Coming soon: the Shutter Island theme park (at selected locations)
Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
February 22, 2010
Kim Hollis: Shutter Island, the latest joint project from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, opened to $41.1 million. What do you take from this result?
Tim Briody: It's more proof that it really doesn't matter when you release something (unless your movie happens to be titled Valentine's Day). People will show up to a known quantity such as DiCaprio and Scorsese.
Josh Spiegel: Well, I don't know that Martin Scorsese is enough of a known quantity, in terms of the box office. As has been noted elsewhere, this is his biggest opening; the same also goes for Leonardo DiCaprio (sure, he was in Titanic, but that didn't even open north of $30 million). Frankly, a big, big part of this result is the nonstop, nearly yearlong marketing. Whatever potential bad buzz could have been garnered from Paramount moving this movie from October to February is gone; even though it's not really something Paramount should be championing, this move paid off. It came to a point where, even though I was highly anticipating this movie, I wanted it to come out just so I'd stop seeing ads. No matter what, congrats are in order; if anything else, this solidifies Scorsese continuing to make movies he wants to.
Michael Lynderey: The real question is what happens next weekend. Will Shutter Island enjoy a typically Scorsese-esque, leggy run, or will it plunge as The Wolfman has? My feeling is that this $41 million may well have been just about evenly split between the middle-aged audience the Scorsese-DiCaprio team usually attracts, and the movement horror fans that gave movies like The Unborn or The Haunting in Connecticut their $20 million-era openings. If that's the case, Shutter Island will get at least half of a 60%+ drop next weekend. Looking at the bigger picture, though, I can't help but think that the number was bumped up by the fact that Shutter Island was the only release this weekend, and came as it did into a year that hasn't seen a particularly heavy load of new titles.
Reagen Sulewski: I'd have to agree that part of it was due to winning the first battle of movie marketing - getting audiences to know you exist. Another big part of it is that even though it didn't have the greatest reviews, it that had the pretense of being a quality film. Although I don't really give too much credence to the idea that certain films do better at certain times, this is the spot where The Silence of the Lambs really took off and eventually won the Oscar. I have to expect that this is what Paramount was thinking of with this date.
Jim Van Nest: To piggyback on what Reagen said, the film kinda looks like Silence of the Lambs...or at least Lecter's prison. And when you throw in DiCaprio and Scorsese and the mysterious premise, the film seemed like it would be review-proof for the opening weekend. with a lot of people saying, "What do the critics know? It looks good to me". The reviews and the word-of-mouth will likely start to kill the film and I'd expect the big drop-off next weekend.
Jason Lee: I think a lot of adult moviegoers were excited to FINALLY have a horror/spooky/scary movie to watch that A) had a great director B) had an A-list star and C) had a story to get excited about. When's the last time grown up horror fans had something to look forward to?
Max Braden: When they first bumped the release date out of last year I thought they were blowing a huge Oscar opportunity, and even after all this marketing I still didn't expect it to open at more than $30 million for the weekend. I was turned off by the paranormal-ish aspects of the trailer, but I think it hooked audiences by keeping enough mystery to make people want to pay and see what happens at the end.
David Mumpower: The marketing team clearly wanted this film to be perceived as a modern day version of The Shining. The commercials also took a page out of M. Night Shyamalan's playbook by building a mystery while giving away almost none of the title. I have been saying for a while now that in taking Shutter Island out of 2009, they probably cost the film a Best Picture nod. I'm not sure that pedigree would have meant as much to the film's box office as this "What is Shutter Island" campaign managed, though. Like Mr. Lynderey indicated, I'm particularly curious to see if it holds like a quality drama from Martin Scorsese should or if it is heavily frontloaded a la The Wolfman.
He's king of the...oh, I can't say it.
Kim Hollis: The term "movie star" is an ambiguous description. Using your own unique interpretation of this phrase, where do you rank Leonardo DiCaprio?
Josh Spiegel: I'd say he is someone who's managed to be very, very lucky and very, very shrewd. DiCaprio was a talented actor before Titanic, but that movie's storm of publicity could have easily thrown him into typical, heartthrob roles for the rest of his career. Over the past decade, he's managed to do roles that either play off his boyish looks (Catch Me If You Can), or roles that challenge him to grow as an actor. Back when he starred in Gangs of New York, I was unimpressed, but he's improved to be more an actor than a movie star. He's certainly very famous, but as evidenced by the fact that his biggest opening prior to Shutter Island was $30 million, he's never been a solid guarantee that people are going to flock in droves, akin to the Twilight movies. He's no Taylor Lautner, to be sure; he's almost a younger version of George Clooney.
Michael Lynderey: DiCaprio's no Taylor Lautner? Lautner hasn't opened anything outside of Twilight (and that Robert Rodriguez movie, of course). His solo box office mettle has yet to be really tested, and won't be until well into next year. Clooney is on a bit of a different level, because he hasn't headlined a non-Ocean's Eleven $100 million dollar earner since The Perfect Storm in 2000 (Up in the Air is more or less out of the running). DiCaprio does stick to those Oscary movies that fly in with Santa Claus every year in December, but DiCaprio's have tended to play out on a much bigger scale than Clooney's - Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, The Departed, and if I had to guess, the 2010 twofer of Shutter Island and Inception. In that sense - my sense - DiCaprio's really a big pretty big movie star; kind of like Tom Hanks in the way he mixes box office and awards bait. His two 2008 movies didn't work out on either of those two levels, but it looks like he's back on track after this weekend.
Reagen Sulewski: I'd say he's someone you still have to match with the right project, but when you do, he can elevate it. He's no action star, and he's unlikely to have a Will Smith-like breakout on an I Am Legend level, but as long as he continues to pick interesting work he's got a Johnny Depp-like career out there waiting for him.
Jim Van Nest: I don't think Leo will ever be the textbook definition of a "movie star". What his name above the title has come to mean to me is a quality performance in what should be a quality film. I think the Johnny Depp comparison is pretty good. A fine actor who picks good roles for him. It wasn't until Jack Sparrow that Depp really became a "movie star". And I'm not sure that Leo will ever have that role.
Jason Lee: Culturally, there are few celebrities that have the cache that Leo does. For the rest of his life, he will be an uber A-list celeb. And even if he doesn't necessarily have the box office pull that a Will Smith has, I think that his strength is the ability to bring tons of publicity and attention to any project he's in. He makes you take notice of his film projects -- and then if it's something you want to watch, great. If it's not, then you won't go see it. But you'll know it exists.
Max Braden: I'd compare DiCaprio more to Daniel Day-Lewis than Clooney. They both have name recognition and can definitely open movies, but they're also so particular about their projects that they've become big stars in small ponds. Despite Titanic and this opening for Shutter Island, I don't think it would be smart to just through giant budgets his way and expect to see great returns. Put Will Smith or Tom Cruise in the right projects and the box office works almost on autopilot. With DiCaprio it takes more crafting. He's got three Oscar nominations under his belt and decades more career ahead, so he'd certainly appear at the tops of those 'quality' types of casting lists as a heavy hitter.
Kim Hollis: He reminds me a lot of Jack Nicholson as far as talent and career trajectory. DiCaprio is similarly keen in his ability to pick projects that match up well with his skill set. I'd even say that Shutter Island is a nice combination of Chinatown and The Shining in terms of tone and the type of acting he is being asked to do. DiCaprio is what we think of when the classic definition of "movie star" comes to mind, and there aren't many other guys in Hollywood whose name comes up in that conversation other than George Clooney and perhaps Tom Hanks.
David Mumpower: When I consider the term movie star, the first place my mind goes is whether their participation in a project automatically heightens its awarenesss and perceived pedigree. I'm not talking about box office or anything like that for the moment, just how much saying "It stars Actor X" makes a person go "Oh, I want to see that". In other words, how much does a person's presence on a production fundamentally enhance its reputation. The point I believe Josh wanted to make earlier is that Taylor Lautner is the flavor of the month, the current actor whose name comes up first due to the limited imagination of so many people in casting. DiCaprio is an entirely different beast. He is that rare talent whose presence is enough to quantify a project as important. To wit, the lazy thought would be to say that Revolutionary Road earned about $23 million domestically; ergo, DiCarpio isn't that much of a draw. The reality is that there aren't five people in Hollywood whose presence in that feature allows it to earn double digits in theaters. It's a (grim) play masquerading as a movie. Similarly, he offered Blood Diamond exactly the level of gravitas needed to make that title intriguing, even if it did wind up being a significant box office loser. Without him, that would have been one of the biggest bombs in recent memory. DiCaprio matters not just because he's a lot of the reason Titanic earned what it did but also because he has stubbornly decided to pick the best movies rather than the ones that appear to be the most commercial on paper. That's what the best movie stars throughout the eras have done.
The more he shrinks physically, the bigger his box office gets.
Kim Hollis: This appears likely to be Martin Scorsese's third consecutive $100 million non-documentary film. Has he crossed over to the point where his name above the title automatically guarantees box office?
Josh Spiegel: I wouldn't say that. If, for example, Scorsese decided to make Kundun now, not in 1997, I don't think that movie would make even $25 million total. What matters is that Scorsese has made, in his last three fiction films, very accessible movies with very well-known actors. Granted, Robert De Niro wasn't a nobody when he did Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but those films were released amid waves of big-budget blockbusters. With The Departed, The Aviator, and Shutter Island, Scorsese has managed to make big-budget blockbusters that also happen to marry his unique filmmaking style, in my opinion. It also helps that Shutter Island has been marketed, correctly, as a psychological thriller, which audiences never say no to.
Matthew Huntley: Martin Scorsese's name above a title certainly means something to many viewers, but in the case of Shutter Island, I think it was Leonardo DiCaprio's name and the overall premise that did most of the ticket selling. Still, the name Scorsese on a billboard can only help a movie's financial prospects.
We have to keep in mind Shutter Island was sold as mainstream entertainment and was the only wide release of the weekend. Moviegoers love a good psychological thriller and this one happened to be available. It tapped into the adult crowd by being more intelligent, patient and character-oriented than most. If a movie is quality mainstream, it's only natural it's going to make a lot of money, despite the director.
Michael Lynderey: Scorsese's name automatically guarantees more than a movie would usually have been apt to get, yes, but I wouldn't necessarily think everything he does is a lock to nab, say, at least a $50 million total. As long as he makes these big commercial movies with name actors and a premise audiences can get behind, he's good for box office in the $100 million range. But if he delivers a title that's perhaps as unapproachable in some ways as Bringing out the Dead or After Hours were, it becomes much more of an uphill climb.
Reagen Sulewski: There's something to be said for accessibility, for sure, but that doesn't explain a $41 million opening for a Hitchcock pastiche. I'm not sure I agree with Josh that audiences are beating down the doors for moody supernatural period thrillers - it's not even a genre that we get a lot of films in. I'd say he owes a lot to Leo, but an Oscar win does a lot for your recognition with the public.
Really, there's probably no such thing as a director that guarantees box office - even Spielberg or James Cameron. But the right director in the right genre will lead to audiences giving a film a chance. Scorsese directing a Julia Roberts romantic comedy, for instance, would be as wild a mismatch of styles as I could think of.
Jason Lee: Personally, I think that this is result is more due to the fact that Shutter Island is just going to be a lot more marketable and accessible than his past work. Seriously, do you want to see a biopic on Howard Hughes or would you rather see a creepy film about a creepy prison on a creepy island? I think the $41 million opening is less about Scorsese's box office draw than the attractiveness of the story.
Max Braden: He's a multiplier, but as with DiCaprio it's got to be a package. What's worked for him, and what shows his mastery of the film industry, is that he's been able to put together the package time after time.
David Mumpower: Jason, it's interesting to me that you make that point, because I've seen a couple of comments along those lines recently. My counterpoint would be that The Aviator inflation-adjusts to $124 million, which is a sum I'm not certain Shutter Island will reach. If anything, this exemplifies the thought process that the intrigue created by subject matter is in and of itself completely subjective.