Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
January 22, 2013

Mom and Dad always liked you best.

Kim Hollis: Ubiquitous actress Jessica Chastain finished in first and second at the box office, as the adoption horror movie Mama opened to $28.1 million over the three-day portion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. What are your thoughts on this result?

Brett Ballard-Beach: This had the chance to break out because it was a PG-13 horror effort in January (a la The Devil Inside) so all those who couldn't get into TexChain3D were waiting for this, but as with The Last Stand (and even more so), the reviews were in the majority favorable, with one critic I follow and respect tweeting it as the best American horror film since Let Me In, particularly for following through to some sort of bleak ending. The trailers I have seen both punch up what makes it eerie and spooky, but also made it look a lot like many of the American horror films of the last half decade or so (contorted bodies, people on the ceiling, etc) so I am intrigued with all the positive buzz. Not sure how much Guillermo del Toro's name added, since it didn't do much for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. I like to imagine this was Jessica Chastain's doing. With a $15 million budget already made back twice over, this will be one of the big unexpected success stories of the year come December.

Edwin Davies: I bet she's really kicking herself for not demanding a role in Movie 43 so that she could make it a triple next week.

I think the main question that needs to be asked is whether or not Mama did so well because of Chastain or if it would have done well anyway. I think she probably added something to it, but considering how unrecognizable she is in most of the promos, I have to wonder whether people were really aware that she was in it until this last week or so. Otherwise, this is an above-average performance for an original horror movie that probably benefited from some creepy trailers and the PG-13 rating, both of which meant that it was enticing considering how quickly Texas Chainsaw (Massacre) burned out. Mama also had the huge advantage of not being utterly terrible, which probably helped bolster the numbers a bit. In short, I think there were a number of factors at play, but most likely the fact that it's a horror movie in January.

On an unrelated note, I saw the short that Mama is based on at a horror festival a few years ago and it was god-damned terrifying. This makes me both want to see the film to determine how well it translates and avoid it like the plague in case it translated too well.

Jay Barney: I guess my first reaction to this film has almost nothing to do with the actual take, which is pretty good, but with the fact there have been so many horror films released lately. Maybe I am just no longer a fan of the genre, but there certainly seems to be an availability of this type of product each week. We don’t even need to throw in A Haunted House, which can credit its own existence to the hack and slash craze on the big screen. So this week, Mama is the #1 film in America. Even though Texas Chainsaw 3D is out of the top ten, it was the champ two weekends ago There was a little bit of a pause during December, but prior to that films like The Collection, Sinister, Silent Hill Revelation 3D, Paranormal Activity 4, The House at the End of the Street, and The Possession all were available. These have been in theaters since late September, and that isn’t that long ago. You really can’t compare it to other genres in that the same type of moviegoer is probably going to these “horror films” of the week.

Winning a weekend is always impressive, and the all important math against the budget makes this a successful film by any formula. With only $15 million or so spent on this one, it has already made money and the first weekend is not even over. As with other films in the genre, this should have a pretty steep drop, but it appears scary films continue to bring in the coin. It is amazing how fast some of these films fall.

Bruce Hall : Jessica Chastain has a bright future, but I'm not sure she was the draw here. Horror fans looking for a late winter morsel finally got the sincere effort they wanted. This is a generally well informed demographic, so if anything, Guillermo del Toro's involvement may have been more compelling. Either way, this is a solid win for a film without a franchise to lean on.

Felix Quinonez: As we've all mentioned on this site before, this is just a good time of the year for horror movies. I think this movie was going to do well regardless but I also believe that Jessica Chastain's current high profile and the decent reviews helped take this opening from a solid performer to outright hit.

Matthew Huntley: I think we can all agree both Jessica Chastain and Guillermo del Toro's names didn't hurt Mama's performance and the former's probably raised more awareness than the latter's, especially with her string of hits and appearances over the last couple years. But I agree with Brett that this was mostly due to the PG-13 rating, the genre and the time of year, including the fact it's a three-day weekend. All this tapped into the the key teenage-girl demographic, who tend to flock to films of this nature. It helps, too, that the film is actually good and gives audiences the right bang for their buck. Word-of-mouth should be decent to see it soar to at least $65 million domestically, if not more. I'm curious how this movie would have done if it was released in October. You'd think horror movies would perform best prior to/right around Halloween, but January seems to be the genre's sweet spot, as everyone on this thread has already attested to.

Kim Hollis: Chastain did a really nice job of promoting the film (I saw her on one of the morning shows on Friday morning while I was temporarily shut in by ice). I think it was extremely well marketed, with both the trailers and the television commercials seeming to give the idea that this movie somehow offered something different than your typical horror film - and apparently that is true. I really wish we'd see more original ideas like this instead of the same old tired concepts that keep being rehashed over and over again.

David Mumpower: I think that the premise here is a lot better than the average horror movie. If anything, I see the recent glut of horror films as problematic. In a saturated marketplace, a genre movie like this has to really stand out. Mama did. Those ads were creepy as anything I can recall in ages. I made a statement when Resident Evil came out that I still believe. There is nothing in the world scarier than a child who seems capable of murder. Mama has that in spades. I have mentioned in previous MMQBs that I have watched so many lousy horror flicks that the idea of one more should have me curled up in the fetal position. I'm going to watch Mama in the theater because it looks phenomenally creepy. I suspect that a lot of people who saw Mama this weekend felt similarly.

Kim Hollis: Broken City, featuring the unlikely pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, opened to $9 million over the three-day portion of the holiday weekend. Why do you think audiences were less than enthusiastic about this title?

Edwin Davies: The trailers did not make this seem like anything that you needed to see in a theater, especially since you could probably get all the sordid political shenanigans you could want by staying in and watching Scandal or The Good Wife or any number of shows on TV. These kind of thriller/dramas also need critical support to convince people that they are worth checking out, and with so many awards contenders still out there I think a lot of people looked at Broken City and thought, "Yeah, what else is on?"

Jay Barney: I think Tim Briody’s comments in the Friday Numbers Analysis were pretty close to the mark. Even with the star power involved in this one, there have been so many (are so many) cop shows on TV that I doubt people want pay to see a film like this unless it is outstanding. I saw the trailer and initially liked it, but by the time it was over found it too long and convoluted. And that was my reaction to the trailer. I do have a comment on the careers involved. Mark Wahlberg has a lot of buzz around him, especially since Ted. This is a great pairing for Crowe, who has a solid track record, but whose career has had some bumps. This opening is fairly disappointing, but with a budget of only $35 million, the studio won’t take a huge hit.

Bruce Hall: People want to be sure they're getting their money's worth before they pony up for a day at the Giganto-Plex, and nothing about Broken City made it seem worthwhile. I think people saw the synopsis - ex cop framed for a crime he didn't commit, corrupt mayor, blah blah blah - and moved on. Star power isn't what it used to be so good, bad or in between, this is the kind of generic potboiler you could see a hundred other places for free. And this weekend, most people apparently did just that.

Felix Quinonez: I agree with what has been said before. Nothing in the trailers distinguished this movie from the countless other movies of its kind. And the atrocious reviews and generic title definitely didn't help.

Matthew Huntley: I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't say for sure whether its quality is partly to blame here, but I agree its lackluster performance was likely due to the generic trailer and title. The problem, as Bruce attested to, is the film just didn't seem cinematic enough, and I don't just mean in the visual sense, but in the experience sense. This is the kind of movie most people would opt to see at home, at least based on the way it was advertised, and it's the job of the marketing team to entice you to want to go to the theater. Clearly, they didn't do what they were supposed to. It reminds me of another Russell Crowe vehicle from four years ago called State of Play, which also had a humdrum trailer and title, but which actually turned out to be quite good and involving. Whether Broken City is the same remains to be seen - did anyone actually see it yet? - but I think its chances to make any sort of dent at the box-office have passed.

David Mumpower: I've been trying to pinpoint the moment when Russell Crowe's career collapsed. Yes, he is a key player in Les Miserables but I've been contemplating this since The Man with the Iron Fists came out. When did Russell Crowe stop taking A-list projects and start settling for RZA and Marky Mark movies? Broken City feels like a paycheck project for all involved. I'd like to think that consumers caught the unmistakable scent of failure emanating from this one.

Kim Hollis: I had a co-worker who actually mentioned wanting to see this the other day, but I bet he wound up seeing Mama instead. I think it's easy to look at a movie like Broken City and think, "Ooh! Star power!" but let's be honest. Mark Wahlberg is a mid-level draw at best, and although he's had some success with some fairly generic titles, Broken City just looked more or less like everything you can get on television today and then some. Honestly, the procedural is being ruined to some degree, because it's a genre that can be extremely entertaining when it has the right hook.