Monday Morning Quarterback

By BOP Staff

December 18, 2007

In hindsight, Blank should have pulled out a gun and shot him in the mouth.

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As Barney Stinson would say, "It's legendary."

Kim Hollis: I Am Legend shattered the December record for opening weekend with an estimated $77.2 million. Heap the appropriate amount of praise upon its performance. To what do you attribute its glowing success?

Max Braden: Wow. I'd expected not much over half of what it raked in. Critics weren't overwhelmingly praising the movie, so I'd say the trailer is what paid off - Will Smith back in a big budget action piece after three years, and enough mystery to make people want to find out what happens to him. I guess audiences were hungry for it.

Pete Kilmer: Higher than what I thought it was going to make, which I thought around $50 million. The reason for it? Big Willie is Mr. Box Office. Put him in a blockbuster popcorn movie and watch it roll in. Plus the fact that he truly has grown as an actor (he was damn good in the film) only enhances what this guy is capable of box office wise. I was in a packed IMAX theater and no joke...people were crying during two scenes and on the edge of their seat the whole time. This movie is far from perfect...some spotty CGI almost ruined it for me, and the movie just collapses in the last three minutes. But that's a minor quibble from me. I really enjoyed this film. Oh and word-of-mouth leaving the theater..."best film of the year'...from a 62-year-old white guy.

David Mumpower: I strongly suspect that the mercurial "box office vacuum" we have referenced in past discussions came into play with both new releases this weekend. I had said last week that I expected I Am Legend to open in the $60-$70 million range, so $77.2 million is a number beyond even my lofty aspirations. What helps I Am Legend is a four month slate of releases so lackluster in quality that the industry appears almost hell-bent on alienating its core audience. There were simply no mainstream productions that would qualify as tentpoles. This built up more and more demand as consumers waited longer and longer to have an excuse to go see a movie. I Am Legend finally provided a good option. It also helps that this title is an IMAX release. After Beowulf and now this, we are beginning to more fully appreciate the impact the increased ticket prices can have upon a title's overall box office. The average ticket price in 2007 has been forecasted as $6.70-$6.78, but I am starting to believe that's low. IMAX sales universally go for $12-$16 a piece. That's a huge impact per sale.

Kim Hollis: I had been thinking $60-65 million for this film but it still blew even that expectation out of the water. Other people are right. With very little else to entice adult audiences in recent months, I Am Legend was a monolith with all kinds of breakout potential.

Reagen Sulewski: This is a pretty outstanding showing. I guess there is just no beating the last-man-on-Earth scenario to bring in a crowd, and when you cross that with someone with the proven blockbuster status of Will Smith, you can start writing checks.


Fresh Princes is on top of the world

Kim Hollis: I Am Legend marks Will Smith's fifth(!) opening of $50 million plus. Is he the most bankable movie star working today?

Shane Jenkins: Almost indisputably. He's got the magic combination of pure movie star charisma and the ability to pick projects people actually want to see.

Max Braden: He's the most versatile and still in prime condition to be able to pull off the huge numbers. Tom Hanks is still a strong draw but doesn't have the tough guy quality to do action movies (though hey, if Harrison Ford is still at it...). Tom Cruise could probably continue to open that big with projects like War of the Worlds and Mission: Impossible, but his choice of less marketable material and frankly his off-screen weirdness have hurt him. Hugh Jackman has had four big openings with Van Helsing and the three X-Men projects and has Wolverine coming up. I see him as the closest in bankability to Smith, though his success has been helped a lot by the franchise, just as the stars of The Matrix, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean were. Depending on the projects they choose, Matt Damon and Shia LaBeouf could possibly match Smith in the future. Since we're on the subject, it's worth noting that Stallone has been in the franchise business as long as Ford has and managed to keep the Rocky series alive without a Spielberg to help him. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Rambo next year.

Tim Briody: His hits have been huge, his misses haven't hurt him all that much (though I'm sure he'd rather not talk about 1999 and 2000) and he's hit it big in comedies, dramas and action. Somewhere, DJ Jazzy Jeff is crying.

Pete Kilmer: Tim...Will Smith with reunite with DJ Jazzy Jeff next year for a new CD and a series of shows. He ain't crying. Will Smith is on a whole other level now. He's on that level that Arnie was for a bit as was Harrison and Tom Cruise, what's different about Will is that he doesn't stick to one genre. Sure some of his biggest hits are science fiction movies (ID4, Men In Black, Legend), but he's also had major success with comedy and drama and pulled them off without it seeming like it was calculated move (Twins anyone?). Plus he doesn't forget where he came from and his fans love him for it.

David Mumpower: To my mind, The Pursuit of Happyness, a $162.6 million earner, better exemplifies Smith's drawing power than the shamelessly commercial I Am Legend does. If he can have that sort of success with a drama about a homeless father, he can stake a claim to being able to sell almost anything. Whenever we have these discussions about the biggest box office draws in Hollywood, the short list includes Johnny Depp, Will Smith and Adam Sandler. At this point, I think that any unbiased observer must acknowledge Smith is The Guy in the industry although Depp gets a chance to stake his claim if he can turn the relatively unmarketable Sweeney Todd into a $100 million earner.

Kim Hollis: Will Smith totally has the golden touch. Audiences know that they can usually trust his films to be entertaining, and they give him their votes of confidence with dollar bills.

Joel Corcoran: I'd put him at the top for now, but I'm hesitant to say he's the "most" bankable star. I think Matt Damon is right up there, too, after the successes of The Departed and the entire Bourne franchise, and Reese Witherspoon can't be underestimated.

Kim Hollis: Reese just had a big bomb a couple of months ago, and she's not even in Smith's neighborhood. Damon is getting there, maybe.

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