December 2008 Archives

Kathleen EdwardsMy 2008 album begins in Utah and ends in (or near) hell. Whether you think the distance between the starting point and the destination is a lot of territory or not much, we do get to travel pretty far afield. There’s sunny California with the Botticellis, lovely inner-city Baltimore with DoMaJe, Iraq with the estimable Danny Elfman, and someplace sublimely absurd with Flight of the Conchords.

This is the third year for this approach to the year in music, and the rules are simple: I pick my favorite songs, with no previous winners allowed, and no more than one song from an artist. These constraints didn’t limit me much: Only one band got bonged for previous inclusion, and only Kathleen Edwards and the Gutter Twins would have gotten two selections without my dumb regulations.

The list was drawn from roughly 1,500 songs released in 2008 that I’ve consumed.

slumdog-millionaire.jpgEarlier this month, I noted that no 10th-place-gross movie has ever won the Box Office Power Rankings title.

That’s still true.

But Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire — which expanded to 589 sites this past weekend and landed in eighth place in overall box office — could have finished in last place and still won this week’s crown.

With 31 points (out of a maximum 40) and a three-point edge over The Tale of Despereaux, Slumdog could afford to lose two points — the difference between eighth and 10th place in gross. But it would need to retain all its other points, including for per-theater box office.

Slumdog finished with $5,184.65 in per-theater revenue, while the movie below it in that category (Despereaux again) earned $3,255.05. That gives a window of between $1.92 million (Desperaux’s per-theater revenue multiplied by Slumdog’s sites) and $2.05 million (Quantum of Solace’s 10th-place take) for Boyle’s movie to finish last and first simultaneously. (Eleventh-place Milk earned $1.73 million, so it wouldnt’ have sneaked in.)

And I officially spend too much time on this crap.

Continue reading for the methodology and the week’s full rankings.

delgo.jpgIf you’ve heard of the animated Delgo, it’s most likely for its infamy. Opening this past weekend in 2,160 theaters, it barely grossed $500,000. Its per-theater revenue was $237, meaning that with an average ticket price of $7 and five screenings per day, a little more than two people showed up each time the movie was exhibited.

Needless to say, Delgo does not show up in this week’s Box Office Power Rankings, won once again by Bolt, which is feasting on weak competition such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, a bomb that looks like The Dark Knight compared to Delgo.

Box Office Mojo notes that Delgo had the worst wide opening since at least 1982. The chart indicates that if you open in 2,000 or or more theaters, $2 million in ticket sales are pretty much guaranteed. (See: The Adventures of Pluto Nash [$2.2 million] and this summer’s The Rocker [2.6 million].)

So something went horribly wrong with Delgo.

At the movie’s Internet Movie Database trivia page, one learns that the independent production spanned six years and that the dailies were shown on the movie’s official Web site:

“Fathom Studios made a highly progressive move by opening themselves up to scrutiny from the outside. They posted their progress online over a number of years, and not in the form of sanitized press releases or occasional images. They were actually using their site to post dailies, rough footage, fragments of animation as they were being scrutinized, polished, and reworked. This was a first for any active studio production.”

Another nugget:

“Fathom Studios signed only recognizable, bankable actors for principle [sic] parts as part for [sic] their production master plan. They then rolled out their cast announcements gradually, thus maximizing the PR impact and addressing potential distribution concerns of the companies they needed to get the film into theaters.”

Here we note the distinction between getting a movie into theaters and getting paying customers into those theaters.


“The movie was scripted as the first film of a potential trilogy.”

There are at least two people excited about the possibility: Freddie Prinze Jr. and Chris Kattan.

Continue reading for the methodology and the week’s full rankings.

hancock.jpgLet’s break this down like a logic puzzle.

  • Iron Man is a better beginning-to-end movie than The Dark Knight or Hancock.
  • The Dark Knight’s best scenes and moments are easily superior to anything in the other two movies.
  • The Dark Knight’s epic collapse (pretty much everything after Harvey Dent is burned) reflects that (a) it had much farther to fall; (b) it had outsize ambition, even if it didn’t fulfill all of it; and (c) expectations for it — after Batman Begins, after its bravura early scenes, and with a Joker in conception and performance that remains endlessly fascinating — would be nearly impossible to meet.
  • Hancock’s special effects were terrible, Iron Man’s were impressive, and The Dark Knight’s were seamless and organic.
  • I did not see The Incredible Hulk.
  • I never want to see Hancock or Iron Man again, while The Dark Knight I expect to watch regularly, despite my disappointment with it.

So which did I like best, and find the most affecting?

Hancock, of course.

I’m still trying to figure it out.

cadillac-records.jpgCadillac Records opened this past weekend with a respectable $5,023 per theater, and got good reviews. It came in second place in this week’s Box Office Power Rankings behind only three-time winner Bolt, the unstoppable force that nobody cares about.

But because it was only in 686 theaters, it couldn’t make a box-office splash, earning $3.4 million overall and landing in ninth place. And because it was in 686 threaters, it was too big to be one of those only-in-major-cities movies that generate buzz and huge per-theater numbers. (Think Milk.)

If you believe (as I do) that perception plays a role in long-term performance, Sony/Columbia has done Cadillac Records a major disservice. It doesn’t smell like a turd, but on the surface it sure looks like one — yet only because of how it was released.

What might have been? Dreamgirls ($103 million in total domestic box office) opened in three theaters. Walk the Line ($120 million) opened in 2,961. Ray ($75 million) didn’t open wide wide (2,006 theaters), but it still managed a $20-million opening weekend.

Continue reading for the methodology and the week’s full rankings.

milk.jpgNo movie has ever won the Box Office Power Rankings with a 10th-place finish in overall ticket sales. It’s certainly possible, but a film has to be perfect or nearly so in every other category to pull it off.

In just 36 venues, Gus Van Sant’s Milk actually was perfect in every other category — tops in per-theater average and in both critical measures. And the bio-pic about gay-rights icon Harvey Milk still lost.

Put simply, when you start by losing nine points off the maximum 40 at the outset, you need some help to come out on top, and Milk didn’t get much. Four Christmases beat Bolt in total weekend box office, and it and Twilight had better per-theater performances, but no movie got between the Disney cartoon and Sean Penn on the critical measures.

So the dog won.

Continue reading for the methodology and the week’s full rankings.