August 10, 2001
Nicole Kidman arrives for her second try at the box office with her unconventional horror film entitled The Others.
The Others is produced by Dimension Films, the horror studio that brought us such titles as Dracula 2000, Scream 3 and Scary Movie 1 and 2, although the real horror released by Dimension was either Boys and Girls or Reindeer Games. The Others will be Dimension's third release of the July/August season, after Scary Movie 2 and the special edition of Spy Kids, and will have its fourth just 12 days later with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. According to my notes, Dimension will release more films over the July/August period than any studio except Warner Brothers, which releases a film almost every weekend. Is it possible that Dimension is dumping The Others in August, hoping for a Sixth Sense or a Blair Witch Project?
The Others sounds unfortunately like Bless the Child, the Kim Basinger August 2000 release that bombed spectacularly. The Others takes place during the Second World War and revolves around a woman named Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children. Grace's kids have a disease that makes them vulnerable to sunlight, and they can't leave the house. Grace retires to be with them full-time. Of course, Grace quickly discovers they are not alone in the house.
In a slightly bizarre twist, The Others is directed by Alejandro Amenbar, who directed Penelope Cruz in Abre Los Ojos in 1997. Translated, Abre Los Ojos is Open Your Eyes, which is being remade as Vanilla Sky, starring potential love-match Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz. I wonder how The Others' press junket will be with actress and director together again? The Others is Amenbar's first American release; it will enjoy a European release shortly after its American premiere.
My studio contact has not seen the film, but has heard good things. "Supposed to be REALLY scary," is the direct quote. Also, the studio is not afraid of the film, with premiere screenings already being booked for the week of August 6th to 9th.
Can Nicole Kidman do horror? She's done it before - and well. If you haven't seen Dead Calm, stop doing what you're doing and go rent that flick. Excellent. And with someone of Kidman's talent (sorry, Kim Basinger), this type of film could really be pulled off well. But then we all know that quality has nothing to do with opening weekend anyway...So I digress.
Let's not pretend that Kidman isn't a household name all over the globe; between the awkward success of Moulin Rouge, ($13.72 million open, June 01) and the awkward breakup of her marriage, her face is everywhere. But then again, George Dubya's face is everywhere as well, and that doesn't mean he can open a film.
The fact is, this is the horror genre, and a good trailer can just about open anything over $10 million. The Others does not have a good trailer. It makes the film look slow and plodding, and does not reveal enough information for viewers to make an intelligent movie-going decision. The Web site is in Spanish, and features a barely-recognizable Kidman and some mutterings in Spanish. Oy.
This film will need a miracle, or a lot of early, fabulous word of mouth. (John Hamann/BOP)
Box Office Autopsy
Even with the increasingly downward trend of the legginess of films in the past five years, with huge declines in the second and further weekends now expected rather than lamented, the occasional film still manages to build momentum through weeks and months to box-office glory. To get this kind of effect, the film almost has to be of the 180 degree-plot-twist-at-the-end variety to make audiences reconsider or to develop a must-see attitude towards the film through word-of-mouth (still the most effective marketing tool for movies). Two years after The Sixth Sense used this technique to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, The Others, another late summer, low-key horror film, rode a twist ending to a final box office much larger than the initial weekend would suggest.
Starting at a spare 1,678 venues, often a sign of a dumped project, The Others used a brilliant and moody ad campaign with a genuine shock moment (the old woman's face with the little girl's voice) to capture a terrific $14.09 million opening weekend, the eighth highest opening ever for a film at under 2,000 venues. Miramax quickly capitalized on this, expanding to over 2,000 just the next week. It rapidly became the big fish in a little pond, dropping by under 30% for seven straight weeks and in the weak fall market, managed to progress all the way to number two in its seventh week, after starting in fourth place.
Twist endings don't inspire audiences all by themselves, so while it was probably the most important factor in its continued success, the near-universally praised performance of Nicole Kidman (garnering her a Golden Globe nomination) also became a rallying point for people who saw it and then became evangelists for the film. Although it was not able to reach the same lofty heights as The Sixth Sense, its $96.5 million domestic total was extremely healthy relative to its reported $17 million budget. Foreign grosses also helped, adding $75 million. Spain in particular was a large market for the film, with audiences there turning out to support Spaniard director Alejandro Amenábar in his first English-language film. Video so far has contributed $52 million more, but as the film still sits in the top ten of the video charts, it's not done yet. It's proving to have just as extended a run after it exited theaters as during the time when was still in them. (Reagen Sulewski)
Comparison films for The Others
|Sixth Sense, The
|House on Haunted Hill, The
|Bless the Child
|American Werewolf in Paris, An
|Brotherhood of the Wolf