Attention holiday shoppers! This is the last weekend before Christmas and Hanukkah! It's your last chance to purchase gifts for loved ones and for people you don't love but have to give presents to! (We're looking at you, brothers-in-law.) You probably won't even have time to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows or Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Proctologist (which opens on IMAX today, regular screens on Wednesday). Worst of all, you'll probably have to skip Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked! (Don't worry, you can catch it when the Criterion Collection DVD comes out.)
Since you're consumed with holiday consumption and will have to forgo moviegoing for a few days, you might as well take a moment and reflect on the movies you failed to see at this time last year. What opened the weekend before Christmas 2010? Let's hop in our metaphorical time machine and take a figurative look back on the literal past.
The weekend of Dec. 17-19, 2010
Starring Jeff Bridges and computers and "Garrett Hedlund," whatever that is.
2010 was crammed with '80s remakes, sequels, and homages, but it wasn't until the end of the year that we got the one that made the most sense. What '80s film was more ripe for an update than Tron? The living-in-a-digital-world stuff that seemed like fantasy in 1982 is almost a reality now, and our ability to produce convincing special effects to portray that world is vastly improved.
So there was plenty of anticipation for Tron Legacy, which Disney heightened by pulling the original Tron DVD out of print and launching a massive marketing campaign that can only be described as Disney-esque. The new film opened to reviews split right down the middle -- 50% positive, 50% negative, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus was that the visuals were amazing, and the Daft Punk soundtrack was wicked cool, but the story was kinda lame. Also, Garrett Hedlund went to the Paul Walker school of acting, where you stomp around looking Very Serious about whatever your Serious Business is, and you're no fun.
Tron Legacy opened to a sturdy $44 million, selling about 2 1/2 times as many tickets as the original Tron did when it opened. (Of course, the sequel was also on three times as many screens.) It eventually made $172 million in the United States, matching what it cost to make the film. The additional $228 million it made overseas brought its total to just over $400 million, which was enough to cover marketing costs and such. And you know what that means: sequel! One is tentatively in the works, and in the meantime an animated series called Tron Uprising will air on Disney XD in 2012. (Fun fact that I did not know before: Disney XD is a thing that exists!)
Garrett Hedlund will next appear as Dean Moriarty in Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, scheduled to be released sometime next year. Jeff Bridges doesn't have anything on the agenda until 2013, and in the meantime simply abides.
Starring Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake's voices, but none of their dignity.
Remember the animated hijinks of Yogi Bear? No? Well, your grandparents do. And they were probably thrilled and confused when a big-screen adaptation was finally released! Yogi Bear continued the current trend of making the humans live-action, the animals CGI, and everybody stupid.
Unsurprisingly, the film opened to miserable reviews -- just 14% positive at Rotten Tomatoes -- but a healthy box office. Its $16.4 million opening weekend was chump change compared to certain Chipmunk-themed movies we could name, but it eventually grossed $100.2 million in the U.S. and the same overseas -- a nice return on the $80 million production budget. A sequel is in the works. There's no word yet on whether Justin Timberlake and Dan Aykroyd will reprise their roles as the bears' voices, but let's be honest, of course they will.
How Do You Know
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and a favor that Jack Nicholson owed someone.
Hollywood's latest assault against the noble question mark was this romantic comedy that sounded like a sure-fire hit. How Do You Know starred Reese Witherspoon, who hadn't been in a movie in two years, and Paul Rudd, who'd been in lots of movies but is beloved by all mankind. Directed by James L. Brooks, of Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets fame! How can you go wrong? (Sorry: How can you go wrong)
Well, the reviews sure didn't help: only 31% positive at Rotten Tomatoes. It opened to a measly $7.5 million, on its way to $30.2 million in America and just $18.5 million overseas. That worldwide total of $48.7 million would be pretty bad under any circumstances, but get this: How Do You Know cost $120 million to make. That's right, the movie with no special effects other than propping up Jack Nicholson's corpse so it would seem alive cost MORE to make than the one with the talking bears. According to The Hollywood Reporter, about $40 million of that went to the stars' salaries: $15 million for Witherspoon, $12 million for Nicholson, $10 million for Wilson, and $3 million for Rudd. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where Reese Witherspoon is worth five times as much as Paul Rudd. I hope everybody learned their lesson here.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
Rabbit Hole, a devastating drama starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a couple mourning the death of their son, opened on nine screens. The reviews were great (86% at Rotten Tomatoes), and had been ever since the film premiered at Toronto three months earlier. (Our own Scott Weinberg was one of its most vocal supporters, as you no doubt recall if you followed him on Twitter at the time.) But its opening per-screen average was modest, and it ultimately made about $3.4 million worldwide. Kidman got an Oscar nomination, though, so don't cry too much for her.
And what about FIVE years ago??
Dec. 15, 2006: The Pursuit of Happyness, in which Will Smith is poor and learns how to spell; Eragon, in which a home-schooled teenager who wrote a popular fantasy novel lives to see that novel turned into a hilariously bad movie; and Charlotte's Web, in which a spider saves a pig and then dies, which is what you get for preventing people from enjoying bacon.
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)