Lack of Choices Propels Roommate, Sanctum
By John Hamann
February 6, 2011
It's kind of sad, really. The release of any form of interesting movie seems to have ground to a standstill, and when that happens, any new kind of filmed dredge tends to float to the top of the box office. With Oscar nominations out, and the Super Bowl upon us, new releases are of the ultra-lame variety this weekend. Openers include a Screen Gems PG-13 horror flick (you know, for kids!) called The Roommate (scary title), and Sanctum, a 3D spelunking movie. The best thing that could have happened this weekend would be these two duds failing badly, but no, both will make money for their studios, and we will repeat this lame game a year from now.
Our number one film of the weekend is, unfortunately, The Roommate from Screen Gems. From the studio that knows how to make money in the off-season, The Roommate earned more than expected this weekend, taking in $15.6 million from 2,534 venues. It had a venue average of $6,156. Tracking had the Leighton Meester (or is that Foghorn Leghorn?) PG-13 rated horror flick opening in the low-teens, so to beat that by a few million means something drew audiences this weekend. That something is likely the drought of films aimed at teens lately – especially females – as both No Strings Attached and Black Swan were rated R. As we say a lot in this column, I don't hate the fact that there's another PG-13 horror film out there, what makes me angry is that they are made so poorly. The Roommate, which was held back from critics, has only scored three positive reviews out of a possible 30 at RottenTomatoes, and likely won't get more positive reviews. This stuff is made for zombies.
Zombies or not, The Roommate is going to make some serious money for Screen Gems. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Roommate was made for only $16 million (other sources say it was even lower, at $8 million), an amount it almost cleared in its first weekend. Screen Gems is notorious for this kind of success. One of my favorite examples is When a Stranger Calls, a ridiculously bad 2006 opener that cost the company $15 million to make and opened to $21.6 million. Remember Boogeyman? (it's okay if you don't). It opened to $19 million in the first weekend of February 2005 against a production budget of $20 million. Screen Gems has been trying to provide quality as of late, making Burlesque and Country Strong, but both those films failed financially, despite the effort. Next up for the small, Sony-based studio is Priest, based on a graphic novel and starring Paul Bettany, and Friends With Benefits, starring Mila Kunis and Emma Stone.
Finishing second this weekend is Sanctum, and if you turned on your TV this week, you know it's from Executive Producer James Cameron (snore). The caving movie also did better than expected this weekend, earning $9.2 million, more than the $6-8 million tracking was expecting. To me, this one comes off as a National Geographic spelunking movie, best suited for one of those slow (but profitable) IMAX earners. The 3D promise obviously got some folks out to theaters, and Cameron's name would have helped, but it didn't stop it from not being a very good movie. Sanctum earned 35 positive reviews out of a possible 113, giving it a 31% fresh rating. Critics liked the situation, but say the acting was so bad, they were put off.