By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
September 23, 2012
Four relatively frugal new releases tried to sustain the September box office momentum created by Resident Evil: Retribution and Finding Nemo 3D last weekend. Alas, consumers generally stayed away from movie theaters, as none of the titles reached even $15 million. Fittingly, we do not even really know who won the weekend, as two films are currently tied after weekend estimates, with a third only $300,000 behind.
In the summer of 2010, rising actress Jennifer Lawrence became an overnight sensation due to her gripping performance as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone. Barely two years later, it’s difficult to remember a time when Lawrence was an unknown, yet her best credit prior to Winter’s Bone was as the daughter on the Bill Engvall Show on TBS.
She followed the usual trajectory of Hollywood ingénues by taking a role as a scream queen in a low-budget horror film called House at the End of the Street. The fly in the ointment is that this is a Relativity Media release and the fledgling distributor has been cash strapped for a while now. They had no option but to delay the movie’s release indefinitely. Their loss was Lawrence’s gain.
As House at the End of the Street went unreleased for two years, Lawrence did a couple of other films. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. The first was X-Men: First Class, which has earned over $350 million worldwide. That’s her softer release. She is also the face of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen. That movie has grossed $685 million worldwide and counting. Over a billion dollars of box office later, the world knows and loves Jennifer Lawrence.
For the first time in awhile, Relativity Media catches a break as they received an influx of new capital allowing them to release House at the End of the Street after Lawrence has become a superstar. The end result is that a forgettable, generic genre picture that the studio acquired for $10 million opened in a tie for first place with $13 million. Obviously, Relativity Media has already profited from this film, and even if it does experience a hefty second weekend drop, it’s still a pleasant surprise for the studio.
House at the End of the Street was not screened for critics. Judging by its Rotten Tomatoes score of 14%, that was the right call. The movie is what it is – a run-of-the-mill slasher flick that is noteworthy only because of what happened to Lawrence in the interim. Most actresses follow a horror film with another low-budget production or two, and then hope that their television pilot gets picked up. Lawrence became the new (and improved) Kristen Stewart. Meanwhile, House at the End of the Street becomes a footnote along the lines of Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun and Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Tying for first place is End of Watch, a movie we had expected - and still expect - to win the weekend once actuals are posted. The Jake Gyllenhaal/Michael Pena police drama also opened to $13 million, a strong start for a film that cost between $7 and $15 million depending upon who you ask and how honest they’re being in the moment. It feels like the trailer for End of Watch has been attached to every movie since Titanic (the original release).