Chihuahua! Er, wait.
Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
June 8, 2010
Kim Hollis: Marmaduke, the latest talking animal comedy sired in the depths of hell, opened to $11.3 million. Where did Fox go wrong with this movie?
David Mumpower: Watching the trailer answers that question, Kim. Still, the thought that keeps spinning in my head that I have trouble reconciling is that the same consumers who looked at Beverly Hills Chihuahua and thought "I want to see that" just universally rejected Marmaduke. There is an indictment for the ages. I had expected Marmaduke to be a hit because all of the other recent talking animal comedies like G-Force, the Squeakquel et al have offered shocking performances. I didn't understand it but I also don't have children. The fact that even these people with such ridiculously low standards shunned Marmaduke is telling.
Kim Hollis: I just have no idea how to distinguish the poorly performing talking animal films from the blockbusters. They all look the same to me. I mean, really, a Great Dane is just a giant chihuahua, right? And the dogs danced in the trailer. It's the same damn thing!
Matthew Huntley: I think the weak opening of Marmaduke can be attributed to kids simply not knowing who the title character is. I've heard of Marmaduke before, but I've never read the comic strip and I doubt any kids have, either. This was a misfire on Fox's part due to a basic lack of awareness and a non-existent fan-base from the target audience. Unlike the studio's own Alvin and the Chipmunks, kids don't follow Marmaduke. They probably saw the trailer and said, "Marma-who?"
David/Kim, I think the reason Beverly Hills Chihuahua can open to nearly $30 million and Marmaduke only $11 mill is because the former had the Disney marketing machine behind it. Disney has a way of making bad family films look appealing and audiences trust the brand name to no end. That's why when a Disney family movie fails at the box office - and it isn't often - it's always a surprise. It would be interesting to see if Chihuahua and G-Force could gross as much as they did if they were released by another studio. Marmaduke's performance suggests they might have flopped.
Reagen Sulewski: I definitely agree that the lack of Disney's marketing muscle had a lot to do with this, but even still it's the most surprising result of the four new films. I suppose it's just pessimism that made me think Marmaduke would do as well as Hotel for Dogs, but I'm pleased to be proven wrong here.
The best thing that comes out of this is to kill any hopes of a Family Circus movie, if anyone had been thinking about it.
Josh Spiegel: Though I was always wary that the worst - a huge opening - would happen, I'm genuinely not surprised that this movie has failed. As Matthew points out, kids don't know who Marmaduke is. I barely know who he is. What's more, the marketing, again, as Matthew points out, was awful. I saw just about no ads here, not that I'm crying about it. Thrilled that this failed.
Jim Van Nest: The bottom line is this: chihuahaus are way cuter and have cool Spanish accents. Great Danes are oafy and talk like Owen Wilson. I don't think much more needs to be said here.
Jason Lee: I agree with Matthew 100%. Do kids even know who Marmaduke is? That's gotta have held this movie back somewhat. Also, I think most parents caught on to the fact that this movie was pretty derivative of other "better" (I use that word somewhat seriously, somewhat sarcastically) talking animal films.
David Mumpower: The supposition Jason makes about Marmaduke is a great one in that the way people over 25 know Marmaduke is through the funny pages. Any kid under 10 has no frame of reference for that. Marmaduke the movie is almost collateral damage in the collapse of print media.
Kim Hollis: Splice, the sci-fi/horror film from the director of Cube, opened to $7.5 million. It received a terrifying D Cinemascore (generally Uwe Boll territory), but is 72% fresh at RottenTomatoes. What is going on here?
David Mumpower: In terms of the box office for the film, I had hoped Splice would perform better in that it fits in that Mimic niche. For those of you who were still breast feeding in 1997, Mimic opened to $7.8 million, went on to earn around $25 million and was a cult horror hit for a while. Splice is in that vein and has a couple of exemplary actors in Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody; ergo, the positive reviews do not surprise me nor does the disappointing box office. The hostile word-of-mouth, on the other hand, is a head scratcher. The disconnect between the critical reviews and the Cinemascore is as extreme as I can ever recall. Oddly, this makes me want to watch the movie that much more. I doubt I'm alone in this. Splice has a second appeal now due to how divisive it is proving to be. Many Internet flame wars will be fought over this one in the coming years.
Kim Hollis: I thought the trailer was noisy and odd, but it did have an interesting premise behind it. I wonder if it was just a little too freaky to catch on with mainstream audiences. I have absolutely no explanation for the disconnect between the critics and the Cinemascores. The critics seem to think it's smart, but a lot of comments also indicate that the movie falls apart at the end. I'm sure the studio was hoping for a little more given the festival buzz the film had, but ultimately, Splice was a tough sell.
Matthew Huntley: I saw Splice on Friday and the audience, including me, was either laughing or "ewwing" at the screen. But in spite of my reactions, I liked what I saw and I hope others did too. As a creepy, disturbing, bizarre thriller, Splice gives audiences their money's worth and audaciously goes places we don't expect it to, which is a nice change of pace for the genre. It's a sick and silly guilty pleasure, but a well-made one nonetheless. That explains the positive critical reception, but the D Cinemascore remains unsettling. It seems audiences want a sci-fi/horror movie that meets their expectations instead of one that spits them out and tries something new and different. Even if audiences didn't exactly like Splice, they have to admit it kept them on their toes and was entertaining, if even on a sick level. That should at least raise the grade above a D, right?
Kim/David, I urge you to see it. It's not a "pleasant" experience per se, but it's memorable and you can at least admire its twisted craft.
Michael Lynderey: Splice is one of those low-budget Canadian medical horror thrillers, and as such, I think getting a wide release and a $7 million opening should be well above anyone's expectations. In fact, I was really surprised to see this one go so wide. I suppose if we still lived in a world where just any random horror movie opens with $20 mil, it would make sense, but it appears that we no longer do.
Reagen Sulewski: Splice is a smart horror film. Today's horror fans *hate* smart horror, as it makes their brains feel funny in places they're not familiar with. Eat up some more Friday the 13th sequels, dummies - how are those working for you?
Josh Spiegel: Having read what the movie's about, and how things shake out, that this movie has garnered as much interest as it got is due to the marketing. Credit Warner Bros. and Dark Castle for pushing the film as hard as they did, but the trailers did a purposely bad job of describing the movie. Still, it's nice to see Sarah Polley in something again.
Brett Beach: I had hoped to make it to see Splice this weekend (forgive me Polley/Brody, it was #3 on my list of anticipation for the summer!) but that didn't pan out. Hearing about the D Cinemascore intrigued me and got me to searching for online articles about any movies that had scores lower than that (i.e, an F) and there was a 2009 interview with the head of the company in which, asked a similar question, he responded off the top of his head with several movies, almost all of them horror films: Solaris, Darkness, Wolf Creek, Bug, and (the at that time recent) The Box. It feels like Splice fits in really well with that company to some extent, particularly Bug and Solaris. And since Cinemascore measures the level of satisfaction (or lack thereof) of an opening weekend audience, well, hell hath no fury like a horror geek (or Clooney fan) scorned.
On a side note - with the chance to bring up Bug - I maintain it is one of the best films of the 2000s. Friedkin's claustrophobic, driving direction respected the stage origins while feeling entirely cinematic. And Ashley Judd...whew. Among the top ten best performances of that decade, perhaps behind only Laura Dern in Inland Empire. But not a "pleasant entertainment" by any means.
Jason Lee: I agree with Reagen. Part of the discrepancy has to be due to the fact that the moviegoer attracted to Splice was probably expecting a much less intelligent, meditative film. I bet that 20 minutes into it, they were already wondering, "So when is the action-murder-massacre sequence finally gonna start?" There's nothing more disappointing than not getting what you thought you paid for.