Box Office Power Rankings: April 3-12, 2009

fast-and-furious.jpgA run of sequels is supposed to die a slow death, with waning interest as a series progresses. What, then, explains the $71-million opening-weekend take of Fast and Furious?

I know everybody has already forgotten the damned thing exists, but I’m still awed by that number. It’s a third sequel in a franchise nobody gets excited about, and it tops the series’ previous best start by $20 million.

Given the relatively dim star power of Vin Diesel, Paul, Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster, it can’t be attributed to their returns. So what is it?

Here’s my hypothesis: Fast and Furious isn’t a spring movie; it has marked the beginning of summer 2009.

Consider that its opening weekend was just $17 million short of Spider-Man 2’s summer 2004 debut. It’s also the biggest April opening ever — by nearly $30 million. You shall know it by the company it keeps, and these are not just summer numbers, but good summer numbers. The two Fantastic Four movies opened with $56 million and $58 million.

I had assumed that the season this year would start May 1 (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, followed the next weekend by Star Trek), but my calendar is apparently all screwed up.

You might remember that Fast and Furious was originally slated for a June 12 release. Perhaps this is evidence that summer is an attitude, not a date range.

Alas, neither Fast and Furious nor Hannah Montana: The Movie could translate their box-office wins into Box Office Power Rankings victories. With the lowest winning scores since early January (32 out of 40) and December (31), Monsters Vs. Aliens notched two more titles. This is a demonstration of the field’s weakness rather than that movie’s strength.

Box Office Power Rankings: April 3-5, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Monsters Vs. Aliens19 ($32.6M)9 ($7.9K)8 (73)6 (56)32
2Adventureland-5 ($5.7M)6 ($3.1K)10 (88)10 (76)31
3I Love You, Man26 ($7.7M)5 ($2.7K)9 (80)9 (70)29
4Fast and Furious-10 ($71.0M)10 ($20.5K)3 (26)4 (45)27
5Sunshine Cleaning-1 ($1.8M)8 ($3.8K)7 (70)7 (61)23
6Duplicity34 ($4.2M)3 ($1.7K)6 (66)8 (69)21
7The Haunting in Connecticut48 ($9.5M)7 ($3.5K)2 (20)1 (33)18
7Knowing47 ($8.1M)4 ($2.5K)4 (34)3 (41)18
9Race to Witch Mountain73 ($3.2M)2 ($1.1K)5 (42)5 (52)15
1012 Rounds92 ($2.3M)1 ($1.0K)2 (20)2 (37)7
Box Office Power Rankings: April 10-12, 2009
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Monsters Vs. Aliens18 ($21.8M)8 ($5.3K)8 (73)7 (56)31
2Hannah Montana: The Movie-10 ($32.3M)10 ($10.4K)5 (46)5 (48)30
3I Love You, Man35 ($6.3M)6 ($2.4K)9 (80)9 (70)29
4Observe and Report-7 ($11.0M)7 ($4.0K)6 (52)6 (54)26
5Fast and Furious49 ($27.2M)9 ($7.8K)3 (26)3 (45)24
5Adventureland22 ($3.4M)2 ($1.8K)10 (88)10 (76)24
7Knowing76 ($6.4M)5 ($2.2K)4 (34)2 (41)17
7Duplicity61 ($3.0M)1 ($1.5K)7 (66)8 (69)17
9Dragonball Evolution-3 ($4.8M)4 ($2.2K)1 (14)4 (47)12
10The Haunting in Connecticut74 ($5.9M)3 ($2.2K)2 (20)1 (33)10


Culture Snob’s Box Office Power Rankings balance box office and critical reception to create a better measure of a movie’s overall performance against its peers than gross receipts alone.

The weekly rankings cover the 10 top-grossing movies in the United States for the previous weekend. We assign equal weight to box office and critical opinion, with each having two components. The measures are: box-office gross, per-theater average, Rotten Tomatoes score, and Metacritic score.

Why those four? Box-office gross basically measures the number of people who saw a movie in a given weekend. Per-theater average corrects for blockbuster-wannabes that flood the market with prints, and gives limited-release movies a fighting chance. Rotten Tomatoes measures critical opinion in a binary way. And Metacritic gives a better sense of critics’ enthusiasm (or bile) for a movie.

For each of the four measures, the movies are ranked and assigned points (10 for the best performer, one for the worst). Finally, those points are added up, with a maximum score of 40 and a minimum score of four.

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