Weekend Wrap-Up

Box Office Lame as Hall Pass, Drive Angry Fail

By John Hamann

February 27, 2011

This gnome on gnome action seems a little risque for kids.

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With the long Presidents' Day weekend in the rear-view mirror, this late-February weekend was set up to fail at the box office. Add to that some disappointing results from the openers, and all of a sudden we are looking at a serious car accident at the box office. Things have been bad at the box office since Christmas, and with Oscar mixing with this bad news, the spotlight is on. Openers this weekend included Hall Pass with Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis and Drive Angry with Nic Cage – and both flew well under their tracking estimates.

It was a very close race for the top spot this weekend – something that wasn't expected to happen – but the reason it was close was not because one film did stunningly well, it's the opposite.
Our number one movie of the weekend is not what anyone would have expected. In fact, the result may change once actuals are released, but it seems unlikely. At any rate, our top movie during Oscar weekend is Gnomeo and Juliet - its first time at the top in its three weekends of release. The Disney animated film earned $14.2 million this weekend, good for a drop of just 26%, and is performing better in its third weekend than I thought it would do in its first. The lone kids flick in the top ten has now earned $75.1 million, and now (somewhat unbelievably) has an outside shot at earning $100 million. Paramount's animated Rango may have something to say about that next weekend, though, as the Johnny Depp-voiced flick has seen a serious marketing push lately.


Our second place film is Hall Pass, the new lewd, crude, comedy from the Farrelly Brothers, who have been quiet since The Heartbreak Kid under-performed in 2007. Hall Pass opened to only $13.4 million, despite tracking having it opening closer to $20 million. It debuted at 2,950 venues, and had a venue average of $4,549. Hall Pass was produced by the Farrellys' Conundrum Films, and New Line Cinema, which is owned by distributor Warner Bros. The film reportedly cost $36 million to make.

Hall Pass should have had everything going for it – decent stars in Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fisher and Christina Applegate, decent directors in the Farrellys (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary), and a decent marketing program. What it lacked was a solid, understandable premise, especially for movie-goers in middle America. This is how the premise reads at IMDb: “A married man is granted the opportunity to have an affair by his wife. Joined in the fun by his best pal, things get a little out of control when both wives start engaging in extramarital activities as well”. So, I am as open-minded as the next person, but does this read like a date movie? Sounds more like well-made porn, something with a script and production values, rather than a comedy playing at more than 2,900 screens. Am I just getting old? If one looks deeper, you might read that the film actually supports family values, but if you get that out of the marketing for this one, your powers of observation are well beyond mine.

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