Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
July 19, 2005

Dan announces he's coming out of retirement to break the Peyton Manning record.

"You're really weird."

Kim Hollis: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened to $56.2 million, almost a million higher than Sunday studio estimates. It just edged out last week's entry, Fantastic Four, as the top opening weekend for a Friday release. How surprised are you by this result?

David Mumpower: Not even a little bit. The film I had been using as a comparison for this was How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That's the last time a ubiquitous children's story (other than Potter) was well-marketed and front-lined by an A-lister. Unlike the Mike Myers disaster of Cat in the Hat, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has always struck me as a sure thing.

Reagen Sulewski: I was mildly surprised, but Johnny Depp has definitely found a Will Smith-esque niche in broadly appealing summer action/comedies.

Kim Hollis: I never really doubted its chances to be big, for some reason. It felt super family-friendly even with the quirkiness. Also, with the outstanding reviews, I think parents felt comforted.

David Mumpower: It's a visual treat as well, Kim. This production is the very definition of eye candy.

Reagen Sulewski: Not to mention that if any A-lister can get away with being outlandish and strange, it's Depp.

David Mumpower: Some people questioned the teaser, which I found charming, but my only financial concerns about the project involved its legs. Having seen the movie and knowing that it's wonderful, I don't even worry about that now.

Reagen Sulewski: There was a little bit of a question as far as its potential weirdness, but had any of those doubters even thought about the book or the previous movie?

David Mumpower: I saw that criticism, Reagen, and that is why I think Grinch was a great blueprint. It opened to $55 million, but a lot of folks were worried before release that it looked too dark for children.

Kim Hollis: And that's something that has surprised me as well, Reagen. The first film (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) wasn't lacking in oddity at all. Anyone who remembers it as innocent family fare is sugar-coating it (get it?) quite a bit.

Don't be afraid of the dark

Reagen Sulewski: The examples I always bring up if someone talks about a kid's film as being too dark are early Disney films, especially Bambi and Beauty and the Beast. Kids like dark.

David Mumpower: Exactly. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is an exercise in acid-induced madness but since it's an accepted aspect of our culture now, people have forgotten how strange it is.

Kim Hollis: Hell, fairy tales are as dark as you can get. And really, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is essentially a morality tale, so it's looking to accomplish the same sort of thing. Roald Dahl was never known for being particularly tame. His stuff is vicious, generally.

David Mumpower: If you think about the story, four kids are brutally tortured because he has deemed them worthy of punishment. Who is going to like that more than kids?

Kim Hollis: And it's precisely the sort of kid (aka the Draco Malfoy) that most kids would also want to see punished, so it works on that level too.

Reagen Sulewski: It's an interesting thought that in contrast to Batman Begins "failing" because it was too dark, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory succeeded because it was dark, and actually (gasp) distinguished itself from other films. There's certainly nothing else quite like it out right now.

David Mumpower: That's an excellent point. It exemplifies the fact that saying a film is dark is a generality. Batman Begins is slow and dark, too methodical for children. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is playfully malevolent. That's much more appealing for a younger crowd.

Kim Hollis: True. Playfully malevolent works. Consider Bugs Bunny and Co., Tom and Jerry, and so forth. Kids love that kind of thing.

David Mumpower: Itchy and Scratchy go to the candy factory!

Harry Potter and the Amazing Chocolatier

Kim Hollis: Speaking of Draco and his heroic counterpart, Harry Potter, the newest book shattered the single day publishing sales record with 6.9 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. Did the young wizard's big weekend have an impact on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's weekend result?

David Mumpower: I think that this is a difficult question to answer. Obviously, Warner Bros. underestimated their Sunday total in anticipation of seeing an impact; moreover, that 6.9 million number represents almost 2.4% of the US population. That is a huge amount of people who bought the book, but it doesn't mean that they could not find a couple of hours in their weekend schedule to go see a highly anticipated film.

Reagen Sulewski: It's difficult to see that the book release had an effect. Certainly there's a bunch of cross appeal, but $56 million is a big figure for this film no matter which way you slice it.

David Mumpower: A lot of people are making a big deal out of the lower weekend multiplier, but it wound up being right at 2.7. That's a number reflective of the old Disney summer animation films.

Reagen Sulewski: The way these kids seemed to be anticipating Potter, they probably read it before they got home from the store anyway.

Kim Hollis: Damn. I'm embarrassed that I'm only half finished, then.

David Mumpower: Kids exhibit the same opening day rush when they are out of school that is normally demonstrated by genres such as horror and teen comedies. Back when there still was traditional Disney animation coming out in June, many of those films fell in the sub-3.0 range on their Friday-to-Sunday multipliers. The fact that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did so as well is not directly indicative of a Potter influence.

Reagen Sulewski: And just as a general feel, weekend multipliers don't seem to be as high as they used to be.

Kim Hollis: If anything, it might just show that people rushed out on Friday to see it, and then spent the weekend with Harry.

David Mumpower: So, to anyone who says that it unequivocally held Charlie back, I say Oompa Loompa doompadah dee. If you are wise you'll listen to me.

Kim Hollis: *braces for the inevitable "reading rots your mind" song*

David Mumpower: These snozzberries taste like snozzberries!

Good crazy vs. bad crazy: a primer

Kim Hollis: Moving on, does Charlie's performance indicate that Johnny Depp is now a certified box office draw?

David Mumpower: Absolutely. If you look at his recent projects, Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Secret Window are titles whose opening weekend success is clearly due to his presence.

Reagen Sulewski: I would clarify that it has to be the right kind of film. Secret Window got a definite boost, but Finding Neverland never caught on even with Oscar nominations.

Kim Hollis: You can look at it another way, though, Reagen, with regards to Finding Neverland. Without Depp in the lead, it would have probably never hit $52 million. It might not even have gotten the awards attention that it did.

David Mumpower: With Tom Cruise going nuts and Tom Hanks slipping a bit, I don't think it's out of the question to say that North America is ready to anoint a new #1 movie star. After the Pirates sequels, I think Depp might be viewed as that guy. The problem is that I'm not certain he wants that sort of attention. He's the type of guy who might go out of his way to play a necrophiliac nun slayer just to alienate some people.

Reagen Sulewski: The thing with Depp is, though, he's never sought that status. It's more or less a happy accident that Pirates appealed to him and let him play Keith Richards in drag.

Kim Hollis: Just wait until Libertine comes out in a couple of months. He'll alienate those fans right out of the theaters.

David Mumpower: I'm not so sure, Kim. He chopped off a guy's head with a shovel in a recent film yet here he is opening a film to the most money of any Friday release of 2005.

Kim Hollis: Hmmm. Okay, then. Wait until the Fear and Loathing sequel.

David Mumpower: For whatever reason, audiences seem more willing to accept his quirk than is the case with most actors. I do think that Johnny Depp is the most interesting actor of our generation. He's crazy, but it works for him.

Kim Hollis: Whereas Tom Cruise came into the crazy just a tad late.

Reagen Sulewski: Depp is a different kind of crazy, too. Cruise has the "Ah! Here's my money!" crazy instead of Depp's "Oh look, he's dancing with a dog. How delightful!"

We represent the Lollipop Guild

David Mumpower: Alternately, it's Deep Roy that is the box office draw of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! He played every damned Oompa Loompa!

Kim Hollis: Peter Dinklage must be pissed! (More so than usual, anyway.)

David Mumpower: At least by not getting the part, he saved himself several thousand wardrobe changes and dance lessons.

Reagen Sulewski: Verne Troyer's ego must be out of control at this point.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for Part Two.