It’s all good news for director Neill Blomkamp’s once-mysterious sci-fi movie “District 9”. The film, produced by Peter Jackson, rounded out its first three days with a remarkable $37 million from 3,049 dates. While that total certainly isn’t anywhere near the top weekends of the summer, when the film’s budget of $30 million is weighed along with the fact that most Americans had never heard of either Blomkamp or “District 9” a couple of weeks ago, the term ‘remarkable’ may even be an understatement.
|3||Time Traveler’s Wife||$19,205,000||$19,205,000|
|4||Julie & Julia||$12,400,000||$43,684,000|
|7||Harry Potter 6||$5,155,000||$283,893,000|
|8||The Ugly Truth||$4,500,000||$77,502,000|
|10||(500) Days of Summer||$3,025,000||$17,955,000|
By now you’ve either heard about or personally witnessed that sly “No Humans” viral marketing campaign that was launched in support of “District 9”. Many analysts credit the signs (and a strong response from Comic Con) with the film’s success but let me offer this: ads don’t mean much without a great product – as evidenced by “Bruno”. This was one of those moments, all too rare in our over-saturated information age, when word of mouth had the chance to lend support to a film that may have otherwise been lost in the cinematic dumping ground that is mid-August. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of aliens.
Meanwhile, the reports of the demise of “G.I Joe” were slightly premature. Last week’s number one movie had a rough (if expected) 68% drop on Friday but rebounded slightly on Saturday for a second week total of $22.5 million – just about in line with studio projections. So, does this mean that “GI Joe” is a success after all? Not yet. The film still cost $175 million to make and God knows how much to market. A number two finish for this week is better than I imagined but it can’t erase the fact that “Joe” failed to break $100 million in its first ten days.
The second big release of the week, “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, was offered up as counter-programming to both “District 9” and “GI Joe”. The WB/New Line feature paired “The Notebook” star Rachel McAdams with “Hulk” star Eric Bana in a film that was based upon a best-selling novel. Marketing for the film vacillated between highlighting the sci-fi elements (for the boys) and the weepy romance elements (for their moms) and the result was a mish-mash that is hovering near 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” looked fairly solid on Friday but fell 17% Saturday to finish the weekend at number three.
If any of you had your TV’s on this week you probably couldn’t help but notice that Jeremy Piven’s ass was all over the place. Piven’s promotional stops on shows like “Big Brother” and WWE’s “Raw” did not bode well for the quality of the product that said-ass was shilling – Paramount Vantage’s “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard”. But, as it turns out, “The Goods” was neither the worst film of the summer nor the biggest bomb of the week. From 1,838 locations, the comedy pulled in an estimated $5.3 million for a sixth-place finish.
The title “Biggest Bomb of the Week” goes instead to the Walden/Summit teen musical “Bandslam”. Playing in 2,121 venues, the film suffered from confusing marketing which pegged it as a low-grade copy of “High School Musical”. In reality the film was critically well-received (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) but commercially ignored, ending up outside the week’s top ten at number 13 with only $2.2 million.
Rounding out this week’s cavalcade of new releases is the film that I was most excited to see, “Ponyo”. The latest animated film from Hiyao Miyazaki had the widest release to date under the director’s pact with Disney. From 927 theatres “Ponyo” brought in an estimated $4.3 million – nearly half of the $10 million domestic total for 2002’s “Spirited Away” – formerly the director’s most successful showing on American shores.
Next week all eyes will be on Quentin Tarantino and “Inglourious Basterds”. The film has had a rough ride in the press, including some negative Cannes-buzz and tales of extensive re-editing, and holds the possible demise of The Weinstein Company on its Natsee-killin’ shoulders. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out.