For those of you who were film-going during 2009, did something about the year seem incomplete to you? As if 2009’s cinematic landscape was missing something that had been a constant at the multiplex for the last four years in a row? I felt that way throughout the year, and realized that what was missing was a new offering from Ridley Scott, likely starring Russell Crowe, getting a wide release across the nation to be almost ignored completely and unjustly by the Academy and/or the public (see “Kingdom of Heaven”, “A Good Year”, “Body of Lies” and to a lesser extent “American Gangster” for examples of the former, and all but “American Gangster” and to a lesser extent “Kingdom of Heaven” for examples of the latter). Still, the films tend to be good enough and profitable enough that Scott always lives to make another. In 2010, Universal has given Scott and Crowe a $200 million production and prime May release date (albeit a week after “Iron Man 2”, but still early enough to help kick off the summer film-going season and play well into the coming months) in hopes of reclaiming the critical success of “Gladiator”. How has the attempt faired thus far? The prequel of sorts to the legend of “Robin Hood” seems to have all but failed on the critical front with a 44% on rottentomatoes.com, and while the film’s $37 million opening weekend was higher than that of “Gladiator” ten years ago, that statistic takes a punch-to-the-gut considering how much the average ticket price has increased since then ($2.56 to be exact). The film fared better on a global scale where its total is now $111 million, with $74 million of that being made outside of North America. While the film is currently number one globally, domestically it fell short of the second weekend of “Iron Man 2” to come in at second place.
“Iron Man 2” stayed at the top spot for the second week, despite a 58% drop-off in at the box office in its second week. Still, the film has been a smash-hit on all fronts, including out-grossing the first two weeks of its predecessor’s run, turning a profit for Paramount (having made $212 million domestically from a $200 million budget), and currently sitting as the second highest-grossing film of the year behind “Alice in Wonderland”.
In another attempt to corner the market on teenage girls and their feelings, Summit Entertainment released “Letters to Juliet” this weekend, which like many of their non-vampire openings, will turn a profit for Summit in the coming days despite a modest domestic opening. The Amanda Seyfried vehicle had a $13 million weekend, less than half the opening weekend box office of “Dear John” earlier this year (which was likely propelled by the combination of Seyfried and Channing Tatum, and the branding of being based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks). Although “Letters to Juliet” reportedly cost Summit $30 million to produce, after selling the foreign distribution rights Summit’s remaining investment is around $15 million, a figure the film will easily reach in the coming days.
The romantic comedy “Just Wright” starring Queen Latifah and Common opened in fourth place, taking in $8.5 million. Fox Searchlight produced the film for $12.5, so not only could the film easily turn a profit in the coming days, it will only by propelled by the 2nd round of the playoffs, giving Fox plenty of opportunities to market the NBA-themed film to its target audience.
Rounding out the top five was the eighth week of “How to Train Your Dragon”, taking in another $5 million to bring its domestic total to $207 million. Not only is the film set to out-gross “Kung Fu Panda” on the domestic front in the coming days, but its also continuing to strengthen its profit margin, having grossed $415 million worldwide on a $165 budget.
Opening in limited release this weekend was “Princess Kaiulani” starring Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas in “The New World”) in the title role of a Hawaiian princess trying to save her island from American colonization. The film opened on 33 screens and earned $185,000, or $5,606 per-screen (less than “Iron Man 2” or “Robin Hood”, but more than “Letters to Juliet” or “Just Wright”).
The dark comedy “The Living Wake” starring comedian Mike O’Connell, Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland”), and comedian Jim Gaffigan took in $4,800 on one screen.
As always, we at the Awards Circuit are curious to hear what drew you to the theater this weekend. Did you take in a summer blockbuster, some rom-com counter programming, or one of the independent films opening in limited release? Please let us know what you saw, what you thought about it, and as always, any awards potential you see. Thanks again from all of us at the Awards Circuit, and we look forward to seeing you at the movies.