SUNDAY: This box office weekend was notable more for which opening movies bombed than which succeeded. Warner’s Lady in the Water from M. Night Shyamalan, Fox’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend from Ivan Reitman, and MGM / Weinstein’s Clerks 2 from Kevin Smith all did disastrous in U.S. theaters. That left it up to Sony’s Monster House from Zemeckis/Spielberg and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest to scare away the competition. I’m told Monster House gross was up 18% Saturday compared to Friday to finish its debut weekend #2 with a surprisingly good $22.5 million, while Lady in the Water fell 5% for #3 with just $17.5 million. Shyamalan’s latest had been expected to perform much, much better, up a spot in the mid-$20s, whereas Monster House had been expected to end down a spot with only mid-teens. But the buzz on the movie, marketed as a horror flick when it’s not, has been bad for weeks prior to Friday’s opening. Meanwhile, film critics wondered in print whether Monster House was suitable for rug rats, but that didn’t seem to matter. Pirates 2 pulled in $35.5 mil to safely occupy #1, hauling in more than $321.7 mil after just 17 days and passing the total take of the first installment. Universal’s Me You and Dupree was #4 with $13 mil and Sony’s Little Man #5 with $11 mil. Clerks 2 dropped 20% Saturday compared to Friday so it may not even make $10 mil after Sunday’s receipts are counted. Super Ex finished #7 with $8.5 mil. This weekend box office was up 10% over last year (but that’s because of the opening of Michael Bay’s Island which sank with moviegoers…)
It’s surprising but not exactly unexpected that three big film directors crashed and burned at the box office this weekend. (It’s not that the budgets were necessarily outsized — in fact, Clerks 2 was cheap — but by the time insanely high marketing costs are factored in, the movies should have gone straight to video.) So, why? In my opinion, blame it on the arrogance that unfortunately follows Hollywood success. All three directors — Shyamalan, Reitman and Smith — have experienced the best of the box office in their past: great reviews, great gross, great wealth. That’s when the disconnect comes in. Even though ousted Disney exec Nina Jacobson told Shyamalan that his Lady script had problems and that’s why she wouldn’t greenlight it, he refused to listen and even trashed her. Even though Reitman is one of the richest directors around and has little in common with the young guys who are his target audience, he keeps making one bad movie after another. Even though Smith was once lauded as the rebel, he is so much the insider these days he does shtick on Leno. (And Kevin sank so low as to try to score PR mileage out of film critic Joel Siegel’s childish Clerks 2 walk-out.) Past success in Hollywood is no guarantee of future success. Especially when directors lose touch with filmgoers. As these three disasters show.
SATURDAY: I’m told it was neck-and-neck at the box office Friday but Sony’s Monster House scared away Warner’s Lady in the Water to take in $7.3 million compared to only $6.8 million. That means the Zemeckis/Spielberg kiddie movie should finish the weekend with $21 mil while M. Night Shyamalan’s bedtime story should only muster $19 mil tops. That’s a shocker since rival studios had predicted Lady‘s haul would be in the high $20s. But the buzz on the movie, marketed as a horror flick when it’s not, has been bad for weeks prior to Friday’s opening — and vindicates ousted Disney exec Nina Jacobson’s decision not to greenlight (which Shyamalan complained about…). Meanwhile, film critics wondered in print whether Monster House was suitable for rug rats. As expected, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest took in $10 mil on Friday (down 46%) so predictions it would finish in the mid $30s are coming true, which would push its cumulative to a staggering $320 mil. This weekend, P2 will also pass the total take for P1. Two more weekend openers, Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2 for MGM/Weinstein was #4 with $4.0 to probably end the weekend with $11+ mil. And Fox’s failed My Super Ex-Girlfriend ($2.7 mil Friday) will be lucky to eke out $7+ mil for the weekend at #5.
FRIDAY: I’m hearing tonight that Sony’s Monster House may scare up more box office bucks Friday than Warner’s Lady in the Water. That would be very unexpected. M. Night Shyamalan’s movie was anticipated to be No. 2 behind, of course, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest. Then again, I’d been hearing all summer that Lady in the Water, which Warner’s marketed as a horror movie when it’s not, would drown during its opening weekend. And the reviews for Monster House were much, much better. In any case, it’s very close. Stay tuned…