'The Five-Year Engagement' and Examining the History of Tribeca Film Festival Opening Night Films

'The Five-Year Engagement' and Examining the History of Tribeca Film Festival Opening Night Films

Apr 18, 2012


The tried and true team of director/writer Nicholas Stoller and writer/actor Jason Segel are back with The Five-Year Engagement, which - tonight - opens the 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival. The duo brought us cult favorite Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Get Him to the Greek (2010), and The Five-Year Engagement is well-poised to be as popular as its predecessors.

The Five-Year Engagement - directed by Stoller and co-written by Stoller and Segel - stars Segel and Emily Blunt as a quirky, head-over-heels in love couple struggling to overcome a myriad of hilarious and poignant obstacles before they walk down the aisle. The supporting cast boasts a clutch comedic crew, among them: Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart and Brian Posehn.

The Five-Year Engagement isn't the first mainstream film to open the Festival, though - Tribeca historically kicks off with a big-name bang. So - in the battle of the Tribeca Film Festival opening night films - which one takes the cake critically? Which comes out on top commercially? Let's first consider the evidence.

2002: In the year of Tribeca's inception, directors Chris and Paul Weitz debuted their Hugh Grant drama About a Boy on opening night. The film (based on the novel by popular English author Nick Hornby) grossed $41,385,278 domestically. The critical response was even more positive – it holds a 93% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

2003: The offbeat 60's-era romantic comedy Down With Love, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, was the Fest's next pick. The production's total domestic gross of $20,305,251 was less than half of its predecessor, and critical response dipped, as well - 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, to be exact.

2004: The third time is decidedly not the charm, as Kate Hudson rom-com vehicle Raising Helen proved after its opening night at Tribeca. Though the domestic total gross - clocking in at $37,486,512 - was higher than that of Down With Love (blasphemy!), the critics panned the film with a 23% rotten score.

2005: Halting the run of light, sweet subject matter, thriller The Interpreter - starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn - kicked off Tribeca's fourth year. The star-powered mystery about an interpreter who catches wind of an assassination plot domestically grossed $72,708,161, but resides in rotten realm with critics at 57%.

2006: In something of a full-circle moment, the fifth year saw Paul Greengrass' haunting and emotional account of one flight's hijacking during 9/11 - United 93 - open the Festival. The subject matter clearly resonated with critics and audience - it holds a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and more than doubled its $15 million budget with a $31,483,450 domestic gross.

2007: Completely flipping the format on its head, Tribeca invited Al Gore to introduce a group of short films in its sixth year. The SOS (Save Our Selves) Campaign included PSA-like messaging regarding global warming and environmental issues. For obvious reasons, this year is out of the running when it comes to the numbers game, but it makes up in spades with good karma.

2008: The seventh year was all about funny ladies, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's comedy Baby Mama unveiling the ceremony. The film received lukewarm reviews, but managed to sneak by with a (barely) fresh rating of 63%, and a domestic gross of $60,494,212.

2009: Going meta in its eighth year, New York City filmmaker Woody Allen's Whatever Works opened Tribeca. Sadly, Larry David as a hilarious Allen surrogate wasn't quite a hit with critics - it remains rotten at 50%. Domestically, it grossed $5,306,706 - though its production budget isn't available, it's safe to say the film flopped. If only Allen knew then what we know now - that he'd resurrect his career in 2011 with the wildly popular Midnight in Paris.

2010: The ninth year was all about going green - although it's not what you think. The fourth and final installment of the popular Mike Myers-voiced series Shrek Forever After unveiled itself in all its chartreuse-colored orge-y goodness at the Fest. Unsurprisingly, the domestic gross was blockbuster big - $238,736,787, though critics were less kind, clocking in a rotten rating of 58%.

2011: For its 10-year anniversary, Tribeca invited director Cameron Crowe to debut his documentary The Union. The making-of piece follows Elton John and Leon Russell's collaborative efforts to create an album, was acquired by HBO and aired this past February 2, 2012. The reviews were generally good - touting Crowe's love of music as an emotional catalyst for the plight of its players - but there's no Rotten Tomatoes score or box office gross to keep it in the race for our purposes.

2012: This brings us up to speed - after seeing The Five-Year Engagement, it's pretty clear the film is in the running to achieve classic status along with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but the box office numbers leave a bit more to the imagination. Segel and Blunt's star power could reel in viewers unfamiliar with Stoller’s previous material to give it a major boost, and it's certainly more in the style of Marshall than the less-beloved Get Him to the Greek - though both are solidly fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Critically, this one will fare well.

So - all major factors (such as ticket price inflation, production budget and total profit) aside, if every one of the Tribeca Film Festival's qualified opening night films was compared strictly by their total domestic gross, the big winner commercially is Shrek Forever After. And critically, it seems the Fest got it right the first time - About a Boy set a high bar, pulling ahead of the pack early and holding its lead for the duration.

Categories: Features, Film Festivals
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