Monday Morning Quarterback Part One

By BOP Staff

January 22, 2006

All aboard the Bus! Next stop, Detroit!

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Happy? Are you kidding. They're throwing a Vinyl-and-Spandex Parade.

Kim Hollis: Underworld: Evolution opened to $27.6 million in 3,207 exhibitions, with a per venue average of $8,606. This number improves upon the original's $21.8 million opening in September of 2003. Should Screen Gems/Sony be happy with this result?

Reagen Sulewski: I expect cartwheels and fireworks are in order.

Tim Briody: Actually, yeah. I didn't think it'd top the original, but that appears to be the norm with any sequel nowadays.

David Mumpower: I think they should be giddy about its performance. Normally, I'm much more conservative in my box office expectations than Reagen. I thought his $21.6 million forecast for Evolution was $3 million or so on the high side. To my shock, he was low.

Kim Hollis: I was frankly a little surprised by the result. I was expecting a little under $20 million given the January release date and the fact that it came right after a dismal vampire movie in Bloodrayne.

Joel Corcoran: I think the difference between these movies and Bloodrayne is that Uwe Boll isn't involved in the Underworld franchise.

Reagen Sulewski: It was a tough one to get a handle on. These Blade-esque franchises have been a money machine for studios of late, but this is one looked completely generic.

Joel Corcoran: Screen Gems and Sony should be ecstatic with this weekend's performance. Honestly. I thought the movie would do a bit more than $20 million, given the popularity of the first Underworld, but earning over $25 million is a real coup, I think.

David Mumpower: It's interesting that everyone references the popularity of the first film. Over the course of the two and a half years since its release, a form of revisionist history has occurred. People who initially claimed they loved Underworld and its underlying concept have later expressed disdain for it.

Tim Briody: I didn't even think anybody liked the first movie, but I suppose we should never underestimate the idea of a hot chick in skintight outfits.

Joel Corcoran: I liked the first movie quite a lot, and I'm not partial to hot chicks in skintight leather. "Vampires vs. werewolves" is an interesting story concept and it was pulled off pretty well.

The Matrix Revolutions wishes it had this type of holdover.

David Mumpower: At least, that had been my perception as someone who loves the original. I felt shouted down at times by Underworld's critics. The gain for the second film is right in line with sequel expectations, but I must admit I was braced for a Miss Congeniality/Bridget Jones' Diary type of decline.

Kim Hollis: Especially since the studio seemed to have a lack of confidence in the film. They pushed it to January (which theoretically is a dead zone for this type of movie) and then didn't feel it should be screened for critics. I actually bet they're very pleasantly surprised today.

David Mumpower: The Saturday holdover was also a nice surprise, I'm sure. Basically no drop from Friday's $10.6 million debut caught me off guard.

Reagen Sulewski:I suspect the only thing standing in the way of Underworld 3 at this point is the availability of blue camera filters.

Only 13% of Rotten Tomatoes critics will enjoy this section of MMQB.

Kim Hollis: Underworld: Evolution had a RottenTomatoes score of about 20%, last week's number one Glory Road was at 57%, and virtual co-number one Hoodwinked came in at 45%. The three films averaged an approximately 50% fresh. Do mainstream audiences simply not care what critics have to say?

Tim Briody: The audiences for the first and third films you mentioned don't read reviews.

David Mumpower: It's just the latest in a long line of examples that reviews are wholly irrelevant to opening box office performances. They're only impacting for smaller, buzz films which might otherwise not get to a look and in later weekends as a moderate factor in word of mouth.

Reagen Sulewski: I'd say they care, or otherwise Brokeback Mountain wouldn't be where it right now. I think it's more that reviews focus on different things than what audiences for these specific films are really looking for out of entertainment.

Tim Briody: Box office would have been affected if it hit either extreme, good or bad.

Joel Corcoran: Maybe with Hoodwinked, Tim, but I don't think the core audience interested in Underworld pays attention to reviews. I tend to fall into that group, at least a bit. I just assume movie reviewers are going to pan movies like Underworld, and the only time I really pay attention to reviews (as a group) is in cases of demonstrated dogs like Bloodrayne or Alien vs. Predator.

David Mumpower: If you want a mental image to equate with the line of thinking, picture a goth chick with 17 piercings, over half of which you would need to buy her a couple of drinks to get to see. How much does that girl care what Richard Roeper thinks of Underworld: Evolution?

Kim Hollis: I think the only time that they are impacting in a real negative sense is when you have Hulk-like situations. As long as it's not a huge, huge release, you're gold.

Reagen Sulewski: It's kind of unfortunate in my opinion, because being dismissive of reviews of these films only lets filmmakers get away with being lazy. "It's just a vampire film, don't expect anything out of it." To hell with that. I want every 'genre' film to be as good as Batman Begins, or even Pitch Black.

David Mumpower: I think that Underworld is a good example of a review-independent film. I loved the original and wild horses were not going to keep me away from seeing the sequel. It's vampires against werewolves. That concept kills. Period.

Kim Hollis: The other thing that I think is important to keep in mind is that movie reviews seem to have changed substantially since so many Internet critics have been imported more and more into the mainstream. They seem to have an unmitigated enthusiasm for slamming movies, whereas long-time newspaper and television critics seem to have less of a tendency to throw out bad reviews left and right.

Joel Corcoran: That's a good point, Kim. It's like the Internet site reviewers need to stake out more vitriolic or extreme positions, just to get noticed.

David Mumpower: Kim does make a great point. A lot of the review sites on the Internet receive more traffic for being overtly and oftentimes unfairly hostile to films. BOP has a certain segment of readers who would be much happier if we were much more incendiary in our commentary, as an example.

Joel Corcoran: You mean we're not incendiary enough? What with all the trashing of Fantastic Four, Uwe Boll, and Cole Hauser?

When BOP hears End of the Spear, we fantasize that Uwe Boll is attached...and not to direct.

Kim Hollis: End of the Spear, an unknown commodity released by an independent distributor, earned $4.7 million from 1,163 venues. Considering the recent Uwe Boll/Billy Zane disaster, isn't this a strong performance for M Power Releasing?

Tim Briody: It made the top ten, which is more than Bloodrayne can say.

David Mumpower: Considering that I thought that was the company that handled my utilities rather than a distributor, I think it's extraordinary.

Joel Corcoran: It's a very strong performance for M Power Releasing, but more broadly speaking, I think it's an average to decent weekend performance.

David Mumpower: I would describe it in more positive terms than Joel, mainly because no one outside of religious organizations knew of this film two months ago.

Kim Hollis: I was frankly stunned when a few weeks ago I realized this movie was coming out soon and getting that number of screens. When you consider that all the marketing was really grass roots, it's very impressive.

Joel Corcoran: I'm just a cynic at heart, David. I admire their marketing effort, but I wonder if they could've done better with more preparation. Was their tactic of flying under the pop culture radar intentional, or the result of poor planning?

Kim Hollis: What resources would you expect them to have to fly higher over the radar, though?

David Mumpower: I don't think the pop culture market was ever going to help End of the Spear much. In fact, I would see it as largely a waste of marketing money.

Tim Briody: Tying in the last point, I think it didn't help that the movie apparently wasn't very good.

Joel Corcoran: I don't know if it's so much a matter of expectations, Kim. If M Power Releasing set out with this marketing plan from the beginning, then they should be very highly praised for pulling off a very well-organized and effective niche marketing campaign. But if it was a case of them just getting lucky at the last minute, I wouldn't praise them so much. I guess what I'm saying is this: I wonder if some exec somewhere a month ago suddenly said, "Holy crap! We have a movie coming out and no marketing campaign! Call the churches!"

Reagen Sulewski: You're putting the cart before the horse there, Joel. This was a film made to specifically market within the grassrots church market.

Joel Corcoran: If that's the case, then I admire their work, Reagen. They pulled off a hell of a marketing campaign (pun fully intended).

Reagen Sulewski: In the past, this would have made about $100,000 while never getting above 50 screens. Niche marketing has really taken off in the movie world.

David Mumpower: That's an astute comment, Reagen. With exhibitors so freaked out over day and date titles like Bubble, specialization might be the way of the future for cineplexes.

BOP looks forward to Hoodwinked Vs. Chicken Little: Thunderdome

Kim Hollis: Hoodwinked declined only 11% in its second weekend, bringing in $11.1 million. Its total stands at $29.3 million and a sequel, Hood vs. Evil, has already been announced. Could the film have performed even better if it had been released sometime other than January?

Tim Briody: Considering how cheaply Hoodwinked was made, I don't think it really matters as this is already a big cash cow for the Weinstein Company.

David Mumpower: I just don't think the release date mattered with Hoodwinked. What's impressive is the cuteness of the concept. It's a bastardization of the Shrek premise to be sure, but a clever one.

Reagen Sulewski: Studios seem determined to kill the golden goose of CGI animation (In fact, I expect the golden goose film to be greenlit any day now).

David Mumpower: Struggling producers should just mine Monday Morning Quarterback for project ideas each week.

Kim Hollis: It was just so dirt cheap, both for the production company (which outsourced much of the work) and the Weinsteins. I think saving it for MLK weekend when the kiddies where out of school wasn't a bad move at all.

David Mumpower: That's the other aspect of the decline which should impress. Last week's Sunday totals were inflated by the Martin Luther King holiday.

Tim Briody: Racing Stripes did $50 million last year in January, so it's not like it's a really bad time to release a kids movie.

David Mumpower: Honestly, the shocking news would be if a CGI animation kid's film performed horribly at the box office. They're the proverbial sure thing.

Reagen Sulewski: I think we're rapidly approaching the point where they are no longer special, however.

Joel Corcoran: I don't have much to add about Hoodwinked. To me, it seemed like another Shrek-clone on a tired concept that was rushed through production to the box office. I think it did a decent job this weekend only because few other "family movie" choices were available.

Tim Briody: Actually, Joel, the big message Hoodwinked is sending is that it doesn't have to cost a bajillion dollars to make a CGI animated film anymore.

Joel Corcoran: Which only makes me that much more fearful for the future, Tim.

Kim Hollis: And it wasn't precisely rushed through production. It's been in the can for quite awhile - the Weinsteins acquired distribution rights last year at Cannes. But I can certainly understand how the look might give one that idea - it's just such a low-budget project that it doesn't have the same "wow" look of some other CGI stuff.



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