Ralph Wrecks It
By John Hamann
November 4, 2012
Finishing a strong second is the Denzel Washington/Robert Zemeckis team-up in the drama called Flight. I love how Paramount has dangled this release this weekend, opening it in only 1,900 venues. Drama in November is not the norm, especially a story about an alcoholic pilot who saves lives by crashing a plane. Flight opened to a very strong $25 million despite box office tracking looking for only $12-$15 million. Obviously, tracking firms forgot we were talking about Washington. Any regular readers of this column know about The Denzel Washington Sweet Spot, how this actor has an uncanny ability to open films in the $20-$24 million range. Since 2000, Washington has had eight films open in that range, whether it is an action film like the fabulous Unstoppable, or a drama like John Q. The difference with Flight is its low screen count, not to mention a low budget. Flight cost Paramount only $31 million to make. The budget and the star made a greenlight on this one a no brainer, and I would have personally coughed up funds for either the number one or number two film at the box office this weekend.
Reviews for Flight are of particular interest. At Rotten Tomatoes, the Zemeckis film earned an overall score of 77% fresh, not bad for a drama. However, top critics score the film at an awesome 92% fresh, with 33 positive reviews and only three negative. For Washington, this could mean another trip to the Oscars for an actor who has already won for both Training Day and Glory. This type of talk will keep Flight going for many weekends (see: Argo), especially if Paramount chooses to widen the venue count and expand the movie into more theatres. Flight received an A- Cinemascore, so some beefy legs could be in store for both the number one and number two films this weekend. This provides an extremely exciting start to the November movie season.
That pushes Argo down to number three. The film finished first last weekend after two previous weekends in the sophomore slot. In its fourth frame, the Ben Affleck film earned another $10.2 million despite the appearance of Denzel and Flight. Argo dropped 15% this weekend, which is also interesting, as the drop was higher last weekend when it rose to number one than it is this weekend. With a budget of $45 million and what is basically four consecutive weekends above $10 million, Argo is an unmitigated hit, and this is another movie we will be talking about when Oscars come out in February of 2013. So far, Argo has earned $76 million, and with each weekend it keeps the hold under 30%, up go the chances of it earning $100 million stateside.
Universal’s The Man With the Iron Fists opens in fourth this weekend, and at the very least is not another embarrassment for the phone thrower, Russell Crowe. Iron Fists opened in 1,868 locations and earned $8.2 million along the way. For a Kung Fu movie, this can’t be considered terrible. For a Kung Fu movie that cost only $15 million to make, this could be considered a decent start. Fox ended up making three Transporter films despite the original opening to only $9.1 million. Iron Fists may tap out at around $22 million domestic, but could earn some overseas dollars considering the internationally recognizable cast. Reviews weren’t horrible either, so The Man With the Iron Fists could become a cult classic, earning more on DVD and BluRay than it does in theaters.