August 27, 2011

THE BIJOU BOXOFFICE: Footnotes 8/27/11 – Be Afraid of the Boxoffice


The full extent of theatre closings and other Hurricane Irene-related events isn’t yet known, so projections may be high at this point.
That being said, this was never going to be a good weekend at the boxoffice:  in late August, the studios don’t open their heavy hitters.  What audiences there are continue to flock to THE HELP, which should go over $100M by the end of this week, and has little real competition for its target audience over the next several weekends.  The question that won’t be answered for a few months is whether the picture will be able to keep enough momentum going to propel itself into serious awards contention.

None of the new releases this weekend will make a lot of cash, so success or failure will have more to do with their costs.  On that scale, OUR IDIOT BROTHER, despite its relatively lowly gross, may not be as big a failure as it seems:  The Weinstein Company paid $6M for distribution rights plus a marketing commitment of $15M, and if the film can eke its way to the $24M Mitch Metcalf predicts, there might be enough for a small profit, particularly because it has a very cable-TV-friendly cast.  
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, on the other hand, cost a reported $25M to produce, and FilmDistrict’s marketing campaign probably wasn’t smaller (and may have been larger) than Idiot‘s, putting it deeper in the hole.
As with most of the product produced by Luc Besson’s company, COLOMBIANA‘s success will be largely based on its international results; its projected $28M US gross won’t even bring it to breakeven.
All of the terrible 3D reboots from last weekend collapsed even further this time around:  don’t look for further chapters in the CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SPY KIDS or FRIGHT NIGHT sagas.  ONE DAY didn’t show any positive word of mouth either.
A few limited releases expanded this weekend and saw decent numbers.  SARAH’S KEY increased its theatre count by about 35% and held steady (meaning its per-theatre number slipped), while SENNA nearly doubled its count (still at only 34) and saw its total rise modestly, a similar result.
It’s particularly important to note the effect of Irene on the new, very limited releases:  Vera Farmiga’s excellent HIGHER GROUND was looking to gross $13K or so at each of its 3 theatres, but 2 of those theatres are in Manhattan, and if they’re closed or deserted, that will obviously have a serious effect on the weekend total.  Similarly, the very good CIRCUMSTANCE, about rebelling teens in Iran, was headed to a good $8K or so in each of 6 theatres, but half of those are in the NY area. 
Labor Day is historically the one holiday weekend when Americans don’t go to the movies, and consequently, 2 cheap horror movies lead the pack with APOLLO 18 and SHARK NIGHT 3D.  Also, Focus had a minor success last Labor Day with a Wednesday opening for THE AMERICAN, so they’re going to try the same slot for THE DEBT, another international action film.  But without George Clooney in the lead–and with the probability of blah reviews for a movie that’s been sitting on the shelf for a year–they may not duplicate that feat.

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."