Weekend Wrap-Up for November2-4, 2007

Top Heavy Box Office Excited By Gangster, Bee Movie

By John Hamann

November 4, 2007

I thought this was a no smoking establishment!

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The box office finally got excited this weekend after frame after frame of uninspired movie choices and monetary returns. Mr. Reliable at the box office, Denzel Washington, finally broke the $30 million opening weekend barrier with American Gangster, and Mr. Unreliable, Russell Crowe, rode Denzel's coattails to break a four-year slump at the North American box office. More good news came in Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie, as kids - starved for filmed entertainment - turned out in droves to see the Paramount/DreamWorks creation. Finally, John Cusack returned to the screen following his success in 1408, this time with the odd-looking Martian Child. Would the Gangster dominate or would the Bee swoop in for the victory? Read on to find out.

The number one film of the weekend is American Gangster, the Denzel Washington tour-de-force from Universal and uber-director Ridley Scott. After a strong marketing campaign leading up to the release, Gangster cashed in, and took in an awesome $46.3 million over its opening frame. Universal put Gangster out to a quite wide 3,054 venues, and the gamble paid off, as the Oscar worthy flick pulled in a venue average of $15,175.


Denzel Washington proves again that he can open anything, and his hard work has paid off with American Gangster as it is far and away his biggest opening ever. His previous biggest opening was Inside Man, the 2006 heist flick with Jodie Foster and Clive Owen. That one opened to $28 million, but failed to reach the $100 million mark, something that American Gangster will have no problem accomplishing. In fact, Denzel has only pushed two films over the $100 million domestic mark - 2000's Remember the Titans ($115.6 million domestic) and 1993's The Pelican Brief ($100.8 million finish, but he should thank Julia Roberts for that one). Despite not reaching the $100 million mark all that often, Washington is still one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood. He has opened 11 films over $16 million (half of his above the title releases), and seven of those over $20 million (one-third of his releases). Remarkably, only one of those $16 million plus films was released over the summer (The Manchurian Candidate), and zero were sequels, meaning Denzel has had to work extremely hard for every box office dollar he has brought in. His next film may be a tough sell, but he will have the queen of daytime TV lending some assistance. That project is The Great Debaters, another true story for Washington (this time he directs), and it is produced by Oprah Winfrey, amongst others.

While the last few years have been kind to Denzel Washington, it's been the complete opposite for co-star Russell Crowe. The Gladiator star has had to work to redesign his image, and his last few film choices (3:10 to Yuma, American Gangster) have smartly taken him out of the lead position, which is helping reduce audience perception that he is egotistical slime. He needs any help he can get. Crowe has hit the skids since winning an Oscar for Gladiator and being nominated for A Beautiful Mind, as his off screen behavior has turned North American audiences against him. After A Beautiful Mind, Crowe released Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, a film that should have been a $200 million earner but failed to crack $100 million. He then released Cinderella Man, but that didn't excite audiences either, finishing with $62 million despite pre-release Oscar expectations. The actor really hit the skids with A Good Year, Crowe's November 2006 release that flopped badly ($3 million open, $7.5 million finish), and may have made him reconsider what kind of roles to take in the future. He followed up A Good Year with September's 3:10 to Yuma, which put him back on the right track, co-starring with Christian Bale in a well-received western that finished with $53 million. He has a small film called Tenderness set to release at the end of November, and then goes back to the co-starring plan with Body of Lies, in which he appears with Leonardo DiCaprio, and repeats working with director Ridley Scott, who did American Gangster and A Good Year.

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