August 20, 2011

THE BIJOU BOXOFFICE: Footnotes – 8/19/11


THE HELP will be the year’s first “serious” movie to gross over $100M.  September is traditionally one of the softest months on the movie release calendar, and 2011 is no exception:  although there are a few promising arrivals like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and the film adaptation of  Moneyball, the major openings (they hope) include vehicles for Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Lautner, and not much else.  Propelled by massive word of mouth, The Help could play strongly all through the month.  

Although the new Oscar rules for Best Picture nominations are nearly impenetrable (we don’t even know how many nominees there will be, somewhere between 5-10), The Help is certainly a possible factor.  Much more likely are nominations in acting and the visual categories like Production Design.  Oscar credentials will be very important to the film, because without them, its subject matter will place it in tough sledding overseas; even without international interest, though, the movie’s $25M cost (plus moderate marketing) makes it a hit already.
After that, and aside from the continued strength of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (another movie benefiting from the weak August competition), the news is all bad.  Even though FRIGHT NIGHT and SPY KIDS:  ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD were modestly budgeted, their marketing costs were still at least $25-30M domestically, and they’ll be lucky if their US grosses even exceed those numbers.  Even worse is CONAN THE BARBARIAN, which cost upward of $70M plus marketing; the financiers will need huge international business just to break even (Lionsgate only controls US rights, for which they reportedly paid $25M plus marketing–they’ll be looking at red ink too).    
Similarly, the horribly reviewed ONE DAY (I had my own problems with it, but really it’s not that terrible), despite a production cost of only $15M and relatively minimal marketing, will have to hope for a big response in the UK (where the story is set) to have any chance at breaking even.  
It’s not as though people were rushing out to limited releases, either.  Despite very strong reviews, neither AMIGO nor THE HEDGEHOG is likely to do more than $5-6K per theatre in either of their small runs, and GRIFF THE INVISIBLE won’t even get to $2K.
Next weekend, more of the same, although there’s a welcome absence of shoddy 3D, and at least one of the openings is actually good:  OUR IDIOT BROTHER, a fun ensemble comedy acquired by Harvey Weinstein at Sundance.  It’s joined by the somewhat buzzy horror movie DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (produced by Guillermo del Toro), which was delayed when Disney got out of the Miramax business and is now with FilmDistrict (they had a notable horror success earlier this year with Insidious);  and Zoe Saldana in COLOMBIANA, from the Luc Besson international action-movie factory–you always know it’s late summer when one of his movies shows up on the schedule. 
Stay with SHOWBUZZDAILY for full weekend boxoffice and Mitch Metcalf’s analysis, as well as international grosses as soon as they’re available.

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."