Sandler and Pitt Mauled by Adorable Puppy
By David Mumpower
December 28, 2008
If we don't include Spanglish as a comedy (and we shouldn't, really), every Sandler comedy dating back to Eight Crazy Nights in 2002 has earned $100 million. He is the comedy Will Smith, but Bedtime Stories is probably going to leave some money on the table since it's...not good. Only 15% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, this is one of the most critically reviled blockbusters of 2008. Even The Happening was 19% fresh, for God's sake. Due to the serendipitous timing of Bedtime Stories' release, however, it's going to rack up big time ticket sales over the next seven days, thereby assuring its success before the negative buzz severely undercuts its legs. This is the magic of Christmas releases.
Third place this weekend goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the daring Paramount release starring Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. After a spectacular $12 million start on Thursday, the current favorite for The Oscars continued to enjoy holiday box office inflation with $27.2 million over the weekend. Unlike most awards contenders, Benjamin Button started its release phase ultra-wide with 2,988 locations, managing a solid per-venue average of $9,103. With $39.0 million in the bank, it's already done very well relative to most candidates in contention. I should note that the announced production budget for this title was $150 million, meaning it has to do very well just to break even. Another seven days of holiday ticket sales should have this title approaching $100 million, though.
With a strong Academy Awards push planned, this looks like a winner for Paramount and could possibly be remembered as the Forrest Gump of 2008, although with half of the revenue. The only note of concern – and I acknowledge this borders on nitpicking – is that the movie's 73% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes is significantly lower than some of the other major Best Picture contenders. That could derail Button's momentum if consumers agree that it's not the masterpiece the marketing campaign sold it to be. Time will tell.
The fourth new opener of the weekend, Valkyrie, finishes in fourth place with $21.5 million and a per-location average of $7,942 in 2,711 venues. Factoring in its $8.0 million debut on Thursday, the MGM drama about the plot to assassinate Hitler has already earned $30.0 million after only four days in release. Given that Tom Cruise's last starring role was in Lions for Lambs, a title that earned $15.0 million domestically, this result has to feel like a win for the studio as well as the actor. Of course, with a $95 million production budget, Valkyrie still has to avoid a quick box office flameout to wind up in the black. It should be roughly two thirds of the way there by this time next week.
Perhaps the biggest feat the movie has accomplished thus far, however, is that it is currently 61% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. We all know how bitchy critics can be about actors, repeatedly trying to pile on while their careers on on the downswing, so Valkyrie's avoiding that fate is impressive. If even Cruise's harshest critics like the movie enough to take a pass on a cheap shot of him, it must be good.