Underworld Rises, Inkheart Flops
By John Hamann
January 25, 2009
After what was actually a historic weekend in the last frame, due to the Martin Luther King weekend finishing as one of the top ten box office weekends in history, we roll into the post-Oscar nomination weekend with a little less fanfare. As usual, this weekend debuts two films that are as far away from Oscar as it gets in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, and Inkheart, with the king of the green screen, Brendan Fraser. The real talk, though, is Oscar, as Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button face off in post multi-nomination glory.
Our number one film of the weekend is once again everyone's favorite heavy hero, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. After pulling down the second biggest January opening gross ever, the pressure was on to perform again in the sophomore frame. Considering that the opening weekend was padded due to the long weekend, Blart did pretty darned well, earning $21.5 million and dropping 32%. I think we would all agree that any drop above 50% was going to be good news here, since we know that Cloverfield, the top January earner and last year's MLK champ, tumbled almost 70% in its second frame. Unlike Cloverfield, Paul Blart looks to be a $100 million earner, as its total so far has reached $64.8 million. The best news for Sony is that they have number one and number two at the box office this weekend, as we'll see in a moment. It might be hard to believe, but it looks like Kevin James is going to post three consecutive $100 million films - Hitch, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Who'd have thunk it?
Second place goes to Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which just couldn't stay ahead of the MLK superstar, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The third film in the gothic Underworld series earned a predictable $20.7 million from 2,942 venues. It had a venue average of $7.036. Rise of the Lycans swings below both the original Underworld ($21.8 million opening in September 2003), and its sequel, Underworld: Evolution ($26.9 million opening in January 2006). For those that don't follow this series, Rise of the Lycans is actually a prequel, and doesn't have normal star Kate Beckinsale in her usual leather-clad role. Usually, these things might harm a franchise, but anything at or over $20 million has to be considered a success for Sony, Screen Gems, and Underworld.
The first Underworld flick cost Sony and Screen Gems only $22 million to make. It almost equalled its budget over opening weekend, which probably paved the way for a sequel right there. The problem was, it had absolutely no staying power, behaving like a sequel and finishing with just $52 million, after experiencing drops of 57%, 46%, 55% and 60%. It failed to reach $100 million even when combined with foreign receipts, but did bounce back with DVD sales. The second film, Underworld: Evolution, did better, cost more, and had the same problems. Evolution opened to $27 million, finished domestically with $62 million, and worldwide earned $111 million. While it performed better, it cost more, with the production budget coming in at $45 million - almost exactly the same figure as it made in DVD sales. For Rise of the Lycans, budget seems to be a closely guarded secret, however with the departure of Beckinsale and Scott Speedman, I imagine costs have come down quite a bit, possibly into the $30 million range. I see this one finishing much like the first, but now Sony will have a three-part box set to shill come Easter.