Monday Morning Quarterback Part II

By BOP Staff

October 7, 2008

There's not enough beer in the world to be a Cubs fan.

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Kim Hollis: Religulous, quite possibly the most sacrilegious release ever, opened to $3.5 million in 502 venues, a per location average of $6,972. Given how careful Lionsgate had to be with this release, how do you grade this result?

Calvin Trager: Kim, are they platforming this release or is this as wide as it's going to get?

Kim Hollis: There had been no announced intentions for expansion prior to this weekend due to the precarious nature of this title. Lionsgate did issue a statement on Sunday, indicating that they had decided to give Religulous an additional hundred markets next weekend.

David Mumpower: Lionsgate has to be ecstatic with this result. Bill Maher is actively disliked by a rather large segment of the movie-going population due in large part to his self-professed Politically Incorrect statements regarding the 9/11 suicide bombers. Even this far after the fact, the ramifications of that statement on his career are still tremendous. Opening a movie this well in terms of per-location is an achievement, particularly for such incendiary subject matter.

As an aside, do you think the patrons of Fireproof and Religulous are having fist fights in the lobby at the theater? That's a matter/anti-matter combination at the cineplex.

Tim Briody: Yeah, I'd really like to find a theater playing both, switch the reels and watch the hijinks ensue.

Max Braden: I'm sure Kirk Cameron is home thinking "I just have to try harder." If we're lucky, Tom Cruise will jump into the mix. Lionsgate did a great job with promoting the film. I saw lots of ads, and Maher was everywhere discussing (promoting) the film.

Kim Hollis: You're right, Max. I frankly didn't have a lot of interest in this movie, but hearing Maher on CNN talking about the movie made it sound fairly interesting and not as sacreligious as it appeared on the surface. Lionsgate did a fine job in handling what could and should have been tough subject matter.

Ben Farrow: I believe Life of Brian retains the title of most sacreligious movie *EVER*.

Calvin Trager: Larry Charles has been quoted as saying the production budget for Religulous was $2.5 million, so financially I think we have to call this result the beginning of a success. Now, I believe Bill Maher is probably keeping score only in terms of little gold men - labeling it as a documentary is telling - and so the ultimate outcome of this project remains to be seen.

Sean Collier: Usually, when you set out to offend just about everybody, you succeed. $3.5 million worth of filmgoers knew that they might be personally affronted by Maher and still paid up. For a documentary by a comedian far from the prime of his career, this is a stellar result. A good point of comparison is Albert Brooks' Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World - though that film was fictional, it's another potentially incendiary film starring an aging comedian, full of religious humor. It opened to about $500,000 and finished under $900,000 against a $10 Million budget. Maher's doing great.

Scott Lumley: The only way I would have gone to see this film would be if George Carlin had done it. As it is, it's Bill Maher, so I may wait until it's on 'free' cable and even then there's a strong chance I'll ask for my money back.


Windshield wipers are kind of hypnotic, if you think about it...

Kim Hollis: Flash of Genius, not to be confused with Tucker: A Man and His Dream, earned $2.3 million with a per venue average of $2,120. What went wrong here?

Tim Briody: I like the guy, but the biggest mistake was casting Greg Kinnear, who is total box office poison for inexplicable reasons. Also, the marketing (if there was any) didn't have enough Lauren Graham.

Max Braden: I think the biggest mistake was trying to associate the word genius with the windshield wiper. There's only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone. Still, take that, Flight of the Red Balloon.

Reagen Sulewski: I'm only halfway kidding about my bendy-straw inventor movie. Make this happen, people!

Kim Hollis: I think everyone has touched upon exactly the reasons this movie failed. Can you imagine anyone thinking, "Oooh! A movie about the guy who invented the windshield wiper! You know, that guy! And it stars Greg Kinnear! I should go get in line at the theater now so that I can make sure I beat the crowds!"

Calvin Trager: I'll go out on a limb and speculate that this movie was too "high brow" to find an audience in theaters, given the noticeable lack of Megan Fox, talking dogs, fart jokes, twist endings, torture porn, 'splosions, and comic book cinematography. Picking up on Kim's point, the premise screams "HBO Original Films", not "coming to a theater near you". And that's not even an indictment as much as it is an acknowlegement that the marketplace has changed so much.

David Mumpower: Calvin Trager is absolutely right about the HBO Films aspect. This feels much more like a made-for-cable "hero triumphs over corporate greed" story than a mainstream theatrical release. Also, since we mentioned Tucker: The Man and His Dream, a somewhat similar story of a man taking on the automotive industry, it bears noting that the 1988 release earned less than $20 million against a $23 million budget. So, there was already cause for concern about the upside of such a premise.

Sean Collier: Word-of-mouth is an important thing. People have to be able to recommend a movie, and people have to be able to call their friends and talk about which movie to go see. No one wants to tell people that they should go see the wiper blade movie. If this had been rolled out as a slow-burn limited release, it might've seen a decent art house run; hoping for big bucks in an almost ridiculously crowded weekend was pure hubris.

Scott Lumley: You know what? Windshield wipers are not that exciting. They really aren't. Neither is Greg Kinnear. I'd say this is a wait for cable film, but I don't know if I'd even watch this on cable. Maybe if I was having trouble sleeping...

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