Monday Morning Quarterback: Part One
By BOP Staff
October 3, 2005
Jodie Foster is now free to move about the countryKim Hollis: Flightplan repeated as box office champion this weekend, earning another $15 million. Its ten-day total stands at $46.1 million. Are we ready to call this film a hit?
Reagen Sulewski: By fall's standards, I think it's a pretty good hit. Low-budget thrillers have been one of the safest best in the last couple of years.
Joel Corcoran: As much as I hate to do so, I think we do need to call it a hit. It's no Panic Room in terms of box office returns, but it's obviously a money-maker and the producers should be happy.
David Mumpower: Its ten-day performance is right in line with what I was expecting. The holdover in weekend two counteracts the lower than expected opening weekend number of $24.6 million.
Joel Corcoran: Don't mind me -- I'm just being negative and cranky. I like Jodie Foster, but Flightplan seemed tired and worn out to me a month ago.
Kim Hollis: I have to think Buena Vista is okay with the movie's performance. It's solid if unspectacular.
Joel Corcoran: That's a good way of putting it, Kim. Seems like it'll be box office bread and butter for Buena Vista.
David Mumpower: We've been describing it as The Forgotten on a plane for a while now, and its performance is right in line with that one.
Kim Hollis: I think that when you consider its mediocre reviews and word-of-mouth, the weekend hold has to be encouraging. If you can get one of these bland thrillers greenlighted and nab a fairly solid star, you seem to be guaranteed a moneymaker.
David Mumpower: I guess Jodie Foster gets the benefit of the doubt from her fanbase at this point.
Reagen Sulewski: It's the "missing kid" factor, too. I fully expect a film to be released soon entitled "We Took Your Child".
David Mumpower: I look forward to Dingoes Ate Your Baby...In Space!
BOP Legal would like to emphasize that OJ Simpson was acquitted of all chargesKim Hollis: If you think about it, it's the same sort of thing that drives the sales of mystery books from the likes of Patricia Cornwell and Tami Hoag. Put a woman in peril, and you're golden, baby.
David Mumpower: Tell that to OJ.
Joel Corcoran: I think Flightplan's success might be that it's a safe bet at the cineplex. I can see a lot of people going out to the movies and just saying, "Oh, look ... Flightplan. It has Jodie Foster, and it's a thriller, so it must be okay. And I don't know anything about any of these other movies, so ... ."
Kim Hollis: That's right, Joel. Its very blandness might just be something that works in its favor. Especially when the other new movies last week were a movie about a guy who marries a dead person and a piece of '70s roller disco kitsch.
Joel Corcoran: It's the mac and cheese of the movies out there right now. Safe, comfortable, maybe a little bland, but you know exactly what you're getting without looking further at the menu.
David Mumpower: I never had thought of Corpse Bride as an animated romantic comedy update of Weekend at Bernie's before you said that, Kim.
Joel Corcoran: And the major openers this week were about a sci-fi series that not nearly enough people know about, something bordering on soft-core porn, and something about the history of golf.
Kim Hollis: And don't forget the history of violence!
David Mumpower: I already mentioned OJ.
It's the most successful film about necrophilia everKim Hollis: The Corpse Bride fell 49% in its second frame. Its running tally stands at $32.9 million after ten days. How would you describe this performance?
Reagen Sulewski: I think overall it's doing pretty well for something that almost by definition is going for a niche audience.
David Mumpower: Tim Burton's darker concepts are such a tricky sale. I had been expecting business a bit north of Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish. Those two films fall in the $56-$66 million range. It appears likely now that it falls short of the lower number. For an animated movie that looks so distinct, that's a bit disappointing to me.
Kim Hollis: Yes, with the weird, gothic sensibility and the lack of connection to any known story (i.e. Roald Dahl), it was a really hard sell.
Joel Corcoran:: So far, it looks like it will do about as well as James and the Giant Peach, so I'd say the performance of Corpse Bride is pretty decent.
David Mumpower: It passed James and Giant Peach on Friday, Joel. That film managed only $28.9 million.
Kim Hollis: It's already approaching profitability, and should probably be a nice, cultish DVD hit.
David Mumpower: On the plus side, the two Weekend at Bernie's films managed a combined $42 million, so it's at least got them beat. Well, financially, not in terms of groin shots to a corpse.
Reagen Sulewski: Which just goes to show how powerful Johnny Depp is these days. Even just as a voice and a vague look-alike puppet, he can take a film to the end zone.
Why Halloween? Why not Valentine's Day?David Mumpower: Kim, was there a reason for Corpse Bride to be released so far before Halloween? That struck me as odd.
Kim Hollis: It was originally set later...my only speculation is that they were looking to distance themselves a bit from Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Little.
David Mumpower: Do you think it would have done better opening weekend had that been closer to Halloween or was this pretty much what it would have made anyway?
Kim Hollis: I really believe that the people who are going to see this (i.e Tim Burton aficionados, goth types and fans of great animation) would have come out either way.
Reagen Sulewski: I'm not a real big believer in holiday specific releases... we've seen a ton of Christmas themed films do very well before Thanksgiving.
Joel Corcoran: And Corpse Bride doesn't fit the traditional horror flick Halloween release schedule.
Kim Hollis: The real problem for a movie like The Corpse Bride is that it's just not kid-friendly at all. If I'm a parent and I see the advertising for that thing, I think to myself, "Are you kidding me?" I would probably have been the same way about Nightmare Before Christmas, even though I do think it's a terrific film.
Joel Corcoran: That's a good point, Kim. It's not even a kid-friendly alternative for the Halloween season. So, I don't think the timing of the release would've affected its box office returns in any significant way.
BOP is very disappointed in all of youKim Hollis: Serenity opened to $10.1 million with a per venue average of $4,634. Should Universal be pleased with this result?
Reagen Sulewski: This one's going to be tough. You can see where this could lead to a strong showing in the next few weeks, but I'm not extremely confident about that possibility.
David Mumpower: Speaking as a Browncoat, I know I'm not pleased. I'm conflicted here in that this is almost exactly the amount I was predicting it would make six weeks out. It seems disappointing relative to the amount of effort they put into the process, though.
Kim Hollis: I think that given the very limited built-in audience the film had, they can't really be disappointed, exactly. It performed a little below expectations, but how do you market a film with no stars and a quirky sci-fi Western sensibility to people who have never seen the series that begat it?
Joel Corcoran: If I was a Universal studio exec (God forbid), I would be "concerned," but I think we need to see how Serenity performs at the box office over the next few weeks. I just think a lot of people didn't know what to make of the movie and are waiting to hear more reviews, word-of-mouth, and get some more information before going to see it.
Kim Hollis: I know that word-of-mouth is going to be extremely positive, but I still am fairly certain that the film will have the trajectory of a fanboyish flick. Prove me wrong, people.
David Mumpower: The good news for Firefly fans is that it's a genuinely great film. Quality science fiction releases get sequels. That's the way of things. You look at The Crow, Alien, Robocop, and Highlander. All of these earned a second production because they stuck in the collective conscious.
Joel Corcoran: I don't think you can market this film in any traditional manner. The best you can hope for is to just put it out there and see if people like it. I wouldn't be surprised if Serenity ends up performing in a way that Star Wars did when it was first released in 1977. But, on the other hand, I wouldn't bet the farm on its future at the box office either.
Reagen Sulewski: The reality is that very few films are actually able to turn word-of-mouth into great legs these days, and it's usually films that had broad appeal in the first place.
David Mumpower: The marketing campaign for Serenity has cleverly focused upon that grass roots idea of confidence. They feel you might not know the characters in this franchise yet, but if you take the opportunity to do so, you will fall in love with them. People remember that sort of confidence because the reality is that it's rare. Very few releases each year are handled proudly by studios rather than matter-of-factly. Most of them fall into the category of "This is all we've got and we need your money." It's why studio heads spent the week owning up to the fact that summer films sucked. Serenity is a universally positive movie-going experience. That has value even it didn't mean much at the box office this week.
Kim Hollis: It's DVD that will eventually tell the profitability story on this one. And it's going to be profitable.
David Mumpower: That's the other positive, Kim. The fanbase here is fanatical to a degree that makes even old-timey Star Trek fans take a step back and say "Whoa!" DVD sales will be one to one with first day ticket sales.
BOP thanks Universal for the effort nonethelessKim Hollis: And I will also say that I think Universal has thus far treated Serenity really, really well. The marketing was aimed to all the right people, and it was plentiful. They gave it their best shot.
Reagen Sulewski: I get the feeling that Joss's ability to make new Serenity films will have a lot do with the performance of Wonder Woman. I wouldn't be shocked to see a budget reduced slightly for more films.
David Mumpower: For the record, I think that $10 million is a solid opening for a $40 million science fiction production with surefire DVD sales. And Reagen, I think that Whedon's ability to handle a set and bring in a film on time and at cost impressed a lot of people. That's why you're seeing his name kicked around a lot more these days.
Joel Corcoran: I hope that Universal does rally 'round Serenity. As a Star Trek fan (and, yes, the vigorous dedication of the average Browncoat does make my Spock ears turn red with shame), I think this movie could be the start of a very successful franchise. But it will take some real patience, faith, and dedication from Universal for that to happen.
David Mumpower: That's the other thing, Joel. If you consider the evolution of Firefly, it really only has two historical precedents. Star Trek is the obvious one, but it took a decade for the fanbase to sway Hollywood into seeing it could be a movie franchise. Star Trek also ran for three seasons. The only distinctly similar entity to Firefly is Police Squad/Naked Gun. And it's a lot easier to sell comedy than it is sci-fi.
Joel Corcoran: Well, that was before the day of the Internet, David. Letter-writing campaigns were much more difficult in the '70s and '80s. But I think the parallels are very accurate. And the Star Trek film franchise really didn't take off until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
David Mumpower: I agree with that completely. Had Wrath of Khan not been so brilliant, I think the Star Trek franchise would have died then and there and be already forgotten. Best case scenario would be a Battlestar Galactica style resurrection.
Reagen Sulewski: And neither of those franchises could count on ancillaries to save the day.