Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up

Magical Marketing Catapults Wild Things and Box Office

By John Hamann

October 18, 2009

And I'm gonna keep on loving you, 'cause it's the only thing I wanna do.

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The marketing for Where The Wild Things Are was nothing short of brilliant. The trailer was magical. Starting with the line that feels like it came from Jonze himself - "I didn't want to wake you up, but I had to show you something", the trailer launched a frenzy of followers who showed up at theaters this weekend. The music chosen for the trailer was again brilliant (Arcade Fire's Wake Up), matching the images perfectly. There have been few trailers in my memory that matched the success of this one, and I honestly beleive that without it, we could knock $10 million of this opening weekend. Reviews were mixed, but almost expectedly mixed. I doubt the hipster fanbase for Wild Things would have stayed on board if reviews had gone completely one way or the other, and the love it or hate it feel coming out of reviews feels almost perfect to me. This movie, like something like Almost Famous or A.I., will connect with people on a personal level - or it won't - it's that simple. What we are seeing this weekend is people seeking out that connection, and hoping to find it.

For director Spike Jonze, I think the opening weekend gross is likely insignificant. Both of his last movies (Adaptation. and Being John Malkovich) grossed $23 million domestically, after opening in limited release, and despite their success, never earned more than $2.6 million in any given weekend. Combined, the production budgets of these two films are still less than half of what Wild Things cost. With this opening, does it mean Jonze will change his ways and make more accessible stuff moving forward? I can only hope not.


Finishing a distant second this weekend is another new release, Law Abiding Citizen, which stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. After a series of so-so flicks for both stars, many thought Law Abiding Citizen - with its oddball marketing and oddball premise - would fail badly this weekend. It wasn't to be, as somehow, Law Abiding Citizen earned a not bad $21.3 million from 2,889 venues, finishing at the high end of tracking estimates. Law Abiding Citizen becomes Overture Films' top opener of its short life, outpacing the horrendous Righteous Kill, with DeNiro and Pacino. For Jamie Foxx, opening this one out of thin air is a relief, as a poorer effort a la The Soloist or The Kingdom could have been another nail in the career coffin. For Gerard Butler, times were even tougher, as he doesn't have an Oscar to come home to like Foxx does. Since 300 became a bonafide blockbuster, Butler has struggled, and even his most successful film since, The Ugly Truth with Katherine Heigl, was on the ugly side of heinous. The production budget for Citizen is reported to be as much as $53 million, so it will still need a couple of decent weekends to end up on the good side for Overture.

Finishing third is Paranormal Activity, Paramount's attempt at a Blair Witch type of success. After a marketing campaign that included screening this one at college campuses at midnight, followed by a slow rollout, Paramount found the holy grail this weekend, as Paranormal Activity earned a massive $20.2 million from a still scant 760 venues. That gives it another outstanding venue average of $26,530. Paramount has grown the business for this one quite fast, moving from a gross of $77,000 on 12 screens ($6,489 venue average) to $532,000 on 33 screens ($16,129 average) to $7.9 million on 160 screens ($49,379 average) to this weekend's take. This has been one of the best platform successes in box office history, and Paranormal Activity now has a cume of $33.7 million, all against a production cost of only $11,000.

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