Weekend Wrap-Up for July 20-22, 2007

Chuck, Larry, Harry and Hairspray Vie for Number One

By John Hamann

July 22, 2007

Frankie Avalon Version 2.007.

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The number three film is Hairspray, the all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza from New Line Cinema. I think the folks at New Line will be quite happy this morning, as their film earned an estimated $27.8 million from 3,121 venues this weekend. It had a decent venue average of $8,907. This is the second biggest open ever for John Travolta, who saw his biggest just last March with Wild Hogs ($39 million opening). It marks Travolta's turn back to the musical, something he hasn't done since Grease in 1978. Grease earned $181.5 million at the domestic box office in 1978, and solidified Travolta a star, as he then had Saturday Night Fever ($140 million domestic) and Grease back to back. With Wild Hogs ($167.7 million domestic) and now Hairspray, this is another rejuvenation of Travolta's career, a la Pulp Fiction in 1994. It also breathes life back into the career of Michelle Pfeiffer, who hadn't released a film since 2002's White Oleander.


Hairspray also may serve notice that the musical is back, with the trend started by Moulin Rouge several years ago. The genre expanded to the younger set with High School Musical, a Disney Channel film that has been just ridiculously popular with the tween and teen set. It's surely no coincidence that one of the stars of High School Musical is present in Hairspray as well. Zac Efron, who plays Link Larkin in Hairspray, had one of the two lead roles in High School Musical and is turning that unexpected success into gold. Next up on the musical front is a Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration with Sweeney Todd – that one's set for a December 2007 release.

Hairspray was always going to work. It had a legion of fans from the cult hit Hairspray, directed by John Waters and released in 1988. Along with that, it also had a bevy of fans who either followed it to Broadway or discovered it there - it won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2002 and has a passionate following. It has John Travolta in drag, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer. It had an okay marketing campaign, but what it missed in marketing, the reviews made up for. Hot on the heels of the 96% fresh Ratatouille, Hairspray received 148 reviews, and of those, only a tiny nine notices were negative. That equals a fresh rating of 94%. It's been quite a summer. I wouldn't be surprised if Hairspray continues to do well over the summer, as it has the right sense of fun for the warm summer months ahead.

Finishing fourth this weekend is Transformers, as all of a sudden, Paramount is definitely in the running for biggest film of the summer with their Hasbro hybrid. Transformers grossed a stunning $20.5 million this weekend, off a decent 43%. I thought Transformers would be running out of steam in its fourth weekend, but it is now a virtual lock to reach $300 million. With a few good holds, it could even reach Spidey 3's current total of about $335 million. Currently the Michael Bay film has $263 million in the domestic kitty, and has earned another $150 million from foreign shores.

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