Monday Morning Quarterback Part One
By BOP Staff
August 15, 2005
BOP looks forward to the sequel, Four More BrothersKim Hollis: Four Brothers opened to an estimated $20.7 million. How happy should Paramount be with this result? And what was the key to the performance of Four Brothers? How surprised are you by the fact that 53% of the audience was women?
Tim Briody: They all just wanted to see the guy from Outkast.
Kim Hollis: The fact that Tyrese had his shirt off for a portion of the film couldn't have hurt.
David Mumpower: I said last weekend that I expected it to be the second or third biggest opener of the three. I did not think it would beat Skeleton Key, but it did so in resounding fashion. As such, I'm pleasantly surprised and I imagine the studio is as well.
Kim Hollis: In all seriousness, though, the film always had a powerful trailer that a lot of people noticed. Mark Wahlberg isn't particularly a big draw, but he is consistent. And of course, Singleton has a certain following.
Reagen Sulewski: I think this is surprising although not shocking, and Paramount should be very pleased.
David Mumpower: My problem all along has been that I have enjoyed the trailers a great deal, which is generally a kiss of death for films. My odd tastes never match middle America's.
Behold the magic of lowballing.Joel Corcoran: Paramount should be very happy with this result, though I think they deeply (and intentionally) underestimated its take this weekend. They said they were projecting around $15-$17 million when forecasts were made, so now they can say the movie "exceeded expectations."
Kim Hollis: Actually, one of their suits had noted that it was tracking as high as low $20s, but I think they always want to err on the conservative side.
Tim Briody: Paramount should be absolutely thrilled it hit $20 million.
Joel Corcoran: I hadn't heard that, Kim, but I was struck at how this was the first time I'd really seen the studios acting like presidential campaigns heading into the Iowa caucuses.
Reagen Sulewski: We've been talking a lot lately about star power being crucial, and while none of the leads is a huge name, they added up to something resembling an A-lister.
Shocking new marketing strategy: selling the steak instead of the sizzle.David Mumpower: What I like about the movie's marketing is the honesty of it. So many times we get to a theater and realize the commercials have lied. The product is wholly different than what 60 seconds of footage indicated.
Joel Corcoran: I really liked the trailers, too, David. But the thing I liked about this film was the different ways you could cut the storyline. It was a sort of gangster drama, but also a kind of family drama. The interracial element of all the brothers also added an interesting twist, too. And I think women went to see the film not only for Tyrese being shirtless (who wouldn't want to see that?), but also because it wasn't the typical testosterone-fueled, crime-of-revenge story.
Reagen Sulewski: Hopefully this gets John Singleton out of the purgatory he's been in that made him take on projects like 2 Fast 2 Furious.
David Mumpower: Four Brothers is just the opposite. They confidently exhibited a by-the-numbers movie with a believable concept. What surprised me was that they did not even get to the roles by Josh Charles and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The latter actor steals the movie.
Kim Hollis: I'm hoping Ejiofor starts getting a lot more excellent (primary) roles after his performances in Four Brothers and Serenity.
Tim Briody: I'm thinking that there was an underserved demographic or two that came out this weekend, fueling the success of two of the openers.
David Mumpower: Four Brothers is a throwback to '70s blaxploitation cinema but it's the evolution of that into quality cinema rather than B-movie stuff. Four Brothers is a very strong movie and, as Reagen mentioned above, there is a disconnect for me about the fact it's the same director who did 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Joel Corcoran: Hopefully, this will mark Singleton's return to the days of "Higher Learning," if not "Boyz in the Hood."
David Mumpower: It's much more in keeping with his early work than the later Shaft/2 Fast 2 Furious shameless commercialism. In a lot of ways, the film is like Entourage. It's a guy movie through and through. The biggest female part in the movie is "hot psychopath", so I am stunned to hear over half the audience is women.
Mamma is screaming for vengeance.Joel Corcoran: It didn't strike me as a movie for guys only. But maybe I'm reading too much into it.
Reagen Sulewski: It's about four boys who love their mother. What woman wouldn't eat that up?
Joel Corcoran: Exactly!
Kim Hollis: I do think that as far as women viewers, there's something striking about seeing vengeance committed on behalf of a beloved mother. Plus, Tyrese!
David Mumpower: So, women want to know that if they are ever slain, Junior will avenge them?
Kim Hollis: Sure, in the fantasy sense.
David Mumpower: So, women want to know that if they are ever slain, Junior will avenge them while wearing a Hobbit costume?
Kim Hollis: Wow. They missed a great casting opportunity there.
Joel Corcoran: And I thought I was cynical... They're not just boys who love their mother, but a mother who went out of her way to adopt them, raise them, and sacrifice everything for them.
David Mumpower: That's true, Joel, and the film does a great job of highlighting how empty all of their lives feel without him. On a larger point, Four Brothers is a win for movie lovers in that it demonstrates that strong storytelling is the biggest selling point of all. It's easier to market, too.
Joel Corcoran: Oh, yes. And as a movie lover, I'm so glad to see that Four Brothers is a reminder of the principle that strong storytelling is the key to any good (or great) movie.
Got a black magic movie. Baby.Kim Hollis: Universal's The Skeleton Key opened to an estimated $15.8 million. What do you take from this performance?
David Mumpower: That despite our hopes to the contrary, consumers will still go see any dreck possible as long as a bunch of people get killed in it.
Reagen Sulewski: It's kind of amazing in a way, because there's so many scenarios in which this could have been an absolute joke of a film.
Tim Briody: I had to admit to being stunned when I found out that it was Kate Hudson's second highest opening ever.
David Mumpower: It's hard to believe this nation was founded by Puritans, as bloodthirsty as we are.
Joel Corcoran: Meh. I don't know what to think of Skeleton Key.
Kim Hollis: I honestly don't either, Joel. I had it pegged as a sub-$10 million opener.
Reagen Sulewski: It's an incredibly stylish looking film, for what that's worth.
Kim Hollis: It is. And to its credit, there really aren't a whole lot of horror films that use voodoo as a hook. It felt different in that regard, at least.
David Mumpower: Agreed, Kim. It's a new age The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Joel Corcoran: That's true -- it is very stylish. And I expected it would maybe open around $10 million, Kim, so I'm right there with you.
David Mumpower: It'll probably make more than Almost Famous, Tim. This is the opposite of Four Brothers with regards to the message it sends Hollywood. If it bleeds, it leads is not just a concept for news directors.
Joel Corcoran: I just thought the marketing was a little ... weird. It seemed like Universal was going for some type of tangent off the typical horror movie, but I couldn't quite figure out what message they were trying to send to moviegoers.
Tim Briody: I actually felt that fans of this genre were a tad underserved. This offering was better than, say, Dark Water.
Kim Hollis: And as we discussed before, water just isn't that scary. Unless it is full of sharks.
David Mumpower: But it's *dark* water. You're not appreciating the color tone concerns.
Reagen Sulewski: Chubby rain!
David Mumpower: Gotcha, suckas!
Twists are bad? Don't tell Agatha Christie.Kim Hollis: I actually thought the marketing felt a lot like The Grudge. Creepy and atmospheric.
David Mumpower: I just don't find 45 RPM records of early 20th century musicians creepy, sorry.
Reagen Sulewski: Fairly late in the game, Universal really started pushing the "twist" angle, which I think definitely helped a lot. Although I think this represented a basic lack of confidence in the movie. If you really had confidence, you save the twist marketing until week two.
Joel Corcoran: I think so, too, but I still couldn't figure out what the "twist" was supposed to be. It was atmospheric, but kind of vague and amorphous at the same time.
David Mumpower: Do "twists" still help sell movies? Whenever I see criticisms of M. Night Shyamalan, that is the first negative comment I hear about him.
Joel Corcoran: I love movies with twists, and I'm still a big fan of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I think the criticisms of Shyamalan have to do with the fact that he really doesn't have anything going for him other than being really good at directing "the twist."
Kim Hollis: Sadly, I really do think that 'twists' work. See: The Forgotten and other movies of its ilk that made way more than they should have.
Reagen Sulewski: Who are those negative comments coming from, though? In general, I think people love twists unless they become complete Scooby Doo endings.
David Mumpower: Ruh-roh.
Reagen Sulewski: A la The Village, which finally broke his mystique.
Joel Corcoran: Exactly. But the problem with "The Village" was that it was more of a deux ex machina ending, rather than a truly surprising, yet deftly subtle ending, like in "Sixth Sense."