9 Movies I'm Tired Of Being Judged For Liking!

on Wednesday, March 31, 2010   10 comments

This weekend, two sure-to-not-be-classics enter theaters: Clash Of The Titans and The Last Song.  They both look gloriously bad in their own ways.  One of them is an overwrought, cheesy, coming-of-age romance, and the other is an overwrought, cheesy, special effects showcase.  Early reviews for both films are wretched.  Still, I'd be willing to bet that both movies will galvanize passionate fan bases of supporters, who will undoubtedly flood internet message boards in defense of the sub-par films.  Now a lot of people in the film community will write off poorly reviewed/made movies, but as a box office analyst, I try to embrace, or at least understand, the popular opinion of movies.  Who am I to question someone's fandom?  Believe me, there's a heckuva lot of bad movies that I love, and the last thing I want is someone judging me for enjoying these harmless distractions. Thus, because it is List Wednesday, let's count down 9 movies that I (and admit it, you too) love watching and don't want to be judged for it!

A Walk To Remember
Who's Judging Me: Guys.  Or a tiny fraction of girls who say the Nicholas Sparks book is better.
My Response: Whatever.  Mandy Moore does a great job, "Only Hope" and "Cry: are sweet songs, and I'm a sucker for the love story.  If a girl insists on watching this (and they do), I won't complain.

Dude, Where's My Car?
Who's Judging Me: Adults (though, not my dad); Movie-snobs
My Response: [What's on my back?] DUDE, this movie is [What's on mine?] SWEET!

Josie And The Pussycats
Who's Judging Me: EVERYONE!
My Response: You are all ignorant!  You know why everyone has a problem with this movie? Because they haven't seen it! It's a very funny, very smart satire of the pop music industry, and it's got a killer soundtrack!  I've had "Pretend To Be Nice" stuck in my years!

Avatar
Who's Judging Me: Self-proclaimed film aficionados
My Response: I don't know when it became cool to say, "The story sucked, but the visuals are incredible," when talking about Avatar, but guess what?  The story didn't suck!  It's a time-tested, appealing, exciting story about an anti-hero and his redemption.  The visuals were indeed incredible, but I promise you, Avatar could not have earned $2.7 billion worldwide if the story weren't working on some level.

Titanic
Who's Judging Me: Cynics
My Response: This is our generation's ultimate sweeping Hollywood epic, haters!  The special effects!  The romance!  The iconic theme song!  Once this won Best Picture, everyone seemed to turn on Titanic.  I, for one, will never let go.

300
Who's Judging Me: Mostly non-fanboys, but also a particularly haughty subset of fanboys
My Response: I say this a lot, but a movie doesn't have to be good to be awesome.  I'll be the first person to admit that I don't think 300 is a good film.  The dialogue is horrible, and the story is just ridiculous.   But, HOLY CRAP THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME!  This really fulfills

The Pacifier
Who's Judging Me: Film snobs
My Response: Pretty much the only thing I remember about this Vin Diesel comedy is the Peter Panda dance, but, boy, do I remember it.  "Hop like a kangaroo three times/Side-step, Side-step like the crabs do...."  I think if the doubters would just embrace the Peter Panda dance, their complaints would be pacified.

Cellular
Who's Judging Me: More film snobs
My Response: If Cellular took itself seriously, I would hang up on it instantly.  Thankfully, it doesn't, and I find it's brand of campy action and silly dialogue irresistible!

The Notebook
Who's Judging Me: The same people that dislike A Walk To Remember!
My Response: The story is the real draw here.  Sure, The Notebook is gorgeously shot, and it features Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in top form, but its the romantic image of a man retelling his Alzheimer's-afflicted wife their love story every single day that's impossible to forget. 

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DVD/Blu-Ray Sales: 2012 May Destroy The Earth, But It Brings Life To The Home Market

on Tuesday, March 30, 2010   1 comments

The time has come, my fellow box office junkies.  The time has come for me to start taking the home market more seriously on this blog.  For months I've been lamenting about the demise of DVD sales, and while it is true that the home market isn't nearly as strong as it was back in 2005-2007, the rise of Blu-Ray sales is offsetting a lot of the declines that traditional DVDs are facing.  Thus, I've decided that it's high time to bring back the Blu-Ray Sales Chart.  Each Tuesday, my plan is to post The-Numbers' DVD Sales figures along with my Blu-Ray Sales estimates, which are made using a combination of Home Media Magazine's research, The-Numbers' chart, and my own calculator.  Hopefully the two-chart format works for you, but if you think that separate posts would be better, just let me know in the comments.  Anyway, let's get to the analysis.  2012 dominated both traditional DVD and Blu-Ray sales this week, selling a combined total of 2.7 million copies, and leading Blu-Ray to its single biggest week since Star Trek debuted.  The charts, along with my DVD Sales Notes are after the jump.

DVD Sales Notes:

-2012 had a robust opening weekend, selling about 1.6 million DVDs for sales of $26.1 million.  On top of that, 2012 had huge Blu-Ray sales of 1.1 million copies, which represents a stunning 41% of its total.  This is may be because the special effects-filled disaster film is a perfect fit for the HD format, but it also demonstrates the continual growth of the format.  Either way, with a $166 million theatrical gross, 2012 wasn't exactly a smash hit in America (worldwide is another story... it earned $769.7 million), so this is a tremendous start.

-Where The Wild Things Are ($77.2 million in theaters) got off to a pretty good start as well.  The glum hipster adaptation of the popular children's book moved 845,580 copies for first week sales of $16.1 million.  Wild Things also sold about 332,090 Blu-Ray units, which represents a strong 26% of its total sales.  From here, the picture should fall pretty quickly, as it appeals to a fanboy audience.

-Despite Disney's best efforts to establish beloved Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki as a box office draw in the U.S., audiences haven't fully embraced the prolific animation genius quit yet.  His latest film, Ponyo, earned a modest $15 million in theaters, so it's combined format sales of 391,353 units is really quite good.

-Since this chart deals with sales the week before the Academy Awards took place, we're starting to see the Oscar effect in full force, as The Hurt Locker increased by 50% to 116,456 units sold and $2.1 million in revenue.  Look for an absolutely massive increase next week, when we'll see the full effect of The Hurt Locker's Best Picture win.

-Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey was the fifth best selling DVD this week, and yet, it didn't even register on the Blu-Ray chart.  Why?  Because it's a movie that appeals to a traditional audience that owns traditional technology, and it wouldn't have been worth it to even release an HD version.  Right now, popular Blu-Ray titles are current, flashy, visually exciting movies that appeal to a younger demographic.  In the same way that it took parents a long time to move away from VHS, I'd expect a similarly long transition to Blu-Ray.

DVD Sales for the Week Ending March 7, 2010
RankTitleUnits this Week% ChangeTotal UnitsSales this WeekTotal SalesWeeks in Release
1 2012 1,590,931 -.-% 1,590,931 $26,091,268 $26,091,268 1
2 Where the Wild Things Are 845,580 -.-% 845,580 $16,108,299 $16,108,299 1
3 Ponyo 222,253 -.-% 222,253 $4,371,717 $4,371,717 1
4 Law Abiding Citizen 155,275 -49.0% 1,289,678 $2,217,327 $13,680,884 3
5 Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey 116,774 -.-% 116,774 $1,692,055 $1,692,055 1
6 The Hurt Locker 116,456 50.4% 925,090 $2,095,043 $16,760,726 8
7 Couples Retreat 111,206 -31.5% 1,843,013 $1,778,184 $29,469,778 4
8 Zombieland 71,751 -19.4% 1,437,177 $1,147,298 $23,457,532 5
9 Michael Jackson: This It It 69,842 -31.9% 2,553,453 $1,116,774 $40,829,713 6
10 The Hangover 67,137 -27.1% 8,557,373 $778,420 $156,338,449 12
11 The Time Traveler's Wife 61,887 -37.6% 1,065,613 $989,573 $17,254,730 4
12 Up 61,728 -18.7% 9,893,176 $1,110,487 $166,634,544 17
13 Alice 61,092 -.-% 61,092 $886,445 $886,445 1
14 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths 58,069 -71.7% 263,598 $754,316 $4,048,946 2
15 Taken 57,751 -.-% 4,184,873 $622,625 $65,972,803 43
16 Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 55,842 -17.2% 2,134,778 $963,716 $37,773,683 9
17 The Informant! 55,046 -62.3% 201,013 $935,232 $3,457,541 2
18 Alvin and the Chipmunks 52,692 -.-% 8,016,655 $710,815 $133,492,169 101
19 Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred 52,183 1.3% - $469,125 $4,347,132 103
20 The Box 50,273 -65.4% 195,479 $1,004,957 $3,907,625 2
21 Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant 47,410 -61.2% 169,638 $852,906 $3,082,345 2
22 Matilda 47,251 -32.0% - $445,104 - 659
23 Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The 47,092 -22.3% - $429,008 - 533
24 Dr. Seuss - Green Eggs and Ham and Other Favorites 46,455 -42.5% - $371,175 - 335
25 The Adventures of Milo and Otis 42,955 -.-% - $321,733 - 549
26 Stuart Little 41,682 -32.3% - $463,921 - 516
27 Everybody's Fine 39,455 -64.3% 150,087 $788,705 $3,000,239 2
28 Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess Movie 39,296 -.-% 39,296 $451,511 $451,511 1
29 My Neighbor Totoro 38,978 -.-% - $779,170 - 731
30 Stuart Little 2 38,819 -28.7% - $387,802 - 378

Thanks to Kosty for posting these figures here!

Blu-Ray Sales Estimates for Week Ending March 7, 2010
RankTitleUnits this WeekTotal Units
1 2012 1,100,000 1,100,000
2 Where The Wild Things Are 332,090 332,090
3 Ponyo 129,140 129,140
4 The Hurt Locker 49,060 -
5 X-Men Origins: Wolverine 48,510 -
6 Law Abiding Citizen 48,070 -
7 Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs 45,870 -
8 Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End 43,230 -
9 Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl 43,120 -
10 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 40,260 -
11 Quantum Of Solace 29,260 -
12 Zombieland 28,710 -
13 National Treasure 25,410 -
14 National Treasure: Book Of Secrets 23,320 -
15 Couples Retreat 21,120 -
15 Star Trek 21,120 -
17 Rocky 21,010 -
18 Up 20,790 -
19 Inglorious Basterds 20,350 -
20 The Dark Knight 19,800 -

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New And News: 2010's Clash Of The Titans... Tyler Perry Vs. Miley Cyrus

on Monday, March 29, 2010   8 comments

It took a while, but studios have finally realized it: you can open a movie at any time of the year.  So long as you advertise effectively, hook viewers with a good story, and release an exciting title, there is potential for great box office returns.  In the last few years, we've seen tentpole films like 300, Fast And Furious, Monsters Vs. Aliens, and Ice Age: The Meltdown succeed with March/April release dates.  Warner Brothers hopes to further solidify Spring as viable release period with the debut of the super-hyped remake of Clash Of The Titans.  Also entering theaters this week is Disney's Miley Cyrus vehicle, The Last Song, and Tyler Perry sequel, Why Did I Get Married Too?  The influx of quality options should appeal to a variety of demographics and lead to a strong weekend at the box office.  For a preview of each of those films, as well as news items about Mission: Impossible 4, the never-ending devastation caused by 3D, and Disney's Maleficent, click inside!

New:

Clash Of The Titans (Warner Bros) - 3,600 theaters - Reviews
The original Clash Of The Titans (1981) is one of my favorite movies, and I'm going to be honest with you- I'm not so sure about this one.  Clash Of The Titans is a tale about Perseus, but really, the story is the equivalent of Edith Hamilton's Mythology in a blender- a delightful mashup of every other Greek myth known to man.  The original was full of silly storylines, claymation, and cheesy dialogue, but I loved every second of it.  To this day, I'm frightened by its portrayal of Medusa.  Instead of makeup and costumes, though, it looks like 2010's Clash Of The Titans will feature boatloads of CGI special effects.  Directed by Louis Letterier (The Incredible Hulk, Transporter 2) and starring Sam Worthington, Clash will certainly feature a ton of high-octane action scenes, but be presumably light on the story.  (You can always tell that an epic blockbuster is going to be rather brain-dead if it features heavy rock music in the trailer...)  Judging by the look and tone of the advertisements, Warner Brothers is clearly going after the same crowd that helped 300 open to $70 million in 2006.  Awareness is very high for Clash Of The Titans, and my early guess is that its opening weekend will finish somewhere in the same vicinity as 300's.  Of course, we must remember that WB tacked on some 3D effects at the last minute, so they could add a $3.50 $5.50 premium onto their ticket prices, so Clash may reach closer to the Olympic heights of $100 million this weekend, but we'll have to wait and see. This looks a little soulless, as the CGI seems to have sucked all the life out of the visuals, but I love Greek mythology, and I can't complain about special effects forever. You can count me in.

The Last Song (Disney) - 2,500 theaters - Reviews
You know what's terrifying about this movie?  Disney paid Nicholas Sparks a huge chunk of change to write a novel and screenplay for The Last Song simultaneously, with the intention of Miley Cyrus starring in the feature adaptation of the book.  Girls love Nicholas Sparks books, and Disney was willing to pay the author a ton of money to craft the perfect dramatic vehicle for their Hannah Montana star.  The Last Song falls into the same weepy/romance category as February's Dear John, though I doubt it will be as successful.  Miley Cyrus has been tremendously popular as Hannah Montana, but without the pop-star gimmick, she's hardly a "cool" movie star that people want to go see.  Her fanbase is made of tween girls, yet The Last Song targets a slightly older demographic, full of girls that might be a bit embarrassed to go see a movie starring Hannah Montana now that they're big, bad 15-year-olds.  Early reviews are horrible, but that's never seemed to matter to fans of romantic movies before, so I doubt it will now.  Now that Ms. Cyrus is done shooting Hannah Montana, Disney is eager to develop titles for their most valuable commodity as they try to make her a viable movie star, but perhaps they should work on finding some better scripts first.

Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (Lionsgate) - 2,000 theaters - Reviews
Our generation's most consistent box office draw, Tyler Perry, is back with another one of his specialty melodramatic comedies featuring a predominantly black cast.  This time, it's a sequel to 2008's Why Did I Get Married?, which earned a solid $55 million at the box office.  The story follows a group of four couples on their annual joint-vacation.  When an ex-spouse of one of the friends shows up, all of the couples find themselves asking serious questions about their own marriages.  All of Perry's movies are cheap to produce, appeal strongly to black (esp. black churchgoing) audiences, and rake in money at the box office.  Critics aren't totally on board with his brand of drama, but his loyal audiences totally are.  Lionsgate always keeps the theater counts for Perry's films low, and Why Did I Get Married Too? is no exception.  Because his films appeal to such a niche audience, they end to open big and then fall quickly.  Thus, a low theater count yields a higher per theater average in later weeks, which convinces theater owners to keep the movie playing for a longer time.  My early feeling is that Too? will open with about $23-25 million on it's way to a $55-60 million finish.

News:

Brad Bird May Direct Mission: Impossible 4
My favorite director, Brad Bird, who helmed such masterpieces as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, is reportedly in talks to direct the J.J. Abrams/Tom Cruise produced sequel Mission: Impossible 4. Tom Cruise attached himself to star in the picture in February, which got the ball rolling on this film, but after Mission: Impossible 3's lackluster box office performance, I'm not sure that producing M:I4 is a great idea.  That being said, if I turn off my box office switch, I'm actually pretty excited about this movie.  I loved Mission: Impossible 3, and J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird can do no wrong in my book.  It could be great!

3D Ticket Prices Hiked Again!
I don't want to talk about it.

Angelina Jolie May Be The New Maleficent?
Why do I always get excited by the prospect of Angelina Jolie being cast in upcoming pictures?  I think it might be because her potential roles often have the possibility of being evil, and Angelina Jolie (along with Christopher Walken, Michael Emerson, and Melinda Clarke) is one of those actors lucky enough to look naturally deceptive.  Maybe its the eyebrows... Hot on the heels of Alice In Wonderland's success, Disney is eager to crank out more fare worthy of the Era of Weird Entertainment, and they're serious about getting evil-queen tale, Maleficent, into production.  Personally, I couldn't think of a better evil/hot/awesome casting choice than Jolie.

Mattel Developing Toys To Be Made Into Movies
As a business model, this plan makes perfect sense to me.  But as someone that loves to watch good movies, it's quite depressing.  I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it: movies should be based on stories, not inanimate objects.

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How To Train Your Dragon Slays Competition, But Don't Call It A Success Yet

on Sunday, March 28, 2010   15 comments

Well, that was a bit underwhelming, wasn't it?  Perhaps I'm just feeling glum because it's been raining all weekend here in Virginia, but the box office wasn't especially exciting this weekend.  Look at all that went wrong:  How To Train Your Dragon topped the chart with $43.3 million, but considering it cost $180 million to produce, and it enjoyed the benefit of higher 3D ticket prices, that number doesn't look quite as solid.  Hot Tub Time Machine failed to really break out, with just $13.6 million in its opening frame.  The Bounty Hunter held well (why?!), falling only 40% to $12.4 million, while Diary Of A Wimpy Kid dropped a huge 55% to $10 million!  The Top 12 earned $115.8 million, which represents a 12% decline at the box office over the same weekend last year.  (Not to be so gloom-and-doom, though- 2010 box office is still about 9% ahead of 2009 thanks to the absurdly high 3D ticket prices.)  Watch the video above for my recap on what went down this weekend at the box office, and then check out the full box office chart below.

Top 12 Box Office Hits For March 19-21, 2010
Rank Movie Studio Theaters Weekend Gross
ChgAVG.Total
1
How To Train Your Dragon Dreamworks 4055 $43,300,000 New$10,678 $43,300,000
2
Alice In Wonderland Disney 3384 $17,284,000 -49%$5,108 $293,111,000
3
Hot Tub Time Machine MGM 2754 $13,650,000 New$4,956 $13,650,000
4
The Bounty Hunter Sony 3074 $12,400,000 -40%$4,034 $38,812,000
5
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Fox 3083 $10,000,000 -55%$3,244 $35,776,429
6
She's Out Of My League Paramount 2432 $3,526,000 -39%$1,450 $25,601,000
7
Green Zone Universal 2564 $3,349,670 -45%$1,306 $30,440,195
8
Shutter Island Paramount 2123 $3,175,000 -33%$1,496 $120,600,000
9
Repo Men Universal 2519 $3,047,990 -50%$1,210 $11,342,205
10
Our Family Wedding Fox Search 1132 $2,200,000 -41%$1,943 $16,785,923
11
Avatar Fox 930 $2,015,000 -50%$2,167 $740,408,054
12
Remember Me Summit 1935 $1,900,000 -42%$982 $17,001,142
All Numbers Provided By Exhibitor Relations Co.

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Friday Estimates: How To Train Your Dragon Heats Up The Box Office; Hot Tub Time Machine Remains Lukewarm; Alice Holds

on Saturday, March 27, 2010   7 comments

Friday estimates are rolling in, and as expected, Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon easily took the top spot, grossing $12.2 million in its first day of release.  Elevated (and then re-elevated!) 3D ticket prices certainly helped this picture's opening, and with a standard family-friendly 3.5 weekend multiplier, this should earn $45 million over the frame.  While that's not quite up to the $59 million opening of Monsters Vs. Aliens a year ago, and while HTTYD still has a long way to go in making up its $180 million budget, it's a good start for the animated film.  Click inside to see what else happened at the Friday box office.

The weekend's other opener, Hot Tube Time Machine, couldn't quite get its jets running at full speed, earning just $4.6 million on Friday, which should lead the raunchy comedy to a $13.5 million weekend.  This is below the openings of films like Role Models and I Love You, Man, which opened in the high teens.  Still, Hot Tub Time Machine will likely have good legs, so it's not a total failure for MGM.

Among holdovers, Alice In Wonderland continued its remarkable run with another $4.7 million on Friday.  Family blockbusters like Alice often have weekend multipliers of almost 4.0, so this should find $18 million over the weekend, which would push the film's total to just under $300 million.  The Bounty Hunter fell 48% from last Friday to $4 million, and despite horrendous reviews, the Jennifer Aniston/Gerard Butler flick should earn a pretty good $12 million over the weekend.  Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, meanwhile, is proving to be pretty frontloaded, as it fell 62% from last Friday to $2.7 million.  Apparently, fans of the book rushed out to the theaters to see Diary last weekend, and it will likely earn $9 million this weekend- a fairly large drop for a kids' movie.  The full Friday chart is below.

Friday Estimates for March 26, 2010
RankMovie Friday Gross Estimated Weekend
1How To Train Your Dragon $12.1 million $45 million
2Alice In Wonderland $4.7 million $18 million
3Hot Tub Time Machine $4.6 million $13.5 million
4The Bounty Hunter $4 million $12 million
5Diary Of A Wimpy Kid $2.7 million $9 million
6She's Out Of My League $1.1 million $3.5 million
7Green Zone $1 million $3.2 million
8Shutter Island $930,000 $3.4 million
9Repo Men $894,000 $2.7 million
10Remember Me $690,000 $2.1 million

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Box Office Predictions: How To Train Your Dragon To Heat Your Hot Tub Time Machine!

on Friday, March 26, 2010   5 comments

In March 2007, Zak Snyder's 300 redefined how studios approached the Spring box office when it debuted to $70.9 million in its opening weekend. Previously, Spring had been home to smaller titles, and studios saved their major tentpole releases for the Summer.  Well, it's been three years, and things have changed quite a bit.  Major releases are now commonly slated for Spring releases, as films like Fast And Furious and Alice In Wonderland have shown us that blockbusters can be released at any time of the year.  This weekend, Dreamworks is hoping to launch another one of these blockbusters with the 3D CG-animated How To Train Your Dragon, which should burn up the box office and easily win the weekend.  MGM, meanwhile, is hoping that Hot Tub Time Machine can break out.  Regardless of how either of these new openers debut though, their reviews are incredibly solid, so they should stick around for a while.  Among holdovers, Alice In Wonderland, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, and The Bounty Hunter should create a solid degree of depth at the box office, and when all is said and done, the Top 5 films should each earn above $10 million, which is pretty great.  I offer my predictions for the new titles (and embark on yet another rant about the newly elevated 3D ticket prices) in the video above, so go ahead and watch- I promise you'll be entertained.  Once you're done, click inside for my full box office predictions!

Box Office Predictions for March 26-28, 2010
RankMovie Theaters Predicted Gross
1How To Train Your Dragon 4,055 $41 million
2Hot Tub Time Machine 3,074 $18 million
3Alice In Wonderland 3,077 $17.7 million
4Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2,522 $11.2 million
5The Bounty Hunter 3,004 $11.1 million
6She's Out Of My League 2,958 $3.3 million
7Repo Men 2,704 $3 million
8Green Zone 1,236 $2.7 million
9Shutter Island 1609 $2.6 million
10Avatar 2,215 $2.4 million

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"Based On The Bestselling Book..." Just How Powerful Are Books At The Box Office?

on Thursday, March 25, 2010   5 comments

These days, every other movie that comes out in theaters seems to be based on a popular book or series of books.  We had Percy Jackson And The Olympians a few weeks ago, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid last week, How To Train Your Dragon this weekend, and The Last Song a few days later.  It makes sense.  Successful books come with a massive built-in audience of fans, and the Harry Potter franchise proved that if you can coerce these fans into seeing the film adaptations, then money- and I mean lots of money- will come pouring in.  That's the reason that studios purchase the rights to almost every bestselling book on the market.  Popular titles like Water For Elephants, Marley And Me, and The Lovely Bones often illicit major negotiations between studios, each of whom wants to develop film adaptations of the books.  Often, films based on books that haven't even hit shelves yet are greenlit. But just how much of a difference at the box office does basing a movie on a book really make?  Well, that's an interesting question...

The simple answer is that film adaptations of popular books have enormous potential to be box office smashes, yet rarely are.  Occasionally, we'll see something like The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe ($291.5 million), which does great, but more often, we see things like The Spiderwick Chronicles ($71.2 million), Eragon ($75 million), or The Golden Compass ($70.1 million), massively hyped films that had mediocre box office performances.  You could even throw Narnia sequel Prince Caspian ($141.6 million) into the latter group of disappointing performers.  Now, while none of those box office grosses appear egregiously horrible at a first glance, we must remember that these films are all adaptations of children's fantasy books, and production of these elaborate stories is expensive.  Trust me, these (and a slew of others) were big box office losers.  Why did they all fail?

Because studios are consistently overestimating the drawing power of popular books at the box office!  All too often, studios assume that because tons of people picked up a book in the store, that the movie adaptation will naturally be huge.  They throw $100 million at some producers and then barely advertise for the film.  By their logic, the built-in fans are going to see this in theaters, regardless of how much advertising they do.  They couldn't be more wrong.  Very few books have permeated the cultural zeitgeist to the extent studios believe.  Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon.  The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory have been popular across multiple generations.  Children and parents are on board with these titles, and the depth of their appeal makes them successful at the box office.  Modern popular book series like Percy Jackson And The Olympians or Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events may be selling well in bookstores, but they don't enjoy the same degree of awareness as the classics, and it was foolish to spend so much money producing each picture ($95 million on Percy Jackson, and $140 million on Lemony Snicket).

Prince Caspian is another prime example of overestimated awareness and excitement.  Following The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe's success, Disney execs assumed that audiences were ready for film adaptations of the rest C.S. Lewis' Chronicles.  Unfortunately, Disney relied on this perception of excitement too much, and they failed to advertise effectively for the sequel.  The result wasn't pretty. Audiences demonstrated that they were connected not so much in love with the full Narnia series as they were The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, and Caspian couldn't even earn back half of the original film's gross.  Disney promptly dropped the franchise.

But there has to be a good model for adapting books into movies, right?  Thankfully, there is.  Bridge To Terabithia and Diary Of A Wimpy Kid are solid examples of book-to-film adaptations done well.  Both films were based on well known titles, cost just $25 million to produce, and were advertised effectively.  Bridge finished with $82 million, while Diary started off with a great $21.6 million last weekend.  Perhaps the secret is to avoid expensive fantasy franchises (unless you're willing to bite the bullet and advertise), and instead focus on more frugally adapted books.  They may not make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, but they certainly show more profit for the studio than the brutally expensive fantasies.

But now, this post must come to a close.  In the blogging world, this is already the equivalent of Moby Dick in terms of length, but hey- that's just how TBOJ rolls.  Tell me, my literature-loving readers, what book would you want to see made into a movie?  Or, if you'd prefer, what upcoming film adaptations are already making you cringe?  Let me know in the comments!

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8 Delightful Non-Disney Animated Movies

on Wednesday, March 24, 2010   13 comments

This Friday, Dreamworks is releasing the new animated flick How To Train Your Dragon, and as I told you on Monday, I'm pretty excited about it.  So far, no critics have tried to slay this Dragon, as early reviews have been stellar.  Normally the only animated movies that critics and audiences really jump up and down for are Disney (or Disney-Pixar) films.  Just take a look at the highest-grossing animated movies of all time- nine out of the top ten are Disney properties!  But that's not to say that Disney is the only studio that knows how to make an animated movie.  Indeed, in recent years, other studios have stepped up their animation game tremendously, and there've been quite a few quality non-Disney efforts.  Thus, because it is List Wednesday, let's take a look at 8 delightful non-Disney animated movies.

Titan A.E.
I saw this about ten years ago, and I still remember it.  At the time, I didn't realize that this was a huge financial bust ($22 million vs. a $75 million budget).  What I did realize, though, was that despite major inconsistencies in style, parts of Titan A.E.'s animation were absolutely beautiful, and they pushed the technological boundaries of the time.  On top of that, it was a pretty cool sci-fi story about the attempt to restart the Earth on another planet, which is about 100 times more interesting than most kids' stories.

The Prince Of Egypt
Here's another example of beautiful animation.  Between the busy Egyptian streets, the pillar of fire in the desert, and the whale swimming on just the other side of a wall of water, The Prince Of Egypt's visuals made quite an impression on me.  Add onto that the fact that the Exodus story is naturally going to be an incredibly emotional one for the entire Judeo-Christian world, and you have a recipe for a great movie.  Plus, this movie gave us Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's "When You Believe."  Without that glorious ballad, what would the American Idol finalists sing every year?

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Confession: I have never seen this movie, and to be honest, I'm not the biggest Wes Anderson fan in the world. However, I know a family here at school (shout out to the Slates!) that is so obsessed with this movie that it would be wrong not to include it here.  Take their word for it: Fantastic Mr. Fox is incredible.  If you don't want to take their word for it, listen to the critics.  They love it.  If you don't want to listen to the critics, either... well, then don't look at me- I haven't seen this!

The Land Before Time 
Have you ever met someone who didn't like this movie?  Me neither.  It's one of those films like The Brave Little Toaster that's impossible to dislike.  With its wholesome sincerity, lovable dinosaur babies, and genuinely exciting situations (T-Rex!), The Land Before Time established itself as a classic piece of children's entertainment.   Over the last twenty-two years the dinosaur franchise has avoided extinction, spawning a whopping 12 direct-to-video sequels!

Kung Fu Panda
I was ready to dislike this movie when it came on TV a few weeks ago.  I had written it off as another Over The Hedge or Ice Age, movies with average animation that rely on cheap humor and pop culture references.  Well, I was very wrong- Kung Fu Panda is charming!  The characters, which include (amongst others) an ancient, wise turtle, a praying mantis warrior, and a tubby, noodle-cooking panda who's been chosen to defend all of China, are dynamic and hilarious.  On top of that, though, Kung Fu Panda has the ingredient (Are you catching this reference?) that every animated movie must have in order to succeed: heart.  Kung Fu Panda is a true underdog story that takes an endearing zero and makes him a true hero- and all while being uproariously funny!

Shrek
Here's the film that really put Dreamworks' animation on the map.  Shrek's computer animation was a cut above anything that people had ever seen outside of Pixar's hallowed halls.  But just being pretty wouldn't have been enough.  Shrek's story is a beautiful one: a sort of upside-down fable that subverts our notions of fairy tale characters and true beauty.  With a super-quick wit, there's nary a scene that doesn't elicit laughter, and the humor is based on solid writing and interesting characters (Donkey!), not the crude gags and forgettable pop-culture references that have plagued the sequels.

The Swan Princess
Why does my family own a VHS copy of The Swan Princess?  Well, I'm really not sure.  Some relative probably gave it to my sister, but I distinctly remember watching this movie with my two brothers and loving it.  I can already feel your judgment on my shoulders.  Look, I know that The Swan Princess isn't a classic.  I know it's animation, music, and writing aren't up to the Disney Princess standard.  I know it's a tiny little movie that barely anyone ever saw.  But I also know that the animation, music, and writing in this Swan Lake adaptation are actually quite good, and I admire New Line for trying to make the sort of movie that other studios were scared to.  Go ahead and YouTube "This Is My Idea" or "Far Longer Than Forever" to hear some songs that have stuck with me for about 12 years.  Some people may look at The Swan Princess as an ugly duckling, but not me!  (Also, this has the best princess name ever: "Odette")

The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Brad Bird (of The Incredibles and Ratatouille fame) directed this 1997 masterpiece, which is a perfect example of concision.  Indeed, there isn't a single scene in this movie that doesn't need to be there, and every character, line, montage, and action builds to a beautiful finale.  This isn't the sort of in-your-face, laugh-every-second comedy that audiences have become accustomed to.  Set in Cold War America in the 1950s, it's a more wholesome, simple, poignant kind of entertainment, and its themes of love, fear, and sacrifice speak volumes to all ages.  It's truly a shame that The Iron Giant only earned $23 million at the box office.  It deserves a bigger audience.

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DVD Sales: Law Abiding Citizen, The EWE, And The Sad Reality Of The Home Market

on Tuesday, March 23, 2010   7 comments

The-Numbers has released their latest DVD Sales Chart, and despite a handful of new releases, Law Abiding Citizen easily retained the top spot on the chart.  That's not to say that its sales were all that impressive.  With a mediocre 304,352 units sold this week, Law Abiding Citizen's victory reveals the sad state of the home market right now.  Sure, Blu-Ray sales are counteracting some of the declines in DVD Sales, but the reality is that people are simply buying less movies on the home market.  Services like Redbox and Netflix have dramatically harmed the DVD industry, and the pervasiveness of the internet has provided limitless amounts of free entertainment, which has pulled people away from traditional forms of entertainment.  Instead of watching TV or movies, people watch can now watch internet videos for free.  It will be interesting to see if Hollywood can find a way to save the home market in the years to come.  But let's not dwell on all the gloom and doom.  Things aren't that dire yet! :D  Go ahead and click inside to see the full DVD Sales Chart, read my DVD Sales Notes, and to observe further proof of the Era of WEIRD Entertainment, otherwise of known as the EWE! (Hence the sheep photo...)

DVD Sales Notes:

-Law Abiding Citizen fell 63.3% this week to 304,352 units sold, for a total of 1.1 million units and $11.5 million in sales.  That's an average of just $10 per unit!  This means that distributors are either slashing DVD prices in order to attract more buyers, or that with premium Blu-Ray products on the market, DVD prices are declining, since they are now seen as an inferior product.  Either way, when you're working on the sort of budget that I am, low prices are always a good thing!

-Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, a direct-to-video release for the fanboys (ahem, Reed, ahem) sold 205,529 copies for first week sales of $2.7 million.  In terms of direct-to-video releases, this is no Barbie, but it's not terrible either.

-Five movies with unimpressive theatrical box office performances had similarly unimpressive debuts on the home market.  The Informant ($33.3 million in theaters) had poor first week sales of $2.5 million.  The Box ($15.1 million) found $2.9 million in sales, though it sold a few hundred less copies than The Informant Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant ($13.9 million) and Everybody's Fine ($9.2 million) each earned a paltry $2.2 million, while slasher film Sorority Row ($12 million) could only muster up $1.3 million in its DVD debut. 

-Couples Retreat is performing relatively solidly on DVD, with 1.7 million units sold and $27.7 million in sales after three weeks.  The film earned $109.2 million in theaters, and it was a direct benefactor of the Era of Easy Entertainment.  However, I don't want to talk about the EEE today.  No, let's discuss the EWE!

-The Era of Weird Entertainment is upon us!  Seriously- think about it.  A film about blue aliens just broke every box office record in history, Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is making more money than anyone expected, and audiences even embraced the ridiculously strange Shutter Island!  It appears to me that Americans are fully supporting "the weird" right now (Lady Gaga), and the DVD Sales Chart supports my assertion.  Whimsical kids' movie Matilda hopped back onto of the chart (Maybe Tim Burton = Charlie And The Chocolate Factory = Roald Dahl = Matilda?), as did a number of Dr. Seuss adaptations and Tim Burton films.  Is Alice In Wonderland just putting people in the mood to buy some wonky, strange titles, or is America subconsciously entering into the EWE?  I choose the latter!

DVD Sales Chart for the Week Ending February 28, 2010
RankTitleUnits this Week%
Chg
Total UnitsSales this WeekTotal SalesWeeks
1 Law Abiding Citizen 304,352 -63.3% 1,134,403 $3,171,348 $11,463,557 2
2 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths 205,529 -.-% 205,529 $2,669,822 $2,669,822 1
3 Couples Retreat 162,402 -41.1% 1,731,807 $2,596,808 $27,691,594 3
4 The Informant! 145,967 -.-% 145,967 $2,522,310 $2,522,310 1
5 The Box 145,206 -.-% 145,206 $2,902,668 $2,902,668 1
6 Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant 122,228 -.-% 122,228 $2,198,882 $2,198,882 1
7 Everybody's Fine 110,632 -.-% 110,632 $2,211,534 $2,211,534 1
8 Michael Jackson: This It It 102,627 -22.9% 2,483,611 $1,641,006 $39,712,940 5
9 The Time Traveler's Wife 99,158 -38.5% 1,003,726 $1,585,536 $16,265,157 3
10 The Hangover 92,127 -84.4% 8,490,236 $1,033,020 $155,560,029 11
11 Zombieland 89,023 -19.1% 1,365,426 $1,423,478 $22,310,234 4
12 Halo Legends 81,049 -51.8% 249,134 $1,458,072 $4,014,644 2
13 Dr. Seuss - Green Eggs and Ham and Other Favorites 80,836 -.-% - $570,702 - 334
14 The Hurt Locker 77,427 52.4% 808,634 $1,392,912 $14,665,683 7
15 Up 75,936 -88.4% 9,831,448 $1,310,428 $165,524,057 16
16 Sorority Row 73,044 -.-% 73,044 $1,350,584 $1,350,584 1
17 Matilda 69,484 -.-% - $614,933 - 658
18 Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 67,475 7.5% 2,078,936 $1,199,665 $36,809,968 8
19 Stuart Little 61,570 -.-% - $769,009 - 515
20 Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The 60,627 -.-% - $603,239 - 532
21 Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat 59,075 -.-% - $560,622 - 311
22 Corpse Bride, The 58,009 -.-% - $357,788 - 213
23 Break-Up, The 57,370 -.-% 3,254,881 $493,692 $52,672,086 176
24 Stuart Little 2 54,479 -.-% - $571,485 - 377
25 Troy 53,779 -.-% - $520,446 - 269
26 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 53,018 -.-% - $439,519 - 225
27 Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred 51,527 19.4% - $463,228 $3,878,007 102
28 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian 49,822 -76.0% 3,542,581 $613,344 $46,634,797 13
29 Free Willy 48,696 -.-% - $267,341 - 641
30 Seven 47,235 -.-% - $368,117 - 675

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New And News: Hot Tub Time Machines, Untrained Dragons, And Superheroes Galore!

on Monday, March 22, 2010   15 comments

It's Monday, and that means its time for New And News!  This week, two new releases are coming out in theaters, and you know what?  They actually look good!  Critics have been buzzing positively about How To Train Your Dragon and (surprisingly) Hot Tub Time Machine for a few weeks, so it will be exciting to see how audiences respond.  Each has a shot at some major box office success.  Read on for a preview of those movies, as well as some news stories about the X-Men franchise, the new Captain America, the continued onslaught of 3D, and Final Destination 5.

New:

Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM) - 2,750 theaters - Reviews
Remember The Hangover?  Of course you do!  It earned $277 million last Summer!  Well Hot Tub Time Machine is basically The Hangover with a time-travel-twist.  Four guys get really drunk, pass out in a hot tub, and wake up with the 1980s with no clue how they got there.  Between the appeal of a fish-out-of-water story line, Eighties spoofing, and a whole lot of raunch, Hot Tub Time Machine should score with audiences and do pretty well at the box office.  I have to admit, I thought this looked fairly generic and lovably stupid a few months ago, and I thought it would do alright, but now, reviews and buzz are very solid, and I'm looking for this to be a big hit at the box office.  It may not open with gargantuan numbers, but I'm expecting this Hot Tub to keep bubbling for a long time.

How To Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks) - 3,000 theaters - Reviews
Call me a nerd.  Call me a kid that doesn't want to grow up.  I don't care.  How To Train Your Dragon  is the title I'm really excited about this weekend.  Normally, I wouldn't get too excited about a Dreamworks movie (I save that excitement for Pixar releases...), but it looks like their animation department has stepped up its game, as this looks like a visual spectacle.  More exciting to me though, is the fact that this is a Dreamworks animated movie that isn't filled with pop-culture references and cheap humor like Shrek, Shark Tale, or Over The Hedge.  Instead, How To Your Dragon looks like a true underdog story with a lot of heart.  The story follows a socially outcast viking boy named Hiccup.  With no respect from his father or his tribe, Hiccup ends up befriending a dragon, which leads him on an adventure that changes his people's perspective on life.  This hasn't earned a bad review yet, and this could be in the same boat as Hot Tub Time Machine.  Dragon won't open massively, but goo word-of-mouth could keep it around for a while and launch a franchise.

News:

Chris Evans Is The New Captain America?
THR is reporting that Chris Evans has been offered the iconic role of Captain America by Marvel.  Evans' offer would have him playing the super hero in up to three films, as well as participating in The Avengers movies.  Personally, I think this is a great choice, as Evans comic timing and charisma were some of the only fun parts of the Fantastic Four movies.  The actor is reluctant to typecast himself as a super hero actor, since he's already played the Human Torch, but I don't think he needs to worry too much about that.  No one's going to remember those films if Captain America is executed successfully.

Byan Singer On His Future With The X-Men Franchise
The LA Times has a great article about Bryan Singer and his future involvement with the X-Men franchise.  The director, who helmed X-Men and the awesome X2, was pretty mum about X-Men: First Class and a Wolverine sequel, instead claiming that he'd like to focus on Professor X and Magneto.  Ugh.  I'd kind of rather focus on the younger mutants, rather than explore the oldies' relationship again.  Is that wrong?  It's not that I don't appreciate Singer's passion for the characters, it's just that origin stories are way more fun!

All Warner Brothers Tentpole Releases Will Be In 3D
Alright this is seriously starting to make me mad.  Every day, it seems that 20 new 3D titles are announced.  I can't stand this trend, and  I won't go down quietly!  3D is not a better format!  I know it's making you studios a lot of money, but I will not just lay down and accept that this is the "new standard" for the industry.  2D movies are perfectly fine by me!  I don't want $14 tickets, and I don't want a headache every time I see a movie!  So annoying.

Final Destination 5 In The Works.
Remember when I told you that The Final Destination would certainly not be the final destination of this franchise?  Well, it looks like I was right.

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Weekend Fix: Buzzy Bounty Hunter Shot Down By A Strong Wimpy Kid And Robust Alice

on Sunday, March 21, 2010   2 comments

Spring got off to a great start this weekend, as Alice In Wonderland and a trio of new releases led the box office to some solid grosses.  Alice fell 45% from last weekend to $34.5 million and led the frame easily, while Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and The Bounty Hunter battled for the number two spot.  Diary, with its $21.8 million gross, just barely outdid Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler's action comedy The Bounty Hunter, which earned $21 million.  Repo Men failed to make much of an impression, however, sputtering out of the gate with $6.1 million in its opening weekend.  Overall, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $122.3 million, up a big 27% from the same weekend last year.  To hear my thoughts on the weekend box office, watch the video above.  Then, click inside to check out the full box office chart!

Top 12 Box Office Hits For March 19-21, 2010
Rank Movie Studio Theaters Weekend Gross
ChgAVG.Total
1
Alice In Wonderland Disney 3739 $34,509,000 -45%$9,229 $265,752,000
2
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Fox 3077 $21,800,000 New$7,085 $21,800,000
3
The Bounty Hunter Sony 3074 $21,000,000 New$6,831 $21,000,000
4
Repo Men Universal 2521 $6,151,240 New$2,440 $6,151,240
5
She's Out Of My League Universal 2958 $6,015,000 -38%$2,033 $19,954,000
6
The Green Zone Paramount 3004 $5,962,940 -58%$1,985 $24,701,970
7
Shutter Island Paramount 2704 $4,755,000 -42%$1,759 $115,770,000
8
Avatar Fox 1236 $4,000,000 -39%$3,236 $736,880,952
9
Our Family Wedding Fox Search 1609 $3,800,000 -50%$2,362 $13,668,507
10
Remember Me Summit 2215 $3,278,000 -59%$1,480 $13,944,428
11
The Ghost Writer Summit 819 $2,086,000 70%$2,547 $6,776,169
12
Brooklyn's Finest Overture 1311 $1,679,000 -61%$1,281 $24,859,632
All Numbers Provided By Exhibitor Relations Co.

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