Box Office Briefs: Rango's Lukewarm $38M Can't Heat Ice-Cold Multiplexes

Box Office Briefs: Rango's Lukewarm $38M Can't Heat Ice-Cold Multiplexes

Mar 06, 2011

It must have been director Gore Verbinksi's 24th stylistic Western homage -- one towards the end that gave it up to Clint Eastwood -- that caused me to look at the boy and see if he was still engaged in this thing.

As luck would have it, Rango a CG-animated movie voice-starring Johnny Depp, and premiering this weekend with sensible under-$10 ticket prices, did not lose 8-year-old Kellen's licorice-fueled gaze. And -- for the first time in several months of crappy family movies -- it didn't put me to sleep.

Give Paramount a hand -- they did a darned fine job of their first CG-animated family movie sans DreamWorks, crafting a true "four-quadrant" movie that appeals to all age groups. The film scored an impressive 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the kind of score movies from Pixar and DreamWorks get, a Paramount official pointed out to me on Sunday.

Too bad, given the state of the box office, the movie wasn't a huge commercial success, at least not at premiere.

On this very same first-weekend-of-March last year, Depp was leading the box office with a $116.1 million effort in Disney's Alice in Wonderland. And there were hopes that Rango -- while not reaching those lofty levels -- might make closer to $50 million than $40 million. The movie cost Paramount $135 million to make, which is the price you have to pay to get Pirates of the Caribbean talent on board, I suppose.

But nothin's doing gangbusters at multiplexes these days -- not even Matt Damon, who led the latest Philip K. Dick adaptation, The Adjustment Bureau, to a pretty decent $20.9 million opening.

Considering how bad Damon's leading-man performances have been (aka last year's Green Zone), clearing the $20 million mark is pretty good. In fact, overseas, Adjustment Bureau's $10.5 million represented Damon's best opening since 2007's Bourne Ultimatum. But then again, we're talking $21 million, not $30 million-plus, so let's not get too excited.

Also beating pre-release expectations, CBS Films' Beastly grossed $10.1 million, corning the teen-girl market with a Beauty and the Beast-ish twist involving handsome lad Alex Pettyfer getting ugliflied by a witch. Oh where, oh where is Vanessa Hudgens to break this awful spell?

The film -- which hasHow I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris taking a break from being Barney Stinson -- had the look and feel of a high-end CW series in promos. But spending only $17 million to shoot the movie, and pre-selling it overseas, CBS will make good money on this thing, maybe repairing its bank account after its Harrison Ford disaster (Extraordinary Measures) from a year ago. (Sorry, CBS, last time I bring that up.)

Speaking of disasters, Relativity spent $10 million to acquire a '80s-esque R-rated comedy starring Topher Grace, but the movie flat-lined to a $3.5 million opening.

How bad was Take Me Home Tonight? Moviegoer survey firm Cinemascore gave it a C grade, which is like a "D" grade really on their curve.

By the time you factor in a conservative promotional campaign for this turkey -- I don't know, $15 million? -- Relativity is going to lose a considerable sum of dough. Hey, these are tough decisions for studios like Relativity to make, but I don't know how you look at a movie headlined by Topher Grace, with assists from Anna Faris and Dan Fogler, and say, "Yeah, greenlight this motherf***er! In fact, let's pay $10 million for it."

Indeed, if a guy like Johnny Depp can't do a big number, what chance does a guy like Topher Grace have? And it's going to get worse at the box office before it gets better, believe me.

Leaving a suburban San Fernando Valley multiplex Saturday pretty much satisfied with his Rango experience, Kellen completely dissed a Mars Needs Moms poster display in favor of one promoting Battle: Los Angeles (both come out next weekend).

Now, to paraphrase one of Quentin Tarantino's best self-spoken lines ever, if I take an 8-year-old boy to see Battle: Los Angeles, I'm gonna get divorced. And I don't want to get divorced. Vivian (the wife) has one rule -- go ahead and maintain a crappy income as an entertainment writer, carry 20 extra pounds and continue to waste 20 hours a week following the NBA and college-football recruiting, but DO NOT take the boy to PG-13-rated movies ... so I guess we're not seeing Mars Needs Moms or Battle: Los Angeles

Yep ... the movie biz has a pretty soft schedule set for March and April, and should arrive at the summer blockbuster season down even more than the 30 percent hole it's currently in.

You look at the next couple of months, and there's nothin'," a studio executive told me Sunday. If I were a (movie-theater owner), I'd be a little panicked.

Fortunately for most of us, we don't have our bottom line attached to the box office, so we don't have to panic. But we do have to find movies that we can take our friends, family members and hangers-on to, and agree on (unless we can fly solo), and that remains a challenge.

Here's how the top played out this weekend, compared to our Thursday estimates:

Rango Made: $38.0M We predicted: $50.0M
Adjustment Bureau Made: $20.9M We predicted: $22.0M
Beastly Made: $10.1M We predicted: $8.0M
Hall Pass Made: $9.0M We predicted: $7.0M
Gnomeo & Juliet Made: $6.9M We predicted: $6.5M
Unknown Made: $6.6M We predicted: $7.9M
The King's Speech Made: $6.5M We predicted: $9.0M
Just Go With It Made: $6.5M We predicted: $5.5M
I Am Number Four Made: $5.7M We predicted: $5.0M
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Made: $4.3M We predicted: $4.0M

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