Monday Morning Quarterback Part III
By BOP Staff
November 25, 2009

Vampires ain't got nothing on me.

Where did the vampires go?

Kim Hollis: The Blind Side, the true story of the teen years of Baltimore Ravens football player Michael Oher, roughly doubled expectations in opening to $34.1 million. How did Warner Bros. manage such a magnificent feat in the shadow of the Cullen coven?

Josh Spiegel: This film's success could be attributed to any number of things: Sandra Bullock, All About Steve excepted, had a big summer success, the movie looked to appeal to those wanting a weepie/uplifting sports film, and the generally high numbers of people at the multiplexes and sold-out showings of New Moon may have siphoned some money over to The Blind Side. I wouldn't have figured the film to do so much in its opening weekend, but New Moon could be a big part of its impressive three days.

Sean Collier: It's a neutral, agreeable kind of movie, designed to appeal to families trying to figure out a movie they're all willing to see. Since the stores have somehow convinced us that the Christmas shopping season is underway and families the nation over are being dragged to the shopping plazas, trips to the theater are clearly up. It was in the right place at the right time.

Reagen Sulewski: I touched on this a little in the forecast, but they hit on a neat little cross demographic - men who like football and women who like heartwarming stories. Plus, it didn't hurt that The Proposal reminded people that they want to like Sandra Bullock.

Tim Briody: This is a fantastic opening that nobody's going to remember in the face of New Moon. Here's your definitive proof that there is never a finite amount of dollars available at the box office.

Jim Van Nest: The trailers and TV commercials for Blind Side were perfect. They showed you Sandra Bullock being her cute Sandra Bullock-y self. They showed you that it was a football movie. And they promised a heartwarming ending as Oher turned out to be a first round draft pick. What more could you look for in the face of vampires that could lose to all three Chipmunks?

Jason Lee: I agree with Jim 100% and I'm surprised more people haven't brought it up. The trailer was perfect. I'm not a huge schlocky movie fan and Bullock does nothing for me...but even I wanted to see this movie after watching the trailer. Furthermore, I'd like to make a prediction right now: Bullock gets a Best Lead Actress in a Drama nod at the Golden Globes for this film come January.

Kim Hollis: Jim and Jason are both right. That trailer - and the television commercials - were all golden. And they were aired during sporting events (frequently), ensuring that men who might want to see this would be aware of it, while women would already be inclined to think it looks spiffy thanks to the spunky Bullock character.

Tom Macy: In the shadow of Twilight it was a perfect alternative for couples who can vote. Females saw this as a feel good movie they wanted to drag their boyfriends to and men saw it as a movie with football in it, leaving both to secretly high five their friends for having duped their significant other. Whether or not it was entirely intentional, it looks like The Blind Side (I just mistyped and wrote the Bling Side - is that already a movie starring Martin Lawrence, Martin Lawrence and Martin Lawrence?) was a beneficiary of reverse counter programming (or something). This is why I don't work for a Hollywood studio.

Michael Lynderey: The Blind Side's number is to me almost no less shocking than Twilight's. New Moon was always going to be one shade of massive or the other, but where did this one come from? It looked like a hundred other movies. The only explanation I have is that Blind Side was the most fortuitous recipient of New Moon's carry-over business, or that holiday audiences looking for a decent family film (a movie about families, that is) have already started seeping into theaters.

Max Braden: As far as I can tell, only three sports-themed movies have opened bigger - The Longest Yard, Talladega Nights, and The Waterboy - all comedies with a bigger star than Bullock. It's also her biggest opening yet, beating her previous which of course was The Proposal this year. I think without her the movie would have opened in the range most initially expected, but I also don't doubt there was measurable spillover from sold out shows of New Moon.

David Mumpower: I have been saying for a couple of years now that Avatar is the most important film on the schedule. I believe this to be the case for any number of reasons involving Cameron's greatness as well as the inimitable success of his prior project, Titanic. Despite all of this, when I voted for the BOP 20 of Holiday, The Blind Side was my top choice, even over Avatar. The latter film will offer technical majesty and all of the storytelling wizardry that has been a hallmark of Cameron's career, but the book The Blind Side touched my heart. The world needs more Leigh Anne Tuohys, people who are in a position to help and don't shun their social responsibilities. Similarly, my heart bleeds for the inscrutable nature of Michael Oher as a teen, a blank slate of a human being who is understandably guarded in his conversations for fear of being sent off to another foster care home. Everything about this story is what is good in humanity, and I embrace movie-making that celebrates optimism in an era where cynicism is so much more marketable. I had been hoping that this film would open to $20 million and wind up north of $60 million domestically. It makes my spirit soar that we're now looking at a $100 million domestic performance instead. I've been saying for a while now that The Blind Side is like a special little movie gift to me from the kind folks at Warner Bros. and I'm thrilled to see it easily surpass all reasonable expectations.

Featuring the star of All About Steve...

Kim Hollis: Do you think The Blind Side does as well as it did if someone other than Sandra Bullock had starred in it? How much of it is star power and how much is story?

Pete Kilmer: This was the role Susan Sarandon or Goldie Hawn would have done 20 years or so ago. Having Bullock do it now is smart for her and her career. And I agree with Jason about comparing this role to Julia Roberts/Erin Brokovich deal. However, Sandra has been smarter in her career choices in the last few years compared to Julia and she may have the longer term career because of it.

Josh Spiegel: I would argue that having Bullock as the lead did a big help. The story is interesting no matter who the star is, but Bullock seems a good fit for the role; unlike the flop that is All About Steve, this seemed like something closer to her style, a character we could buy her playing. Of course, the previews made it seem like Connie Britton's Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights fosters a new student, but Britton wouldn't be getting enough butts in seats.

Reagen Sulewski: The only other person I can think of that might have had the same effect and would have been right for the role is Julia Roberts.

Jim Van Nest: Unfortunately, this kind of movie needed a Sandra Bullock. Without the "ooh, new Sandy Bullock flick", no one would have cared enough to find out that it is a great story.

Kim Hollis: I agree, Jim. Without her, it's a very small box office performer. She has a real charisma and humor in the commercials that really appeals, on top of the fact that she's already coming off The Proposal.

Jason Lee: Bullock is indispensable. You get the wattage of her star power, plus the buzz of "Bullock is doing a great turn in a dramatic film." To me, this follows in the vein of Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich - but without the Oscar ending.

Tom Macy: Certainly a combination. After horror films, sports movies are probably the most paint- by-numbers movie mold out there. So that safe bet factor will always get a certain number of people out. But I give that girl who drove the bus in that one movie her due. It's easy to dismiss Sandra Bullock sometimes. As Hollywood actresses go, she doesn't have the real iconic award role, like Hilary Swank or Reese Witherspoon, or giant franchise of Kirsten Dunst, or Keira Knightley - that jumps out when you think of her. But looking over her track record, she's maintained a remarkable level of consistency. Clearly she has a quietly devoted fan base. Even if they don't show up every time, people pay attention when she's in something. Since breaking out in Speed in 1994, she's made 34 films that no one remembers (do NOT say the C word to me, in order to get out of bed every day I need to pretend that movie doesn't exist) yet 27 of them opened over to $10 million. With a bland, yet still nourishing presence that continues to resonate with audiences, Sandra Bullock is the oatmeal of leading ladies.

Michael Lynderey: I don't think it's the story - it's not exactly a tale that inspires in me thoughts of a movie that's got a real shot at $100 million. I think Bullock was clearly a big part of this number - of all the female stars of the '90s, she's the one who's survived the longest, and she's clearly riding high right now. The momentum she got from The Proposal wasn't enough to save a bad movie like All About Steve, but when you take that momentum and mix it up with a generally well-reviewed and vaguely appealing project like The Blind Side, a $34 million opening isn't such a fantasy after all.

David Mumpower: I think that Reagen is correct in stating that the short list of actresses who would have similar box office pull here without sacrificing any of the story starts and ends with Julia Roberts. I also believe that Bullock's presence absolutely aided the comfort level of people in seeing what looked to be a relatively small-ish production. In the end, I see this as equal parts engaging story a la Remember the Titans and The Rookie and star power on display as Bullock has her second blockbuster of the year.

People just don't smell what the Rock is cooking. Not even when he's animated.

Kim Hollis: Planet 51 opened to $12.3 million. Why wasn't Sony able to strike a chord with this animated film?

Pete Kilmer: It wasn't a Pixar film; worse, it looked like a bad knock off of Buzz Lightyear (who the kids under ten today may not know). It just looked really, really generic.

Josh Spiegel: The marketing for this movie didn't do any favors; though there was an abundance of ads, none of them made this movie look any good. Also, it may mean that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson should stick to live-action family fare. Also worth noting: at least in my theater, there were a lot of kids under 10 at New Moon, so that film may have sucked some of this animated film's audience away.

David Mumpower: I'm disappointed, because I think the premise and the trailers are hilarious. Clearly, I'm seeing something here that nobody else did.

Sean Collier: It's about the 38th generic computer animation feature this year, and New Moon is doubling as a kids' movie for some disturbing reason. No chance.

Shalimar Sahota: The concept is an interesting one, but the trailer didn't make me laugh and the aliens look a little too Shrek-like. A film telling children a story where humans are the monsters probably wasn't a good idea, but I admire the guts in trying to get this across while they're young!

Tom Macy: There was just too much going on this weekend for a run-of-the mill kids' flick starring the Rock to break through. Along with previous releases The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain and the upcoming The Tooth Fairy – opening on the choice 3rd week of January slot – I wonder if The Rock has no mirrors in his house or no windows. Either way I'm sure the walls are made of gold.

Jim Van Nest: I agree with the others. There are simply too many of these movies. Computer animated flicks like this seem to be the new generic horror movies. They're coming out so often and they're largely interchangeable. If they're not Pixar or a sequel, there's really no reason to go to the theaters to see these.

Jason Lee: This film had a neat little premise, but it just looked so dumb. Even kids could see through the marketing on this film.

Michael Lynderey: There's been a storm of children's movies lately - sometimes two a week - and it looks like this was one of the casualties. The lack of 3-D hurt, of course, but the middling reviews and trailers that were witty only on the one-joke level didn't help. Plus, Planet 51's not based on a book or a TV show, so it's not really left with a lot of resources. Still, I think this might have OK legs, even with Old Dogs coming in for the kill in a few days.

Max Braden: I thought it was a little strange that you didn't hear Johnson's voice in the trailer, like they were trying to bank on his name without using him. I'd call it a clever premise but one you'd expect to see a short skit about rather than a full movie, but then I didn't see the depth of Up from its trailer either... I guess aliens just aren't as cuddly as talking dogs.

Kim Hollis: It did look very generic, and as someone who watches Saturday/Sunday morning programming on Nickelodeon (yes, I admit it), the marketing had a slight air of desperation to it. Somehow, kids can sense this. I don't know what gives them that spidey-sense, but they do have it.