Weekend Wrap-Up for September 24-26, 2010
Bizarro Box Office Weekend: Gekko and Ga'Hoole
By John Hamann
September 26, 2010
If it's odd, it must be September. This is one of those weekends where the box office could go either way. Openers included Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Would moviegoers be drawn to a sequel where the original came out in 1987? Also new was Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Would talking owls prove to be a box office draw? Finally, would Betty White be able to propel the lame You Again to some sort of middling success? Or could we just go back to last weekend, when good films like The Town and Easy A debuted to impressive starts?
Our number one film of the weekend is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to the 1987 film that carries the ridiculous subtitle. Why not use Wall Street: Gekko Returns, or even Return of the Gekko, or The Gekko Strikes Back (LucasFilm lawyers be damned!)? Regardless, the movie, apparently about money with insomnia, earned a not bad $19 million this weekend from 3,565 venues, which was pretty much on target with tracking expectations, but may have flown below studio expectations. The production cost on this 20th Century Fox product came in at about $53 million, which isn't bad for a high-profile Oliver Stone movie starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan and Josh Brolin.
Was this result what 20th Century Fox was hoping for? Looking at the budget only, I would say that this result is what Wall Street 2 needed to reach on the balance sheet. Still, I imagine Fox was looking for more. I think it could have opened higher, but Fox blew it by not sticking to either of the original release dates. Shot in 2009, Money Never Sleeps was originally supposed to debut in February 2010, before getting bumped to April 23, 2010 and then pushed again to this weekend. Moving from the April 23rd date was a mistake, and I believe it will cost Fox $10-20 million in the long run. While not a blockbuster weekend, April 23rd had the second weekend of How to Train Your Dragon on top with only $15 million, The Back-Up Plan opening in second with $12 million, and a straight drama for adults nowhere in sight (The Ghost Writer was 17th). The following weekend offered A Nightmare on Elm Street and Furry Vengeance as new releases, so the field was wide open for Wall Street 2 to dominate the adult market. This was a month and a half after Carey Mulligan was nominated for her first Oscar, but still a month before Money Never Sleeps opened at Cannes. The bump to September was due to the Cannes stategy, a ploy to engage international markets in the Oliver Stone sequel, and may also have been aimed at the Oscar-friendly, adult-moviegoing time of the year (see: The Town).
The problem is that Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps seemed to hit peak interest domestically during the Cannes Film Festival. Early reviews were extremely positive, and the buzz was alive in mid-May. My choice for the weekend to open Wall Street 2 was June 4th - 6th, when Sex and the City 2 fell 60%, and Get Him to the Greek and Killers opened softly. As the summer continued, the buzz fell off for Money Never Sleeps, and then the rest of the reviews started coming in, which were not the love letters Oliver Stone got in France. Critics said this one should have been better. It earned an overall score of 54% fresh at RottenTomatoes, with “Top Critics” coming in at 64%. The reviews make it sound even more like a summer release, but Fox failed to show the cojones to go with that opportunity.