Weekend Wrap-Up for September 17-19, 2010

Four Openers Breathe Life Into Dead Box Office

By John Hamann

September 19, 2010

I'm prettier than Jennifer Garner, don't you think?

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Thank goodness that's over. After a weekend where we had the lowest top 12 box office total in two years, four new films – none of them close to blockbusters – have awakened the box office this weekend. New openers include Screen Gems' Easy A with Emma Stone (Wichita in Zombieland); Ben Affleck's The Town with award winners Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm and Affleck himself; The Devil from producer M. Night Shyalaman; and Alpha and Omega, a poorly sold kids flick from Lionsgate.

Our number one film of the weekend is a bit of a shocker, as tracking was looking for Easy A to finish on top. BOP's resident forecaster, Reagen Sulewski, got it right this weekend, as Ben Affleck's The Town finishes in the top spot this weekend. Adults were obviously starved for entertainment, especially after seeing George Clooney's The American. Expected to open with about $15 million, The Town earned that by Saturday night, and finished the weekend with a stellar three-day gross of $23.8 million, just outside of the top ten biggest openings for the month of September. The Town opened at 2,861 venues, and carried an average of $8,319. The Warner Bros. production cost only $35 million to make, and will be Affleck's second directorial financial success, as his Gone Baby Gone earned $35 million worldwide against a budget of $19 million.


All of a sudden, one of my favorite acting targets for disdain has turned into a wonderful director. Ben Affleck has had one of those weird careers that make Hollyweird exactly what it is. As a young actor, Affleck played the perfect a-hole in films like Dazed and Confused and Mallrats, but instead of a career playing the villain, his next two film roles changed his fate. Affleck played Holden in Chasing Amy, and then went on to win an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting, a film that cost $10 million to make, and grossed $226 million worldwide. Following Good Will Hunting, Affleck became more of a mindless movie star, appearing in crap like Reindeer Games ($23 million domestic), Armageddon ($201 million domestic), and Pearl Harbor ($198 million). He came back to better roles in 2003, appearing in Changing Lanes and Sum of All Fears, but then went completely into the sink with three films: Gigli ($6 million domestic total, 6% fresh), Surviving Christmas ($11 million domestic, 7% fresh) and Jersey Girl ($25 million, 40% fresh). Then, in 2006, Affleck appeared in a more serious role in the film Hollywoodland, and while it wasn't huge at the box office, it marked a turn in the actor's career. He next directed Gone Baby Gone (which he also co-wrote), starring his brother Casey. Gone Baby Gone was 94% fresh at RottenTomatoes, garnered an Oscar nomination for Amy Ryan, and won Affleck numerous critics awards for best new director.

Having re-invented himself as a director, Affleck is both behind and in front of the camera in The Town. The casting was perfect, as Affleck surrounded himself with great actors in the likes of Jeremy Renner (Oscar nominee for The Hurt Locker), Jon Hamm (Golden Globe winner for Mad Men) and Chris Cooper (Oscar winner for Adaptation). The Town so far has earned a darling 93% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes, and we might have our second Best Picture nominee of the year so far. While Affleck really isn't a comeback story like say a Mickey Rourke, Oscar does like a fighter, and he has proven to be just that.

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