Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Despicable Overcome the Monstrous: Scott Analyses the Weekend Box Office Results

Scott assesses the winners and losers of the big weekend at the box office.  He proves he is a professional by owning to some predictions that were off the mark, while celebrating his spot on guesses.

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A quality animated movie for the family is a hard beast to oust from first place in the box office, and this past weekend Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim did everything they could to nab top spot from Despicable Me 2, which maintained first place with $44 million.  The Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade movie Grown Ups 2 came in second place with $42 million, and the giant robots battling giant monsters in Pacific Rim finished in bronze medal territory with $38 million.

The big story of the week was Pacific Rim, as early measures had it on similar ground with World War Z (which did an opening weekend of $68 million) and it ended up thirty million dollars shy.  What happened here?

I should do a little disclaimer first.  I had a prediction of $55 million for Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and it was an outside, Hail Mary prediction as I tried to read the situation and determine if this movie was going to be one of the summer’s surprise hits.  I was not confident in this prediction for a few reasons.  Firstly, they promoted this movie as a Guillermo del Toro movie (who has not directed a movie in 5 years) and, unless you are a fan of Hellboy or Pan’s Labyrinth, most people do not recognize the name.  Secondly, there was no proven blockbuster draw in the actor’s chair.  Thirdly, and most importantly, it was about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  Some people find that cool.  The rest of the world (probably the proud majority) laughs at such concepts.  The movie was never really on any solid ground, but it had a lot of internet buzz that left many a person believing it could be a surprise hit.

When the numbers started coming in for the late night Thursday showing, not only was Pacific Rim beating Grown Ups 2, but it was on pace with World War Z’s late night opening.  Where the two movies diverged is all in the demographics.  Zombies are living in the mainstream right now.  The undead are an in thing, living in the realm of popular video games and main stream media.  Giant robots and giant monsters live in the realm of the young male’s bedroom in poster form.  That’s about it.  I am no anthropologist, but when you have a movie where your key demographic is going to be young males, the box office results are going to be front heavy.  When I was but a young lad, getting geeked up for such movies also meant part of the theatre experience was seeing the first available showings as well as seeing it in the biggest format possible.  Almost twenty percent of Pacific Rim’s weekend take was from IMAX ticket sales.  Being front loaded in its ticket sales meant that even though it was on par with World War Z, it would not be keeping that pace, whereas the Brad Pitt zombie flick enticed a number of demographics who would venture out over the course of the weekend (I saw it in a fairly full mid Sunday afternoon showing).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the cinema, audiences proved once again that critical response means absolutely nothing at times.  Earning a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Grown Ups 2 showed that perhaps audiences are not done with Adam Sandler… at least in ensemble movies.  Sandler’s movies have struggled the past few years, and with the unpredictable nature of comedy movies this year, it was anyone’s guess as to how well it would do.  I figure that at this point since I have owned up to my colossal overestimate of Pacific Rim, it is fair to point out that I got this one right.  I shall bask in the sunshine of being right for a moment, as it may be a while before such a feat is repeated.

It is also important to note that Fruitvale Station had a great opening weekend and averaged just shy of $54 thousand dollars per theatre.  If it is able to keep the momentum, it may be expanding to more theatres in coming weeks.  It is quite timely as the movie is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man shot by a white transport police officer, and it debuted the same weekend that George Zimmerman was acquitted.  Fruitvale Station gained critical acclaim and awards at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, and it will surely be looking for an Oscar nod or two.  Another independent movie that performed well this weekend was The Way, Way Back, which finished its second weekend in theatres by breaking the million dollar mark.  The movie starring Steve Carell will be expanding from 79 theatres to around 700 in two weeks' time.  If it does well, it could be looking at wide release sometime in August.

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