Propaganda Profitable as Valor Rules Oscar Weekend
By John Hamann
February 26, 2012
Funny how it goes. Irony is on display at movie theatres this weekend, as on Sunday, Hollywood gives awards for the best in the year of cinema, but at actual theatres, moviegoing choices are poor at best. On the heels of President's Day weekend openers include Relativity Media's Act of Valor, a non-film starring non-actors where final cut was given to the US Navy, Gone, another poorly-reviewed thriller with Amanda Seyfried, Good Deeds, another poorly-reviewed Tyler Perry film (that has no one in drag), and finally Wanderlust, a "should've been good" movie with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, from the director of Role Models. That leaves us with a top ten with only ONE film with positive reviews, and it finished tenth.
In my opinion, our number one film of the weekend isn't a film, it's a commercial – or a recruiting video – as Hollywood finds more ways to debase themselves for money. The film in question is Act of Valor, Relativity Media's pickup that dominated the box office this weekend. It earned $24.7 million from 3,039 venues, and managed a venue average of $8,128. Act of Valor was 30% fresh at RottenTomatoes at the time of this writing, with "top critics" liking it less at 18% fresh. Most reviewers liked the action sequences, but consider the acting and dialogue to be brutal. This one starred actual Navy SEALs, and they used live ammo in some scenes (and that fact was marketed), so I would imagine there was a lot of testosterone in theaters this weekend.
Relativity picked up the military film for a song – only $13 million – but also committed to $30 million for prints and advertising – which is likely why this one is out to so many screens. It's a big commitment for a film with no actors, as logic would suggest that this one opens big this weekend, and tails off quite quickly. Hold the phone, though. The Cinemascore for Act of Valor was an A, so maybe there will be legs for this one (unless Cinemascore asked a bunch of military personnel what they thought – what would you expect them to say?). Act of Valor reminds me of Courageous, the Christian film released last September. It starred volunteers, was made for only $2 million, opened to $9 million, had an A+ Cinemascore, but was 32% fresh at RottenTomatoes. Financially, Relativity needed a hit, as they are still paying for January's Haywire, which the studio produced and distributed, and has yet to cross the $20 million mark.
Finishing second is Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, another melodrama from the big man who usually wears a dress as Madea. As this is a non-Madea Tyler Perry release, it's not number one this weekend. The usual rule applies: If Madea is in the movie, it opens above $20 million (Madea Goes to Jail $41 million opening, Madea's Family Reunion $30 million opening, etc.), if not a Madea movie, it opens below $20 million (The Family That Preys $17.4 million opening, Daddy's Little Girls $11 million opening, etc.). Good Deeds followed the pattern, opening to $16 million from 2,132 venues. It had a venue average of $7,505. As usual, Lionsgate is distributing Perry's film, as they have since time began. With his films costing little and grossing big, Tyler Perry has certainly made a name for himself. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to produce a film that has crossover appeal. It will be interesting to see Perry in October's Alex Cross, starring as James Patterson's Washington DC detective, formerly played by Morgan Freeman (Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls). Should Good Deeds play like a usual Perry film, it will likely be out of the top ten come two weekends from now.