Audiences Flock to Planet Hulk
By David Mumpower
June 15, 2008
The news was also good for M. Night Shyamalan, the auteur who has spent the body of the past month bragging about The Happening to anyone who would listen. Critics have been confused by this behavior, wondering if Shyamalan has absorbed some sort of blow to the head that has made him believe his movie is The Killing and it is Stanley Kubrick who made the disastrously bad The Happening. Audiences completely ignored critics, perhaps regrettably choosing to give Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that he burned them on Lady in the Water. The Happening's $30.5 million opening weekend surpasses that title's $18.0 million debut. Perhaps not enough people saw the movie to despise him for making it. Then again, the odd marketing campaign hyping the fact that this title is R-rated may have had exactly the sort of positive result Fox had hoped would occur, teasing consumers with the idea of a darker, more malevolent Shyamalan outing.
Whatever the explanation, this is still not a great performance for a Shyamalan movie. His 2004 title, The Village, opened to $50.7 million, while 2002's Signs exploded into theaters with $60.2 million. This result is on a par with 2000's Unbreakable, which earned $30.3 million during the Thanksgiving holiday's Friday-to-Sunday period. So, Shyamalan is not the box office force he once was, but The Happening's performance is certainly indicative that the writer/director has not burned as many bridges as many movie analysts had believed. Whether the title has any legs whatsoever remains to be seen (word-of-mouth on this is Uwe Boll-esque), but a per-location average of $10,214 is a ton better than I thought this title would do on opening weekend. There are a lot of unhappy customers leaving the Cineplex this weekend.
The other new opener last weekend, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, is not quite as successful in weekend two as its animated counterpart. The Adam Sandler action comedy falls a stiff 57% to $16.4 million, giving it a running total of $68.8 million. Sandler's 2007 summer comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, had $71.7 million after the same interval while 2006's Click was at $78.4 million and 2005's The Longest Yard was at $95.8 million. Clearly, Zohan does not have the same appeal as his other recent summer titles, but its performance is still respectable.
Rounding out the top five is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a title still strongly contending for Summer Box Office Champion. Another $13.5 million gives the Harrison Ford $275.3 million after 25 days. Its (current) main competitor for the title, Iron Man, was at $258.3 million after the same time frame. So, the iconic whip wielder has a slight advantage at the moment. Iron Man's sensational weekly drops mean that Indy still has some work to do in order to keep up to the comic book character's lofty pace.
Sixth and seventh place this weekend go to Sex and the City and the already well-discussed Iron Man. The women of Sex (Google, I'm feeling lucky!) experience a fall of 52% this weekend, which is quite a bit better than last weekend's 62.7%. Another $10.2 million in the coffers gives the title a running total of $119.9 million, not including roughly $115 million it has earned worldwide. Now is the time when I again point out the production budget on Sex and the City is only $60 million. Also, I really don't understand women. As for Iron Man, it doesn't quite cross the $300 million threshold, but another good drop of 31% means it is standing on the brink at $297.4 million. Of course, its weekend total of $5.1 million clearly demonstrates it is running out of steam.
The rest of the top ten is comprised of two hits and a huge miss. The Strangers falls 54% to $4.1 million, good enough for eighth place. Its running tally of $45.4 million is, well, crazy. With a budget of only $9 million, the Focus Features release is one of the most profitable of the year to date. I totally saw that coming! Please don't re-read my weekend forecast for that weekend to verify this. Ninth place goes to The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which earns a piddling $3 million to throw on the very small pile of $131.7 million it has made thus far. Seriously, if you want to get under a Disney exec's skin, just grab a bullhorn, head to Buena Vista and shout, "CASPIAN!" They'll draw crossbows on you, raise the moat and prepare vats of burning oil they will try to give you as a special gift. Tenth place goes to What Happens In Vegas, the film that just. won't. die. Another $1.7 million this weekend brings its grand total up to $75.8. Couldn't these people just stay home and watch Ashton Kutcher's camera commercial instead?
Combined box office for the top 12 is $174.3 million, up 24.8% from last year's $139.7 million. The two strong debuts this weekend easily surpassed last year's $58.1 million from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Next weekend sees the debut of two comedies, Steve Carell's Get Smart and Mike Myers' The Love Guru. The former is getting many more venues and appears to be tracking better than the latter, but the summer hot streak may be temporarily slowed with these two releases.
||The Incredible Hulk
||Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios
||Kung Fu Panda
||Twentieth Century Fox
||You Don't Mess With the Zohan
||Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
||Sex and the City
||New Line Cinema
||The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
||Walt Disney Pictures
||What Happens in Vegas
||20th Century Fox
||Chris & Don: a Love Story
||Quid Pro Quo
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Box office data supplied by Exhibitor Relations