Earth Stands Tall...ish
By David Mumpower
December 14, 2008
Alas, the breakaway success of The Day The Earth Stood Still wasn't to be. Instead, a $31 million opening reflects a per-venue average of $8,708 from 3,560 locations. That's far from a blockbuster performance. Consider that the second National Treasure film's per-location average was $11,687, while Alvin and the Chipmunks managed $12,750 and I Am Legend delivered a magnificent $21,412. I referenced Golden Compass above, and its number in this category is particularly relevant. That title had a per-location average of only $7,308 and wound up earning only $70.1 million domestically. While its international success was not well publicized, that title wound up having an acceptable overall result due to its $372.2 million in worldwide receipts. The Day The Earth Stood Still should probably not expect similar salvation, but the news is not all bad. This production has a relatively modest budget of $80 million, meaning it should be profitable for Fox.
This is welcome news for the studio since the rest of 2008 has been a series of unfortunate events. There was The Happening, which started well but vanished almost immediately. There was The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a film that was technically profitable due to a frugal budget; it was, however, the scorn of even the most diehard X-Files fans. And those two films are what qualifies as successful to the studio when we consider that their other 2008 stinkers include Australia, Meet Dave, The Rocker, and Babylon A.D. Fox is a Horton Hears a Who and What Happens in Vegas away from abject humiliation this year. The studio had hoped that The Earth Stood Still would be the type of four quadrants tentpole release that would achieve huge box office success. Instead, it's a modest hit thus far and the news moving forward isn't particularly positive. In fact, the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes are grim. 98 out of 128 reviewers disliked the movie, giving it a Fresh rating of only 22%. Even with late December box office behavior factored in, this title appears unlikely to show tremendous legs, which means it's not the hit it could have been. Fox just couldn't catch a break in 2008.
Four Christmases, the number one film over the previous two weekends, falls to second place this week with an estimated $13.3 million. This total represents an exceptional decline of only 21%. While the inclination may be to expect solid holdovers for all titles this weekend after the lousy post-Thanksgiving box office dead zone, the Reese Witherspoon/Vince Vaughn comedy had the best depreciation in the top 12. This is the latest demonstration of its impressive box office pull. A running total of $88 million puts it squarely within range of $100 million, a total it should reach by this time next week. This is Vaughn's fifth $100 million earner after Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up. Meanwhile, this is Witherspoon's third such feat after Sweet Home Alabama and Walk the Line.
Of course, the success of Four Christmases is a drop in the bucket compared to Twilight. The vampire romance started in first place, fell to third, moved back up to second and now settles back in third again with an estimated $8 million. That's a drop of only 39% this weekend after falling 62.2% and 50.5% the prior two frames. BOP had discussed whether our staff believed in the legs of Twilight, and most of the staff said no. A running total of about $150 million ($150.1 million to be exact) after a month shows it is not Cloverfield by any stretch but it is relatively frontloaded. What I wonder now is whether the movie may yet find renewed life over Christmas break when its target audience is liberated from the pressures of Geometry exams and Band practice. I don't think it has quite enough steam for $200 million, but I also didn't think its opening weekend would approach $70 million, either. Under any circumstance, Twilight has passed films such as Wanted, The Incredible Hulk and Mamma Mia! to become the 11th most successful movie of 2008. It will also pass Sex and the City and Horton Hears a Who in a matter of days to earn ninth place. A top ten finish from an unheralded distributor is no small accomplishment, and Summit Entertainment should be very proud of what they have accomplished here, issues with the (old) director notwithstanding.