Audiences Flock to District 9
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
August 16, 2009
For many months now, industry observers agreed that District 9 looked like one of the most novel summer studio releases in a long time but only in recent days did people begin to allow for the possibility that a complete unknown could accomplish such spectacular box office results. Most of us believe quality is not anathema to profit, but each time a G.I. Joe happens, that belief is shaken. The difference between last week's number one film and this week's is one of the most startling in terms of quality in recent memory. G.I. Joe wasn't screened for critics and when they finally saw the film, they were glad they brought their torches and pitchforks with them to the screenings. Meanwhile, District 9 is already being hailed as a Blade Runner for the new millennium. Its place in the lore of great sci-fi is already assured and it has only been in theaters three days. Sony has a massive winner on its hands here, and I would not be surprised if it winds up earning more than G.I. Joe over the course of their theatrical runs. In fact, the best box office comparison moving forward may prove to be Tropic Thunder, last August's big fish in a very small pond.
The glass is far from half empty for the second place film, G.I. Joe, as well. On the heels of $54.7 million last weekend, the Paramount release drops only 59% to $22.5 million this frame. And yes, I say only because declines of over 60% are nothing out of the ordinary these days for films opening on the same scale as what G.I. Joe managed. Given the scathing reviews and lackluster (to be polite) word-of-mouth, a much stiffer drop would not have been unexpected here. Instead, G.I. Joe continued to play young this weekend with the benefit being that it held up a bit better than expected. Its running total of $98.8 million after ten days is about what I expected it to earn during its entire domestic run. So, Paramount has pulled a rabbit out of their hat on one of the most troubled big budget productions in recent memory.
Coming up in third place is The Time Traveler's Wife, the romantic weeper starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. This film is based on a very popular and highly regarded novel by Audrey Niffenegger, and reviews of the film seemed to indicate that the magic of the book did not necessarily translate over to the big screen. Even so, the movie managed to bring in $19.2 million over the weekend and a venue average of $6,427, which is most likely a testament to the appeal of Rachel McAdams. Thanks to her work in The Notebook, she's rather perfect for these kinds of roles - and a very low-key, likable star as far as the public is concerned.
The same can't really be said for Eric Bana, who has yet to really stand out in any performance he's given other than Chopper, an Australian film that not many people saw in the first place. He was roundly rejected as the Hulk, was in a critical and box office disappointment in Lucky You, and no one even remembers he was in The Other Boleyn Girl. Even in his movies that have more critical acclaim, he's frequently been part of an ensemble rather than the central player - Black Hawk Down, Troy, Munich and Star Trek spring instantly to mind.