Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, One Day, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World -- if you think this weekend is crowded with new releases, you should have been alive this time a year ago! Oh, what a frantic time that was, the weekend of Aug. 20, 2010. The old-timers still talk about it now and then. "Remember the weekend there were FIVE new wide releases?" they'll say. "Hard to believe it's been a whole year." Let's take a big, refreshing gulp of nostalgia and reflect with them.
The weekend of Aug. 20-22, 2010
Starring the jokes about Twilight that you already made with your friends.
The biggest new release this weekend was another rancid spoof by the guys who made Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. (Hey, August box office, I think I found your problem!) According to Interpol, these remarkably untalented war criminals are named Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Vampires Suck was their Twilight parody.
Oh, and guess what? It made money, because people hear that it makes fun of Twilight and they say, "Oh, man, I wanna see that!! Cuz I hate Twilight, which I've never seen!!!" This is why we can't have nice things, you guys. Actually opening on Wednesday, Vampires Suck grossed $6.3 million the first two days, then $12.2 million more over the weekend proper, on its way to a total of $36.7 million domestic, $43.9 million foreign, and a whopping worldwide gross of $80.6 million. Do you know what that means? It means they get to make another movie. This time it'll be a parody of the 3D trend, and will be different from Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans in some as-yet unspecified way. I bet it will still have a Paris Hilton joke, though, because those are always funny, here in 2005, where Friedberg and Seltzer live.
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, and semen.
The Switch was a comedy about a guy who intentionally replaces his platonic lady friend's sperm donation with his own, thereby fathering her child without her knowledge or permission. The poster had a picture of the man grimacing while he examines a cup of what appears to be his ejaculate. And yet somehow this movie failed to set the box office on fire! It's as though people were thoroughly repulsed by the very concept or something! Huh!
Despite starring the likable Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, and despite being a reasonably funny movie that got some positive reviews, The Switch tanked. It opened in 7th place with $8.4 million, eventually earning $27.8 million in the U.S. and about the same foreign. That's not completely embarrassing, but it's at the extreme low end for R-rated comedies. Bateman and Aniston, as beloved as they are, have struggled to find blockbuster success. But they both appeared in this summer's Horrible Bosses, which has made $112 million and counting and is a bona fide hit. Which is good, because Bateman also starred in The Change-Up, a movie with a remarkably similar title to The Switch, and it bombed. He should probably reconsider his movie for next August, The Ol' Switcheroo.
Ah, this dumb thing. When archeologists uncover the ruins of our civilization, fifty or sixty years from now, they'll hold up Piranha 3D as the symbolic movie of 2010: campy, stupid, fun to watch, full of blood and naked people, and in 3D.
But it wasn't a big hit. Its opening weekend was $10.1 million -- the worst debut up to that point for a wide-release 3D movie. This was where people started to realize that putting something in 3D doesn't automatically mean it will crack the top 5 at the box office. (Here was the conundrum: the movie made great use of 3D, but wasn't good enough to be worth paying 3D prices.) It's happened a few times since then, too, and will probably only need to happen another couple dozen times before the people who make the movies learn the lesson.
Piranha 3D ultimately grossed only $25 million in the U.S., but its healthy $58.2 million overseas total was enough to guarantee a sequel: Piranha 3DD, which sounds like a parody title but isn't. It's scheduled for release this Thanksgiving, because it's a holiday movie, for the family.
Starring Bow Wow, Ice Cube, and other pseudonyms.
Of the five new releases, this one was on the fewest screens -- yet it was second only to Vampires Suck in terms of box office. Once again, Hollywood was surprised to discover that African-American audiences are woefully underserved and are eager to see movies -- whether they're any good or not -- that reflect their lives. I think the studios are starting to catch on now that Tyler Perry has had like a dozen movies open in first place, but maybe not.
Anyway, Lottery Ticket earned $10.6 million out of the gate, eventually taking $24.7 million. And there we run into the other side of that coin: though they are sometimes modest or even major successes in the U.S., black-oriented movies usually don't sell overseas at all. So while Piranha 3D appealed to enough non-Americans to more than double its U.S. gross, Lottery Ticket did not.
Nanny McPhee Returns
Starring Emma Thompson.
As unexpectedly charming as the first Nanny McPhee was, this sequel to the children's story didn't catch anyone's interest, at least not at first. It opened in 8th place with $8.4 million, the worst score of the weekend's new films. But it went on to make $29 million in the U.S. -- more than The Switch, Piranha 3D, or Lottery Ticket -- plus $64.2 million in the foreign markets, where hideously ugly nannies are more commonplace. Thompson says she has ideas for two more sequels. Our suggestions: Nanny McPhee Returns Another Time and Nanny McPhee 3DD.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
The Tillman Story, a heartbreaking and well-reviewed documentary about American athlete-turned-soldier-turned-war-casualty Pat Tillman, opened in New York and Los Angeles. Rotten Tomatoes shows 93% positive, with only six negative reviews (and one of those was by Armond White, so it doesn't count). Documentaries are a tough sell, though, and The Tillman Story grossed only around $800,000 over its entire run. See above, RE: nice things, why we can't have them.
And what about FIVE years ago??
You know what opened on Aug. 18, 2006? Monkey-fighting Snakes on a Monkey-fighting Plane, that's what! Remember how much you loved that movie? Or the title, anyway? Also: the Justin Long comedy Accepted, which was pretty decent; and Material Girls, starring the Duff sisters, Hilary and Haylie, which was so bad it made everyone who saw it sterile.
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)