Women Want Their Sex
By David Mumpower
June 1, 2008
Slotting neatly between the two biggest releases of 2008 to date is Universal's The Strangers, a film I had dismissed on Friday as a box office non-factor. I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. There's a lot of that going around this weekend. The Strangers, from Universal's Rogue Pictures arm, earned $20.7 this weekend, a total that roughly triples its tracking. It has not been a good start to the summer for people who perform movie tracking data for a living. Then again, I thought they were high on this one, so I'm experiencing a glass house/rock throwing scenario here. The news is particularly good for Universal when we consider the film's minuscule budget of $9 million. Even factoring in marketing and print costs, this film is going to be in the black before it leaves theaters. Apparently, people in masks are creepy. Who knew?
The last entry in the top five this week is The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Off another 43% from last weekend, the Disney/Walden release's $13 million gives it a running tally of $115.7 million after 17 days. The good news is that it crossed the $100 million barrier last Wednesday. The bad news is that it's still a financial disaster for Disney. CEO Robert Iger even acknowledged as much the other day, indicating that the title's move from the comfy Christmas season to mid-May was a mistake. BOP is a strong proponent of the premise that any quality product will do well at any point in the release schedule. As such, we do not completely buy the notion that this would have done substantially better in December, but we called into question the decision to swap out of the holiday season the instant it was announced way back when. The Narnia films are Christian family films and they should be exhibited during that holiday season. It doesn't mean a difference in the $100 million or more that would be needed for this box office result to be satisfactory. Any little bit would have helped, though.
In sixth and seventh place this week are two hit comedies, each of which is showing tremendous legs. What Happens in Vegas fell 25% to $6.9 million, giving it a running total of $66.1 million against a budget of only $35 million. While Cameron Diaz has had bigger hits, this will become Ashton Kutcher's biggest non-animated hit by this time next week, replacing Guess Who's total of $70.0 million. Meanwhile, Baby Mama, a production with an even smaller budget of $30 million, earns another $2.2 million, bringing its tally up to $56.1 million. Perhaps in hindsight, this female-centric title was an early warning signal that women were ready to flex their new-found muscle at the box office.
The rest of the top ten is again comprised of also rans. All of them fall into the two million dollars or less range again, just as has been the theme throughout May. The best performer of the bunch is Speed Racer, whose race to the bottom of box office relevance has almost concluded. Off another 46%, its $2.1 million means it's almost finished making money at $40.1. How pathetic. Next up is Sony's Made of Honor. The Patrick Dempsey vehicle drops 40% as it brings in another $2 million, giving it an okay $43 million. Speed Racer's Rounding out the top is the well-reviewed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, an underrated crowd pleaser that will find a comfortable home on cable and DVD. Off 41%, another $1 million gives it $60.4 million against a budget of only $30 million. The one aspect of box office behavior during an economic recession that has not changed from previous cycles is that comedies still prove themselves to be the safest of bets. If you look at all of the success stories listed above, save for The Strangers, they each share the trait of offering laughs for consumers seeking escapism from their financial woes.
The top 12 films at the box office saw a huge increase from last year. Earnings of $164.8 million are not only a 28% increase from the same weekend in 2007, but also an actual dollar improvement of almost $36 million. For the year to date, box office is still down from last year's $3.82 billion at this point. We currently stand at $3.7 million, a difference of 3% in terms of revenue and 6% in terms of ticket sales. Next week sees the release of Adam Sandler's most recent comedy, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, as well as DreamWorks' latest animated project, Kung Fu Panda, a title that should perform at least as well as Sex and the City has.
||Sex and the City
||New Line Cinema
||Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
||The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
||Walt Disney Pictures
||What Happens in Vegas
||20th Century Fox
||Made of Honor
||Columbia Pictures (Sony)
||Forgetting Sarah Marshall
||Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
||The Foot Fist Way
||Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
||IFC First Take
||Trying To Get Good: the Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon
Click here for all weekend data
Box office data supplied by Exhibitor Relations