Monday Morning Quarterback Part Two

By BOP Staff

August 2, 2005

I'm too cerebral for you.

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BOP never passes on an opportunity to praise Bruce Campbell films

Kim Hollis: Must Love Dogs and Sky High performed every bit as well as Stealth despite having budgets which barely would have paid for craft services on the Rob Cohen project. How happy should they be with this result?

David Mumpower: Are both hits or is it unreasonable to say that simply through comparison with Stealth? That's tricky to say. I think that a double digits opening is not bad on its own for either project. We've seen with The Island and Stealth that even these numbers cannot be taken for granted any more.

Reagen Sulewski: I think Sky High could have done better if they pulled out all the stops, but probably not enough to justify doing so.

David Mumpower: In the case of Sky High, I'm confident that word-of-mouth for it will be tremendous. The movie is flat out adorable and the most pleasant cinematic surprise of 2005 to date. It should run indefinitely as the word gets out.

Kim Hollis: I would posit that both are mild hits. Disney has to be quite pleased with Sky High, a movie that seems hard to sell on the surface. Now that families (and grown-ups) seem to be enjoying it, the superhero flick should enjoy a nice long life. And at the very least, it should be a pretty good hit on DVD.

Reagen Sulewski: Must Love Dogs fits right in the Cusack/Lane wheelhouse at $13 million.

Kim Hollis: As for Must Love Dogs, the budget was probably not huge to start with. It should have an Under the Tuscan Sun-type life span and be an equally strong hit on DVD.

David Mumpower: With Must Love Dogs, it's harder for me to speculate. Kim's review of the film is more positive than I felt it deserved. It felt quite generic and oddly stilted. Plus, John Cusack was almost completely wasted. It's hard for me to imagine that film having strong word-of-mouth. Having said that, Under the Tuscan Sun did. So, Diane Lane fans might keep showing up.

Kim Hollis: Yeah, I actually liked this quite a bit better than Under the Tuscan Sun. On a personal note, my audience went nuts for it.

David Mumpower: I am the polar opposite here. Under the Tuscan Sun is a very good movie, not just a chick flick. Must Love Dogs is lowest common denominator cinema.

Reagen Sulewski: You say that like it's a bad thing for that demographic. Oh, that's gonna get me letters.

David Mumpower: Comfort level can be a positive for chick-flick romantic comedies. Here, though, it's just one woman on a string of bad dates followed by her hooking up with a bad seed before eventually winding up with Mr. Right. Cusack is great, but it's almost like he's in the wrong movie. As with Stealth, I almost hope that this movie underperforms from here on out.

Beans and frank always sells.

Kim Hollis: As we predicted in this column last week, The Wedding Crashers became the first film since There's Something About Mary in 1998 to take first place after more than two weekends in release. Where does it rank among the 2005 summer performances?

David Mumpower: As far as surprise hits go, I think it has to be the biggest. Wedding Crashers is performing in a fashion least representative of current box office trending. It's showing old school legs and is behaving like a family film rather than an R-rated tribute to the Porky's and Police Academy franchises.

Reagen Sulewski: It should be top five of the summer. This is just over a 20% drop in its third weekend.

Kim Hollis: Relative to budget, I have to think that Wedding Crashers is one of the biggest hits of the year as well. Where some other films might make more at the box office, Vince and Owen are going to give New Line a much greater return on investment.

David Mumpower: A larger concern from my perspective is what it says about July box office when the same two films finish at the top of the box office charts for three straight weeks. That should never happen. When Something About Mary made its slow ascension, it was facing off against end-of-August dregs rather than $130 million tentpole releases, after all.

Action, not words.

Kim Hollis: Sony studio boss Rory Bruer says "It just doesn't seem action is what the public wants this summer". Agree or disagree?

Reagen Sulewski: I think at this point you can stop talking about additional factors and exceptions for the box office slump. This is prime time for summer and they're whiffing.

Kim Hollis: Except for Star Wars. Or Batman. Or War of the Worlds. Or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Or Fantastic Four.

David Mumpower: Right. I have seen all kinds of ridiculous apologist journalism explaining why there is no slump and it just makes me scratch my head. If you can't see that box office behavior is changing, you are just not paying attention.

Kim Hollis: It's a nice attempt at an excuse. I give it a C- since it's so easy to poke holes through.

David Mumpower: So, what you're saying is that action is pretty much all consumers have wanted this summer. It's that much more alarming that Stealth busted out so completely, then.

Reagen Sulewski: Statements like that always make me laugh. Every year we all get together as a movie going public and decide on a genre of film to ignore.

Rant time.

David Mumpower: Box office trending right now is similar to the adjustments a baseball player must make in order to succeed. When the player first reaches the majors, there is not an accurate scouting report about them. As an unknown, they have the advantage in that the player knows the strengths of his game while the opposition does not. Over time, a process of adaptation occurs where teams learn how to get the player out. At that point, it's up to the player to adjust to the changing behavior. Right now, movie studios are coming to grips with the fact that what has historically worked with regards to selling a movie no longer does so. Consumers must be encouraged to make that effort required to go to a movie theater. In recent weeks, we have seen the good and bad examples of how to do this. New Line eschewed the conventional wisdom that an R-rating is troublesome and saw a market vacuum that needed filling, the raunchy comedy. The past two weekends, Sony and DreamWorks have released projects that did not have box office draws to automatically sell tickets. The onus was on them to make the movies seem worthwhile even if the star-power was not. A Jamie Foxx oral sex joke was the best either studio could do. I don't put the blame solely on their marketing teams, though. A share of it goes to the people cutting the trailers. It is equally possible that the evolving nature of the industry has passed them by just as it's possible they were stipulated to sell the films in this manner. Under either circumstance, a four minute film clip on TiVo is not going to suddenly convince anyone that the film is anything other than litter box material.

Kim Hollis: The complete opposite, probably.

David Mumpower: Next year, I say we ignore CGI films, obvious Oscar bait, and anything starring Jim Carrey or Tom Hanks!

Reagen Sulewski: Tough luck, Da Vinci Code!

Sam Raimi's spidey sense is tingling...with negotiating power.

Kim Hollis: This is the fourth major failure for Sony in 2005. The previous disapointments were XXX: State of the Union, Lords of Dogtown, and Bewitched. How dependent has Sony become on Spider-Man?

David Mumpower: May 2007 can't get here fast enough.

Kim Hollis: It will probably be late October before the studio gets back on track. Rent, Zathura, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Legend of Zorro all come out later this year. Plus, they have a Jim Carrey film, Fun with Dick and Jane (though if we declare the Jim Carrey hate-on early, that one will be a problem).

David Mumpower: The most complimentary thing I can say about the Spider-Man franchise is that they used it to sell the Playstation 2 and are using the same playbook for the Playstation 3.

Kim Hollis: And the PSP, for that matter

David Mumpower: It's almost like they are throwing their hands up in the air and saying, "Without Spidey, we got nothing!"

David Mumpower: Kim, you're right about their fourth quarter releases, though. Rent and Memoirs of a Geisha appear to be strong end-of-year contenders and Zathura and the Zorro sequel should be solid performers.

Reagen Sulewski: Which makes me think Sam Raimi isn't going to get to wrap up the series in the third film like he says he wants to. And that Spidey 4 is going to suck, hard.

David Mumpower: Even allowing for that, though, this has been a wipeout year for them with regards to money invested vs. money returned.

Summer box office is like a box of chocolates.

Kim Hollis: We have finished three months of the four month summer box office season. What is the biggest surprise so far, good or bad?

Reagen Sulewski: Biggest surprise good: Wedding Crashers. Biggest surprise bad: The Island, even with all our mitigating circumstance we've identified.

David Mumpower: I see it as a combination of four events when viewed as one entity. Fantastic Four looks like garbage but opens huge. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory look stubbornly off-putting but opens huge. Stealth and The Island look terrible and immediately become two of the ten biggest bombs in modern box office history.

Kim Hollis: For me, the most pleasant surprises have been Wedding Crashers and the fact that March of the Penguins might just outperform stuff like The Island and Stealth. As for bad surprises, I still am disappointed that Batman Begins suffered in its opening weekend due to the negative cachet left over from Schumacher's destruction of the franchise. I'm glad it's continued to find an audience, but given the quality, I was hoping for much, much more.

David Mumpower: As much as we are saying it should be obvious for someone green-lighting projects to figure out what the total dreck is, there does still seem to be a mixed message delivered from consumers. We don't want to go see garbage...unless the guy can catch fire and fly.

Reagen Sulewski: I think if you go back further Kingdom of Heaven has to be considered a nasty surprise as well, even with the overseas box office.

Kim Hollis: I honestly don't see that one as much of a surprise, Reagen. The genre has been underperforming in general in the U.S., so I was never expecting a great deal from it.

David Mumpower: Again, it did not have a box office draw, though. We seem to have reached a point where above-the-title actors are becoming crucial to opening weekend performance in anything other than horror.

Kim Hollis: Explain Miss Congeniality 2, then.

Reagen Sulewski: Satan pulled some strings.

David Mumpower: Sandra Bullock needed money to pay for her Monster Garage guy's new tattoos.

Reagen Sulewski: It seems like it's going to be harder and harder to develop box office draws, if people won't see anything without one.

David Mumpower: Right. That's the conundrum, Reagen. What I expect we will see in the future is fewer $130 million budgets unless someone big is attached. The risk is simply too severe.

Reagen Sulewski: It's not enough to even star in a big film anymore, as Ewan McGregor just found out. I mean, Tobey Maguire has two $400 million films, to get back to Spider-Man for a moment, and I don't know anyone who would call him a box office draw.

Kim Hollis: And yet Seabiscuit did quite well as opposed to the underperforming Cinderella Man, which had essentially the same hook.



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