Earth Stands Tall...ish
By David Mumpower
December 14, 2008
Bolt, the adorable 3-D animated comedy from Disney, earns fourth place this week with another $7.5 million. The movie's modest decline of 23% shows that it's not out of steam quite yet, while the running tally of $89 million means it's going to pass Meet the Robinsons' $97.8 million to become the second most popular 3-D animated release thus far. Chicken Little's $135.4 million, on the other hand, is probably out of reach despite the benefit Bolt will receive from holiday box office. This release is a hit, but it's not quite the blockbuster it deserves to be. Even so, I commend Disney for adding a Cars short to the title this weekend in order to try to give it a box office boost.
The most financially gruesome movie in the top ten is Australia, our fifth place finisher this week. The Baz Luhrmann/Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman celebration of their homeland has been soundly rejected by North American audiences who apparently couldn't distinguish it from various Yahoo Serious projects. Shot at a production cost of $130 million, Australia has earned a paltry $37.9 million after 19 days. For perspective, Speed Racer was at $37.8 million after the same time frame. While Australia should do better than that title's final domestic take of $43.9 million, it won't be by much. Given that Speed Racer is generally regarded as the biggest bomb of the year (a title more appropriately focused upon Babylon A.D.), this is some scary company for Australia to be keeping.
I can't blame Kidman and Luhrmann for wanting to revisit their success with Moulin Rouge!, but it just didn't work out. The good news for Jackman is that while Academy Awards contention is a distant memory now, the producers of the show were kind enough to let him host it. Here's hoping he doesn't bum rush the thespian who winds up with the Best Actor award Wolverine had been angling to attain. Also, let's be honest that between Viva Laughlin and Australia, Jackman desperately needs a hit. For Kidman, whose last few projects are The Golden Compass, The Invasion, Margot at the Wedding and Bewitched, that goes double.
Quantum of Solace continues to excel at the box office. Another $3.8 million is good enough for sixth place this week. Even better, its running total of $157.7 million puts the Daniel Craig film within shouting distance of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa's $170 million for eighth place in 2008. In addition, the title is only a couple of weeks away from surpassing Casino Royale's $167.4 million to become the Bond franchise's most lucrative title, not adjusting for inflation, of course. Of course, with a reported production budget of $230 million, this title needs its worldwide receipts (currently around $525 million) to be considered profitable.
The other new release this week is Nothing Like the Holidays, an unheralded title with an exemplary cast. Featured in the project are Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Pena, Luis Guzman, John Leguizamo, Debra Messing and BOP faves Jay Hernandez (The Rookie, Friday Night Lights and Crazy/Beautiful) and Freddy Rodriguez (the on again/off again object of Ugly Betty's affection). The who's who group of Latino actors didn't impress North American audiences, as the title earned only $3.5 million, good enough for only seventh place. I'm very disappointed in all of you.
Three very different movies comprise the rest of the top ten. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was already discussed above as (currently) the eighth most successful movie of 2008. Oddly, it is only the second most successful title from DreamWorks Animation in the same time frame, but there is no dishonor in failing to match Kung Fu Panda's $215.4 million nor the original Madagascar's $193.6 million. Of course, the latter scenario is not certain yet. Another $3.3 million gives the film $170 million, which is successful no matter the criteria involved...unless the budget is Quantum of Solace-sized, of course. Ninth place goes to a film with a lot of upward mobility, Milk. $2.6 million in 328 locations represents a solid per-venue average of $8,035, indicating that this end-of-year awards contender may be just getting started. Rounding out the top ten is the fading Transporter 3, a cheap Lionsgate acquisition that has earned $29.3 million for the distributor. While it's not a blockbuster by any stretch, this was a savvy pick-up that borders on arbitrage for the up and coming studio.
Overall revenue for the top 12 was $83.3 million, down a significant 45.1% from 2007's $151.9 million. As was mentioned above, the key is that this week's biggest title, The Day The Earth Stood Still, earned roughly $90 million less than 2007's heavy hitting tandem of I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It is imperative for the trio of big releases next week - Seven Pounds, Yes Man and Tale of Despereaux - to perform as expected or better. Otherwise, December box office is in a world of hurt.
||The Day the Earth Stood Still
||Twentieth Century Fox
||New Line Cinema
||Walt Disney Pictures
||20th Century Fox
||Quantum of Solace
||Columbia Pictures (Sony), MGM
||Nothing Like the Holidays
||Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
||Warner Independent Pictures
||Sony BMG Films
||Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
||Warner Bros. Pictures
||The Weinstein Company
||Punisher: War Zone
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Box office data supplied by Exhibitor Relations