Weekend Wrap-Up for September 3-5, 2010

The American takes on Machete

By John Hamann

September 5, 2010

He's impressed with her...handling abilities.

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Well, it's the Labor Day Weekend, a frame that has brought us highly questionable past new releases like All About Steve, Babylon A.D., Disaster Movie, Balls of Fury, and The Wicker Man - a group of films that would bring something like a 5% fresh average at RottenTomatoes. This year, we are slightly more blessed, as we actually had some decent films hit screens. Openers included the Robert Rodriguez Mex-ploitation flick Machete, George Clooney's oddly European-flavored film called The American, and true life couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in Going The Distance. While we had some better pictures this Labor Day, we had the same result at the box office - a very quiet weekend at movie theaters, filled mostly with tumbleweeds and crickets.

Oddly enough, we had a very tight race at the box office between two films that weren't supposed to be number one - The American and Machete. Despite Machete opening slightly higher on Friday, Clooney's The American took the top spot, as Machete was frontloaded, while The American was for adults. The moody thriller took in $13 million over the three-day portion of the long weekend, after earning $1.7 million on opening day Wednesday and $1.5 million on Thursday. It opened at 2,823 venues and carried an average of $4,594. That means Focus Features, the distributor of The American, has their first number one film of any weekend since George Clooney (and Brad Pitt) opened the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading to $19.1 million for the studio on September 12, 2008. Focus (and its production partners) spent only $20 million bringing The American to the screen, a figure this one should earn quite easily now domestically, as The American has earned $16.1 million since opening on Wednesday. Then, given the European flavor of this picture and the fact that it stars George Clooney, The American could do quite well overseas, despite the title.


Given the weekend, the pacing of this film, and George Clooney's recent track record, I think Focus Features should be very happy, eking out a number one finish this weekend. Leaving out Up in the Air, Clooney has struggled somewhat at the domestic box office as of late, going back to the last Ocean's movie ($117 million domestic finish, $311.7 million worldwide – he's huge overseas). Since then, Clooney has put out more critical successes than box office successes. They include the Oscar nominated Michael Clayton ($49 million domestic, $93 million worldwide), the flop Leatherheads ($12 million opening, $31.4 million domestic finish), Burn After Reading ($60 million domestic finish, $163 million worldwide), and The Men Who Stare at Goats ($32 million domestic, $67 million worldwide). While the domestic totals for these Clooney films haven't been huge, for the most part they have been financially successful – for example, Michael Clayton cost Warner Bros. $21.5 million to make, and after DVD, it brought in more than $100 million for the studio. George Clooney is a good investment for a picture – it not only brings his fan base out, it also earns a film a certain award-worthy pedigree.

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