SMURF! The Smurfing Smurfs tie Cowboys & Aliens
By John Hamann
July 31, 2011
With July in the rear-view mirror, the known knowns of the box office are behind us. The Harry Potters, the Transformers and the Pirates have come and gone, with box office supremacy in their pockets. We are now left with the known unknowns, the movies we think will rocket to the top, or drift in the ether. Films like Cowboys & Aliens and The Smurfs, movies we thought would finish on top or in the middle of the pack, don't. This column has often said that predicting box office is like predicting the weather – sometimes supposedly sunny days turn to rain, and if you are picking up on my note of sadness, you're right, as the Smurfs *tied* Cowboys & Aliens for the top spot.
As Reagen Sulewski said in his weekend forecast, it's not that we at BOP hate kids. We don't, and in fact, some of us actually have children. We just hate the large number of bad films made for kids. We are not the Grinch, we would just rather see some sort of quality entertainment made for this demographic, not offensive crap like Alvin and The Chipmunks (and its follow up), Yogi Bear, Hop, The Zookeeper, Hoodwinked Too!...do I have to continue? Kids are almost exploited in today's movie world, with only Pixar and Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Rio) holding out for quality (we will pretend that Cars 2 didn't happen).
Last year we were spoiled with films like Despicable Me, Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon and Tangled. Hollywood proved that family fare could equal quality, and strong box office, but that just isn't happening this year. The Smurfs are on display this weekend, with Sony choosing Raja Gosnell to helm the production. If you know your movies and heard Gosnell was directing, you would stay away, as this man ruined Scooby Doo and ended the Home Alone franchise. One of the Smurf writers (it was done by committee) has been involved with screenplays for seven films. The average Rotten Tomato rating? 16.3%.
So yes, The Smurfs are tied for number one out of nowhere this weekend. The Smurfs (I already hate typing it) earned a much better than expected $36.2 million this weekend from 3,395 venues, and carried a strong venue average of $10,663. Tracking had the Smurfs pulling in $30 million at best, so an increase against tracking should be considered a very strong start, whether I like it or not (I don't). This goes further than simply Cowboys & Aliens performing below expectations. People sought out the Smurfs, despite an 18% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Critics actually avoided The Smurfs, as Rotten Tomatoes counted only 65 reviews. Only 12 of them were fresh, with the major theme in the positive reviews stating that it wasn't as bad as they expected it to be. Was it adults reflecting nostalgically on the cartoon from the past? Was it parents dropping the kids off at the theatre and letting them choose? Was it the 3D-ness of it all? Neil Patrick Harris? Katy Perry? I don't know. I just, don't, know...