Monday Morning Quarterback

By BOP Staff

December 11, 2007

Has Vick been arrested? Is it safe to come out yet?

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C'mon, people. There were armored polar bears!

Kim Hollis: The Golden Compass, long expected to be one of the box office heavyweights of the holiday season, failed to match early expectations. The New Line release earned only $26.1 million, a brutal result for a movie with a budget in excess of $180 million. What went wrong here?

Max Braden: The easy comparison is that at least has the look of The Golden Compass is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which opened at $65 million this weekend two years ago. While the His Dark Matters books may have been popular, they can't match the wide familiarity that the Narnia books have. The visuals may have been a draw to teens and younger, but the trailer's lack of a sense of what the story was actually about couldn't have inspired much confidence in adults. That left it vulnerable to review buzz. I don't know what the religious controversy was about, but I didn't feel any upshot about it. Plus, there's that "oh... Nicole Kidman." factor.

Reagen Sulewski: I think they misjudged the potential audience badly here. Yes, the Lord of the Rings movies and Narnia movie were big hits, but people had heard of those. I myself was only vaguely familiar with this series. Obviously you can create new franchises, but they've got to be special, or at the very least, have coherent ads. I shudder to think what the box office might have been without the Catholic Church giving free publicity to them.

Shane Jenkins: I wonder if all the discussion about its philosophies (or lack thereof) made the movie seem more like homework than a fun night out at the movies. I enjoyed the film, but I'm hard-pressed to name another recent film so densely packed with exposition and information. Even in its apparently neutered state, when compared to the book, it's still not a check-your-brain-at-the-door movie, and I suspect that those who were looking for a bit of fluff after a heavy day of holiday shopping opted for Enchanted.

Michael Bentley: It just didn't look all that great to me, but then I'm not in their target demo. You start to get tired of Hollywood continuing to repeat and recycle all its ideas over and over. Okay, big budget fantasy works - we get it - that doesn't mean we have to overuse it.

David Mumpower: My problem with the entire marketing campaign for The Golden Compass is that it never revealed what the story was about. The first shots focused upon exotic locales and impressive set designs. The later ones highlighted the special effects of the bears. That didn't help consumers much in figuring out what a movie called "The Golden Compass" might entail. I also think it's safe to say that nobody will be casting Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig together in any more big budget movies from now on.

Pete Kilmer: Honestly I don't think I've ever heard of the Dark Matters books so this movie really didn't mean much for me. And with Nicole Kidman...well...she's made some really bad choices over the last few years that I really don't trust her with my $10 anymore.

Kim Hollis: I have to blame the marketing. The book's great strength is the relationship between the humans and the daemons, creatures that in essence encompass their human partner's souls. The most winning element of the entire series is the main character's relationship with her Daemon and the struggle to stay together. I think if marketed well, that could have been a huge draw for children. As it is, I'm not altogether certain that the film does a good job with them, so maybe that's the problem in the first place.


Will the holiday bring silver and gold?

Kim Hollis: Whereas most studio execs lie when terrible numbers are attained by their releases, New Line President Rolf Mittweg was surprisingly honest, saying "It's a little bit disappointing," while indicating the studio had hoped for a result of as much as $40 million. Most of the time, studio bosses claim that later weekends will redeem the movie. In this case, due to the December release, it's actually true, although we give Mittweg credit for not offering the usual excuses. Do you believe The Golden Compass will wind up making $100 million or more domestically?

Max Braden: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe went on to earn an additional $225 million after its opening weekend. The Golden Compass won't manage that much, of course, especially with weaker reviews, but December and January can be generous. On the other hand, Eragon opened to similar numbers (though worse reviews) and topped out at $75 million. The Golden Compass might face some competition with National Treasure 2 and The Water Horse, but I think it will just manage to get over the $100 million domestic hump. On Mittweg, could he have been toeing the producer's line in the current tiff with the WGA? "See: there's no money!"

Reagen Sulewski: I think it might just make that, given Christmas week. But it's also entirely possible that it's in less than 2,000 screens by that week. There are a lot of movies coming out in the next couple of weeks.

Tim Briody: The Christmas week high tide rises all boats, but it's pretty much crippled itself with such a weak opening weekend. A heck of a lot depends on how much of that audience it hangs onto next weekend. If it can manage a decline that's, say, in the low 30% range, it's got a chance. Anything higher than that and it's going to barely notice a bump come Christmas.

Shane Jenkins: The trades and blogs are already having a field day with this weak showing, and it's only a matter of time until the stink of failure works its way down to the general public. It's going to be hard to pull out of a box office death spiral at this point, but it is the season of miracles and wonder! I think it will cross the $100 million mark, but only barely.

David Mumpower: I strongly suspect it's going to burn out prior to getting to $100 million. I understand the thought process of the people above who have indicated that through December legs, it has a chance to hang on, but this one has stink of failure on it now. The headlines are already written that it's made back less than 20% of its budget on opening weekend. I don't see it finding much life moving forward, particularly since it still has the same flaws that stopped it from having a strong opening in the first place. With regards to Max's question about him toeing the company line, I think that's an intriguing idea. I don't believe that's the case here, though. New Line is embattled at the moment, and his comments strike me as closer to fatalistic in a "Well, I'm fired now." way rather than a much larger, industry-related statement.

Pete Kilmer: I think it *might* limp to about $90 million domestic. They are really hoping for international dollars to save it, of course.

David Mumpower: The problem from New Line's perspective is that they sold off the foreign rights in order to get a lot of the budget covered. So, foreign receipts might help the movie, but they don't help its domestic distributor.

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