It's September, which means it's time to say goodbye to the blockbuster movie season and take a look back at Hollywood's summer box office. Finally fed up with the way I kept sticking him with the check, Michael Brody refused to show up this year, forcing me to set up a meeting with Cinema Blend's box office rookie Scott Gwin to discuss CB's traditional summer wrap-up.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
SG: Whether we’re talking the summer or the entire year, Jack Sparrow and company are the box office royalty of 2006. America has showered them handsomely with tribute to the tune of over $407.5 million. That sum jumps to nearly a billion dollars when you add in what everyone around the world has spent seeing this movie. As hard as it may be for some folks to hear, that makes it bigger than any other Disney film, both Spider-Man movies, four out of the six Star Wars adventures, and all three parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not only is Dead Man’s Chest the number one movie of the year so far (and honestly, nothing on the queue for the rest of the year stands a chance of even coming close), it has become the sixth highest grossing movie of all time in America and holds the record for highest single day sales ($55.8 million) and highest opening three day weekend ($135.6 million). There’s no question: Jack Sparrow is king.
JT: It's hard for me to hear, since let's face it: It isn't very good. Sure, it's making money hand over fist, but after that huge opening weekend it became almost obligatory to see it. Now there's no stopping it. Remember though, The Matrix Reloaded was huge too. By the time Matrix Revolutions came out, everyone in the country had seen Reloaded, caught on to the fact that the Matrix sequels were going to suck, and Revolutions came and went with a significantly lower performance. Jack Sparrow is king for now, but will he stay on top after the third movie comes out? Alright, I'm kidding myself. The truth is Johnny Depp plus heavy eyeshadow equals big movie bucks. Women love it when men wear makeup. Sexy men that is; for some reason it never works when I do it.
SC: Pixar movies always end up in the winner’s circle and Cars was no exception. This summer saw a glut of CG animated movies (five…six if you count the Garfield flick) but Cars had them all eating its dust. At $240.5 million and counting, it is the second highest grossing movie of the summer with the fourth highest grossing opening weekend ($60.1 million). While that’s nothing to sneer at, it’s another step backwards for Pixar movies in general. The first five movies to come out of the Pixar/Disney collaboration generally made more money than the one before it, peaking with Finding Nemo which made $339.7 million. Incredibles slipped back to $261.4 million and now Cars will pull in behind that.
JT: You can call it a step backwards if you want, but with as bad as the movie's marketing campaign was I'd call it a minor miracle that people showed up to see it at all. Come on, Cars looked terrible. Once audiences actually got in the theater and watched it, they loved it. But getting them there for a movie about talking cars wasn't an easy proposition. Pixar's next movie is about a gourmet Parisian rat, so expect this trend to be reversed. Talking rodents torturing Frenchies is an easier sell than a movie about talking cars that look like they fell off a PBS pledge drive.
X-Men: The Last Stand
SG:You can argue all you want about how this third X-Men installation compares to the other two, but when it comes to makin’ money Brett Ratner got more people to turn out for his movie than Bryan Singer could for either the first two films. With a total domestic take of $234.3 million dollars, it surpassed X2:X-Men United’s $214.9 million. Of course, Ratner didn’t have much choice. His movie had a massive $210 million budget which was $25 million more than what Singer spent on his two combined. Most of that probably went to Halle Berry’s bloated salary, but a lot of that was spent on the increased action sequences and special effects. It was a gamble, but one that paid off. When you add in international ticket sales, Fox made more than a pretty penny on it’s “last” X-Men movie.
JT: No doubt about it, Brett Ratner is great at making money. Too bad he's not any good at making movies. Because of that, X-Men: The Last Stand made almost all of its money opening weekend. After that, the drop off was considerable as audiences were left questioning why Phoenix's powers were able to rip off Wolverine's skin, but not his pants. When a movie makes $102 million opening weekend yet only manages to hold on to number one for a single week, come on, that says something about the quality of the film. Yes, Singer's much better X-Men 2 only opened with an $85 million, but it held on to number one for multiple weeks, and made more money than crappy X3 in weeks two and three. Don't worry though Scott, it'll only get worse. Think of X3 as the Batman Forever of the X-Men franchise. Batman & Robin is still to come.
The Da Vinci Code
SG: Critics hammered it. Religious leaders protested it. Still, you couldn’t keep curious movie-goers away from Ron Howard’s sleepy adaptation of Dan Brown’s overrated novel. With a massive $77.0 million opening weekend (the third largest of the summer), it stunned the cinema world by proving it was more than just opening weekend hype by continuing on to earn $217.5 million. On the international scene, it made $534 million in foreign movie theaters, second this summer only to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
JT: Ron Howard should go ahead and cut Opus Dei and the rest of the Catholic Church a paycheck. They deserve a percentage of the gross. Everyone but the religious establishment seems to have figured this out: Controversy sells. Realistically you're never going to get the movie banned, so you might as well shut up because by railing against it you're only going to get people to see it. I know that's why I saw it. I love sticking it to the Catholic Church and sitting through the Da Vinci Code was an easy, mildly entertaining way to do it. As for its impressive international box office, I think the Euro was attracted by Tom Hanks' Euro-trash hair. He'd fit right in over there.
Over the Hedge
SG:The furries from the funny pages were set head-to-head against The Da Vinci Code and managed to hold their own. Both movies opened on the same weekend and I imagine Over The Hedge executives were betting that protestors would go see something far more religiously benign. If so, their strategy worked pretty well. The movie enjoyed a $38 million opening weekend and earned $154.8 million in the long haul, making it the sixth highest grossing movie of the summer. It also had the advantage of being one of the first kid-friendly films to open during the summer. It helps to be early in a season overstuffed with family fare, grabbing those dollars before parents start tightening the purse strings.
JT: I wouldn't call Over the Hedge religiously benign. The animals worship junk food! The entire movie basically glorifies idol worship (ie Pringles) and gluttony. Worse, and I'm not sure about this, but I think the squirrel may be gay. I didn't see any lady squirrels around did you? It's an affront to Christian beliefs. I can't believe so many people supported it. I thought this was a Christian country. I'm deeply saddened by its success. You'll burn in hell for this one America.
SG: Adam Sandler just can’t fail when it comes to comedy, at least where the box office is concerned. Even if critics weren’t impressed by Click, audiences still turned out, handing it $135.9 million over the summer. It’s $40 million dollar, number one opening weekend wasn’t too surprising since it’s only competition was an obscure crime thriller and a two week old Cars. I just wish that Sandler charm had worked so well with the amazing Spanglish (it only earned $42 million against an $80 million budget). Put him in a fantastic romantic drama and it loses money. Give him a schticky remote control and the masses go wild. Go figure.
JT: Spanglish got exactly what it deserved. Combine English and Spanish into one word will you? Ha! We showed you Hollywood. This is America and we speak American. As for Click, $135 million is about spot on for a Sandler movie. Last year The Longest Yard made $158 million for him. The year before that 50 First Dates made $120 million. Split the difference and you have Click. He's a guaranteed, predictable performer. Doesn't matter what you stick him in, as long as it's a comedy you can't lose with Adam.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
SG: After the financially lukewarm Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming Will Ferrell needed to headline something with some money-making spark. Falling back on the comedy stylings of his Ron Burgundy flick, he moved back into first position with Talladega Nights. So far it’s brought in $127.8 million and is still going strong. At this rate it will easily pass Mission:Impossible III and Click, making Ferrell a bigger American box office draw for the summer of 2006 than Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler.
JT: Hold on a minute. I wouldn't call it falling back on anything. Rather, Talladega represents the kind of movie Will Ferrell really wants to do, while those others were just paychecks. Like Anchorman he co-wrote this one. This is the real Will Ferrell. Those other movies were just him buying a new mansion. As long as he does an Anchorman or a Talladega ever two years, I think we can forgive him an occasional Kicking & Screaming. As payback Will, maybe you can let us all use your new pool or something. If you can swing it, I'd love a waterslide.
The Devil Wears Prada
SG: At the beginning of the year it looked like Superman Returns was going to be the big movie of the summer, making Fox’s choice to open The Devil Wears Prada on the same weekend look a little foolish. With its $27.5 million opening, it went on to slowly creep up on the Man of Steel in the weekend charts. Week for week it has actually outperformed the Man of Steel in the last 5-6 weeks, bringing in $120.6 million domestically. What really makes the movie a winner is that it’s the only film this summer to make more than $100 million with a budget under $50 million.
JT: Come on, you didn't really think Superman Returns was going to be the biggest movie of the summer did you? Best movie maybe, but everyone knew Pirates was always going to come out on top of the box office. Anyone who expected it to do better than Batman Begins did last year was off their rocker. Fox, like everyone else, probably had a more realistic idea of what Superman would do than that. Like everyone opening a movie this summer, the only thing that really mattered was getting your movie out before Pirates 3 arrived and smashed every available box office record. They did that, and it worked out as expected. Now that Prada's a success, maybe Anne Hathaway can stop dropping her top for cash. Dammit, now I regret buying a ticket.
SG: Jennifer Aniston’s recent personal break up with her husband Brad Pitt may have played some role in the movie’s success, but no matter what the reason, audiences ignored the negative reports from critics and handed The Break Up $39.2 million its first weekend out. That’s impressive for a romance/dramedy, even if it was the only new release that week. At $118.6 million it’s the lowest of eleven summer movies to hit triple million digits and one of only a handful to do it for less than $100 million.
JT: I'm actually surprised to see it did that well. It wasn't well received and it vanished pretty quickly after that so-so opening. With Anniston and Vaughn I think it should have done a lot better, but audiences and critics seemed to go into it expecting it to be something it was not. It's not a happy movie. It's not even really a romantic comedy. It's a downbeat relationship drama that has a few good gags mixed into it to lighten the mood. Looked at in that light, I think it's great. It deserved to turn a profit and the star power involved was enough to do it. Now marry her already Vince, before you balloon up to the size of a beluga whale and she won't have you. You're already half way there.
An Inconvenient Truth
SG: Inventing the internet wasn’t enough for Al Gore. No, he had to go and turn his crusade against global warming into one of only four documentaries to make more than $20 million. By traditional box office standards that’s pittance, but in the realm of documentaries it gives the movie god-like status.
JT: Why are all financially successful documentaries made by people who hate George Bush? Or is it just that so many people hate Bush that it's hard to find anyone who likes him? Come on, I bet even those Penguin guys hate him. Maybe Bill O'Reilly should make a documentary. O'Reilly Saves Christmas!
Little Miss Sunshine
SG: As the only “indy” film to start out in small release and successfully expand to a wide release, Little Miss Sunshine gets special recognition. So far it’s earned $22.9 million and clawed its way up to number three on the weekend top ten.
JT: I think it's "indie" Scott. "Indy" would be a film about a certain Doctor Jones… and we all know that's never going to happen. Little Miss Sunshine is going to keep making money. Their release pattern is slower than syrup, but it'll keep doing well for weeks to come.
SG: It’s a rare enough achievement for a movie to make back its budget in a single weekend, but to make back double is pretty amazing. Of course, it helps when you only spend $5 million and you're making a sequel to a cult classic. Kevin Smith pulled it off with Clerks II, banking $10.0 million opening weekend. Now that’s what I call passion of the clerks.
JT: A disturbing number of people went to see this just because they heard there was a donkey show. I hope that doesn't include you my box office loving friend.
Snakes on a Plane
SG: It’s the kind of movie that is best enjoyed in a theater full of people screaming, yelling and cheering. Unfortunately for the film, those people all showed up for Thursday night previews, went home and never looked back. While not as dramatic as it sounds, the movie dropped from a narrowly won number one spot on its opening weekend to number nine the next. At $26.3 million so far, it’s too soon to tell if the movie will be able to turn much profit againts its $33 million production budget and hefty marketing costs.
JT: They're lucky Sam Jackson worked cheap. I know you don't want to hear it Scott, but I still believe that scare about punk kids releasing live snakes in Snakes on a Plane theaters had something to do with killing it's second week totals. I was able to conquer my snake-a-phobia long enough to see it before the scare, but the thought of real snakes slithering around on the floor in the dark while I watched it would have been enough to keep me away from seeing it in week two, real or not. I'm not the only one who hates those snakey bastards. Enough is enough with Snakes on Plane.
SG: There are many more things wrong with Barnyard besides its limp humor and disturbing ignorance of bovine anatomy. For those reasons and others audiences failed to be impressed with the CG film and it came in fourth out of five summer animated movies. With a $51 million budget it's also the second least expensive, but that’s no comfort when it has only made $54.9 million. Paramount and Nickelodeon won’t lose the farm, but they’re not seeing any bumper profits either.
JT: That this is a toss up instead of a winner gives me hope for the future. Usually, anything rendered on a computer is a slam dunk winner. Are audiences finally waking up to the fact that just because something is computer generated doesn't mean it won't suck? That would be nice. I could do without more snowboarding grannies and transvestite cattle, thanks.
World Trade Center
SG: “It’s too soon!” “It’s gratuitous dramatization of real tragedy!” “It’s profiting from the suffering of others!” Opponents and trauma-weary movie goers had all sorts of battle cries against Oliver Stone’s 9/11 movie. No one was expecting it to be a box office smash, especially when United 93 had an opening weekend of only $11.5 million. World Trade Center did a little better, earning $18.7 million it’s first weekend out. Stone and Paramount donated $2.6 million of that total to charities benefiting the families 9/11 victims, but that had to be painful since the movie is still $10 million shy of recovering its $65 million budget. No doubt in time it will break even, especially once DVD sales kick in. That’s how it should be. If a movie is going to make $600 million on real life tragedy like Titanic did, it should happen after most of the people old enough to remember it are gone, not five years later.
JT: Funny thing about United 93… it may have opened at only $11 million; but it was cheap, well-reviewed, and hung around long enough to make a nice profit, much of which it also donated to charity. I think when all the cards are counted United 93 is going come out not only as the better movie but as the only 9/11 box office winner. At least that is, until Charlie Sheen makes his movie. Then stand back and watch as all the conspiracy theorist wackos crawl out of the woodwork. Controversy sells tickets, and for once Oliver Stone made a movie without any. Whoops goes Paramount. They did a lot of that this summer.
SG: For years I’ve bemoaned the fact that movies starring Marlon and Shawn Wayans have been so successful at the box office. It’s like they say, don’t encourage someone’s dumb jokes because they’ll just keep telling them. Likewise, if you keep giving the Wayans’ awful films money, they’re going to keep making them. Finally, one of their movies is struggling to turn a profit. Little Man has done too well to be called a box office loser, its $58.3 million domestic sales is barely touching the movie’s $64 million budget. I probably have the cost of special effects to thank. It couldn’t have been cheap putting Marlon’s mug on that little body.
JT: Sorry, I take no solace in this. $58.3 million is still too much money for a movie about a midget pretending to be a baby. It's already made $8 million internationally, and when all the idiots who eat this crap for breakfast buy it on DVD to further advertise their stupidity Little Man is going to turn out to be another Wayans brothers cash cow. It'll be plenty profitable enough to keep them making garbage for years to come. There's only one way to stop this. Control the Wayans fan population. Have your neighbors spayed or neutered.
Mission: Impossible III
SG: When it came to American audiences, the third installation in the dramatic life of Ethan Hunt fell short in the shadow of its predecessors. The first film made $180 million and the second topped that with $215 million. MI:III only brought in $133.5 million, a poor showing and a little too short of the $150 million budget. Toss in the whopping $259.7 million it’s earning overseas and things look a little better. Keep in mind though that the studio’s deal with Cruise has a lot of the money going straight to his pocket, a shame since one could also blame backlash against Cruise’s bizarre antics and Scientology lectures for the movie’s underperformance. They say they’re barely going to turn a profit. I say it’s a toss up.
JT: Tom Cruise and Paramount are going to have nearly $230 million in excess profit to spread around between them. What makes this a loser? That's what I don't get about the whole Paramount/Cruise split. What were they worried about? They've weathered the worst of his public antics, and the man is still laying golden eggs. $230 million in profit is a lot of money. Though I'm all for America fuck yeah, the truth is that international money is just as good as domestic cash. Euros convert quite nicely into dollars you can use to buy bulk diapers, cult-worship accoutrements, and gigantic jars of peanut butter at Costco. What's the problem? Where's the tossup? Everyone's a winner, even audiences since MI:III turned out to be pretty good. For $230 million I'd be perfectly willing to become a Scientologist. Hear that Tom? You've got a new convert, just write me a check. Yes, I will accept Costco credit.
SG: It’s the box office debacle of the summer. Who knows for sure how much Warner Brothers actually sank into Bryan Singer’s film version of a Superman love letter, but the most official estimates say anything from $250 million to $270 million with marketing expenses on top of that. Such high numbers put a damper on the otherwise impressive $195.4 million it made domestic. Tack on the $166 million from foreign sales and things look a little better, but when the numbers are run it still leaves Warner Brothers with rather small profit margin. No matter how much was really spent, it was easily the most expensive movie of the summer. Only fellow sequels Pirates 2 and X-Men 3 came close with $225 million and $210 million respectively.
JT: Hey, profit is profit, and Superman Returns made one. When everyone involved is putting money in their pockets, it's kind of hard to call it a debacle. The only thing Superman Returns failed to do was live up to an unreasonable set of expectations. A reasonable assumption would have been that it would do as well as Batman Begins, and Returns only narrowly missed out on doing that domestically, while it equaled Begins totals internationally. Germans love Superman! The good news for Warner Brothers is that if they make a sequel, Singer will be able to do it much cheaper. Making Superman Returns look so good involved creating a lot of new technology, technology that once created they can now reuse rather inexpensively for follow up movies. I think you may be suffering from a bad case of cape envy Gwin. Or is it those kickin red boots you fancy? Be nice and I'll loan you mine for the weekend.
SG: If you’re going to resurrect the concept for a television show and spend $135 million doing it, you’d better make darn sure there’s something more to it than a few action sequences and pretty people driving around in fast cars and boats. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx’ combined star power was only enough to draw in a $61.9 million, leaving Miami Vice painfully in the red. Somehow I suspect that the movie might have done better if they’d brought back Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia.
JT: Theme music! They needed the "Miami Vice" theme music! That alone would have earned them another $10 million. A thousand curses on Michael Mann for using Linkin Park. Here's a thought to keep you up at night: Marlon and Sean Wayans' movie made as much as one starring an Oscar winner. So, does that mean they deserve an Oscar? I think so. Hand it over for Little Man.
SG: The ship rolled over and sank. That’s pretty much what the movie’s sales did as well, opening with a paltry $22.2 million opening weekend and finishing off at around $61.9 million. Foreign sales through it a life saver, adding $120 million of box office ballast, and putting the movie back on course to turn a profit. Is there a nation somewhere that loves Kurt Russell the way Germany loves the Hoff? Still, with a hefty $160 million budget and an all star cast, failing to recover even half in domestic sales is just plain embarrassing.
JT: Germany loves David Hasselhoff and Superman, Germany does not love the sea… unless of course it has Pirates in it. I blame the French for this international surge of Poseidon support. There's nothing they'd love more than to see Americans drowning in their own excess. Poseidon excesses to death a whole shipload of em. Poseidon gorged itself on a midnight buffet and then tried to swim. The result? Epic box office cramps.
Lady in the Water
SG: I loved this movie. Apparently I represent only one in about two hundred people. M. Night Shyamalan films have usually done fairly well at the box office, but when you mix in Lady In The Water’s flip-flopping marketing, pounding at the hands of critics and the bad taste left in audience’s mouths from The Village, and you end up with a film that sinks instead of swims. The movie only earned $41.7 million against its $70 million budget. No doubt the folks at Disney Buena Vista are taunting “I told you so.” Up until now they’ve backed every one of Shyamalan’s movies since he exploded on the movie scene with The Sixth Sense. Refusing to bank roll Lady is only the latest in a long line of smart decisions they’ve made this year.
JT: Disney does seem to have figured things out since they blew it and passed on The Passion. Good riddance Eisner, and good riddance Shyamalan. I could dismiss The Village as an aberration, but this confirms it: The man has gone completely mad. Cut it out dude, you're making it really tough for Unbreakable to maintain its position on my all-time greatness list. Even Stuart Little's meager reputation is being tarnished simply by association, and Michael J. Fox needs Stuart Little DVD money to cure what ails him. That's right, Shyamalan isn't just responsible for a massive, stinking flop; he's also responsible for Parkinson's.
The Ant Bully
SG: There always has to be a biggest loser, and among the animated films of the summer The Ant Bully got squashed, kicked, and fried with a magnifying glass. With a $50 million budget it was the cheapest CG film of the season, but even with an all star voice cast it could only gather up $25.7 million.
JT: CGI ant movies are developing quite a reputation for box office failure. At least Antz could console itself with critical success, yet even there Ant Bully was a failure. Another welcome signal that the novelty of CGI has worn off and bad computer animation is no longer welcome. Let's leave it to Pixar from now on. Squash an ant on your way out of the restaurant Scott. They can't do anything about it.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
SG: Not even a super powered Uma Thurman could get people into the theater to see this one. Despite being comedically refreshing in decade where super hero movies have sometimes taken themselves a little too seriously, no one seemed interested in watching Luke Wilson hash it out with an emotionally unstable woman with the ability to throw live sharks into his bed. No budget information was released, but you can bet it cost more than $22.0 million it made at the box office.
JT: My Super-Ex Girlfriend was simply a case of bad timing. It was two decades too late. As an 80s movie this would have been a massive hit. Unfortunately it's not the 80s and someone really ought to let Ivan Reitman know it. There's no defending him anymore, this one's a super-sized belly-flop.
SG: Kurt Russell made a very similar movie last year which fared pretty well. The fact that the previews made this movie look like a total rip off of that one probably didn’t help things for Zoom. Sure, it’s only been out for a few weeks, but if you can only scrounge up $10.8 million in your first two weeks, you know your movie is a miserable flop. Tim Allen has been on a long streak of underperforming family films but few have done so poorly that they only make $4.5 million on their opening weekend. People like to watch Tim Allen, they just don’t like to watch him doing something somebody else did better the year before.
JT: I lost whatever shred of respect I had left for Tim Allen when he tried to compare this piece of crap to Galaxy Quest. Sorry Tim, nobody's buying that and nobody's buying a ticket. You're right Scott, people like to watch Tim Allen. So why is it so hard for him to find a decent script? He's not the problem, his material is. We can only conclude he simply doesn't care, and as long as he's got enough cash to stock his ten-car garage with power tools he's satisfied. Well, if he keeps this up he can forget about big paychecks right along with his self-respect.
A Scanner Darkly
SG: While the quirky, highly stylized movie did fantastic in limited release, the wider it expanded the more interest waned. With only $5.3 million dollars in gross sales this one is deep, deep in the red. A big time cast that includes Keanu Reeves, Winona Rider and Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t enough to draw in the audiences. The fact that the studio released the first 20 minutes of the movie for free online as the ultimate, unadulterated teaser didn’t do it either. There aren’t any budget numbers out there to say how bad this one lost out, but I don’t need to know that to declare this the biggest box office loser of the summer.
JT: I'm not so sure it cost that much Scott. What've you got against two-dimensional Keanu? Yes, Scanner Darkly had big name stars, but this is basically a low-budget indie movie and there's a good chance they might have done it for nothing as a favor to Linklater. I doubt Warner Independent is really all that far in the red. No one expected this to be a blockbuster, though $5 million might be a little lower number than they'd hoped to hit. Admittedly, the Philip K. Dickbot wasn't exactly the best way to advertise it. Still, Zoom is a better choice as the summer's most massive failure.
NOTE: Numbers represent end of summer totals as of August 25, 2006.