Hollywood corporations are people too, you know, just like other corporations. They feel lethargic and bloated after Thanksgiving like everyone else. They need a break. That's why there are no new wide releases this weekend -- nor do there need to be any, since there are still plenty of good films from the last few weeks that you haven't seen. AREN'T THERE? Look within your soul. AREN'T THERE?? That's what I thought.
The first weekend after Thanksgiving was also fairly desolate last year (see below), and that's been the trend for a long time. When the studios do open something wide post-Thanksgiving, it always gets trampled by Turkey Day leftovers anyway, often something with "Harry Potter" in the title. So you can hardly blame them for being wary. Let's look back on what befell us 52 weeks ago, when we were likewise too busy digesting dinner and going Christmas shopping to pay attention to movies.
The weekend of Dec. 3-5, 2010
The Warrior's Way
Starring samurai, ninjas, the Old West, and unfiltered craziness.
Talk about being thrown to the wolves! Indie distributor Relativity Media dropped this on 1,622 screens -- the company's first wide release -- without screening it for press first, and without any big names in the credits. It's a bizarrely stylized film about a 19th-century Japanese warrior who's exiled to the American West, where he's pursued by ninjas. As promising as Cowboys vs. Ninjas sounds, it turned out to be dull and obtuse, despite comical performances by Geoffrey Rush as the town drunk and Danny Huston as the villain. The movie opened in 9th place with $3 million, and only made another $2.5 million in its entire run. Counting the overseas haul, The Warrior's Way made just over $11 million. It cost $42 million to make. Nobody ever thought about it again, until just now, when I thought about it long enough to write this paragraph.
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and unfiltered craziness.
Normally we wouldn't include Black Swan in this section because it wasn't a wide release, opening on just 40 screens at first to test the waters. But check it out: It made $1.4 million, half as much as Warrior's Way despite playing on 1/40 the number of screens. For a limited release, it was a smash, and Fox Searchlight quickly expanded its theater count in the weeks that followed. It went on to make $107 million in the U.S. and another $222 million overseas. Natalie Portman won an Oscar, and the movie got four other nominations. Not bad for an insane R-rated psychological thriller about ballet!
Director Darren Aronofsky has several irons in the fire now, including an HBO pilot called Hobgoblin and a big-budget theatrical film about Noah's Ark. (For reals.) He was going to direct the next Wolverine movie, but he dropped out, presumably because he realized how bad that idea sounded. Natalie Portman followed up her Oscar-winning performance with No Strings Attached, Your Highness, and Thor, so, uh, keep your chin up, Nat.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
I Love You, Phillip Morris debuted on eight screens this weekend and made a solid $112,000. The dark comedy/gay love story starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor eventually made $2 million in the U.S. and nine times that much overseas -- more proof, if you needed more proof, that foreign audiences dig gay love stories more than American ones. But the fact that it ever made it to theaters at all was something of a victory. It had premiered at Sundance in January 2009 -- almost two years earlier -- and had languished without a distributor for months and months before Roadside Attractions finally stepped in, and then there were legal problems that delayed it even further. But love conquers all in the end (tee hee)!
And what about FIVE years ago??
Dec. 1, 2006: The Nativity Story, in which the future director of Twilight teaches us about the Virgin Mary; Turistas, in which attractive young people go to Brazil to be murdered; and National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, in which they really, really tried to make a sequel to a Ryan Reynolds movie without Ryan Reynolds, with predictable results.
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)