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I arrived early, to inform our waitress that it was Scott’s birthday, and then sat back sucking on Heineken while I waited for Gwin to show up with his box office laden brain. By the time he did, I was two Heinekens in and the waitresses were engaged in a wet t-shirt contest, leaving Scott unmolested by orange-spandexed bimbos as he strode through the door carrying his three-ring binder and smelling of Old Spice.
As Scott sat down his well-developed forearm bulged underneath his button-down shirt, and it was then that I realized it may have actually been four Heinekens and not two; and that I was either in a gay porn video or was experiencing an opening salvo of delusion which would almost certainly result in me becoming viciously drunk. Summer 2007 had been a rough one. Unfortunately Gwin wasn’t waiting around for his boss to discover stability, sanity, and sobriety. He ordered the hot wings, opened his binder, and started clubbing me over the head with his boundless summer box office knowledge.
SG: The third time around for the web-slinger marked his most expensive visit to the screen so far. With a painfully large budget of $258 million (second only this summer to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which came at a pirate’s ransom of $300 million) Spidey had a big hurdle to overcome. Not that he had anything to worry about. Not only did he land the biggest official opening weekend of the summer with $151 million, he also took top honors in American box office receipts with over $330 million. Tack on what the rest of the world shelled out and he was the second biggest international hit with $890 million.
JT: What Spidey couldn’t overcome was the multiple villain curse. It brought down Batman and ok, while it didn’t exactly kill Spidey, over-saturating the movie with bad guys resulted in the worst Spider-Man movie so far. Of course even the worst Spidey movie is still better than just about anything anyone else is doing, which is probably why the movie made money web over fist. What I wonder though, is whether the mild-disappointment some felt in it will mean smaller box office totals for a fourth movie, if it ever happens? With Raimi and Maguire waffling over whether or not they want to do it, it will probably be awhile before we have to worry about it. Enjoy your money while you can Spidey.
Shrek the Third
SG: There were a dozen sequels out this summer. That’s nearly a sequel a week. Most of them weren’t up to snuff, Shrek the Third included, but that didn’t keep audiences away. The big green ogre held the second largest official weekend opening with $121 million and managed the second largest overall sales in the U.S. with a grand total of $321 million. Roll in the international cash and the film took in $736 million total, an amount that should keep even more Shrek films rolling out no matter how much crappier they get.
JT: Not up to snuff is kind of an understatement. I’ve never been one of those snobs who pooh pooh’s the Shrek movies for their obvious pop-culture references and tendency towards fart jokes. I loved the first two movies and wanted to like the third one, but there’s just no loving it. It’s such an awful film, in fact it may be the worst film ever to make more than $300 million. Why are people watching this shit? Is it because Shrek’s obesity makes them feel better about being fat? That has to be it. It’s kind of like Bill Clinton’s popularity. He was an over-eating womanizer, and everyone could identify with him. We’re a nation of fatasses so we support other fatasses, no matter how much they suck. Forget hunting down Osama, George Bush should try eating a few cheeseburgers.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
SG: I’ll come right out and say it: this movie was terrible. I hated it. To add insult to injury, the movie earned almost a billion dollars world-wide, the biggest booty of the summer (and probably the year). Of course, it didn’t come cheap. Disney blew $300 million to get the thing made and at the U.S. box office it earned only $307 million, just enough to cover the cost. Thanks to the rest of the world Disney still got to laugh their way to the bank. No doubt they’ll use some of it to make even more ridiculous changes to the classic amusement park ride that started it all. Whatever’s left over will go into making another two or three awful Pirates movies.
JT: It’s kind of amazing that it only made only $307 million. Granted, it’s an awful movie (one I dislike more with every passing day), but it made nearly $130 million just in its first week and people seemed to be obsessed with it in a way that’s normally reserved only for American Idol and Girls Gone Wild. I consider us lucky that people stopped seeing the damn thing when they did. Those were the worst pirates I’ve ever seen, but why bother with quality when you can just throw a bunch of CGI at people and end up making money.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
SG: Much like all the other major franchises out there churning out film after film, Harry Potter can do no wrong at the box office. Fans have been divided on whether Order of the Phoenix is a great or miserable example of an adaptation of the book, but either way they still paid good money to see the movie and it showed in the numbers. Harry conjured up $275 million from American audiences and $873 million total world-wide. If the kid stars of the series are smart they’ll have negotiated a profit share into their contracts by now.
JT: Speaking as a non-fan… it’s a miserable adaptation. Except for Cuaron’s film, these movies get way too much credit. They make way too much money too, but then what else can you expect from a franchise with a built-in audience this massive. These aren’t Browncoats we’re talking about here, Harry Potter fans number in the billions. They really don’t even have to try with these movies at this point. If Warner Brothers was smart, they’d just re-purpose old public domain films and slap the Harry Potter name on them. They’d make the same amount of profit. I can’t wait to see the next one: Harry Potter and the Reefer Madness.
SG: Michael Bay needed a break and he finally caught one. His last film, The Island was arguably one of the bigger box office losers for summer 2005, earning only $35 million in American theaters against a $126 million budget. Foreign sales saved his bacon, but he had even bigger heroes this summer. Those robots in disguise hauled in over $300 million dollars in the U.S. and $661 million world-wide. There was also some kind of silly excitement about the movie breaking the record for biggest Tuesday opening ever. Who cares. The solid comparisons for short range financial performance are sales for the first weekend and Transformers’ early opening left it with a $70 million weekend, not bad but nothing exciting for such a summer blockbuster.
JT: The movie’s opening weekend would have been exciting if not for that silly Tuesday opening. By the time the film’s opening weekend rolled around, their prime audience had already seen it. Who opens a movie on Tuesday? What were they thinking? That bizarre decision robbed Transformers of breaking records that actually matter. Not that anyone at Paramount cares, they’ll be able to console themselves with that $661 million. It’s interesting that Transformers made the same domestically as Pirates, while Pirates did better overseas. Everyone loves talking about how stupid Americans are, but it seems the rest of the world is just a little bit stupider when it comes to crappy sequels with effeminate pirates in them.
SG: It didn’t even break $200 million but Knocked Up gets a special award for making back its budget nearly five times over. The $30 million it cost to make the film was earned back in the first three days it was in theaters. It went on to make almost $150 million in the U.S. alone. See, Seth Rogen has tapped into the sad fact that Americans will shell out to the wazoo for a movie about people desperate to have sex so long as the comedy is infantile enough. If you don’t believe me, take a look at his recent fall release Superbad.
JT: Give me a break Gwin! The secret to Knocked Up isn’t infantile humor and it couldn’t possibly have less to do with people desperate to have sex. I think you’ve confused Judd Apatow with the Farrelly brothers. I’ll give you Superbad, but there’s nothing sex-crazed about Seth Rogen’s first starring role. Admit it Scott, you haven’t seen it. Get moving man, it’s still in theaters! Take your wife, she’ll love you for it; women seem have this inexplicable attraction to Rogen’s belly fat. I don’t get it, but as a guy with a gut I support it. His movie is a brilliant, incredibly mature, insightful comedy and it’s a relief to see that every once in awhile people do show up to see great movies. Knocked Up is a really great movie and Judd Apatow’s crew deserves every penny they make off of it.
SG: The movie didn't look like much of a hit, except perhaps with thriller enthusiasts and die hard John Cusack fans. But, when your budget is only $25 million you don't have to do much to turn a proft. In fact, the movie became something of a surprise hit, earning over $70 million and making back nearly three times its cost. Now if only Cusack could star in a romantic comedy that did that well.
JT: 1408’s success is easily explained: Good trailers. Their marketing budget wasn’t huge, but they made the most of what they had. The movie looked like smarter, edgier horror than it actually was and people showed up hoping for a break from all the toture-porn crap. And before you torture-porn fans start whining about people who use that terminology to describe your gore-humping, please consider the alternatives. We could start calling you “wound-fuckers”. If it makes you feel any better, I promise not to use the term later when we talk about the mediocre performance of Hostel II. Remind of that when we get to Eli Roth, Scott.
The Simpsons Movie
SG: Traditionally you can count on a Pixar movie to be the top dog in the animation category, but this year it fell part way into the shadows of another. And Homer Simpson casts a pretty big shadow. The Simpsons Movie outgunned Pixar's summer entry Ratatouille in two categories: opening weekend and world wide sales. Homer and company drew in $74 million on their opening weekend, almost winning back their $75 million budget (half the price tag of Ratatouille). Additionally, they've made around $450 million internationally compared to Ratatouille's $350 million. Only in American sales do the Simpsons take second place to the rat, but not by much. Ratatouille is closing in on the $200 million mark, a goal The Simpsons Movie probably won't quite reach.
JT: Wait, what? The Simpsons is animated? Doesn’t look like CGI to me.
Live Free or Die Hard
SG: John McClane, like Jackie Chan, is probably getting a little too old for this kind of stuff. But darned if it isn't fun watching Bruce Willis running around kicking butt, taking names and saving the country, even if the "patriotic" message is a little smarmy. Still, Live Free or Die Hard took it to the bank, overcoming a hefty $110 million budget to make nearly $350 million world wide. It's also made more money than any other past Die Hard film. Of course, the last one was made over a decade a go so there's always the inflation option to consider, but the box office numbers are still stacked in McClane's favor. Does it spell sequel? Sure, if you don't mind Die Hard in the Nursing Home for your next title.
JT: Scott he’s too old for this shit, not too old for this stuff. Don’t tell me Fox has watered you down to appeal to idiot teenagers too! Luckily, the film took its not at all hard PG-13 rating right to the edge and managed to be seriously kickass, even if they did truncate John McClane’s trademark catchphrase in order to please soccer moms. As for Die Hard in a Nursing Home, I’m all for it. John McClane may be the only action hero who only gets better with age. The older he gets the crankier he gets, and the crankier he gets the better his movies get. We just heard a few weeks ago that Bruce Campbell isn’t going to be in Bubba Nosferatu, I’d like to suggest replacing elderly Elvis with a wheelchair riding, 80-year-old version of John McClane.
The Bourne Ultimatum
SG: The third film in the Bourne trilogy proved not only to be the most expensive, but also the best reviewed and most financially successful. The $110 million budget was recovered quickly and the movie's domestic box office sales are near $200 million and climbing. There were originally only three Bourne novels but, of course, additional books were licensed and written by different authors and went on to make more money. With this kind of cash flowing you can expect the same from the movie industry. The Bourne Paycheck anyone?
JT: The Bourne Ultimatum was the best movie of the summer, bar none, and great word of mouth has kept it making big money at the box office week after week. With several weeks of post-summer hangover garbage now hitting theaters, Bourne has a pretty good chance to keep right on making more. If there is another sequel, I’ll be there buying a ticket; if there isn’t, then the third one is a pretty great ending for the character. Matt Damon is definitely no Streisand. Get it? Oh come on Gwin, don’t tell me you missed The 40 Year-Old Virgin too! Give in! Bow down to Apatow dude.
SG: Pixar may have played second fiddle to The Simpson's Movie in the animation department this summer, but not by much. The fine work of Pixar cost a whopping $150 million (that's $30 million more than their last entry, Cars) but the movie has made that back and more, earning around $200 million in the US and $350 million when you add in the rest of the world. The bad news here is that Pixar is steadily slipping in the cash department. While the movies are getting more expensive to make their sales are dropping. The $120 million Cars took in over $450 million worldwide last year, and two years before that The Incredibles banked over $630 million internationally against a $92 million budget. Has the financial golden age of Pixar come and gone? It looks like it just might be the case. Their next release, Wall-E, due out next summer, has a lot of catching up to do.
JT: You’d think an animated movie about a rat would be an easy sell. I mean, all the great, classic cartoon characters are rodents of some sort. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Speedy Gonzalez, Jerry of Tom and Jerry, Pinky and the Brain, that rat who gets replaced by a boxing kangaroo (did he have a name?), Fivel, The Rescuers, Itchy of Itchy and Scratchy… whoops that’s The Simpsons. Anyway the film made a nice profit, but you’d think it would be an easier sell than a movie about talking cars which look like they fell off the back of a Fisher Price truck. Kids love cartoon rats, and more importantly in America kids love food. Have you looked at how big the husky section at Sears has gotten? When I used to shop there as a pre-teen it was hidden back behind the Sears photo studio and I had one brown suit and two pairs of Jams to choose from. Today selling fat kids clothes is big business and everybody’s little Johnny is a big tub of lard. Putting household pests and high-calorie eating together in the same movie should have resulted in the year’s biggest box office hit. I’m glad it did well, but I’m shocked that it didn’t manage to at least outdo Cars.
SG: After the financial toss up Water World and box office disaster The Postman, Kevin Costner has leaned towards smaller projects. Mr. Brooks reportedly cost a simple $20 million which made the odds of it being a solid money earner good. That seemed even more likely after it hauled in $10 million on its opening weekend. However, the cash flow fizzled quickly and the movie’s take topped out at $28 million. When you consider that marketing for the movie was pretty hefty, there’s a good chance that Mr. Brooks did little better than break even. Maybe the movie would have done better if Costner didn’t insist on always showing his naked rear-end.
JT: The thing about Costner’s posterior is that it’s not even a good one. Now sometimes that’s an asset. Will Ferrell has an ugly ass, and it works for him as a comedic prop. I rejoice every time Ferrell shows off his butt. But if Costner wants us to take his ass seriously, then he should consider some sort of implant. Not that this would have helped Mr. Brooks. I considered seeing it for William Hurt, but the whole thing just looks so boring. Maybe they spent a lot of money on marketing, I’ll take your word for it, but it wasn’t very good marketing. They made the movie look like a good place to go to take a two hour nap.
Hostel Part II
SG: Stupid, pointless, unentertaining horror movies are cheap. I guess you can get good prices on fake blood when you buy bulk. But, it seems audiences may be getting more than a little tired of all the mindless gore. The original Hostel only cost $5 million to make but it hauled in nearly $50 million. This ridiculous sequel cost twice as much and only made $17 million stateside. Did it turn a profit? Sure, but it was a minor one at best. Hopefully its lukewarm reception will help ward off a Hostel Part Tres.
JT: Who needs Hostel anyway when the Saw movies are still huge. You’re right though, the genre which I’m not allowed to name does seem to have run its course. Saw may keep going, but if it does it’s more because it’s become a Halloween tradition than because anyone is really all that into it anymore. Causing bodily harm to beautiful women for fun and sport is on its way out, these days it’s all about giant transforming robots. Robo-transformo-porn? Somehow I doubt that label is going to catch on.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
SG: Adam Sandler used to mean box office gold, but that was before he started earning a hefty paycheck and making sleepy movies. I don’t know how much Sandler and his buddy Kevin James were paid to pretend to be two straight guys pretending to be two gay guys, but I suspect it’s a hefty part of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’s rather large $85 million budget. The movie only earned back $116 million making its financial success a little uncertain. It’s certainly nothing to warrant having any kind of a pride parade to celebrate.
JT: Scott, come on, $31 million is a pretty nice bit of profit. What’s more, they made almost all of it domestically. The film hasn’t gotten much of a release overseas yet, and won’t till Septemer. By the time it’s all said and done, Chuck and Larry’s gay for pay bit is going to earn Sandler and his friends a ridiculous amount of money. Ok it’s not Michael Bay money, but then Kevin James doesn’t transform into a Camaro, just a a fake homosexual. Lower your expectations a little dude. Besides, the movie sucked. It wasn’t an awful kind of suck, but there was some sucking. At least it wasn’t offensive to middle America. At no point in the movie is there actually any gay activity. Just a lot of talk about it. That makes it socially acceptable to the folks in Mississippi. It’s like the cuddly, plush version of gay culture. Sadly, it’ll probably do more for gay acceptance than Brokeback Mountain ever could, since it presents gay people as sweet, funny, childlike guys who it’s great to go shopping with. They’re kind of like cherubs or overgrown cupids. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with someone like that… as long as he isn’t wearing a diaper.
Rush Hour 3
SG: Let’s face it: Jackie Chan is old and Chris Tucker just isn’t all that funny. The only thing older and less funny is the Rush Hour franchise. The past two films were moderately successful at the box office but third time was definitely not the charm. An outrageous $140 million budget was probably too much to spend on a failing sequel series. So far, world-wide, the film has only earned back $120 million. It may sneak closer to the break-even mark in the next few weeks, but that’s the best it can hope for. The best we can hope for is a studio that realizes it’s time for Lee and Carter to hang up the badges.
JT: I don’t think you have to worry about there being another Rush Hour. Most of that $140 million price tag was spent paying to get Chris Tucker out of the basement beanbag where he’s been living since the last one. There’s no way they’d get him to do another, even if someone was stupid enough to want to make one. If there is another one, it’ll have to involve Jackie Chan’s character being confined to an iron lung, because if there’s ever been an action star with nothing left in the tank it’s him. He can’t speak the language, he can’t do kung fu, stick him in an iron lung so he can’t do anymore damage.
SG: A major animal cast and a giant ark set apparently don’t come cheap. Evan Almighty was the third most expensive movie of the year with a bill of $175 million. Despite a massive marketing blitz (which probably didn’t come cheap either) and a nervous director Tam Shadyac who was clamoring for even more publicity, the movie couldn’t even break $100 million. Foreign ticket sales helped somewhat, but the grand total was little more than $121 million. Looks like Shadyac was right to be afraid. His project may have saved its hero from being carried away by the blue, but it couldn’t save itself from flowing into the red.
JT: Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear now that Shadyac was just covering his ass. He knew the movie sucked, knew it was never going to make back its budget, and so he started making a bunch of noise about the movie not getting enough marketing so he’d have a built in excuse when the movie flopped. Well I’m not falling for it. Evan Almighty was marketed like crazy. Every form of media was flooded with advertising for Shadyac’s floating turd at least a month in advance. Websites, television, billboards, there were even advertisements for it plastered all over this site. Marketing wasn’t the problem, the movie was the problem. I laughed at it enough to keep from hating it, but I’m clearly in the minority. Most moviegoers did hate it, and after a weak number one debut word of mouth killed it. Blame yourself Tom, not the marketing geeks assigned to peddle your cow patty.
SG: This one hurt…a lot. I loved this movie. It was fun, original, clever and a wonderful break from all the sleepy summer sequels out there. Unfortunately, it rolled out at the very end of the summer and got little to no marketing. The result is a movie that only earned $9 million its opening weekend, a drop in the bucket towards recovering its impressively lean $70 million budget. So far it has only taken in $20 million and is losing steam fast. Studios shouldn’t be punished like this for making great movies while being rewarded with fat checks for effects-bloated drivel like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. We’re sending the wrong message and all it can mean is more crap in theaters.
JT: You’ve apparently been spending too much time with Tom Shadyac. Marketing quantity wasn’t the problem, marketing quality was. The trailers looked awful, the posters looked messy and weird. Nobody knew what Stardust was supposed to be, at best it looked like some sort of incredibly cheap, cheesy, Chronicles of Narnia knockoff. You know what I never saw for it? A trailer touting the film’s glowing reviews. This is one case where the reviewing press could have helped them. The movie’s hard to advertise, so screen it early for the press, let them talk about how good it is, and then promote the hell out of all the good things being said about it. Instead, we got inexplicably strange trailers stuffed with stars as if showing Robert DeNiro’s mug would somehow make a difference to Stardust’s target audience. It didn’t, and the movie flopped big. Every summer there’s at least one great movie which gets mismarketed and lost in the shuffle. This year it’s Stardust, and I hurt with you Gwin.
Who’s Your Caddy
SG: I have no clue how much the budget was for this movie (most studios don’t reveal the cost of projects that flop) but I’m pretty sure it was more than $10 million. I’m thrilled to say that the movie only took in about $2 million on opening weekend and topped off around $7 million. I’m sure the film meant well with its anti-segregation message, but it’s still a stupid plot with an even more stupid driving force: yet another rap star trying to break into showbiz. Unlike Stardust’s financial fate, this movie’s failure at the box office sends the right kind of message to studios: knock off the crap.
JT: I’m a big supporter of racial stereotypes in comedy, but not when they’re as tired and worn out as the ones used to cobble together this premise. Did anyone actually thing this movie would make money? Come on, it’s kind of like stabbing a corpse to put Who’s Your Caddy in the Loser column. This is the sort of movie that gets made expecting to make nothing at the box office They had to know it was going to flop, I’m sure the plan all along was for them to recoup their losses on DVD. Who’s Your Caddy may have been a theatrical failure, but it’s just the sort of movie that’ll sell big in the Wal-Mart bargain bin… where it belongs.
SG: This should have been a direct to DVD computer animation movie packaged in with the dolls it’s named after. Instead it made it all the way to theaters and, thank goodness, it flopped when it got there. Again, the studio didn’t release the budget for the film but topping off around $9 million isn’t a good sign for financial success. I’m more than happy to drop to the movie’s level and put my thumb and finger to my forehead in the shape of an “L” and stick my tongue.
JT: I’m going to steal material from my own review here, because I’m incredibly lazy and a total narcissist. Watching Bratz was like getting raped by MySpace. This property shouldn’t be allowed to exist. The toys are a great way to train your daughter as a hooker and the movie is a great way to make your kids dumber. It’s horrible and whatever credibility Jon Voight might have had left evaporated when he put on a fake nose to appear in this. What’s with the fake nose man? You’re playing a high-school principle (who lives in a mansion), why does that require a fake nose? Even Voight was ashamed to be in it and so he tried to hide behind a prosthetic. Hearing that this movie was the flop it deserved to be is the best news I’ve had all year. Keep your daughter off the pole and keep her away from Bratz, in all of its viciously heinous incarnations.
SG: The biggest loser of the summer isn’t much of a surprise. A movie that exists purely to showcase pointless torture is overestimating how many people are actually out there who enjoy watching that kind of sick, demented crap. With what is officially the lowest take of the summer, Captivity earned a paltry $2.6 million in American theaters. Of course, it probably didn’t cost much to make either, but it’s still the biggest loser.
JT: I promised not to call Hostel II torture-porn, so now I’m making up for it here. Captivity is toture-porn at is worst, and judging from the film’s box office it’s also where Hollywood’s most crap genre finally ends. If you can’t get toture-porn freaks interested in watching Elisha Cuthbert endure 90 minutes of abuse, then there’s no hope for the future of torture flicks. Scuse me a moment while I do a victory dance. Of course it might have helped if Cuthbert had really committed to the role. A little gratuitous nudity would have upped those box office totals. This is toture-porn after all, if you’re going to do it throw respectability out the window. Cuthbert escaped Captivity with her nipples intact but the idiots who funded it are out a lot of cash.
Elated that I’d managed to make it through the entire luncheon without chasing invisible penguins around the table I thanked Scott for showing, shook his hand, and even offered to pay the check. Scott accepted and walked out to his car while I fished around in my pockets for a credit card. It was then I heard singing and without warning found myself surrounded by a somewhat flabby wall of orange spandex. Yes I am Scott Gwin. Yes it is my birthday. Yes, I will have another round on the house. No, that other guy with the spectacular forearm will not be coming back. Now where’s that penguin? It’s too hot in here for a penguin…
Read Summer Box Office 2006: Critics Last Stand here.
Read Summer Box Office 2005: Revenge of the Critics here.
Read Summer Box Office 2004: The Chronicles of Critics here.
Read Summer Box Office 2003: Critics United here.