Weekend Wrap-Up for August 13-15, 2010

Not-So-Expendable Star-Driven Films Propel Box Office

By John Hamann

August 15, 2010

So much evil in one little place.

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Regardless, The Expendables worked, and worked quite well, because it didn't pander to its audience. The reviews were right where they should have been – middling to soft – like a typical late-1980s action film. At RottenTomatoes, 108 reviews were counted and of those, only 48 were fresh, giving the Stallone project a fresh rating of 44%. I think a higher rating would have made me wonder if Stallone was making a film for critics, or for the intended audience. Lionsgate put together a decent trailer, but may have offended some by using the Schwarzenegger and Willis names despite them being only extended cameos in The Expendables. It likely helped opening weekend, but there could be some backlash caused due to word-of-mouth about their slight presence. This one is likely to dive next weekend regardless, so while it is a bit of dirty pool, it likely won't matter too much.

Stallone is the driving force behind this one. He had been pushing the idea of an all-star action flick for years, but had trouble getting the finances together. In the end, Stallone, Millennium Films and Nu Image Films financed the $82 million picture and sold off distribution rights (Lionsgate picked up The Expendables in the US and Canada for $20 million). With this opening, the actioner is going to be a fair sized winner both at home and internationally, as Stallone and his co-stars still have a lot of cache overseas. Take Stallone's Daylight, for example. It earned $33 million domestically and $160 million worldwide. Should The Expendables become a $200 million worldwide hit we will likely see a sequel before Stallone starts receiving his old age pension (he's 63). At the end of the day, its good to see retro bringing in the coin.


Speaking of retro, Julia Roberts is back for only her fourth live action appearance since the end of 2004, this time in Eat Pray Love, the movie based on Liz Gilbert's uber-bestseller. With the combination of the book and Julia, one might think this should be our number one film, but the opening figure fits with the star and the demographic it's after. First, let's look at the numbers. Eat Pray Love opened at 3,082 venues this weekend and brought in $23.7 million. It had a venue average of $7,690, and it landed almost exactly where tracking expected it to. Not counting Valentine's Day or any of the Ocean's 11 or animated films, this is Roberts' biggest opening since America's Sweethearts debuted to $30.1 million way back in 2001. It's in line with other high profile Roberts debuts from the long ago past like Erin Brockovich ($28.1 million opening), and ahead of films like The Mexican ($20.1 million opening) and Notting Hill ($21.8 million opening).

While this is a decent debut, legs may be an issue, as this one received worse reviews than The Expendables. Considering this is based on a beloved book by Gilbert – recommended and adored by Oprah donchaknow - female audiences may serve up a big time backlash on this one in the weekends to come. Of the 121 critics that saw Eat Pray Love, only 47 liked it, giving the Sony flick a dangerous rotten rating of 39%, with many of the haters calling it boring. The writing was on the wall – we knew reviews would be problematic when the embargo held until Wednesday, and a smattering of the negative notices starting coming out. The good news for Sony is that Eat Pray Love is a $60 million film, and despite what could be negative word-of-mouth, this is going to be a winner for the studio in no time. If the reviews are forgotten, it is a winner for Julia Roberts as well. Welcome back?

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