Max Payne Knocks Off the Dogs
By John Hamann
October 19, 2008
This weekend we had another wheelbarrow full of releases, led by Mark Wahlberg and Fox, who brought Max Payne to movie theaters, trying again to make a successful video game to big screen transition. Other high profile new releases this weekend included Lionsgate's W., the Oliver Stone movie about George W. Bush - would audiences stay away from the current president, or embrace the controversial film? Less talked about new movies included The Secret Life of Bees, a small film from Fox Searchlight with megawatt stars, and the poorly titled Sex Drive from upstart Summit Releasing. With a ton of new product, and not a lot of positive reviews, it was a battle to take down the two-time champ, Beverly Hills Chihuahua from Disney. Hopefully, the weekend wouldn't go to the dogs.
Our number one film of the weekend is Max Payne, the 20th Century Fox film based on the sometimes popular video game. Max got off to a healthy start, despite the expected horrible reviews, as it managed $18 million from a very large venue count of 3,376. Obviously, Fox was trying to cash in on this one in its first weekend, keeping the breadth of release quite wide, and garnering a not-so-great venue average of $5,332.
Max Payne is an interesting release for a couple of reasons. First off, this is not a current title in the video game world. The original Max Payne was released for the PC in 2001, and was very popular, garnering a 89% positive rating at review site Metacritic. Sales were strong, and a sequel was spawned in 2003. Again, critical reception was positive, but this time, sales weren't as strong as expected (I have the original Max Payne on the game shelf, but don't have the sequel). Despite this, 20th Century Fox decided to continue with the film adaptation, but waited more than five years between acquiring the rights and releasing the film.
Video game-to-big screen transitions have had a hard time making money both as a game and as a movie. Uwe Boll is to blame for most of this, as his films like In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale ($4.8 million domestic total), Blood Rayne ($2.4 million domestic total), and Alone in the Dark ($5.2 million domestic total) have been nightmarish flops on the big screen, before finding some sort of cult status on DVD (I don't recommend seeking these "films" out). Other directors have had their troubles with this genre as well, and it's not a new problem, as money making troubles go back all the way to Super Mario Bros. ($20.8 million finish), Double Dragon ($2.3 million) and Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Damme ($33.4 million - his third biggest). Then, in 2001, Angelina Jolie proved that the video game transition could work, as she opened Tomb Raider to $48 million ($131 million finish). However, the sequel reminded us of the genre troubles, as Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life opened to less than half of the original at $21.8 million, and finished with $65 million.