SUNDAY CENTS: ‘District’ shines

Posted by · 10:40 am · August 16th, 2009

District 9*All historic figures cited are adjusted to today’s dollars.

Internet hype doesn’t always translate into box office success, but “District 9” was able to live up to the buzz and debut with a strong $37 million and the top spot this weekend. For a film that cost a reported $30 million to make, this is obviously a huge win for Sony and one of the bigger surprises of the summer. As a buddy succinctly put it in a tweet: “’District 9’ might be the only movie this year I want to see that I didn’t know I wanted to see six months ago.”

Credit the fantastic marketing and an interesting/original concept in a summer-friendly genre for the success. The first two weeks of August are typically robust but then the month just dies and only two movies released past the 14th of the month have debuted higher than “District 9” (“Freddy vs. Jason” and “Mortal Kombat”). Audience reception is fantastic so I can see this one sticking around enough to reach $85 million or so. Now, who else is going as Wicus with a prawn arm for Halloween?

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” takes second place after a 59% drop to $22.5 million. That actually could have been worse so Paramount will take it. The running total is already $98.8 million and that’s enough to encourage the inevitable sequel. Might I suggest the title “G.I. Joe: The Recasting of Channing Tatum?”

Third place goes to “The Time Traveler’s Wife” with $19.2 million. I’ve got nothing to say about this because quite frankly, this movie bores me. I like Rachel McAdams so I wish she’d hurry up and make a movie that looks halfway tolerable again.

“Julie & Julia” dropped a respectable 38% to $12.4 million and that should be the largest drop it experiences during its run. No other direct competition comes into play until “All About Steve” after Labor Day so I expect Meryl and Amy to be the number one choice for adult females for a while.

“The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard” debuted with a soft $5.4 million, but I don’t think Paramount could have expected much more than that. Essentially a Funny-or-Die skit stretched out to feature length, this will have a quick exit from theaters and play on Comedy Central every month for the rest of our lives.

Hayao MIyazaki’s “Ponyo” slipped into the top 10 despite a low screen count of 927 by earning $3.5 million and already surpassing the total of “Princess Mononoke.” It’s got a little ways to go before it can match the all-time anime champ in theaters. That’s right people, I’m talking about “Pokemon: The Movie,” which made $121.0 million in 1999, and that’s borderline criminal.

Busy week for me at the movies. I shelled out $10 for “Public Enemies,” “Somers Town” and “District 9.” I thought Michael Mann made an inconsistent but interesting movie with brilliant moments but a staggeringly awful performance by Christian Bale. “District 9” gets points for ambition and a terrific first half hour setting up its conceit and environment but then gets silly and loses the power of its themes. “Somers Town” is a shoo-in for my top 10 of the year.

Next week gives us the long-awaited debut of “Inglourious Basterds.” One of the world’s most famous directors teamed with one of its most famous stars has to equal box office success, right? Mixed reviews and an aggressively violent looking tone might keep some older audiences away but I still see a $20 million start, which is good for this part of August.

QT’s good buddy Robert Rodriguez tries to rain on the parade with “Shorts,” but who the hell wants to see that? The “Spy Kids” movies and even “The Adventures of Sharkboy and LavaGirl” were hits but I can’t bring myself to predict anything more than $9 million.

Fox opens an Alexis Bledel comedy called “Post Grad,” which seems to me like it should be coming out when school is finishing, not about to start, but what do I know? I’ve never even heard of Alexis Bledel. $5 million.

Finally, Disney opens “X-Games 3D: The Movie.” I suppose this is meant to attract the extreme sports crowd but I can’t think of anything less cool than going to see a 3D movie of an already televised event. $2 million if it’s lucky.

What do you guys think?  Here are the weekend’s top domestic grossers, courtesy of Exhibitor Relations:

Weekend of Friday, August 14, 2009

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Box Office · Sunday Cents

27 responses so far

  • 1 8-16-2009 at 11:03 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Somers Town, really? It’s been well over a year since I saw it, and I must admit it had slipped from memory entirely.

    This Is England was my film of 2007, but while I appreciated Somers Town’s warmth and humanism — and think Thomas Turgoose is a born star — it seemed perilously slight by comparison. As a feat of inventive product placement, however, it can hardly be surpassed.

  • 2 8-16-2009 at 11:06 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    This is England is great but I think it suffers from an over-the-top climax so the slight nature of Somers Town through and through was actually a relief for me.

  • 3 8-16-2009 at 11:10 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Fair enough. You’ve tempted me to take another look.

    By the way, it’s “Wikus” not “Vicus” — the letter “c” doesn’t exist in Afrikaans. Fun fact.

  • 4 8-16-2009 at 11:24 am

    Vito said...

    Never heard of Alexis Bledel, really? Not that she’s really much a of a box-office draw, though. Also, I’ve seen no marketing for Post Grad whatsoever, so your prediction might be right.

  • 5 8-16-2009 at 11:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, never having heard of Alexis Bledel would pretty much mean never having watched “Gilmore Girls,” right? I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

  • 6 8-16-2009 at 12:24 pm

    ZiZo Abul Hawa said...

    That could also mean that he never watched the fantastic and remarkable Sin City.

  • 7 8-16-2009 at 12:49 pm

    James D. said...

    I saw Sin City, but her character and performance was unremarkable. I had to look her up, actually.

  • 8 8-16-2009 at 12:50 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    She’s in Sin City? I did see that and hated it.

  • 9 8-16-2009 at 12:54 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Isn’t she the chick with Hartnett at the beginning?

  • 10 8-16-2009 at 1:07 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, I can’t say I remembered she was in “Sin City.”

    I think she was in the last season of “ER” too, not that ANYBODY watched that.

  • 11 8-16-2009 at 1:12 pm

    James D. said...

    No, she is Becky, the prostitute that sells out the others.

  • 12 8-16-2009 at 1:45 pm

    Kokushi said...

    Kris, that Marley Shelton in the beginning.

  • 13 8-16-2009 at 1:49 pm

    Kokushi said...

    Alexis Bledl in Sin City:

  • 14 8-16-2009 at 1:50 pm

    Jeremy said...

    Alexis Bledel’s performance in “Sin City” was remarkable entirely because of her eyes. They’re like beacons. Rodriguez recognized it and highlighted them in color and put everything else in black-and-white. It’s a memorable performance.

    I believe she’s also the lead in the “Sisterhood of Traveling Pants” franchise, which is where “Post-Grad” is likely to draw its (meager) audience.

  • 15 8-16-2009 at 2:11 pm

    Bill said...

    These Sunday Cents articles are so snarky. I love them.

  • 16 8-16-2009 at 2:31 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Maybe The Time Traveler’s Wife failed because Rachel McAdams pretty much spoiled the entire movie on The Daily Show.

  • 17 8-16-2009 at 2:38 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Since most of the people interested in seeing it had probably already read the mega-selling book, I doubt that was too much of a problem.

  • 18 8-16-2009 at 4:39 pm

    Hans said...

    The only advertising I’ve seen for Post Grad has consisted entirely of passing by the poster in the hallway of the movie theater I work at everyday.

  • 19 8-16-2009 at 7:25 pm

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    Come on, Guy. “Gilmore Girls” was a great show!

  • 20 8-16-2009 at 8:17 pm

    Andrew L. said...

    Agree with Nicolas; under the overt exterior (unabashedly dictated by the theme song: Carole King’s “Where You Lead”) was a show with very strong writing, anchored primarily by Lauren Graham. Of course, toward the end, the plot lines became a little trite and the pop culture references were a bit more forced, but ultimately, the show was an under appreciated gem along the lines of Buffy and Veronica Mars.

  • 21 8-17-2009 at 2:13 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Haha, didn’t really mean to be down on the show — I just meant from Chad’s point of view. My girlfriend at the time was devoted to the early seasons, so I saw a fair bit of it. Not really my thing, but Lauren Graham has skills, I agree.

  • 22 8-18-2009 at 4:44 pm

    j said...

    The TV critics’ assn picked the best of the decade, and Lauren Graham was tied with SJP for 2nd-best comedy actress (after Fey), and Buffy was shortlisted for both best drama & best dramatic actress (unsurprising since it was nominated for the critics’ Program of the Year twice this decade).

    On another note, apparently Time Traveler’s Wife did well enough that a TV pilot has been greenlit.

  • 23 8-23-2009 at 9:54 am

    davidraider88 said...

    Chad: The film didn’t earn mixed reviews and almost doubled your box office prediction.

  • 24 8-23-2009 at 10:01 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Wow, that comment seems to only be lacking a “na-na-na-boo-boo.” Jeez…

  • 25 8-23-2009 at 10:06 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Alas, my magic8 ball failed me this time davidraider88. I have replaced its batteries and everything should be back on track.

  • 26 8-23-2009 at 11:42 am

    Davidraider88 said...

    No, this goes with the site’s total misfire on this film. Granted, your opinions on the film are respected, but to call the critical reaction mixed days before many of the reviews were even in (86% RT right now) and to totally low-ball it’s box office prediction when most people were predicting 25-30 million dollars was disturbing to say the least. If you are going to report on its critical reaction and it’s potential opening weekend box office, you have to at least be objective about it. It’s not like a personal review of the film, where you don’t have to be.

    And no, I am not a Tarantino fanboy, so don’t even try going that route.

  • 27 8-23-2009 at 11:54 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    As you said, most of the reviews from local US outlets weren’t in so I was going by advanced reviews and the reaction from Cannes. Gotta work with what I’ve got. As for my lowball, you win some you lose some.