By Steve Mason
November 2, 2006
Borat Set To "Make Benefit" From Opening In Big Cities; The Santa Clause 3 Will Flush Away New DreamWorks Animated FilmThe most subversive movie of 2006 hits 800 screens this weekend, and it's hard to say how much Borat will deliver on its opening weekend, but there is no question that this highly-anticipated Sacha Baron Cohen film will benefit from Fox's decision to open on fewer screens. I live in Los Angeles, and it's certain that the film will open huge here and in most major cities, but will it play in Poughkeepsie?
Cohen has been making the publicity rounds with stops everywhere from Saturday Night Live (the coveted pre-credit opening sketch) to The Today Show (where a visibly uncomfortable Matt Lauer did his best to keep Borat on safe topics). It's impossible to say what happens when Borat goes wide, but this weekend, the film will deliver a terrific per theatre average.
A sensation on British television, Cohen has had relatively little exposure in the US. Thirteen episodes of his Ali G series have aired on HBO (repeatedly), his voice was featured in the animated hit Madagascar, and he most recently had a hilarious co-starring role in Talladega Nights. ("My husband Gregory and I want what any couple wants. To retire to Stockholm and develop a currency for dogs and cats to use.")
Borat isn't for anyone with thin skin. He offends everyone - women, Jews, gays, rednecks and, of course, Kazakhs. Cohen's shooting of the pseudo doc has also left a trail of "victims" in his wake. Today, Fox News Channel reports the story of a Jackson, Mississippi noon news producer who booked Borat as a guest. The politically incorrect comic guested on the live show and proceeded to wreak havoc as he made sexual and scatological references, kissed the lead anchor and disrupted the weather report. The producer, Dharma Arthur, was fired for naivete.
Nobody is more offended by Borat than the government of Kazakhstan. In fact, they are placing print and television ads that they claim accurately depict their Central Asian nation as a modern and progressive country. The ads are supposed to counter the movie's claims that the country sponsors anti-Jewish street fests, there are laws against women riding the bus, that horse urine is guzzled from goblets and that any Kazakh would kiss his sister with the passion that Borat does. (It should be noted that the national dish in Kazakhstan is beshbarmak, which is boiled noodles topped with horsemeat.)
Movies based on television characters have run the gamut from wild successes like The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Scooby Doo and Charlie's Angels to disastrous failures, like It's Pat and Stuart Saves His Family (both based on fairly lame Saturday Night Live sketches), but the reviews for Borat have been spectacular. In fact, as of the writing of this column, Borat has an incredible 100% positive review score at RottenTomatoes.
Big city folks get the point. We are laughing at this anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic boob. At RogerEbert.com, the review for Borat says the film "will be funny for at least as long as anybody remembers there were, and are, bigots anywhere in this world." I have no idea how this picture will perform when it expands, but I'm looking for $13,000-$15,000 per location this weekend for $10-$12 million.
Borat By The Numbers
All-Time Top 20 Movies Based On TV Characters - Domestic Box Office
1. The Fugitive - $183,875,000
2. Mission Impossible - $180,981,000
3. Scooby Doo - $153,294,000
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $135,265,000
5. The Flintstones - $130,531,000
6. Charlie's Angels - $125,305,000
7. Wayne's World - $121,697,000
8. S.W.A.T. - $116,934,000
9. Wild, Wild West - $113,805,000
10. Addams Family - $113,502,000
11. Maverick - $101,631,000
12. The Rugrats Movie - $100,494,000
13. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie - $85,417,000
14. The X-Files - $83,898,000
15. Star Trek: The Motion Picture - $82,258,000
16. The Dukes of Hazzard - $80,270,000
17. Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad - $78,756,000
18. The Untouchables - $76,270,000
19. Lost In Space - $69,117,000
20. Jackass: The Movie - $64,255,000
*First films only. No sequels.
All-Time Top 5 Disastrous Movies Based on TV Shows - Domestic Box Office
1. Jiminy Glick in Lalawood - $36,039
2. It's Pat - $60,822
3. Stuart Saves His Family - $912,082
4. Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie - $1,007,000
5. Car 54, Where Are You? - $1,238,000