Hollywoodland, Covenant Fail to Draw Big Audiences
Weekend Wrap-Up for September 8-10, 2006
By John Hamann
September 10, 2006

See? Even starring in a crappy movie will get you the hottest girls!

It's a painful reminder this weekend of what a non-summer weekend is like at the box office. None of our top ten films earned more than $10 million, including two big openers in The Covenant and Hollywoodland. Seven films in the top ten earned less than $5 million. The overall figures are downright nightmarish, as the top ten combined to earn $49.7 million, the worst since Dickie Roberts debuted in the first weekend of September 2003.

The number one film is The Covenant, and its total for the frame, despite two weeks of constant advertising, came in at only $9.0 million. Released to 2,681 venues, The Covenant had a venue average of $3,356. From Screen Gems, the kings of bad movie schlock marketed to the rafters, even this will be a disappointing debut despite launching at number one. February's When A Stranger Calls – another Screen Gems classic – somehow managed to open to over $20 million, more than twice what The Covenant found over its opening frame. I'm sure Screen Gems was looking for similar business here, but too often audiences can smell a rat. This one wasn't screened for critics (which is usually very telling) and was directed by Renny Harlin, which tells me the studio couldn't find anyone else to do it. Harlin directed such classics as Cutthroat Island ($2.4 million opening, $10 million finish), The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine ($6.4 million opening, $20 million finish) and last year's Mindhunters ($1.9 million opening, $4.5 million finish). With Harlin, a poorly communicated advertising campaign, and one of the worst release dates of the year, Screen Gems couldn't have been hoping for much. While budget data isn't available, the effects in the trailers make this one look like at least a $30 million production. By the time The Covenant is finished theatrically, I doubt it will pay for marketing and prints.

Hollywoodland is our number two film, and despite a cast of Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Diane Lane, this one only earned $6.0 million, albeit good enough for second over this very slow weekend. The other good news is that Hollywoodland was only released to 1,548 venues, so not only did it have the best venue average in the top ten at $3,881, it also has room to grow via word-of-mouth in the weeks to come. The story is aptly timed, as it involves the death of Superman; this time not Bryan Singer's Superman, but rather George Reeves' Superman. This was a good idea with a bad release date, and may have been better off with a slow rollout to NY and LA before expanding to the rest of the continent. The problem may have been in the reviews, as critics were quite mixed on this one. RottenTomatoes counted 109 reviews, with only 73 coming in as positive. That equals a fresh rating of only 67%, not bad in today's Hollywood, but not great, either. Let's see if it can hold some of its audience with an expansion next weekend.

Falling to third after two consecutive weekends on top is Buena Vista/Disney's Invincible, the football drama starring Mark Wahlberg. In its third frame, the Disney football flick earned only $5.8 million, off a large 52% compared to the three-day portion of the holiday weekend in the last round. Invincible has now earned $45.7 million.

Fourth spot goes to The Protector, Tony Jaa's new martial arts flick from The Weinstein Company. Out to only 1,541 venues, this small release earned $5.0 million from Jaa's fanbase, giving it a not-bad venue average of $3,265. The opening is about as much as Jaa's first North American release, Ong-Bak, earned in its entire North American run. Like Ong-Bak, this release is more of an advertisement for the DVD. This one cost about $8 million to make, and now has earned almost $12 million worldwide.

Lionsgate's Crank falls from a second place finish last weekend to a fifth place finish this one. The Jason Statham flick earned $4.8 million, finding a big second round drop of 54%. This one is behaving like the first Transporter flick, which opened to $9 million and followed that up with $5.1 million in its second frame. Look for Crank to struggle toward $30 million and not make it.

Landing in sixth is The Illusionist, Ed Norton's platforming period drama from Yari Film Group. Over three days last weekend, The Illusionist grossed about $6.2 million. This frame, on about 300 more screens than last round, The Illusionist grossed $4.6 million, giving it its first weekend-to-weekend drop (25%). Even with its first drop, this still has to be considered a success for Yari Film Group. The Illusionist currently sits with $18.1 million..

Fox Searchlight's Little Miss Sunshine finishes seventh, as the shine comes off Sunshine a bit in this post-Labor Day Weekend frame. Over three days last round, Sunshine grossed $7.6 million. This turn, the arthouse darling earned $4.4 million, and was off 42% from the previous frame. Searchlight has turned their $10 million pick-up into a goldmine, as the Steve Carell/Greg Kinnear flick has now earned $41.6 million.

Wicker Man is another embarrassing entry in 2006 for Warner Bros., as the Nicolas Cage flick continues to crash and burn. After an opening three-day gross of only $9.6 million last weekend, Wicker Man could only find $4.1 million this frame, giving it a drop of 57%. Too much talk of Cage running around in a bear suit has killed this one, and it now sits with a gross of $17.5 million, against a budget of $35 million.

Ninth goes to one of the very few success stories in the top ten, and this one was a success a month ago. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby continues to hold on to a top ten spot with a gross of $3.0 million, off 51% compared to last weekend. Ricky Bobby has now earned $142.2 million.

Finally in tenth (thank god) is Accepted, Universal's college movie. Accepted grossed $2.6 million this weekend, off 43% from the previous frame. Accepted has actually turned into a minor-league hit for the studio. It opened to over $10 million three weekends ago, and has seen quality drops of 37%, 28% and now 43%. Accepted cost Universal about $25 million to make and has now earned a decent $32.4 million.

As mentioned above, the overall business news is bleak at best. Hollywood may crow about a 6% increase over last year's summer box office, but this weekend is sure to be a large reality check. The top ten grossed only $49.4 million this frame, which compares quite poorly to 2005's top ten tally of over $70 million. Things may pick up a bit next round, as The Black Dahlia and Gridiron Gang hit screens.