His Pink Panther humor probably works okay on kids but not even on the adults who went to Paul Blart. On the other hand, I think he's had pretty good reaction from adults for supporting roles with Tina Fey on 30 Rock and in Baby Mama. He's had weak openers before, so I don't think he's at all hurt by this one. He's apparently in the next Nancy Meyers romantic comedy along with Alec Baldwin, which sounds like a fantastic pairing.

Scott Lumley: I don't think crowds head out to movies like the Pink Panther expecting a lot of highbrow entertainment. That said, the trailers for this looked god awful. The sequence where Clouseau dangles the attacking karate kids over the balcony showed promise, but that was demolished the by the buffoonery so prevalent in the rest of the trailer.

What's truly terrifying about this film is the fact that Martin has a writing credit here! What exactly would he write for a film like this and why would you want credit for it? (I'm unsure of the answer to the first question, but I'm fairly certain that the answer to the second question is "yet another paycheck".)

Sean Collier: Everybody ready for the most obscure reference of the week? This "franchise" reminds me of the late-'90s Mr. Magoo movie with Leslie Nealson in literally every way. The difference, of course, is that as funny as Leslie Nealson can be, he's not exactly a respected artist, so second-rate slapstick kids movies make sense for him. At this point, two halves of Steve Martin are vying for dominance, and recently, the evil one is winning. As to why this one flopped, again, don't look at results for Steve Martin movies; look for results for live-action kiddie comedies. This one performs about with expectations.

Jason Lee: What really surprises me about this opening is the fact that the first Pink Panther had some really great box office legs. It turned a $20 million opening into a $80 million gross. To me, this says that audiences (for some incomprehensible reason) really enjoyed this film.

I honestly thought that the sequel (based on the trailer and commercials) looked to have the same sort of quality as the first (meaning, awful) and based on that, I would have assumed that 2 would have at least come close to 1's opening weekend, using the theory that "if you guys liked it when it was bad the first time, you won't be very disappointed on the second go round." Color me surprised...but pleasantly so.

Jamie Ruccio: Karma was not happy with that trailer. My fear when I saw the commercials was that it would appeal to kids and they would prop up this movie. Thankfully, they didn't. That trailer took IQ points from my meager stash. It was loathsomely stupid.

Next, on a very special episode of Heroes...

Kim Hollis: Push, the super-powered action drama from Summit Entertainment, opened to $10.2 million. Should the Twilight distributors be happy with this result?

Brandon Scott: Depending on the budget, I actually think yes. I think this got what it could out of a situation with no box office draws and perhaps a difficult concept to sell. I was intrigued by this title after seeing a pretty strong preview/review in Empire a few months back. It sounds like it didn't quite live up to the intrigue, but I am still borderline interested. Just now, it becomes a video title at best. But you know, I think Chris Evans is actually a better actor than he is given credit for. He earned my respect in the little seen '05 film London and he has a nice little career going for him. But poor Djimon, I mean, he was big in Amistad and Gladiator, among others, but with Never Back Down and this movie, he seems to be reduced to less interesting roles for a guy like him.

David Mumpower: In recent weeks, I had seen the cast talking about how much they enjoyed this project and how they expected it to spawn a sequel. Obviously, actors have a tendency to embellish about these subjects since the studio gets angry with them if they disavow themselves of a project Babylon A.D. style. What has been different about Push is that the actors seemed to believe it. I don't think this performance will get them that sequel unless it becomes a cult classic in short fashion. Even so, I do think a double digits opening is respectable for a title exhibited in this few locations (2,313). Summitt Entertainment appears likely to avoid the fate of Newmarket in terms of being a one hit wonder.

Max Braden: Compared to its most immediate genre cousin, Jumper, $10 million vs. $34 million is not good. I suppose it's not too bad for a small distributor, but I never consider a per-theater-average less than $5k to be a good opening. Reviews weren't great, either, so even if a sequel does get greenlighted I would expect it to bomb at the box office.

Scott Lumley: I think this absolutely has to be considered a disappointment. While reviews have generally been atrocious, there is a certain section of the populace that responds strongly to movies like this (nerds, if you're wondering...) and the reviews coming from that group have been pretty strong. I don't know if the studio felt this had a shot at number one, but I bet they were imagining a number more in the high teens than a flat, destined for the budget bin, $10 million opening.

Jason Lee: Coming from Summit, who prior to Twilight had brought us Sex Drive ($8.4 million total gross) and Fly Me To The Moon ($12.8 million total), I think to get a film opening over $10 million without the assistance of Stephanie Meyer is a big win for the fledgling studio.

2009 rules! 2008 drools!

Kim Hollis: Why do you think box office results so far in 2009 are uniformly so much better than they were in 2008?

Brandon Scott: I am simply going to guess that the title quality has been better so far this year more than anything. Whereas in years past, it seems titles have been more dumped in January and early February, so far there have been a few nicer, more intriguing titles. In addition to people catching up on some bigger holiday movies and late-run Oscar films, things have been bright so far. This is indeed encouraging. The theater needs a comeback, but it needs to be with quality, intriguing titles. Hopefully, that can somehow happen. It sounds strange, but I think the economy helps, too. With movies being one of the cheaper options as a night out, as opposed to a dinner and (several) drinks, or paying to get into a club and (several) drinks, I think people are escaping to the "old reliable" to some degree. That is a theory unproven, but it's easier to go to a movie, even with a soda and red vines, than a bar, chatting up several women and buying (several) drinks, often to little avail.

Max Braden: It's a financial End Times and people are blowing what little they have on escapist entertainment. Actually, I don't really believe that. But I do think this calendar year's box office is benefiting from last year's late releases.

Scott Lumley: Actually Max, I do believe what you said. These are brutal, depressing times and people do love their escapist entertainment in times like these. Ten bucks for a two hour escape from the stress of your life is a pretty reasonable price. In a normal year, would Paul Blart even have pulled in half the box office it has?

Sean Collier: All of film is escapism; the more we need escapism, the better movies will do. I'm with Max, and not really surprised at all. Here's my question: if one of last year's giant feel-good releases had debuted this week, would it have made $100 million on our national desparation? Would Mamma Mia! be the second biggest opener of all time if it came out today?

Jason Lee: I think Mamma Mia! topping Spider-Man 3 is the fourth sign of the apocalypse. It happens right after the rivers turn to blood and right before the rain of frogs.