Summer in Review: August
By BOP Staff
November 3, 2008
Swing Vote - This looked like a nice, comfy role for Costner, but I just don't think people needed to be thinking about voting in a year where everything on the television and radio is discussing the election. I'm honestly not sure where Costner needs to go from here, but I'm pretty sure Bull Durham 2 isn't the answer.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - It's not too surprising that this thing cleaned up overseas given its China setting. I did perhaps expect a little better from it stateside, but I think a little bit of blockbuster fatigue had set in by the time this hit theaters. It's not a very good movie, so it really didn't deserve to be a huge winner.
Pineapple Express: If you really think about the fact that this is a stoner flick from an indie director, its end result is kind of amazing. What's even more impressive is the early dedication of its target audience. They were incredibly focused on those few opening days. I think Seth Rogen is actually a box office draw, incredible as that may be.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: This movie's end box office was fine, but I can't help but think that some money was left on the table. With Blake Lively being a legitimate TV star and huge amongst that target demographic, this might have behaved like Sex and the City for girls.
Tropic Thunder - I would have liked to see it do better domestically, but it's definitely wound up profitable in the end. DVD is going to be the big financial boon for the studio anyway. It's probably the funniest movie of the year (though Forgetting Sarah Marshall is hilarious as well), and will be one of those movies that endures through the years as people quote it.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Ugh. I hate to even note that such a blatant cash grab was profitable. Granted, it's not making massive dollars or anything, but there's nothing about this release that would discourage the studio from doing something similar down the line.
Mirrors: This one is only profitable thanks to overseas box office. It looked terrible, but I do think it was as well marketed as it could have been. It's just hard to make mirrors look scary.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - A profitable Woody Allen movie? Who woulda thunk it in this day and age? I sadly missed this while it was in theaters, but I actually think Woody is on a roll with his last few films. Lots of people talk about Match Point as his return to glory, but I really enjoyed the heck out of Scoop, too.
Fly Me to the Moon - I don't know who the genius was who decided that flies would make great protagonists in a movie but I think that's all you really know to understand why this failed miserably.
The House Bunny - Yay for Anna Faris. I just really like her and think she has a wonderful sense of humor. Here's hoping this opens some doors for her to be the next big female star.
Death Race - I was a little surprised this one didn't do better, but I guess it looked like Generic Prison Action Movie A in the end.
The Longshots - I expected a little more from this movie, as well. It offered something unique to its target demographic, but they didn't support the film. I do think there's a little bit of sports movie oversaturation going on, which probably didn't help things any.
The Rocker - This is pathetic even for a movie with a $16 million budget. Rainn Wilson is obviously not a draw outside of The Office. Poor Dwight. No wonder he's willing to pay top dollar for a hug from Phyllis.
Babylon A.D. - As I discuss these movies, all I can find myself thinking is "My god, the studios unleashed a lot of crap during August. What a sucky month."
Disaster Movie - I guess the best thing to say about this is that at least audiences seem to be coming to their senses.
College - See: my Babylon A.D. comment.
Traitor - I think this was a pretty good result, and it will be a solid performer on DVD. It's not lights out or anything, but for a movie that seemed like it could be a limited release or straight-to-DVD flick, I have to believe the studio is pretty content.
17) The Rocker - Due to the sheer volume of August releases, I'm not going to spend much time discussing the obvious losers. Fox spent no time marketing The Rocker so why should I waste any time stating what is readily apparent: it was a bomb.
16) College - See above re: bomb (wait, did Kim Hollis already do this joke?)
15) The Longshots - It was well aptly named if nothing else.
14) Swing Vote - Kevin Costner has made a lot of money betting on his own movies by financing them himself. This time, the practice finally came back to bite him. What had seemed like a timely release capitalizing on a divided country's exhaustion with the election process proved to be further demonstration of just how sick we are of the election.
13) Fly Me to the Moon - A cheap acquisition by Summitt Entertainment, Fly Me to the Moon was an unheralded victim of the Batman phenomenon this summer. This Belgian animated title had been expected to capitalize on a burgeoning number of IMAX-enabled theaters. In mid-August, those exhibitors were unwilling to drop The Dark Knight for some unknown commodity, leading to a very small domestic run for the title that had larger ambitions prior to that.
12) Babylon A.D. - If nothing else, Babylon A.D. provided us with the joy of a bitter director washing his hands of a project prior to its release. The difference between this and the film in 11th place is negligible, but the key as I see it is that most of this film's box office came abroad, which I have mentioned is the lesser way to make money on films.
11) Death Race - I cannot help but feel that a lot of money was left on the table here. Death Race had a killshot of a trailer ending and the premise itself has already stood the test of time. For whatever reason, it was unable to capitalize on the presence of Jason Statham in his best film concept since The One. A near miss, Death Race should have been a big hit.
10) Traitor - My love of Don Cheadle not withstanding (woohoo, Iron Man 2!), even I am not surprised by this result. Traitor promised a stubbornly complex film of treachery and deceit, knowing all too well that this practice would alienate mainstream audiences. I give Overture Films a lot of credit for not misleading would-be movie-goers in order to trick them into theaters. They preached to their choir and it worked well enough without a need for duplicity.
9) Disaster Movie - Again, this title was well named. Its pathetic domestic performance is indicative of the long hoped for idea that North American audiences have grown tired of this sort of film. Thank God for that. It's been a brutal few years and I just don't think I could have taken another ill-considered spoof movie. What's that you say? There are three more scheduled for release over the next 12 months? Sonuvabitch!
8) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 - As I referenced above, part of box office analysis is opening one's mind to the idea that actual dollars earned is not the only consideration. Opportunity cost is also a factor, particularly for titles that should have earned much more than they actually did. Such a scenario exists for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, a title featuring four women who have all frontlined popular television programs. The second film failed to significantly surpass the performance of the original despite the fact that Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty are a huge part of the current pop culture zeitgeist. That is a troubling turn of events for a sequel that should have done much better. Sure, it's still profitable given the frugal production budget, but an opportunity was missed here.
7) Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Oh, Woody Allen. You creepy old pervert of a man. Thank God you are taking time out from what should be your schedule of trenchcoat flashing all the strangers you meet and diddling your not-daughter in order to convince hot actresses to kiss. Finally, you are doing the lord's work once more. You can prove that the Saul/Paul conversion is complete instead of temporary with your next outing, Scarlett and Penelope Make a Porno.
6) Mirrors - Yeah, I'm surprised by this as well. This film and the third and fourth place entrants on this list are both relatively anonymous success stories. Mirrors didn't make a lot domestically, which is always problematic, but its worldwide results are good enough to slot up high up on the list of August releases. A lot of that is due to the lack of winners for the dumping ground of summer, but Mirrors earned enough worldwide during its domestic run to make its home video release pure profit.
5) The House Bunny - I keep telling you people. Anna Faris is not only funny but also something of a box office draw in films like this. She has made a career of portraying the well-intended dumb blonde punching bag. While The House Bunny is no Legally Blonde, it is clearly one of the most pleasant surprises not just of August but the entire summer as a whole. Let's hear it for bunny love!
4) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - The early press for this film's box office bordered on hostile. Situations like this are exactly why it's important to go back to re-examine all of the titles after the fact. A broader picture exists for the most recent Mummy production that shows it is a huge international hit. This is exactly why it was set in China with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh added to the cast. Universal Pictures was aiming for those worldwide grosses and they succeeded in the attempt. Sure, the title is the least successful of The Mummy films to date, but it is still a shockingly profitable endeavor despite the fact that it earned only $102.3 million domestically. Opportunity cost combined with the knowledge that foreign grosses are less lucrative is what prevents it from being higher on the list.
3) Star Wars: The Clone Wars - What the hell is wrong with these people who are Star Wars fans? It's like George Lucas points at something and his brain-dead minions blindly follow no matter the directive. In fact, there is a fine line between the remaining Star Wars fans and zombies. George Romero should look into this connection for his next film. But I digress. The point is that while this is by far the least successful Star Wars film, it was never intended to be on the same scale as the others. Instead, this is a slight release that was originally intended to debut on cable television. The simple fact that five million North Americans were gullible enough to pay money to see it in theaters speaks volumes. Make no mistake on the point. I am deeply disappointed in all of you who made such a mistake. It's been 30 years now. You have had plenty of time to reflect on what a fraud the franchise has proven to be. Flip Lucas off for the deception and move on with your lives.
2) Tropic Thunder - Less well established than the concept of opportunity cost is the idea of positive box office buzz. While Tropic Thunder's domestic take is in fact a financial loss relative to production budget, I would still call this one a moderate win even without the international receipts. The key is the fact that the film was number one at the box office for three straight weeks during the summer. While the revenue makes it only 13th most successful title of the season, that positive press would have carried it to a dominating home video run even if it wasn't in the black when it left theaters. This relatively arcane interpretation of its box office run is why I have it so highly rated even if the numbers don't completely justify such a lofty position. Perception does matter and Tropic Thunder is going to be remembered as a very funny and successful film.
1) Pineapple Express -All of the splits on Pineapple Express are what a Hollywood bean counter wants to see. The film opened well enough to almost match its budget ($23.2 million earned versus $26 million invested). 90% of the money it earned came from domestic receipts. Not only has the title succeeded in the same manner as previous Judd Apatow blockbusters, it has done so despite a frugal budget and in the manner that is most lucrative for films these days. It made its money early, it made its money domestically, and it was done cheaply. That's the holy grail of moviemaking these days. Pineapple Express' accomplishment in these three fields makes it the clear cut choice as the triumphant release of August 2008.