July 30, 2011

THE BIJOU: Boxofffice Smurfnotes – 7/29/11


There’s no way to slice or dice the numbers for COWBOYS AND ALIENS and make them any less sad.  The picture cost at least $165M (that’s the amount Universal will admit to), plus another $150M or so for worldwide marketing, and as Mitch Metcalf notes, it’s now on track to gross less than $100M in the US.  Oh, and traditionally, westerns are among the toughest sells overseas.  

So the movie is a loser, badly marketed and not all that entertaining (my review is here).  What does that mean for the people involved?  Not as much as you’d think:  over the next couple of years, Daniel Craig will have James Bond and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchises to keep him warm; Harrison Ford retains his screen legend status (although as with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, it’s now more of an Emeritus title); Olivia Wilde isn’t closely enough identified with the movie for it to do her any damage; director Jon Favreau may want to make nice to Marvel and return to Iron Man for the next installment; producer Steven Spielberg is still Steven Spielberg (although his 2 holiday-season movies may now be scrutinized more closely).  Ron Howard’s dream of directing the massive Dark Tower series may have taken a further hit (who would want to hand him hundreds of millions for another fantasy western?), but DreamWorks bears the brunt of the financial impact, covering 50% of the budget, and they’ll need The Help, Real Steel and War Horse to perform in the next few months.
Cowboys’ humiliation, of course, is made infinitely worse by the unexpected power of THE SMURFS at the boxoffice.  With Smurfs in the lead on Friday, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where it doesn’t win the weekend (or to be more cynical, hard to imagine such a scenario that would survive the release of Actuals on Monday).  The movie certainly didn’t make its money off good reviews (or, probably, off the star value of Neil Patrick Harris)–that goofy brand just turned out to have some punch in it even after all these years.  And international markets love 3D family movies even more than the US does, so Smurfs should do very well abroad.  Other than Sony, the happiest studio of the weekend:  Disney, which has its Muppets revamp opening for Thanksgiving.  (Most nervous studio:  Paramount, which currently has Martin Scorsese’s 3D family movie Hugo opening on the same day.)
CRAZY STUPID LOVE opened just slightly below Friends With Benefits’ Friday last week, and with its appeal to an older audience (and higher quality–my rave is here) has a chance to do better than Friends’ 3% decline last Saturday.  Although there’s another comedy opening on Friday, The Change-Up will be going after a younger, more male crowd, so Crazy should be able to linger in theatres.
CAPTAIN AMERICA didn’t benefit from the collapse of Cowboys, and its 61% drop dwarfs the 48% that Thor fell on its 2d weekend.  (However, with kids out of school in July, the Captain midweek numbers have been better than Thor‘s.)  As we’ve noted before, the real verdict on Captain won’t be known until it reaches wide international release.
By the end of the weekend, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (PART 2) may hit 2 historic milestones:  in the US, it should become the most successful of the Potter franchise, beating Sorcerer’s Stone‘s $317M take; and worldwide, it should be the only film in the series to reach the magic $1B mark (and only the 9th in film history).  The 2 remaining boxoffice questions for the film:  can it beat Transformers 3 in the US for #1 movie of the summer?  (It has a good chance, because the tiring Transformers will start to shed theatres quickly in the next few weeks.)  And can it beat the last Lord of the Rings’ $1.12B to become the #3 film worldwide of all time–and the highest not directed by James Cameron?  (Again, if international numbers hold up, the odds are with it.)
Along with the limited release numbers Mitch Metcalf reported earlier, it’s worth noting that Miranda July’s somewhat esoteric THE FUTURE is riding some great reviews for an impressive $30K in one NY theatre, while the extremely entertaining French film POINT BLANK will probably make an underwhelming $5K in each of 6.  SARAH’S KEY expanded to 37 theatres and should hit a not bad $9K in each, but ANOTHER EARTH faltered with its expansion to 20 theatres, with only about $5500 in each.  Worst of the expanders was SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, which added 50% more theatres but still fell for the weekend, with its per-theatre down to around $2K.
Next weekend is, in a sense, the last big studio weekend of the summer, with the final mega-movie in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.  After that, August will be filled out by 3D epics like the new CONAN (and not about the talk-show host, which might have been more fun), a FRIGHT NIGHT remake, a SPY KIDS sequel/reboot, a GLEE concert picture, and FINAL DESTINATION 5.  So bad news if you don’t like wearing those plastic glasses.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."