Julie & Julia will soon be a soft-core porn title
Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
August 11, 2009
Kim Hollis: Julie & Julia, a movie adaptation of a popular blog and a Julia Child biography, opened to $20.0 million. Should Sony be pleased with this result?
Josh Spiegel: Yes, and no. On the one hand, I expect Julie and Julia to have pretty strong legs; frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if this movie got close to $100 million when all is said and done. Also, the international grosses, specifically in Europe, should be pretty solid once the movie rolls out there. However, with the crazy amount of marketing (I genuinely think I saw more ads for this movie than for G.I. Joe), and the presence of Meryl Streep in a role that seems tailor-made for an Oscar nod, and a role as one of the earliest television icons, I wonder if Sony was hoping for something closer to a $30 million opening. Of course, they may have also hoped G.I. Joe didn't do so well; still, this number isn't bad at all. Just not great.
Scott Lumley: Considering this is a very unique movie opening in August with little violence, not much sex and based on Julia Child, I think this has to be considered a phenomenal result. I also think that this film has a shot at $100 million and should show some great legs. If there's one thing I know, it's Food Network fans, and they'll all be showing up to catch this one eventually.
Max Braden: Streep's two best box office openings (where she would be considered part of the draw) were Mamma Mia! and The Devil Wears Prada, both opening at $27 million. Streep usually opens at half this level if not in platform release. Julia Child may be a household name, but this is a biopic with no male demographic. $20 million is a very good opening for this project.
Tim Briody: If the first blog turned into a movie can open to $20 million, the lolcat movie is just going to be golden.
Sean Collier: And I'm sure that Box Office Prophets: The Motion Picture can pull in at least a $15 million opening.
Reagen Sulewski: You've got to judge based on expectations here. This is a female-focused movie with no particular romantic plot that's about food. $20 million might as well be Transformers money here. The comparisons to Prada and Mamma Mia! fall flat to me, since one was a very broad comedy based on an extremely popular book (the one this is based on doesn't qualify to me, sorry) and the latter was based on an inexplicably popular musical. A few years ago, this opens to single digits.
David Mumpower: I completely agree with Reagen that this is rarefied air to a certain degree. Meryl Streep and opening weekend box office were once terms used as antonyms. Even so, I do feel that this one was being marketing in a manner befitting a de facto sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, which is why $20 million sounds about right to me rather than a success or a failure. This is the level I had expected, albeit a touch on the low end. Legs will go a long way in determining my overall opinion of this title. What it has done so far is largely as predicted.
Well, for starters, she's nicer than Katherine Heigl...
Kim Hollis: Why is Meryl Streep more of a box office draw in recent years?
Josh Spiegel: This may be something of a perfect storm for Streep. The last few years, she's not only been in movies that come out in the summer, but they're based on popular books (Devil Wears Prada), musicals (Mamma Mia!), or television stars (Julia Child). Also, she's known for being one of the more reliable working actresses. If she stuck to movies that came out at the holiday season, were more depressing, and were, in general, more artsy, we wouldn't be having this discussion. She's making good moves lately.
Scott Lumley: I agree that Streep may be in a bit of a perfect storm, but she adds to that storm instantly by adding credibility to any project she takes part in. Devil and J+J are strong examples of this. As for Mamma Mia!, I don't think anyone saw the level of success that one generated coming at all.
Josh Spiegel: As much as I hate that movie (and boy, do I ever), it was based on an extremely popular musical, featured a multi-national cast, appealed to women, and had lots of ABBA music (which apparently still does well). I was sad it did well, but not surprised.
Sean Collier: Just to make the point absolutely clear: Mamma Mia! was an abomination. Now that we're past that. I'm pretty sure she's just been around a couple of the right projects. Don't forget that she has three disappointing results in the past two or three years as well - Doubt, Lions for Lambs, and Rendition. She's not a guarantee, but can give a bump to a project that's already going in the right direction.
Josh Spiegel: I'd agree that Streep is no guarantee, but of the three disappointments listed, two were Iraq-related (which is box office poison all around), and the other was a prestige project that was never meant to make big bucks; seeing as it got her another Oscar nod, I don't consider Doubt a disappointment.
Kim Hollis: Josh, I'm with you on Doubt. I can't think that it's a disappointment, particularly when you consider the awards attention it received. Also, it more than made back its budget. That's a limited-release type movie that did pretty solid box office.
David Mumpower: I find her reinvention as a box office force quite remarkable. A fascinating bit of box office trivia is that until the 2004 release of The Manchurian Candidate, the largest opening weekend for a Meryl Streep film was Death Becomes Her, which is generally remembered as a disastrous performer. That title debuted at $12.1 million in 1992 and was absolutely blistered by critics yet the only other title in which she appeared that did better was A.I. Artificial Intelligence. And she was but a semi-cameo in that as the voice of The Blue Fairy. In her storied career, she had exactly three box office hits up until the last five years. Those titles were Kramer Vs. Kramer, Out of Africa and The Bridges of Madison County. Everything else championed the idea that she's a critical darling who eschewed mainstream cinema. That's why I amazed that she has had four $20+ million openers over the past five years, starting with The Manchurian Candidate and now including Julie & Julia. She's finally found a way to blend her remarkable gifts with marketable yet tolerable (for her) studio features. Why has this happened? I would argue that it's because of a single whispery scene in The Devil Wears Prada that was cleverly implemented as an entire trailer. Since then, all of Streep's admirers have come out of the woodwork and started showing up on opening weekend...and well beyond. It's like a lifetime of indie credit has been paid in full with five years worth of box office success.
It was more like Mostly Imperfect
Kim Hollis: A Perfect Getaway, a horror/thriller from Universal that stars Milla Jovovich and Timothy Olyphant, opened to $5.9 million. Why do you think this one wasn't marketable?
Josh Spiegel: A Perfect Getaway didn't have the best marketing push, none of its stars are extremely well-known (though Steve Zahn and Olyphant are both quite underrated), and there were too many options in other theaters. I grant you, there were no other competitors in the "Honeymooners escaping murder in Hawaii" genre, but people got distracted from its release, or weren't even aware of it.
Scott Lumley: I'm just going to go with "It didn't look that good." Seriously. If your options are Julie & Julia, G.I. Joe or A Perfect Getaway, what are you going to watch first? In my world, Julia gets the first nod due to the intriguing premise, G.I. Joe gets the look second due to the fact that I'm interested in seeing if the film is as bad as its advance publicity (it's not) and then I'll take a look at A Perfect Getaway.... but only if there aren't any other films I've been meaning to see yet.
Sean Collier: Gotta disagree, Scott - if I end up seeing anything tomorrow night, it's going to be A Perfect Getaway. But I'm weird, so that's neither here nor there. I think that it just got lost in the shuffle, and probably could've won a weekend in February or March. It also didn't really look clearly like either a horror film or an action film, and audiences prefer to know exactly what they're getting into.
Max Braden: The first movie I thought to check for box office reference was The Ruins because of the tropical vacation angle. The Ruins opened to only $8 million in April last year. I've seen a lot of trailers for A Perfect Getaway and I didn't even recognize Olyphant in it. I kept seeing Steve Zahn. In any case neither of them is going to be a powerful draw. This is just one of those movies people are waiting to see on DVD.
Reagen Sulewski: Teens don't dig the Steve Zahn.
David Mumpower: As a general rule of thumb, when a title fails, I generally believe it's because of the marketing. In this case, that simply is not true. Universal gave this one more of a chance than it deserved through some very clever and original campaigns. They also cast well with Olyphant and Jovovich. In fact, I wonder how tricked two such talented people into taking these roles. Also, as much as I love Milla, her choice of scripts is oftentimes brutal. She's an underrated actress - yes, I honestly believe that - but Ultraviolet and A Perfect Getaway are not the type of roles someone coming of $50 million hits should be taking. Everything about this release screams straight-to-DVD...except for the marketing and the lead actors. This was a very weird mix all around.
Kim Hollis: I agree that they actually seemed to be trying to market the film. Ads were all over the Internet, and I saw some decent ones on TV, too. I actually think it has a chance to be a movie I like...though I won't be seeing it until it hits DVD. Maybe people like me are the problem.