Speed Racer Goes off the Tracks
By David Mumpower
May 11, 2008
On a sliding budget scale, this performance is roughly equitable to the Evan Almighty disaster Universal experienced last summer. That title had a budget of $175 million, a negative cost in the $235 million range, and domestic receipts of right at $100 million. Even with IMAX receipts artificially boosting Speed Racer's box office, anything beyond $75 million appears to be a pipe dream. In fact, an opening weekend performance this poor squarely places the stink of failure on the project, meaning that its legs could be truncated before enough children get out of school for the summer and try to watch it. IMAX contracts will protect it to a degree, but there is little upside in the Speed Racer brand at the moment.
The third place result was almost the surprise of the top ten. What Happens in Vegas, a romantic comedy starring the doubly off-putting pair of Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, opened to an estimated $20 million. Released in 3,606 venues, the pseudo-successor to Kutcher's first relationship hit, Just Married, had a solid per-location average of $6,221. Reviled by critics, only 28% of whom recommend the movie at Rotten Tomatoes, What Happens in Vegas appeared destined to be a box office non-factor right up until its release. Alas, Kutcher and Diaz, both of whom have inexplicable box office appeal, somehow tricked movie goers into taking a chance on what is by all accounts a dreadful movie. The end result is that a movie with less than half the budget of the film estimated just above it in second place has matched its opening weekend performance.
Made of Honor, the Patrick Dempsey romantic comedy, falls to fourth place this weekend with $7.6 million. The middling 48% decline is relatively steep for a film of the genre. The attempt at counter-programming against Iron Man has been largely unsuccessful. Its ten-day tally of $26.3 million comprises the body of what the movie will earn domestically. With this production, Dempsey has failed to match the success Grey's Anatomy cast mate Katherine Heigl experienced with Knocked Up. It also will not even approach the $126.8 million that the original version of this premise, My Best Friend's Wedding, managed in 1997. The only good news I may offer Dempsey (and his agent) is that Out of Sight, the movie that put George Clooney on the map as a big-time romantic lead, earned only $37.3 million domestically. Even adjusting for inflation, Made of Honor should surpass that amount.
Speaking of comedies about pregnancy, Baby Mama rounds out the top five this weekend with $5.8 million. The movie that marks the reunion of former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchors Amy Poehler and Tina Fey falls 43% in its third weekend. The running total of $40.4 million is quite solid against a budget of $30 million. I was recently hospitalized for ten days and during this period, I found myself inundated by commercials for this movie. To be blunt, I have no idea what any of you who paid money to see this movie were thinking. In fact, I hope you all get canker sores as punishment for your transgression. Just watching repeated 30 second commercials of Baby Mama felt like a violation of the Geneva Convention to me.