Monday Morning Quarterback Part II

By BOP Staff

July 12, 2005

I was a Kansas City Chief, once.

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That film makes us look bad, so we don't count it.

Kim Hollis: One of the odder things about this weekend is that the Fantastic Four opening is not that far off the three-day gross for War of the Worlds, which ended up with a Friday-to-Sunday tally of $64.9 million. Is this result an indicator that pre-Friday openings are a bad idea if you want a big first weekend number?

Reagen Sulewski: I have to think that really only matters to numbers wonks such as ourselves. Money earned on Wednesday is still money.

Tim Briody: The headlines will still trumpet however much money a film made in its opening weekend, whether that's three, five or even six days in the case of War of the Worlds.

David Mumpower: It just depends on what a studio wants to accomplish. The building of positive word-of-mouth did wonders for Pirates of the Caribbean, but I don't completely agree with Reagen on the notion that the numbers don't matter. In the information age, perception is everything and it's also exponentially faster than in the past. Poor weekend numbers can make a film be remembered as a disappointment even when it's not. In point of fact, I suspect that we will still see the occasional comment that Batman Begins underachieved despite the fact that it’s going to tally roughly $200 million. Was building the long term word-of-mouth through a pre-weekend opening more important than getting a jaw-dropping opening weekend number? I can see both sides of that argument having validity.

Tim Briody: But Fantastic Four is going to get a tremendous amount of credit for this weekend when Batman Begins will out-earn it by a very large margin.

David Mumpower: Exactly, Tim. Fantastic Four gets bonus points because that film just ended a developing news story by putting a stop to the box office slump. Its success will be remembered for a long time to come.

Jared Fields: I think it also gets bonus points from the studios because they get the biggest piece of the pie opening weekend. That leads them to care much more about big openings than stayng power.
This could be a factor in what I see as a decline in the quality of movies. Studios would be more apt to greenlight a bad script, as long as it had one or two exciting bits they could sell in the ads.

Kim Hollis: And going back to David's point, the slump is o-vah! In point of fact, this week's top 12 earned an estimated $141 million. This is a two percent increase over the same weekend in 2004. You read that right, an increase!

Tim Briody: Our long national nightmare has finally ended.

Reagen Sulewski: P.S. please don't look into ticket price inflation. Signed, The Studios

Kim Hollis: That's absolutely correct, Reagen. Even though Hollywood appears on paper to have ended the slump that has lasted for 19 consecutive weekends, movie revenues this year are still running 7% behind 2004. If you add in ticket inflation, theater admissions are off a full 10%.

David Mumpower: What irks me about all the excuses being tossed around lately is that they say major studio sales are up since they didn't get money for The Passion of the Christ. So, they screwed up huge last year by not recognizing a $370 million film when it was offered to them. Now, they are being given a pass for it because it was so huge last year. When was it determined that The Passion just wouldn't count?

Tim Briody: When the box office losing streak hit, oh, I don't know, two months or so ago? And they wanted a reason to feel better about themselves?

Kim Hollis: *ding ding ding ding*

David Mumpower: When all else fails, blame Mel!

Reagen Sulewski: If we didn't think of it, it couldn't be smart!

David Mumpower: It's like Pepsi talking as if Coke didn't exist! We're number one! *under breath* because they don't count.

Pipe dreams, get your fanboy pipe dreams.

David Mumpower: BOP's Les Winan made the comment the other day that the comics have always done a nice job of playing off Spider-Man against the Human Torch. Now that it's established that The Torch is a box office draw, I agree with him that a movie with them together would be a great idea.

Reagen Sulewski: I think getting Sony and Fox to play nice for a combo movie would be... difficult.

David Mumpower: That's a fair point and a significant stumbling block. Obviously, Spider-Man is the franchise for Sony right now, so they are going to protect the property. Down the road, though, it's a viable project. It combines the idea of comic book adaptations with the popular premise of Jason vs. Freddy and Alien vs. Predator. Of course, we're probably looking at 2010 at the soonest for when it would even be possible.

Jared Fields: If they think the money is there, they'll go for it. It would require more risk and less reward from Fox, as Spider-Man is the bigger draw. It would probably help them get more people to see the Fantastic Four movie that followed it.

Reagen Sulewski: World's Finest never really got off the ground, and WB even owns both properties. Of course, that was also a situation where both franchises were caught in limbo. Maybe it happens if the new Superman hits.

David Mumpower: With World's Finest, Reagen, I think that we will see the development of a project like that at some point down the line. The key is that they wanted to re-establish both franchises first. Had such a film failed, it would have killed Superman and Batman in the short term. That's too big a risk.

Les Winan: I even wonder if they have it in Bale and Whathisname's contract that they have an option for the World's Finest movie.

We wanted to be with you alone and talk about the weather.

Kim Hollis: Moving on, I'm going to ask this question, although I think we'll all agree on the answer. Did the bombings in London and the hurricane have any impact on the weekend? I would have to say no, but the notion is being bandied about so it feels as though we ought to cover the topic.

Reagen Sulewski: That stuff had pretty much zero effect.

David Mumpower: Sadly, I don't think most North Americans focused on the London situation as much as would have been the case if the attacks had been on our shores. As for weather, I never think weather is a factor with regards to box office...unless a theater is actually knocked down, that is.

Reagen Sulewski: The Gulf Coast probably was down a little, but that would just be noise in the box office signal.

Kim Hollis: If it was hitting New York or Miami, I would think differently. But since it's Mobile and Pensacola at the moment, I would have to say impact is absolutely negligible.

David Mumpower: In point of fact, I think inclement weather often helps box office because people want to fight cabin fever after a time and movies are an innocuous way to do so.

Kim Hollis: Yes, but if you're in a hurricane, you've evacuated and probably aren't thinking about movies. And if you haven't left for safer ground, it's probably a safe bet that the movie theaters are closed. It doesn't matter, though. I don't think that area's population is high enough to impact the industry severely.

David Mumpower: There is something in the human condition which makes us feel like we must conquer adversity such as this. The caveman in us thinking driving an SUV in the snow for five miles to the cineplex shows you're a survivalist.

Reagen Sulewski: I think there's just a giant "Excuses Box" for studio spokesmen to pull out to explain why their movie did poorly/well. As long as you don't think about it, it sounds plausible. "0.5% of North America had bad weather. Of course box office was down!"

Tim Briody: My favorite is "it performed well within our expectations."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! ?" --Darth Vader

Kim Hollis: This weekend, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith became the tenth highest grossing film of all-time with regards to domestic receipts. It's only $7 million away from seventh spot as it will likely pass The Passion of the Christ, Spider-Man 2, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It has surpassed Episode II by $59 million, but is still well short of The Phantom Menace's $431 million. How successfully do you think Revenge of the Sith will be remembered?

Reagen Sulewski: I think it's going to slot itself in as the third most highly regarded Star Wars movie.

Tim Briody: Much more so than Episodes I and II.

David Mumpower: I am most impressed with what a recovery this is from the second prequel. I know that for the most part it's expected for the first and third films of the trilogy to make the most money. Even so, it's going to wind up $80 million up on Episode II. That's significant.

Reagen Sulewski: There's absolutely cringeworthy stuff in there, (NOOOOOOOO!) but name me one of the Star Wars films that doesn't have it.

Kim Hollis: Of course, that's why I don't find the original films to hold up very well at all. There's too much stuff that makes me roll my eyes. Hell, even Lucas's guest appearance on The O.C. was cringeworthy. It's what he does.

David Mumpower: There is such a disconnect for me that the man who does the wonderful Indiana Jones films also slums with Star Wars.

Reagen Sulewski: An honest reevaluation would bring Return of the Jedi back up. The Ewoks are a downright clever plot device in retrospect. It's good enough for Brian from Spaced.

Kim Hollis: But Brian would of course cut the Ewoks up into tiny bits and use them for art supplies.

Buffy the box office slayer?

David Mumpower: The other new opener this weekend was Dark Water. It combined an A-List actress in Jennifer Connelly and a horror idea from the author of The Ring. It only made $10.1 million this weekend. Why?

Reagen Sulewski: Dark Water was badly missing Dakota Fanning.

Kim Hollis: *screams*

Tim Briody: I think the Japanese horror trend is winding down as quickly as it started. Do we blame The Ring 2?

Kim Hollis: I don't know that most people realize that these films are Japanese remakes, so I'm not sure that figures in.

Reagen Sulewski: There's probably only so much you can do to make water look menacing on screen.

Kim Hollis: I would suggest that it was barely marketed at all, other than Internet advertising.

Reagen Sulewski: And yet I couldn't get away from the trailer.

Kim Hollis: I probably saw the trailer a total of three times since last January.

Reagen Sulewski: It really was more like a suspense film than a horror film and had nothing much in the way of a hook. If you're going to market it as a horror film, you need that more than any other genre

David Mumpower: What I find odd about the year to date is that it seems like we have a horror release every two weeks. This has finally begun to catch up with consumers. We have to be given the opportunity to miss the genre a little bit. Let us breathe.

Tim Briody: Was it missing something that The Ring and The Grudge had?

Kim Hollis: Naomi Watts and Sarah Michelle Gellar?

Tim Briody: But..but..Jennifer Connelly!

David Mumpower: Right, Connelly is much more established than Gellar at this point. The Grudge was a concept rather than the drawing power of a star.

Kim Hollis: Connelly is an Academy Award winner, yes, but not someone who is widely known to the public, nor a box office draw in my opinion.

David Mumpower: As opposed to Gellar who is what, a girl in kicky boots whose meddling prevents the evil Amusement Park owner from getting away with it?

Kim Hollis: Sarah is more known to the teen audience, which certainly came out to support her in the PG-13 rated The Grudge.

Tim Briody: I don't think Buffy is a $40 million draw. Yet, anyway.

David Mumpower: Being known isn't the same as being a draw, though. Lindsay Lohan is much more known and we see how much that has helped Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Herbie: Fully Loaded. Paris Hilton might be the most recognized person to this demographic (which is equal parts scary and tragic), yet her cinematic horror outing only made $12 million.

Kim Hollis: Yes, but I'm arguing that Connelly is hardly known at all outside of cinephiles. She's not someone who Joe Goes To The Movies Once In Awhile recognizes.

Jared Fields: I think she's someone who is recognized when people see her, just not a draw. She's more a "Hey, it's the woman from..." actress.

Jim Van Nest: I think a lot of people recognize her, but I just can't imagine a conversation taking place, "Dude, we have to catch the new Jennifer Connelly movie!" She would never stop me from seeing a movie but I would certainly not see a movie just because she's in it. By way of comparison, I'd go watch Angelina Jolie read the phonebook for two hours.

David Mumpower: Connelly was in The Hulk. It's not like she has never done big films.

Leaky Ceilings II: The Dripping

Reagen Sulewski: There was never really a clear idea in the movie what the film was actually about, in the commercials, I mean. You had strange things happening to Jennifer, then funny-smelling water dripping all over her. That's a money shot?

David Mumpower: Reagen, I think that's an interesting point. I thought the trailers looked very good, but in the end, it's water dripping from a ceiling. Mayhap that's not the box office draw the marketing department thought it would be.

Kim Hollis: It should have been blood, instead. If she has a leaky ceiling, she just needs to call her super.

David Mumpower: Although I do look forward to the next Hideo Nakata horror film with eerie commercials where the audience gets to see paint dry.

Reagen Sulewski: Called, imaginatively enough, Paint.

David Mumpower: Paintu.



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