Sandler and Pitt Mauled by Adorable Puppy
By David Mumpower
December 28, 2008
Christmas week is among the most lucrative periods on the box office calendar each year. 2008 saw the release of five new titles on Christmas itself, and four of those comprise the top films this weekend. While box office heavyweights Adam Sandler and Brad Pitt starred in heavily hyped projects, North America chose a different face as its favorite: a puppy named Marley.
The industry saved one of the biggest surprises of 2008 for its final weekend. Marley and Me is the number one movie at the box office. The heartwarming tale of newlyweds John and Jenny Grogan and the incorrigible puppy that becomes an inseparable part of their new family proved to be the perfect piece of escapism for consumers with the end result being a magnificent $37.0 million weekend. Including Marley and Me's record-setting Christmas Day performance, the Jennifer Aniston/Owen Wilson comedy has already earned a whopping $51.7 million and will probably cross the $100 million mark by this time next week.
How did Marley and Me prove to be such a dominant success? Like Home Alone before it, this genteel comedy about the very definition of puppy love capitalized on a turbulent time in our continent's history. By being the perfect antidote for people tired of a constant onslaught of depressing news, Marley and Me offered something that the other releases did not. While some of the other films we will discuss in a moment are "important" movies that tell a message and will be recognized by the Academy, Marley and Me was recognized by consumers as being a feature length film version of everyone's favorite viral video, Shiba Inu Puppy Cam.
That silly little distraction is already the most-viewed Internet video of all time (oddly, an Avril Lavigne video had been the champion). With people investing over 800 combined viewer years watching Puppy Cam and almost $93 million watching an inferior version of Marley and Me, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the success here seems obvious in hindsight. Of course, if you had told me on Monday that this movie with its 50% pro/con reviews on Rotten Tomatoes was going to earn $37.0 million in 3,480 locations at $10,632 a pop, I would have thought you were nuts. Just ask my wife since that's exactly what I told her. Here is my holiday gift to her: You were right and I was wrong about Marley and Me.
Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories, the film most people (myself included) had pegged as the biggest film of December, winds up in second place this weekend with $28.1 million. Exhibited in 3,681 locations, this title managed $7,625 per play date and is a bona fide hit for Disney. It would be unfair of me to paint this as anything else simply because of the surprise success of Marley and Me. Had that title not been made, we would be talking up all of the positives of Sandler's latest feel good comedy. Second place doesn't change any of that. Combined with You Don't Mess with the Zohan, the popular funnyman is poised to have a pair of $100 million releases in 2008.