Monday Morning Quarterback
By BOP Staff
January 24, 2012

He is gloating in Peyton's direction.

Well, if the vampires aren't sparkly...

Kim Hollis: Underworld Awakening, the fourth installment in the vampires vs. lycans (and now humans) franchise, opened to $25.3 million. Is this more, less or about what you were expecting?

Matthew Huntley: It's a little less than what I was expecting, actually. I thought the return of Kate Beckinsale might raise the stakes (no pun intended) and fuel the opening to about $28-$29 million, especially with the 3D/IMAX surcharges. And while the opening is higher than the last installment, the attendance is about the same, suggesting the franchise hasn't acquired any new fans.

I've yet to see the film, but I'm thinking this should probably be the last of the Underworld movies. The budget has gone up to $70 million and, frankly, I'm getting tired of each of them focusing on the "endless war between vampires and lycans..." It seems like that line has been spoken in each of these movies' trailers. Regardless, I think the only way we'd see an end to it all is if Awakening bombs internationally. To me, this franchise and Resident Evil are interchangeable and the latter's latest installment made close to $300 million worldwide, hence why Resident Evil: Retribution is right around the corner. If Underworld 4 can pull off the same magic, we'll be seeing another one in two or three years.

Bruce Hall: It's right about what I personally expected, although I understand it exceeded studio expectations. I believe this places Awakening in second place among the franchise's opening weekend numbers. So, despite what will be a typically front loaded run followed by a likely finish somewhere in the high $50 millions, the question is whether that will be enough momentum for another installment. I have a lot to say about that, but I'll restrain myself to this - since the money will surely be there, all that matters is whether Kate Beckinsale will return. Rise of the Lycans proved the same theoretical point made by Tokyo Drift (I'm sure you get my meaning), but while I feel both of those films are comparatively underrated, I wouldn't recommend trying the same stunt again. If it has to happen, bring back Beckinsale and while you're at it, head down to Starbucks and see if Scott Speedman has has overcome his creative differences.

For now, I'd say Len Wiseman has much to be proud of. I wonder how he'll celebrate? Oh, wait. Never mind, it just came to me. Lucky bastard.

Reagen Sulewski: This fits right in with Underworld's status as about 95% of Resident Evil, right down to copying the move to 3D (though what franchise isn't doing this now?). Whatever you might want to say about Underworld films, they stick to a well worn formula and as long as people continue to embrace it, they'll continue to churn them out. I fully expect #5 to be titled "Underworld: Hey, It's Another Underworld Movie!".

Edwin Davies: This is about what I expected given the previous track record of the series, which has always chugged along nicely, never really causing too much of a fuss but just sort of being there, and making a bit of money in the process. In keeping with its just sort of being there-ness, I didn't expect it to see a huge bump from the 3D conversion or Beckinsale's return, since the series might have its dedicated fans but it has never seemed able to make the leap into massive crossover appeal. However, the bump is so slight that it makes me think that the film didn't actually sell all that many more tickets than Rise of the Lycans did, so that suggests that the franchise is done, unless than can pull a Fast Five and make a halfway decent film for the fifth installment.

Brett Beach: Although I don't want to incite anyone's anger by suggesting yet again the interchangability (in my mind at least) of this and the Resident Evil franchise, I was gobsmacked to look at the figures for the last Resident Evil installment, where the international take was $140 million more than the third installment, and the domestic take, though the highest of the series at $60 million, was just enough to make back the budget. Since Underworld performed within similar margins prior to this first entry in 3D and may be in store for a similar global bump, then, as we have been trumpeting in recent years, the domestic gross is piffle in the big picture.

David Mumpower: What we are seeing with this result is a combination of the damage done to the franchise by Rise of the Lycans offset by the price increases that come with 3D ticket sales. Yes, demand went up a bit with the return of Kate Beckinsale, but overall what we have witnessed here is a relative draw from the various mitigating factors. $25 million is almost exactly what I was expecting so there are no surprises here. And for what it is worth as a fan of both franchises, Resident Evil is the deluxe version while Underworld was a solid movie that shouldn’t have become a franchise.

How do you know George Lucas hates you? Cuba Gooding Jr. is in this film.

Kim Hollis: Red Tails, a rare Lucasfilm release, opened to $18.8 million. Should Fox be pleased with this result?

Matthew Huntley: Yes, because that figure surpassed most industry expectations, and with Black History Month right around the corner, not to mention a 44% audience surge between Friday and Saturday, the film could show strong legs. Plus, the budget was relatively modest (less than $60 million), so this could become a mid-level hit for the studio. You can't say that about too many films released this time of year.

Bruce Hall: Absolutely, since Tuskegee Airmen: The Phantom Menace appeared sure to crash and burn (ha, ha) prior to Tyler Perry's pre-release Internet appeal. And before you say I'm reading too much into that, remember that Tyler Perry wields enough grassroots influence to raise at least $5 million in box office for a film just by mentioning it. It's a shame Oprah isn't still on, because he'd have been sitting on her couch with Cuba Gooding, weeping openly over what a fantastically important film this is, even though HBO already made it, only better, and with Larry Fishburne, and without the flashy CGI and Spongebob Squarepants dialogue. Then we're talking about the number one movie in America. I sound so cynical because while there's no doubt this is an important historical subject, George Lucas as executive producer only ensured that this was going to be a comically bad children's film.

And trust me - it is. It'll be interesting to see how it does next weekend, when its only real competition will be Liam Neeson fighting computer generated wolves with busted shot bottles taped to his hands.

Brett Beach: I think also, Lucas making the rounds and discussing how this was turned down by every studio (a la Raiders) added to the underdog vibe (or at least helped create one, which when Lucas is involved is so disingenuous as to seem absurd). Yes, this is a great start, Fox should be pleased in theory (although since Lucas ended up financing it himself, I am not sure what they might have gotten out of the final bargain) and with a fairly weak slate of potentially dreadful/audience underwhelming films filling up the next few weeks, the chances are there for this to maintain low drops and at least recoup its budget domestically.

To jump back to Lucas once more - I have made no bones that I have no intention of ever seeing SW EP II or III, but if the man makes good on his promise to do avant-garde fare available only at the local cineclub or repertory (and lord knows I am a sucker for artists making sweeping proclamations about their career) then I will show up in support.

Reagen Sulewski: I think we're seeing the triumph of niche marketing, which is an odd thing for such a populist medium. Audiences that have been traditionally ignored or marginalized are responding to films that seem to be made specifically for them to the exclusion of the so-called mass audiences, and it's a canny strategy to try and feed them. The history of box office is filled with low-rent action movies that didn't open to half this much, so good on Lucas for realizing there was an audience hungry for this story.

Edwin Davies: I imagine that Fox is pretty happy with this, if only because, as Brett pointed out, Lucas funded the film out of his own pocket, so the cost to them is probably pretty small in comparison to the $60 million budget. If the film holds up well in the coming weeks, and as similarly niche focused films like Courageous have demonstrated that may be a big ask, then it will probably do okay in the long run. However, I can't help but think that this is a better than expected start that still won't be good enough to ensure Red Tails makes its budgets back. Maybe when they re-release it and have the Germans shoot first, then it'll finally be accepted.

David Mumpower: Bringing this discussion back to basics, a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. opened to roughly $19 million. That strikes me as a huge win in 2012, 15 years after Jerry Maguire made him famous. I am also amused that it has been 16 years since Cuba Gooding Jr. made virtually the same movie with The Tuskegee Airmen.