Weekend Wrap-Up For June 6/22 - 2/24, 2007

Evan Not So Almighty at Weekend Box Office

By John Hamann

June 24, 2007

The cast of Evan Almighty looks up in awe at the box office performance of Bruce Almighty.

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Evan Almighty, the most expensive comedy ever made, got off to an inauspicious start this weekend, coming in as the lowest opening weekend earner from the slew of sequels we have seen so far this summer. Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart also got off to a tough start; however, a film about the death of Daniel Pearl isn't exactly summer blockbuster fare. There was even more bad news in the Fox camp, as the Fantastic Four sequel fell off its surfboard this weekend, losing a tremendous amount of its opening weekend business. The good news came from a studio that doesn't often get good news in MGM, as 1408 got off to a better-than-expected start.

The number one film is Evan Almighty, the follow up to Bruce Almighty, the 2003 juggernaut that opened to $68 million and earned $242 million domestically. Evan Almighty is like the brother of the quarterback that just isn't as bright or smart as its sibling. Evan Almighty debuted at 3,602 venues this weekend (about 150 more than its brother) and grossed a slower-than-expected $32.1 million. That gives this very expensive Universal product a venue average of $8,910, an opening weekend that just isn't good enough in these days of turn'em and burn'em summer movies. Universal put as much as $200 million (I'm more apt to believe IMDb's $175 million figure) into Evan Almighty, putting a lot of pressure on the back of Steve Carell, star of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which wasn't exactly family comedy. Carell is unproven in the all-ages comedy realm, except stretching to look at the small role he had in the original Almighty film. Universal was said to be courting the religious viewer for this one, and I would say they failed in their efforts. Kudos to BOP's Reagen Sulewski, who pretty much nailed Evan Almighty's opening weekend in his weekend forecast column earlier this week. In fact, Reagen estimated an opening of $35.6 million.


Why the lowball opening for this sequel with the huge budget? The filmmakers failed to make the movie funny. Trailers and commercials were absolutely painful, with TV ads of late including a scene with Carell screaming (a la the 40 Year-Old Virgin waxing scene), and were no draw to see the film. Reviews were horrible. Of the 122 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, only 25 were positive, leaving Evan with a hugely rotten rating of only 20%. How did this go so wrong, where the first one went so right? The first Almighty movie wasn't as religious as the sequel. The Jim Carrey flick was more of a straight comedy, where this one relies on the Noah's Ark story. The audience to whom this is aimed doesn't want preachy films in summer. They want to laugh, and this film seems to fail to take on that challenge.

The biggest thing that Evan Almighty is missing, though, is Jim Carrey, or a comedic star who could open a film like this one. Without a Carrey or even a Sandler, Evan Almighty was always going to open between $30 and $40 million, which leads me to wonder why Universal would green light this as a $200 million dollar picture. Even if Evan has magical legs, it would still need to gross as much as six times its opening weekend to meet its production budget domestically. Bad-films-that-did-well like Are We There Yet? and Cheaper by the Dozen only managed to earn four to five times their opening weekends. Evan Almighty might earn $100 million domestic, but even with foreign grosses, Universal is in for a tough ride over the next month or so with this one.

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