Weekend Wrap-Up for July 23-25, 2010

Leo and Inception have more oomph than Angelina and Salt

By Kim Hollis

July 25, 2010

You're not really looking at the sandcastles, are you?

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With decent reviews and a strong A-List star, Sony was hoping that its decently reviewed Salt would be able to take the weekend crown away from last week's big winner, Inception. Instead, what we saw was a decent but not superlative box office performance from the Angelina Jolie spy film, opening the door for Chris Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio and the gang to hang on to the #1 position for a second weekend in a row. Also new in theaters was the Walden Media/Fox kid flick Ramona and Beezus, but it obviously was never going to pose a significant threat.

Yes, the number one movie of the weekend is Inception, the mind-trippy action-effects extravaganza from writer/director Christopher Nolan. After winning the top spot last weekend with a terrific $62.8 million, Inception held remarkably well for a big blockbuster type of film, dropping only 31% to $43.5 million for its second frame. The movie's success can clearly be attributed to the excellent reviews (it is currently 86% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) as well as the glowing word-of-mouth from moviegoers. It's obvious that this is a movie people have been talking about, because there are a number of mysteries and intricacies in the story that make it almost a necessity to discuss with friends. Also, a lot of people will have wanted to get out to see the film to avoid spoilers for this very same reason. The amount of talk surrounding Inception is making it more and more difficult to avoid seeing comments about the movie's ending, as well as other elements. Finally, there is likely to have been a decent amount of repeat business, since a number of people have commented that it is the kind of movie that begs to be seen twice or more to completely absorb all the deep layers.

Thus far, Inception has brought in a remarkable $146.7 million at the domestic box office, which means that not only is it holding well in its weekend showings, but it is also seeing a lot of attendance on the weekdays. So far, it has made between $8.5 and $10.2 million on all of its weekdays, and the weekend would seem to indicate that it's not going to be slowing down just yet. Given that its main new competition next weekend for the adult audience is the comedic Dinner for Schmucks, it should be able to continue its top notch performance for a little while longer.


That means second place goes to Salt, the Angelina Jolie spy film from Sony. Expectations were somewhat high for the movie, and it wound up coming in at the lower end of tracking. The weekend total was $36.5 million, good for a venue average of $10,105 (lower than Inception's 11,473 in weekend two). It did play out as an adult-targeted film should, as its total on Friday was $12.7 million, which means that its three-day multiplier (weekend total divided by Friday gross) was 2.87.

Why didn't the film manage to win the weekend? For one thing, the reviews for Salt are somewhat middling. Its current rating at Rotten Tomatoes is 56%, with the exact same percentage on the Top Critics' side. Additionally, although competition rarely plays a big part for new releases, it has to be fair to assume that a lot of the adult audience was syphoned off by Inception's stellar second weekend. If people are choosing between films aimed at the same demographic, they're more likely to select the one that's getting all the discussion and intrigue. While Jolie isn't necessarily a tough sell in an action flick (Wanted and Tomb Raider have both been big openers for her), Salt was somewhat less effects-driven and looked a little heavier on the drama. Also, she's wearing a big frumpy coat in a lot of the previews, and who wants to see her wearing that? The budget for Salt is reported to be around $130 million, and it looks like the film will struggle to earn that amount domestically, though it should approach that number if it behaves like other films of the genre.

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