Skip to main content

You hit like a vegetarian!


Box Office Comment
August-October 2013

It’s been more than a couple of months, so it's about time to compare my spurious beginning of year speculations with the current state of play.

First: animation. Despicable Me 2 has far exceeded anyone’s greatest expectations, nearly doubling the worldwide gross of its predecessor. It now stands as the all-time fifth most popular animated film ever (not adjusting for inflation), behind Toy Story 3, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and (ahem) Shrek 2. If the latter is any guide to a sequel making huge gains on the back of an original’s word-of-mouth, a tumble for Me 3 could be in order. It’s in a comfortable second place for the year, and the only serious competition now is likely to come from The Hunger Games sequel (Desolation of Smaug’s gross will drift into 2014). As an aside, who would have expected, even given its phenomenal growth as a franchise, Fast & Furious 6 to end up in third place for the year? It currently gets to spot on the podium.

If Universal is smiling, DreamWorks certainly isn’t. Turbo languises at the bottom of their animation ladder. It’s been seven years since a DreamWorks animation performed this badly; even Megamind and Rise of the Guardians made nearly $100m more than Turbo. Planes, a non-Pixar Pixar spin-off, has proved a cheapish mid-sized hit for Disney; $200m worldwide on a $50m budget (the bottom end of my expectations, but the animated market had become exhausted by the time of its August release). Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (these imaginative sequel titles, eh?) has come in broadly as expected; it will peter out around $110-120m US (I predicted $120m max). It’s still unspooling internationally.  The next serious animated contender comes at the end of November, however (Disney’s Frozen, with advance word strong enough that my top-end guess of $600m worldwide may turn out to be conservative), Consequently, Cloudy may have an artificially extended lifespan.

The Young Adult arena encountered its latest flop (odds are firmly stacked against any new contender at this point). The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has barely scraped $80m worldwide (my shot in the dark was $200m, so if I’ll take helping of face-egg). This hasn’t put the kibosh on a recently announced sequel, though. Perhaps Screen Gems has taken inspiration from the low-key success of Percy Jackson, whose sequel was commissioned on the back of a middling $220m worldwide gross (very far from being the next Harry Potter). Three years later, a $190m gross doesn’t look too too bad, and echoes the way Narnia has struggled valiantly onwards despite general indifference (a fourth installment is going ahead).

The other young persons’ movie of note is Carrie. “Serious” moviemaker Kimberly Peirce promised a female perspective on De Palma’s button-pushing original (one of the few Stephen King classic adaptations) but no one seems to have cared. The result is yet another for-the-sake-of-it horror remake that will no doubt make its budget back but no one will cite as a big hit (I estimated a high end of $100m worldwide, and it may be lucky to see that much). Insidious Chapter 2 is the other horror of consequence. James Wan has been a bit greedy this year, as The Conjuring has become one of those rare breakout horror hits ($300m-plus worldwide). Insidious 2 won’t be knocking at its door, but has bested the original by some margin (at $83m US it has taken $20m more than my estimate).

Other August releases met with expectations. 2 Guns, at $122m worldwide, is in slap in the middle of my guess. Elysium, at $280m neared my top end prediction of $300m (I didn’t expect the film itself to be quite so flimsy, though). Paranoia flopped horrendously; $7m globally on a $35m budget; far from my $60m suggestion. The World’s End, meanwhile, has generally disappointed despite an ardent defence from Pegg/Wright devotees that “No, it can’t possibly be anything other than their best most mature work etc” (hey, I dearly wanted it to be great). At $46m worldwide it has barely scraped half of my low-end $80m prediction, but I based that on Hot Fuzz more than doubling Shaun of the Dead’s $30m.

Into September, and Riddick has done enough business ($93m on a $38m budget) that a fourth may transpire before another decade passes. Just as long as Vin and Twohy keep those purse strings tightened. My worldwide high-end prediction was $110m, so it’s done as expected.

Serious dramas have had mixed receptions. Generally strong reviews for Prisoners have seen it top my $70m WW guess; it now stands at $92m but I don’t see it getting more than another $20m. At $46m that’s a reasonable result, but not one that encourages such mid-range spending. In contrast, Runner Runner has received stinky reviews. International is currently double its US gross, but $55m ($30m budget) is nothing to shout about, not when you have star-reborn Ben Affleck starring. I guessed $80m tops, and it’s unlikely to scrape that.

The other drama release of note in this vein is little Ronnie Howard’s Rush. I expected a tepid response in the US, although $25m falls well below the bottom end $40m I though it could achieve. But I also thought it would do much better than it has internationally. $72m WW is close to doubling its budget, but it must be half what everyone was hoping for. Luc Besson’s dramedy The Family was roundly dismissed by critics, so its £36m US gross ain’t so bad ($30m budget; Besson-produced movies tend to come in cheap).

In the last few weeks Arnie and Sly have yet again proved their non-Expendables bankruptcy with Escape Plan. At $27m worldwide currently, it will probably double that but I had expected at least $75m. Action-wise, it appears that they’re out to pasture unless they’re in an ensemble.

Which leaves the success stories. Captain Phillips came in on a (for Greengrass) budget, which it has already met in its US gross. It may not trouble $100m there; indeed, it may not trouble $160m worldwide, but it should count as a reasonably successful picture. There’s always the chance of an Oscar boost centring on Hanks’ performance.

Gravity that has really shone, though. $290m worldwide in three weeks was as much as I expected from its entire run. It has become that rarest of beasts, a 3D event movie. There hasn’t really been one like this since Avatar opened the floodgates four years ago. There’s also the fact that audiences are responding to Alfonso Cuaron’s tense filmmaking of course, but the visuals are casting a spell that hasn’t been seen since Cameron’s movie. As for how much it can make, any estimate seems conservative now.

Then there are the pictures I failed to acknowledge at the beginning of the year. Instructions Not Included has become the US’s fourth biggest foreign language film ever. It sounds like a Spielberg-produced effort but it’s one of those father-daughter comedies that will likely inspire an unnecessary English language remakes. Lee Daniels’ The Butler grossed a whopping $114m US; international is a 10th of that. Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, despite not being one of his funnies, stands at $50m WW; further evidence of his late-late career return to bankability (in the US he hasn’t seen this kind of success since the ‘80s).

Upcoming.  I had no expectations for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, but it seems like it will be a big hit (in the US at least). As for The Counselor; great trailer, studded with stars, everyone says it stinks. Most of Ridley Scott’s films whiff a bit these days, but this one smells like a festering turkey.

So, November.

Can Ender’s Game hit big (I’m very doubtful), Last Vegas pull the old crowd (again…), Free Birds prove an animated surprise success (a minor one, perhaps), Thor catch the Avengers effect (a little, but nothing near Iron Man Three levels), Delivery Man turn Vince Vaughn’s dried-up tide (I’ll say no), Catching Fire trump The Hunger Games (undoubtedly, we’re talking $1bn-troubling here), Frozen warm family audiences’ hearts (yes), Homefront give the Stat another soon-to-be rental (is there any other way?) and Oldboy justify itself as a remake (maybe, but getting anyone to go see it is another matter)?

And December.

The Hobbit 2 will perform as expected, Tyler Perry goes to the Xmas movie well finally (not that anyone outside the US gives a damn), Anchorman wonders if all that cult success will translate (I’d be very surprised if it works some Austin Powers sequel magic), 47 Ronin fights the bad buzz  (it will be a miracle if it salvages itself, but I wish it well), Walter Mitty disappointingly appears to have gone the route of Forrest Gumping inspirational sentimentalisational so may become a monster, while Grudge Match’s chances are 50-50 (if it’s actually funny, it could do extremely well).

There are also the smaller rollouts with January wide releases in mind. Saving Mr. Banks may be feel-good fare with a sprinkling of Tom Hanks, but I reckon Oscar nods are needed to really make a box office dent. Also iffy without awards talk are American Hustle, The Book Thief and (especially) Inside Llewyn Davis.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mondo bizarro. No offence man, but you’re in way over your head.

The X-Files 8.7: Via Negativa I wasn’t as down on the last couple of seasons of The X-Files as most seemed to be. For me, the mythology arc walked off a cliff somewhere around the first movie, with only the occasional glimmer of something worthwhile after that. So the fact that the show was tripping over itself with super soldiers and Mulder’s abduction/his and Scully’s baby (although we all now know it wasn’t, sheesh ), anything to stretch itself beyond breaking point in the vain hope viewers would carry on dangling, didn’t really make much odds. Of course, it finally snapped with the wretched main arc when the show returned, although the writing was truly on the wall with Season 9 finale The Truth . For the most part, though, I found 8 and 9 more watchable than, say 5 or 7. They came up with their fair share of engaging standalones, one of which I remembered to be Via Negativa .

Isn’t it true, it’s easier to be a holy man on the top of a mountain?

The Razor’s Edge (1984) (SPOILERS) I’d hadn’t so much a hankering as an idle interest in finally getting round to seeing Bill Murray’s passion project. Partly because it seemed like such an odd fit. And partly because passion isn’t something you tend to associate with any Murray movie project, involving as it usually does laidback deadpan. Murray, at nigh-on peak fame – only cemented by the movie he agreed to make to make this movie – embarks on a serious-acting-chops dramatic project, an adaptation of W Somerset Maugham’s story of one man’s journey of spiritual self-discovery. It should at least be interesting, shouldn’t it? A real curio? Alas, not. The Razor’s Edge is desperately turgid.

Schnell, you stinkers! Come on, raus!

Private’s Progress (1956) (SPOILERS) Truth be told, there’s good reason sequel I’m Alright Jack reaps the raves – it is, after all, razor sharp and entirely focussed in its satire – but Private’s Progress is no slouch either. In some respects, it makes for an easy bedfellow with such wartime larks as Norman Wisdom’s The Square Peg (one of the slapstick funny man’s better vehicles). But it’s also, typically of the Boulting Brothers’ unsentimental disposition, utterly remorseless in rebuffing any notions of romantic wartime heroism, nobility and fighting the good fight. Everyone in the British Army is entirely cynical, or terrified, or an idiot.

It’s not as if she were a… maniac, a raving thing.

Psycho (1960) (SPOILERS) One of cinema’s most feted and most studied texts, and for good reason. Even if the worthier and more literate psycho movie of that year is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom . One effectively ended a prolific director’s career and the other made its maker more in demand than ever, even if he too would discover he had peaked with his populist fear flick. Pretty much all the criticism and praise of Psycho is entirely valid. It remains a marvellously effective low-budget shocker, one peppered with superb performances and masterful staging. It’s also fairly rudimentary in tone, character and psychology. But those negative elements remain irrelevant to its overall power.

You have done well to keep so much hair, when so many’s after it.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) (SPOILERS) Hitherto, I was most familiar with Jeremiah Johnson in the form of a popular animated gif of beardy Robert Redford smiling and nodding in slow zoom close up (a moment that is every bit as cheesy in the film as it is in the gif). For whatever reason, I hadn’t mustered the enthusiasm to check out the 1970s’ The Revenant until now (well, beard-wise, at any rate). It’s easy to distinguish the different personalities at work in the movie. The John Milius one – the (mythic) man against the mythic landscape; the likeably accentuated, semi-poetic dialogue – versus the more naturalistic approach favoured by director Sydney Pollack and star Redford. The fusion of the two makes for a very watchable, if undeniably languorous picture. It was evidently an influence on Dances with Wolves in some respects, although that Best Picture Oscar winner is at greater pains to summon a more sensitive portrayal of Native Americans (and thus, perversely, at times a more patr

My Doggett would have called that crazy.

The X-Files 9.4: 4-D I get the impression no one much liked Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), but I felt, for all the sub-Counsellor Troi, empath twiddling that dogged her characterisation, she was a mostly positive addition to the series’ last two years (of its main run). Undoubtedly, pairing her with Doggett, in anticipation of Gillian Anderson exiting just as David Duchovny had – you rewatch these seasons and you wonder where her head was at in hanging on – made for aggressively facile gender-swapped conflict positions on any given assignment. And generally, I’d have been more interested in seeing how two individuals sympathetic to the cause – her and Mulder – might have got on. Nevertheless, in an episode like 4-D you get her character, and Doggett’s, at probably their best mutual showing.

You’re a disgrace, sir... Weren’t you at Harrow?

Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966) (SPOILERS) I hadn’t seen this one in more than three decades, and I had in mind that it was a decent spy spoof, well populated with a selection of stalwart British character actors in supporting roles. Well, I had the last bit right. I wasn’t aware this came from the stable of producer Harry Alan Towers, less still of his pedigree, or lack thereof, as a sort of British Roger Corman (he tried his hand at Star Wars with The Shape of Things to Come and Conan the Barbarian with Gor , for example). More legitimately, if you wish to call it that, he was responsible for the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu flicks. Our Man in Marrakesh – riffing overtly on Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana in title – seems to have in mind the then popular spy genre and its burgeoning spoofs, but it’s unsure which it is; too lightweight to work as a thriller and too light on laughs to elicit a chuckle.

The best thing in the world for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse.

Marnie (1964) (SPOILERS) Hitch in a creative ditch. If you’ve read my Vertigo review, you’ll know I admired rather than really liked the picture many fete as his greatest work. Marnie is, in many ways, a redux, in the way De Palma kept repeating himself in the early 80s only significantly less delirious and… well, compelling. While Marnie succeeds in commanding the attention fitfully, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. And Hitch, digging his heels in as he strives to fashion a star against public disinterest – he failed to persuade Grace Kelly out of retirement for Marnie Rutland – comes entirely adrift with his leads.

I tell you, it saw me! The hanged man’s asphyx saw me!

The Asphyx (1972) (SPOILERS) There was such a welter of British horror from the mid 60s to mid 70s, even leaving aside the Hammers and Amicuses, that it’s easy to lose track of them in the shuffle. This one, the sole directorial effort of Peter Newbrook (a cameraman for David Lean, then a cinematographer), has a strong premise and a decent cast, but it stumbles somewhat when it comes to taking that premise any place interesting. On the plus side, it largely eschews the grue. On the minus, directing clearly wasn’t Newbrook’s forte, and even aided by industry stalwart cinematographer Freddie Young (also a go-to for Lean), The Aspyhx is stylistically rather flat.

I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.

North by Northwest (1959) (SPOILERS) North by Northwest gets a lot of attention as a progenitor of the Bond formula, but that’s giving it far too little credit. Really, it’s the first modern blockbuster, paving the way for hundreds of slipshod, loosely plotted action movies built around set pieces rather than expertly devised narratives. That it delivers, and delivers so effortlessly, is a testament to Hitchcock, to writer Ernest Lehmann, and to a cast who make the entire implausible exercise such a delight.