Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
November 30, 2010

Hi, Andre Johnson! I love you!

If the movie lasts longer than four hours...

Kim Hollis: Love and Other Drugs, the Fox release that reunites Brokeback Mountain stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway (and gets them very naked), took in $13.9 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, including $9.7 million from the three-day portion of the weekend. Should the studio be satisfied with this result?

Josh Spiegel: I said this when Morning Glory came out and I'll say it again with Love and Other Drugs: releasing movies that aren't clear-cut blockbusters (such as Tangled, which may not have been a sure thing, but is a family movie coming out on a holiday weekend) on Wednesdays is like moving TV shows to Friday nights. Love and Other Drugs, thus, is the new Fringe. This movie has had some solid reviews, so it may be able to stay alive for the next few weeks, but Fox did nothing to help the film with its weak marketing campaign; I saw maybe a handful of ads, but none were memorable enough to make me remember when to see the damn thing.

Bruce Hall: Josh, are you saying that "Friday night is where television shows go to die" = "Wednesday night is where baffling, unmarketable movies are asked to dig their own graves"?

I agree, and will again suggest that a movie like this released at a time like this is in a no win situation. A mid-week money grab is a good way to recoup some of your investment but all you're doing is padding the numbers. You're not fooling anyone.

While this is a disappointing result, the best part about it for Gyllenhaal and Hathaway may be that three weeks from now, nobody is going to remember it.

Joshua Pasch: I am very surprised by how weak this opening is. Granted, I thought the trailer was weak (right up to showing what I can only assume is a climactic scene where he stops her bus leaving for Canada and emotionally gives her a speech about how his life is incomplete without her and how he's sorry he let her get on the bus; then she cuts him off and says something like "you had me at 'i'm sorry i let you get on the bus'"). I also agree about the ridiculousness of opening a rom-com on a Wednesday - even if it is Thankgiving weekend (Four Christmases did well with that strategy but I'm convinced that Vince Vaughn defies all logical laws of box office expectations).

All of that said, every girl I know would ooh and ah at Jake Gyllenhaal when the trailer popped up and they all seemed to be into it. Also: Ed Zwick.

But, apparently not. And no, the studio should not be satisfied. A single digit opening weekend for a wide holiday release can rarely be spun into something overly positive. The most it can hope for now are some holiday-inflated legs that bring its total to a respectable or at least not glaringly low sum.

Matthew Huntley: Joshua, your assumption about the ending is damn near close to the real thing, so I'd say you can skip seeing this movie entirely in theaters. In fact, I'd say everyone can. It really brings nothing new to the table and you're left with just a feeling of "eh."

Reviews aside, though, Fox should not be pleased with this result. Although the movie only cost $30 million to produce, the drop-offs and competition from here on out are going to be too fierce and it will likely not stick around long enough to put the studio in the green. Speaking of drop-offs, I really think they'll be uncharacteristically large for this one, because all the reactions coming out of the theater were lackluster and I bet more couples/females (the target demographic) will opt to see Tangled next weekend instead of Love and Other Drugs.

What went wrong? I honestly think the problem is the source material. It was so uninspired and uninteresting that there was just no way of marketing it so it looked appealing/fresh. Marketing can usually disguise crap, but not in this case. They needed to go back to the root of the problem: the screenplay.

Brett Beach: Not sure if this contributed or not to the so-so opening, but my take on the film's performance is exemplified by the shot (s) of Gyllenhaal and Hathaway on the front of Entertainment Weekly last week: On the one hand they both look hot, yet on the other, it seems more like a brother/sister type of chemistry, which considering that they are both naked, is thankfully not as ick-inducing as it could be, but still...watching them have lots and lots of sex may not be the biggest erotic turn-on for the nation at large.

I was surprised to be see that Ed Zwick was behind this. Since the studio couldn't reasonably tout this as "From the director of Glory, The Last Samurai and The Blood Diamond" and expect audiences to come running for an unusual drama, they were left to airbrush him out (as from the movie poster) and instead try to sell this as an Apatow-esque tale of bawdy behavior and sweet love. Low budget, respected stars, not a lot at stake. The studio probably expected this result (trying to shoehorn a fake romance into someone's non-fiction account of the pharmaceutical industry is an odd adaptation choice) and thus should be mildly pleased. From the sounds of it, Hathaway may at least be up for a Golden Globe nod and, depending upon her fellow actress' regard for her, perhaps a surprise Oscar nom, which could help rentals, etc. down the line.

Reagen Sulewski: Josh (and Joshua), ordinarily I'm right on board with you but this is Thanksgiving. There is no logical reason to skip the Wednesday and Thursday portion of the week at this holiday - that's when all the people are out. You're throwing away money if you don't. This and Christmas are the two weekends of the year where the three-day numbers really don't tell the tale.

Personally I'm surprised that the all-out charm offensive with the two leads, who pretty much got naked upon request, didn't succeed. This feels like a campaign that needed a couple more weeks to bake to really ping with the public. The reality of Thanksgiving weekend, though, is that with four new films and some high profile stuff still out there, something is going to lose out.

Michael Lynderey: I feel like it should've fared a little better - the star combination seemed just right for a minor hit, but as others have said, this is scratching Morning Glory territory. This type of serio-comic drama often does pretty well in December, so maybe they were jumping the gun just a little. But on that note, I have a feeling the legs aren't going to be so bad as far as these things go, even if that oft-hoped for Oscar nomination for Hathaway isn't coming this time.

Maybe if The Rock had shown us his strudel...

Kim Hollis: Faster, the latest action film from Dwayne "Don't Call Me The Rock" Johnson, opened to $12 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, with $8.5 million from Friday-to-Sunday. Given the film's $24 million budget, do you consider this a good enough result for the still fledgling CBS films?

Josh Spiegel: Given the budget, and CBS Films' weak track record, I'll say yes, but this release just seemed odd relative to the other movies coming out this weekend. Obviously, Faster was meant to be counter-programming - what says Thanksgiving like a revenge pic? - but not enough people were aware of it or cared. The Rock will, of course, soldier on and keep making movies that don't hit big but don't do poorly; Faster maintains that streak.

Bruce Hall: Should CBS feel like they got away with something, sneaking off with $12 million on the sidelines while Harry Potter and Rapunzel duke it out in the Octagon? Yes. Will this movie eventually make a profit? I don't think there's any question.

Will this have any measurable effect on Dwayne Johnson's career? In the short run I doubt it, unless he makes too many more of these. Despite his build and his menacing scowl, I don't think that the "one man army" flick is The Rock's forte. As with Vin Diesel, there's a lot of "nice guy" in him. But unlike Diesel, The Rock has it plainly written all over his face. He seems to do better as part of a strong ensemble, a la The Other Guys, or when his image is used for ironic effect, like The Game Plan.

Putting the overall dodgy quality of Faster aside for a moment, I just don't think the man can carry a hit film by himself. Even The Scorpion King, his biggest individual achievement as an action hero, was only a modest (albeit surprising) success. As long as he keeps getting offers, I suppose there are no worries. But I think that the time will come - especially as he begins to age - where the care he takes in choosing his roles will become more significant.

Joshua Pasch: I think Josh is right on the money with his assessment. This is just a bit to high for us to really start cracking jokes about the Rock or CBS Films. It's also way too low for anyone to go around green lighting more R-rated Rock-staring action flicks.

Also, I know this may be a fairly obscure reference, but this opening reminds me a lot of Vin Diesel's A Man Apart from 2003. That was a similarly themed revenge flick with a straight action take - it too underperformed to the tune of an $11 million opening weekend.

Matthew Huntley: Not good enough, but acceptable. Many sites have discussed how this film's audience just kept growing since opening day (the only film in the top 10 to do so), so there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps enough for it to climb as high as $30 million and be considered a mild hit. (Wow - could word-of-mouth really be that strong?) Who knows, maybe the film's counter-programming approach will take it beyond just opening weekend, or at least until Tron opens.

Brett Beach: After reading that the character names are simply placeholders: Cop, Killer, etc., I was reminded of Walter Hill's existential 1978 heist/chase film, The Driver. This would seem to be a more commercially driven redo of that. I do think it's interesting that Dwayne Johnson (no Rock in sight here) would choose to do a souped-up hard R action flick at this point in his career, but maybe he's tired of being the genial tough guy, sees that there's no heir apparent for Stallone, Schwarzenegger and the like, and wants to try out a little bone-crunchin' bang bang. With the smallest budget of this week's wide releases and a few more weeks to reach $30 million (as Matthew suggested), this should satisfy CBS nicely, especially if it continues to grow an audience (even on a small scale).

Reagen Sulewski: I just plain didn't understand half of this film's marketing campaign. The football-themed one was just opening up the film to ridicule and drawing attention away from the action. The biggest mistake this film made was right in the beginning - you've got an extremely charismatic action star, known for his sense of humor and you stick him in a film where he's an unrelenting vector of anger. It's like using a Ferrari to tow a horse trailer - sure you can do it, but why? Johnson also has the problem that he's working off the debt from his kids' films, and action fans haven't forgiven him yet.

Michael Lynderey: Fledgling sounds about right. It won't shoot that far under the budget, but Faster really isn't a very good result for a Rock movie. Maybe I've been spoiled by all the numbers coming in for his non-action films, but your average genre star vehicle (even of the Lionsgate variety) usually comes in just a bit higher than single digits in three days. This is the fourth year in a row that's featured a B-action movie trying to break out over Thanksgiving weekend, and it's telling that Faster came in under what Hitman, Transporter 3, and the unmatchable Ninja Assassin pulled in. I guess children's films are really where it's at for action stars these days (though I would love to see Jason Statham star in a romantic comedy - "She's Expendable", perhaps?).