21 Doubles Down and Wins the Weekend
By John Hamann
March 30, 2008
On a weekend that should have been quiet due to a crop of weak openers and a supposedly surefire winner with Superhero Movie, the box office got turned on its head this weekend with the losers winning and the winners losing. Movies opening include the blackjack flick 21, Superhero Movie, from the folks who brought you classics like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans, Stop-Loss, a film about the Iraq war, and Run Fatboy Run, a Simon Pegg flick from director and Friend David Schwimmer. We also had Horton Hears a Who! and Meet the Browns returning, so it was sure to be a battle for top spot.
Surprisingly, the winner by a country mile is 21, the gambling for tuition flick from Sony. The movie, starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess from Across the Universe, earned a very big $23.7 million. Out to a not-very-large venue total of 2,648, 21 had a killer screen average of $8,950, the best in the top ten. For Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth, this washes away the smell of Superman Returns, a not very good film that, despite being a surefire lock to be a $250-300 million plus project, barely managed to cross the $200 million mark. Spacey has now worked with Bosworth in 21, Superman Returns and Beyond the Sea, and they will theoretically be seen together again in a Superman sequel (hopefully it's better).
Kevin Spacey was desperate for a hit. After being the flavor of the year in 1994-1995 (The Ref, Swimming With Sharks, The Usual Suspects, Se7en), and a Best Actor winner in 1999 (American Beauty), the new millennium has not been kind to Verbal Kint. A string of flops have included Pay It Forward, The Shipping News, The Life of David Gale, The United States of Leland, and Beyond the Sea, leaving the actor looking for some more commercial roles. He appeared in the aforementioned Superman Returns as Lex Luthor, then took a smaller role in Fred Claus with Vince Vaughn.
21 continues Spacey's string of popular but critically reviled pictures. Critics at RottenTomatoes were quite negative to the blackjack flick, calling it terribly predictable. Of the 88 reviews counted, only 28 were positive, leaving it with only a 32% fresh rating. While a film like 21 could have counted on positive reviews for business, it didn't have to. Spring Break catapulted 21 to the top, and the casting of Bosworth and Jim Sturgess would have helped as well. The film is also based on a very popular book, Bringing Down the House, and is a true story that got a lot of play in the media. Is 21 a $100 million film? Doubtful, but $80 million isn't out of the question, and for director Robert Luketic, that will be three $80 million plus films, as 21 could join Monster-in-Law and Legally Blonde as Luketic's big hits.
While not the top finisher, another big winner is Horton Hears a Who!, which has been the top film for the last two weekends. Horton may have dropped a notch to second, but Fox is still going to be very pleased with its gross. The Jim Carrey Dr. Seuss flick earned $17.4 million and was off a slim 29%, a nice drop following the long Easter weekend. Horton broke through the $100 million mark on Friday, its 15th day of release, the same amount of time it took the original Ice Age to accomplish the same feat. Ice Age dropped 40% in its third weekend of release, and still finished with $176 million. Look for Horton to finish slightly stronger than that figure. Currently, it has a cume of $117.3 million.