Weekend Wrap-Up for January 25-27 , 2008
Four New Releases Clobber Cloverfield
By John Hamann
January 17, 2008
Four new releases entered the box office fray, none of which looked strong heading into the weekend. Taking on last weekend's champ, Cloverfield, are the Fox spoof Meet The Spartans, Sylvester Stallone's Rambo, the thriller Untraceable and the dance movie How She Move from Paramount Vantage. With a three-day gross of $40 million last weekend, Cloverfield should have had no problem fending off all comers. If that's true, why did the J.J. Abrams' monster movie finish fourth? Read on to find out.
The number one film this weekend isn't Cloverfield, and no, Rambo didn't break out. 27 Dresses held well, but not well enough to win. That means our number one film is, yes, you guessed it, Meet The Spartans. The latest in a string of spoofs with titles like Date Movie and Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans somehow grossed $18.7 million from 2,605 venues. It had an average of $7,188. The surprise, though, is not the gross. It's the ranking. Epic Movie, the last in this long line of spoofs, opened to a very similar $18.6 million on the very same weekend last year. This proves there is still, somehow, an audience for this stuff, despite the ravaging these films take from critics. Meet The Spartans wasn't screened for critics (I wonder why), but by early afternoon on Saturday, 15 reviewers posted to RottenTomatoes, with zero of them liking this one. Last year, Epic Movie received one positive review out of a possible 54 (the one was Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman) and in 2006, Date Movie got five positives out of 77, with Mr. Gleiberman again giving a thumbs up. Date Movie opened to $19.1 million in February 2006, again showing that the same audience is showing up for these over opening weekend.
Meet the Spartans is the type of movie made to fly during opening weekend before coming to a crashing halt in the weekends that follow. Epic Movie opened in number one spot last year at $18.6 million, but fell 55% in its second weekend, and dropped to third. In the four weekends that followed the open, the spoof dropped an average of 60.3% per weekend, and just barely managed to double the opening weekend amount by the end of its run, earning about $39.7 million domestically. The reason why these films continue to get made is the budget. They cost approximately $20 million to make for New Regency Pictures - makers of quality films like Deck the Halls and Just My Luck - so the production budget is almost reached over opening weekend, and doubled by the end of the run. International grosses and DVD are the gravy at this meat market. Do films like Meet the Spartans brighten the cold winter months in North America? I don't think so, but obviously some do.
Finishing a close second is Rambo, Sylvester Stallone's latest reinvention of a franchise long since dead. Rambo's return earned a decent $18.2 million from 2,751 venues, and had a venue average of $6,598. It's been 20 years since we've had a Rambo film open. That one was Rambo III, which opened in May 1988. Rambo III opened to a little under $17 million, so not much has changed in 20 years. Stallone's last franchise reawakening happened last year with Rocky, as the aging fighter managed to gross $70 million domestically and over $150 million worldwide - all on a production budget of about $20 million. In reality, a Christmas release date catapulted Rocky to $70 million, so the same thing won't be happening with Rambo. Some sites list the production budget just short of $50 million, and Rambo is going to have to work hard to see that sort of return; however, international grosses should be strong.