Horton Hears the Cash Registers Ring
By John Hamann
March 16, 2008
The 20th Century Fox version of Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! opened this weekend, and all signs were indicating that it should be huge. We've had several consecutive weekends of questionable openings and out-and-out flops, so a film actually performing to expectations would be a nice surprise. Also debuting were the mixed martial arts flick Never Back Down, which looks like The Karate Kid with Djimon Hounsou in for Pat Morita, and Doomsday, which looks like Mad Max hopped up on estrogen. Could the weekend propel itself past last year's totals of $105 million? If the year so far has been any indication, I wouldn't count on it.
Jim Carrey is back in a big way, but you will have to wait until Christmas to actually see him on the big screen. Carrey returned to the monetary comfort of Dr. Seuss, opening Horton Hears a Who! to potential megabucks. Even with a highly questionable costume/paint job in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Carrey still managed to propel that opening to $56 million in November 2000, with the film going on to earn $260 million at the domestic box office. Then comes the rub, though, as Dr. Seuss doesn't play as well overseas as it does in North America. The Grinch earned only $120 million overseas - less than half of the domestic box office. For Carrey, Horton will be a relief after a few tough box office outings like The Number 23, which resulted in one of the lowest scores of his box office career.
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who! is our number one film of the weekend, and it's a landslide. Horton heard $45.1 million roll through ticket windows, and earned that from a massive 3,954 venues. Horton had a venue average of $11,406. While a victory for Fox and Blue Sky Animation, it must be said that Horton failed to break out, much like 10,000 B.C. did last weekend. Tracking indicated a possible weekend of $55 million, but Fox was anxious to dampen any 10,000 B.C.-ish disappointment by publicly saying they were looking for a $35 million opening. This was odd, considering that the much denigrated and truly hideous looking Cat in the Hat opened to $38 million in November 2003, and if adjusted for inflation, would be over $40 million in 2008. This shows how anxious studios are to manage expectations, as the mark of failure can be the death knell for expected legs. Fox now has a film that exceeded expectations according to them, but according to tracking, didn't come close to the anticipated opening. BOP's own weekend prognosticator, Reagen Sulewski, estimated an opening of $41 million, and was right on target.
For Jim Carrey, the opening for Horton is welcome, no matter the figure. Carrey had pretty much hit bottom with the adult-oriented thriller Number 23, which opened to only $14 million last February, and finished with only $35 million in domestic sales. Carrey has only appeared in six films since 2000's Grinch, and three of those - The Majestic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Number 23 - failed to earn $40 million at the domestic box office (although Eternal Sunshine is one of the better films ever). Even Carrey's bigger films were disappointments: Fun with Dick and Jane opened to only $14 million, but was propelled to more than $100 million due to a release date over the Christmas week, and Lemony Snicket earned "only" $118 million, despite being based on a very popular children's book.