Showing 1-20 of 100 results tagged “Box Office”

Marvel’s Superpower

Brie Larson in 'Captain Marvel'

The conventional wisdom says that Marvel can do no wrong while DC bungles just about everything.

Yet it’s difficult to really compare them. The Marvel Cinematic Universe got a running start with Iron Man way back in 2008, and the DC Extended Universe didn’t begin until 2013, with Man of Steel. Marvel’s first Avengers movie dropped in 2012, while DC didn’t get the gang together until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. In time terms, DC trails Marvel by four to five years, and in volume it’s even further behind: There are now 21 movies in the MCU, while the DC Extended Universe has six.

But we finally have a good point of comparison for the two comic-book titans: Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. They were released less than two years apart; they both represented the first solo vehicle for a female superhero in their respective universes; they were both directed or co-directed by a woman; and they’re both origin stories that largely stand apart from ongoing narratives.

In a narrow test of brand strength, they strongly support the idea that Marvel drinks DC’s milkshake.

last-jedi-box-office.jpgThe Last Jedi is clearly an abysmal failure.

Take it from Rob Cain, who on December 22 published an article on with the headline “Last Jedi Grosses Are Collapsing with the Worst Daily Holds of All Nine Star Wars Movies”.

But Cain’s chosen lens has several flaws.

new-moon.jpgThe Box Office Power Rankings do not like the Twilight movies. We are not fooled by the excitement or ticket-buying power of teenage girls. We are on Team No One. (Did I do that right?)

Neither movie has ever finished better than third place in the Box Office Power Rankings. We are confident that this validates our methods.

The first movie in the series was hammered by stiff competition. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 44, it was 10th in the top 10 its opening weekend. To put that in context, New Moon’s 28 netted it a seventh-place finish in the Rotten Tomatoes criterion its first weekend. (Thank you, Couples Retreat, The Fourth Kind, and Planet 51.)

But the reality is that neither of these movies, given Thanksgiving release, is ever really in the Box Office Power Rankings conversation, even though they’re mostly avoiding the end-of-year Oscar bait. They might be ATMs for the studio, but without even better-than-mediocre reviews, they’re DOA in this neighborhood.

And that means there’s lots of room for movies that are more ... colorful. These five weeks of rankings feature wins by Precious (twice), The Blind Side (twice), and The Princess and the Frog, and a second-place debut by Invictus.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

carol.jpgAs people tell us time and time again, box-office performance is in the eye of the beholder.

Box Office Mojo wrote that Michael Jackson’s This Is It, in its debut weekend, did “exceptionally well for a concert picture or music documentary.” On the other hand, Disney’s A Christmas Carol “stumbled a bit out of the gate.”

Guess which one made $30 million and which one pulled in $23 million in its opening weekend.

Yep. The stumbler made more.

The two movies are within a couple hundred theaters of each other. Michael Jackson had literally no new-wide-release competition, and as you might have heard, Michael Jackson died suddenly in June. Charles Dickens had to fight off Goats, aliens, and whatever Richard Kelly is selling in The Box. And again: A Christmas Carol made $7 million more than This Is It, even though it had significantly weaker reviews.

It also earned $7 million more in its opening weekend than The Polar Express, made by the same director with the same technique for the same holiday. But as Mojo helpfully adds: “Polar Express ... was muted by opening a few days after The Incredibles whereas Carol had no such direct competitor.”

The unstated premise here — and it is truly unstated in these weekend roundups — is the size of the gamble. A Christmas Carol cost $200 million to make ($35 million more than Polar Express, by the way), while the production costs of This Is It had been spent before the decision was made to turn those rehearsals into into a movie. So any revenue generated by This Is It is gravy, while A Christmas Carol has far to go before it’s in the black.

I’m no defender of Robert Zemeckis or these motion-capture animated things, but I refuse to consider a $30-million, non-Thanksgiving November opening a disappointment, either in absolute terms or compared to a postmortem cash-in. (Yeah, I know it was assembled with affection and skill, but it’s still a postmortem cash-in.)

Others might be harsh in their assessments, but cheer up, Robert! You did win the Box Office Power Rankings, and Michael didn’t.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

wild-things.jpgShould we consider Spike Jonze’s and Dave Eggers’ adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are a disappointment?

It is certainly not a miserable failure. It received good reviews, won the box office when it debuted, and also topped the Box Office Power Rankings in its opening weekend.

But its gross dropped 57 percent its second weekend. Thirty-five movies have opened in wide release atop the box-office top 10 this year, and 20 lost a lower percentage of revenue than Wild Things:

Movie: Debut weekend, Second weekend, Drop
Gran Torino: $29.5M, $25.6M, 13.2%
Taken: $24.7M, $20.5M, 16.9%
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: $30.3M, $25M, 17.4%
He’s Just Not That Into You: $27.8M, $22.3M, 19.6%
The Hangover: $45M, $32.8M, 27.1%
Up: $68.1M, $44.1M, 35.2%
Zombieland: $24.7M, $14.8M, 40.2%
Knowing: $24.6M, $14.7M, 40.2%
Angels and Demons: $46.2M, $27.4M, 40.7%
Star Trek: $75.2M, $43M, 42.8%
The Final Destination: $27.4M, $15.3M, 44.2%
The Proposal: $33.6M, $18.6M, 44.8%
G-Force: $31.7M, $17.5M, 44.8%
Paul Blart: Mall Cop: $39.2M, $21.6M, 44.9%
Monsters Vs. Aliens: $59.3M, $32.6M, 45.0%
Race to Witch Mountain: $24.4M, $12.8M, 47.6%
Inglourious Basterds: $38.1M, $19.3M, 49.3%
Couples Retreat: $34.3M, $17.2M, 49.8%
District 9: $37.4M, $18.2M, 51.2%
17 Again: $23.7M, $11.5M, 51.4%
Where the Wild Things Are: $32.7M, $14M, 57.1%
Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself: $23.4M, $9.9M, 57.9%
Obsessed: $28.6M, $12.1M, 57.9%
Hannah Montana: The Movie: $32.3M, $13.4M, 58.5%
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: $54.7M, $22.3M, 59.2%
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail: $41M, $16.2M, 60.6%
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: $109M, $42.3M, 61.2%
Fast and Furious: $71M, $27.2M, 61.6%
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: $77.8M, $29.5M, 62.1%
Funny People: $22.7M, $8M, 64.8%
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: $70.1M, $24.4M, 65.2%
Watchmen: $55.2M, $17.8M, 67.7%
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: $85.1M, $26.4M, 69.0%
Bruno: $30.6M, $8.3M, 72.8%
Friday the 13th: $43.6M, $7.9M, 81.8%

Perusing the list, there’s no obvious correlation between second-weekend performance and a movie’s critical reception. There are poorly received movies that did better than Wild Things (Paul Blart and Couples Retreat, for example). And there are well reviewed titles that did worse (such as Funny People and Harry Potter).

But there is possibly a relationship: Above Wild Things, the average combined score from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritc is 115, and the median is 105. Below Wild Things, the average score is 90, and the median is 83.

The circumstances of each movie’s release are unique, and it’s dangerous to read too much into box-office numbers. But speaking generally, those steep drop-offs usually happen to disposable one-weekend movies (Friday the 13th) and first-weekend movies — those for which there is fervent anticipation (Harry Potter, Watchmen). First-weekend movies are often considered successes; one-weekend movies are successes only if they were cheap to make.

Surely, Where the Wild Things Are was a first-weekend movie: It is drawn from a book beloved by millions, it was not directed by Ron Howard, it does not star Jim Carrey or Mike Meyers, and it has the hipster cachet of Jones and Eggers.

Yet I think it’s also a bit of a one-weekend movie. If audiences felt the film is, as Jim Emerson argued, about “the misery of being a kid,” then they probably spoke of it with ambivalence at best. And that’s precisely the sort of word-of-mouth that keeps folks away after the first weekend.

As for the other champion in this edition of our rankings, I offer an updated box-office comparison, with the additional context that the numbers are not adjusted for inflation.

The Blair Witch Project after five weekends: 5,713 theater weeks (the sum of all weekends’ theater counts), $71.5 million gross (weekends only), $12,515 per theater.

Paranormal Activity after five weekends: 5,312 theater weeks, $49.2 million gross (weekends only), $9,264 per theater.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

paranormal.jpgOver the past seven weekends, Culture Snob’s Box Office Power Rankings were won by Quentin Tarantino (twice), Tyler Perry, Meatballs (twice), and zombies (twice). No one could have possibly known that until now, however, because apparently I’ve been in a coma.

What did I miss? Well, there was a flood of new releases, with 24 movies debuting in the box-office top 10 over the seven weeks. Thankfully if inexplicably, only Couples Retreat opened wide this past weekend, allowing Paranormal Activity to grab the spotlight, earning almost $8 million at a mere 160 theaters.

The homemade, low-budget horror movie has drawn a lot of comparisons to The Blair Witch Project 10 years ago, and with good reason.

The Blair Witch Project: initial budget of between $20,000 and $25,000; Rotten Tomatoes score of 85; Metacritic score of 81.

Paranormal Activity: initial budget of $11,000; Rotten Tomatoes score of 86; Metacritic score of 68.

Blair Witch’s rollout started at 27 theaters and increased to 2,142 by its fourth weekend, generating $11,000 per site by the time of that wide release. (Over the past seven weeks, only two top-10 movies had weekends with a per-theater average of more than $10,000.) Paranormal Activity’s release is more gradual, with 760 sites this coming weekend — its fourth.

A key difference, though, is when each movie generated its buzz. Blair Witch’s per-theater averages were $56,000, $64,000, $27,000, and then $11,000. In other words, anticipation was there before the movie opened anywhere. Paranormal has presumably built excitement more through word-of-mouth, with per-theater averages of $6,000 and $16,000 before last weekend’s $49,000.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

district-9.jpgDistrict 9 rightly got a lot of attention. No stars! $30-million production budget! Good special effects! Great reviews! Strong word of mouth! A $37-million opening weekend!

It’s a compelling story, and God knows the movie business needs constant reminders that funding six District 9s can be far more lucrative than bankrolling one G.I. Joe.

Of course, nobody creates the same movie six times. So let’s imagine that instead of spending $175 million to produce G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a studio decided to make District 9, Julie and Julia ($40 million), Inglouirious Basterds ($70 million), and some piece of shit that cost $35 million and was never released in theaters.

Through August 26, G.I. Joe grossed $123.5 million, Julie and Julia (released the same day, August 7) $62.5 million, District 9 (August 14) $78.5 million, Basterds (August 21) $50.6 million, and Piece of Shit (N/A) $0.0 million. The total box office to date for our quartet: $191.6 million, or 55 percent more than G.I. Joe. And remember that none of our movies has been out longer than Joe, and that the widest release (Basterds) was in 21 percent fewer theaters than Joe at its peak.

In our Box Office Power Rankings, Julie and Julia won in its debut weekend, while District 9 did the same and then held off Basterds to retain its crown.

Yet even though District 9 is a great success story, one has to give credit to those other two films. They might have bigger budgets, actual stars, and familiar directors, but they are seriously hard sells compared to the alien-ghetto premise of Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi movie.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

hangover.jpgIn nine weekends of release, The Hangover has finished in second place seven times in the Box Office Power Rankings. This past weekend, The Hangover passed Star Trek’s $254 million — which means it’s playing with the big boys.

It will gross less domestically than Transformers, Up, and Harry Potter, and its reviews were not as strong as Up, Potter, Trek, or Drag Me to Hell. But it’s the movie of the summer because it’s had great legs over a long period of time.

In their ninth weekends, Up and Star Trek were out of the box-office top 10. The Hangover was in eighth place with $5.2 million.

This past weekend, its third, Harry Potter grossed $17.9 million. The Hangover in its third: $26.8 million.

Compare The Hangover hanging around to the moment of Brüno, whose buzz lasted weeks longer than the post-release cultural conversation.

As for Harry Potter, it’s telling that with relatively weak late-summer competition, the boy wizard only managed a tie for first in his third weekend. The movie will likely end up the second-highest-grossing Potter flick (behind Sorcerer’s Stone), but I don’t sense much enthusiasm.

Continue reading for the methodology and the full rankings.

hangover.jpgYou have to feel a little sorry for the poor bastards of The Hangover. With all the trials they endured, in our Box Office Power Rankings they end up sniffing the ass of an old man. For a month. And when they finally get their shot at Culture Snob glory, Public Enemies sneaks in with numbers that are only across-the-board good — third place in each of our four categories.

Up was released on May 29, and The Hangover followed on June 5. Even though The Hangover has beaten the Pixar flick in every week of its release in terms of gross and per-theater average, in the Box Office Power Rankings it could never overcome its negligible critical-reception deficit. Todd Phillips’ comedy had excellent Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of 78 and 73, respectively, but with Up (97/88) and Star Trek (95/83) garnering stratospheric reviews and having legs at the box office, The Hangover was doomed from the outset.

Well, as doomed as any movie that has made more than $200 million domestically could be with a production budget of $35 million.

Up becomes the first movie to ever win the outright Box Office Power Rankings title for five consecutive weeks. Iron Man won for five straight weeks last summer, but it shared the crown once.

And I’m proud to say that the Transformers sequel hasn’t been able to even see the top of the Box Office Power Rankings. When I devised this system two years ago, my aim was to counter the cultural box-office obsession by taking into account the fact that some very popular movies suck.

land-lost.jpgAnd speaking of sucking, how does Land of the Lost stack up to last year’s biggest summer bomb, Speed Racer? One ill-conceived adaptation of a long-ago television show cost $100 million to make; had grossed $48 million domestically and had pretty much disappeared after five weeks; and had Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of 28 and 32, respectively. The other had a production budget of $120 million; had grossed $42 million and had pretty much disappeared after five weeks; and had a score of 37 at both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The first is Land of the Lost, which in financial terms ends up looking slightly less embarrassing.

Continue reading for the methodology and the (six!) weeks’ full rankings.

star-trek.jpgThe conventional wisdom says that among the early entrants in the summer 2009 sweepstakes, Star Trek is a hit (and a winner in its first three weekends in our Box Office Power Rankings), Wolverine is a disappointment, and nobody cares about Angels and Demons. Yet X-Men Origins: Wolverine had the biggest North American opening of the three: $85 million.

These evaluations are muddied by so many variables — buzz, expectations, marketing, screen saturation, critical assessment — that it’s difficult to cut through the crap. This leads to some conventional wisdom that is anything but wise, such as the idea that the 2008 Hulk reboot was, in box-office terms, a triumph over its nearly identically performing 2003 forebear.

But I think we can say with some quantifiable certainty that our first impressions of the 2009 summer movie season are correct.

One simple measure is second-weekend drop-off, generally considered a reliable indicator of a movie’s staying power.

So: Wolverine dropped 69.0 percent from $85 million; Star Trek dropped 42.8 percent from $75 million; and Angels and Demons dropped 53.0 percent (not counting the Monday holiday) from $46 million.

The combination of opening box office and relative performance in the second weekend seems to support the consensus. Solid openings for both Wolverine and Star Trek suggest excitement about the titles, and they diverge from there. Angels and Demons debuted 40 percent lower than The Da Vinci code, confirming apathy.

But you can’t take either factor independent of the other. The Dark Knight’s second-weekend percentage drop (52.5) is rubbing up against Angels and Demons’, but you must consider the height ($158 million) from which it fell.

And these numbers probably work best in one-on-one comparisons. Last summer, both Iron Man and Indiana Jones had three-day opening grosses around $100 million; identifying which dropped 55.3 percent the next weekend and which dropped 48.1 percent would just confirm what you already know in your gut.

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.

wolverine.jpgThank Gods (I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica, although to say I’ve been enjoying it would be an overstatement) that with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the summer movie season is finally here. Normally, I would need Entertainment Weekly to tell me this, but our subscription lapsed. So I have to rely on the Wolverine television ads, which actually claim that those muttonchops are the first sign of the season.

Wolverine did well enough in its opening weekend, with $85 million domestically, but I’m afraid it might actually be an appropriate opener for summer 2009: the next installment of an established brand, and a movie that seems to excite very few people. Yes, they show up and pay their money the first weekend, but I think it’s out of habit. Call it obligation cinema.

Perhaps I’m just being old and sour, because it’s not like this is a new trend. But this summer seems particularly grim from a movie perspective. A Transformers sequel and G.I. Joe mean that we’re long past my nostalgia period, while Land of the Lost as a summer movie seems like an unfathomably bad idea. We have the fourth Terminator, the sixth Harry Potter, the 11th Star Trek, the 10th Halloween, the third Ice Age, the second Night at the Museum, and the Da Vinci Code prequel Angels and Demons.

How many people actually loved the most-recent chapter in any of these series? I’m not complaining that the season is sequel-heavy, in other words; I’m complaining that the summer tent poles belong to franchises that should have been allowed to die with a modicum of dignity. (Yes, I recognize that one can’t euthanize Harry Potter before J.K. Rowling intended, but I’ve been underwhelmed since that which we call Ass Cabin.)

Remember Godzilla, from 1998? It stank, and was heard from nevermore. But with a worldwide gross of almost $380 million, it would certainly merit a sequel or the fashionable “re-launch” these days, because the name recognition is simply too high.

All this has nothing to do with the two sets of Box Office Power Rankings included here, won by State of Play and Earth.

Unless, of course, you want to make a joke about these Box Office Power Rankings being completely unnecessary and unwanted sequels.

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.

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.

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.

monsters-aliens.jpgThe $59.3-million opening-weekend domestic take for Monsters Vs. Aliens is being touted as proof that 3D is a viable way to pry people off their couches and get them into the damned movie theater. Nearly 56 percent of that amount came from 3D theaters, even though 3D projection accounted for only 28 percent of the movie’s screens.

That all sounds impressive, but consider that WALL·E took in $63.1 million its first weekend, Kung Fu Panda $60.2 million, and Cars $60.1 million. Yes, those were all summer movies, but they didn’t benefit from the higher ticket prices for 3D that inflated the take of Monsters Vs. Aliens. They also didn’t have the aid of a massive and well-timed handjob (in 3D, of course) from Time Inc.

Monsters Vs. Aliens admittedly did well; on the strength of its box office and solid reviews, it won this past weekend’s Box Office Power Rankings — unseating I Love You, Man.

But its success doesn’t herald the dawn of a new era, no matter what 3D messiahs Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron say. Their sermons amount to wishful thinking on the part of the speakers and the converted.

Here’s my argument, having seen Monster House and some IMAX movies in 3D:

  • The supposed value of 3D is immersion. Yet surround sound already effectively and cheaply provides that illusion without the damned glasses and all the negatives that go along with them.
  • If you’ve ever watched a plunge on an IMAX screen (say, in The Dark Knight), you know that scale can also create the illusion of immersion without the glasses.
  • Great painters aren’t necessarily great sculptors, and the extra dimension requires different skills. 3D movies suck (or the 3D is superfluous) because those making them don’t know how to appropriately use the extra space. We’d have to unlearn more than a century of filmmaking to do it right.
  • 3D is antithetical to one of the major trends in cinema: the decreasing shot length. 3D effects must be set up with a stable perspective, which runs counter to the current cut-cut-cut culture.
  • 3D will be best employed in mindless entertainments, but isn’t one of the goals of mindless entertainments to maintain a safe distance — and a wall — between the consumer and the entertainment? An immersive movie — no matter the genre — will likely be too intense to allow escape; it would replace one set of stressors with another.
  • Obviously, the novelty will wear off.
  • Remember how we were all supposed to be living in our virtual-reality suits by now, and having virtual sex, and flying virtual planes?

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.


How do you feel about 3D movies and the current 3D technology?

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watchmen.jpgHow do we evaluate Watchmen’s box-office performance, given that most of the assessments so far are based on unrealistic expectations that it would do Batman or Spider-Man business?

Fear not: I am watching those watching the Watchmen. Even though I haven’t watched Watchmen.

Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the legendary comic won the Box Office Power Rankings in its first two weekends, but it’s widely considered a commercial disappointment. As Box Office Mojo put it:

Watchmen disintegrated 68 percent to $17.8 million for $85.8 million in 10 days, trailing all previous superhero movies that debuted in the $50-million range through the same point. ... [A]mong major comic-book movies, only Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Hulk had steeper drop-offs.”

That sounds damning, but notice the caveats: “superhero movies that debuted in the $50-million range,” “major comic-book movies.” Notice the quick-read contradiction of “trailing all previous superhero movies” with other superhero movies then performing worse.

Box Office Mojo concluded that its box-office performance

“further cemented Watchmen’s status as a movie with much more limited appeal than other superhero pictures, rooted in its non-mainstream source material and its diffuse storyline and marketing.”

But isn’t all that self-evident, and hasn’t it always been? Anybody who expected Watchmen to be a mainstream hit probably also envisioned big things for Speed Racer.

Watchmen will cross the $100-million mark domestically in the next few days, and no movie that makes that much money in three weeks is a flop.

Yes, its second-weekend performance was weak, compared to other comic-book movies not attached to a holiday weekend in their first two weeks: Iron Man, down 48 percent; The Dark Knight, 53 percent; The Incredible Hulk, 60 percent; Spider-Man 3, 62 percent.

So Watchmen dropped 68 percent. Given the vaunted status of the graphic novel and its devoted audience, should anybody be surprised that those who wanted to see it had to see it on its opening weekend? Given the ambivalence about Snyder’s meticulous re-creation, and given the challenges of translation from page to screen, should anybody be surprised that it generated more curiosity than excitement?

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.

madea-jail.jpgI’ve often pointed out in the Box Office Power Rankings when I’ve thought a movie had a poor release strategy, and in that spirit I have to wonder why Tyler Perry’s movies are still only being released at 2,000 sites. His last five movies have opened in about that many theaters, and their first-weekend grosses have ranged from $17 million to $41 million.

The worst performer among those movies earned nearly $8,400 per theater in its opening weekend, which is just a hair shy of what The Day the Earth Stood Still did in its debut. The new Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail topped $20,000 per theater, better than anything since Milk the last weekend of November and barely eclipsed by Twilight in its first three days. Give Tyler Perry some damned screens!

Requisite negativity aside, has there been a movie in recent memory that’s had a better release pattern than Slumdog Millionaire? It has earned $115 million on a production budget of $15 million, and its domestic gross has risen in 12 of the 15 weekends (80 percent) since its debut. Yes, it has been opportunistic, taking advantage of well-timed awards and nominations, but it takes a special touch to navigate the vagaries of the cinematic marketplace so well over such a long period of time.

For Best Picture comparison’s sake, Milk’s gross has gone up in eight of its 13 post-debut weekends (62 percent); The Reader six or eight (depending on whether you count holiday Mondays) of 11 (55 or 73 percent); Frost/Nixon five of its 12 (42 percent); and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button one of nine (11 percent).

Continue reading for the methodology and the weeks’ full rankings.

friday-13th.jpgCoraline won our Box Office Power Rankings for the past two weekends, and its success forces me to make two confessions: (1) I felt a touch ashamed and flawed for not adoring Henry Selick’s two previous stop-motion features (The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach), and (2) I loved his live-action/animation hybrid Monkeybone. My memories of those three movies are too faded to justify or explain myself, and I haven’t seen Coraline, but my conscience is now clear.

Let’s move on.

What could possible explain Friday the 13th’s $43.6-million holiday-weekend take? Let’s be honest: The first one sucked — yes, I have seen it as an adult — and the movies didn’t exactly improve as the franchise progressed. The series proper (1980’s first installment through 2002’s Jason in Space [I know, I know]) has gotten less popular as it’s gone on, with its domestic gross shrinking in spite of inflation. (The order, from highest box office to lowest, is 1, 3, 4, 5, 2, 6, 7, 9, 8, 10.) Sure, Freddy Vs. Jason opened with $36.4 million in 2003, but it’s a special case of synergy.

To the surprise of no one, a remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is in pre-production. So what’s next on the 1970s/’80s horror/sci-fi list? Poltergeist? RoboCop?

I’m generally not bothered by remakes/reboots/re-imaginings, and I certainly believe fresh eyes and contexts can find new uses for recycled material. But Friday the 13th was a threadbare knock-off of a movie that skated by (quite well, admittedly) on technique over originality.

And audiences reward this shit by showing up.

Incidentally, Monkeybone barely made $5 million in theaters in the United States — about $8 million less than the lowest-grossing Friday the 13th. But I’m not bitter.

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

renee-zellweger.jpgRotten Tomatoes has a feature called “Average Tomatometer by Year,” and the default screen for Renée Zellweger looks grim. From 2005 to 2009, her score drops for two years (from 80 to 52), recovers a little (to 64), and falls off a cliff (to 19).

This is completely meaningless, of course. If you expand the time frame, the line jumps up and down mercilessly. If you’ve ever heard of the trouble with a “small sample size,” this is prime evidence, with most actors being in one or two movies a year. And Renée is but one person in movies containing (and made by) multitudes.

Still, there’s the sneaking suspicion that Ms. Zellweger is on a downward trajectory. Her latest, the romantic comedy New in Town, finished in last place in our Box Office Power Rankings (won by Slumdog Millionaire), and new releases only landed in that spot eight other times over the past year. Entertainment Weekly’s recent “Recall the Gold” survey wanted to steal her Oscar for 2003’s Cold Mountain.

Has the world soured on the ... errrr ... unique charms of Ren´┐Że Zellweger? She has arguably been asked to “carry” four movies, and the combined Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes scores for those are 146 (2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary [$71.5 million in domestic box office]), 70 (2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason [$40.2 million]), 123 (2006’s Miss Potter [$3.0 million]), and now 48 with New in Town ($6.7 million after one weekend). It’s hard to call it a trend, but those numbers don’t portend good things for her career.

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

slumdog.jpgSlumdog Millionaire has slipped in and out of the Box Office Power Rankings since the weekend starting December 19 — spending four of those weeks in the rankings and two weeks out.

It seems telling that this past weekend, Millionaire again came out on top of our rankings, five weeks after it initially won. In both cases, Slumdog’s victory accompanied a significant increase in the number of venues at which the movie was playing — 169 to 589 on December 19, and 582 to 1,411 on January 23.

But there’s also evidence that the Danny Boyle-directed movie has been able to maintain public interest and enthusiasm over an extended period of time, beyond simply expanding its release. In each of its four appearances in our rankings, it has been in the top three for per-theater average.

That six-weekend performance is pretty amazing when you consider the cultural half-life of most movies now can be measured in days; Slumdog Millionaire has a staying power that rivals The Dark Knight.

Consider it one more reason the movie is approaching being a shoo-in for the Best Picture Oscar.

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

notorious.jpgA reliable rule for critical aggregators is that Rotten Tomatoes will almost always be a more extreme number than Metacritic. Put another way, the Metacritic number will generally sit between the Rotten Tomatoes number and 50. This is a function of the up-or-down Rotten Tomaotes system compared to the shadings allowed by Metacritic. (A three-star review is fully positive to Rotten Tomatoes, but only three-quarters positive to Metacritic.)

There are so few significant exceptions that it’s worth noting when they crop up. In this week’s Box Office Power Rankings (won, for a second consecutive week, by Gran Torino), there are two: Notorious and Defiance. They both scored 52 at Rotten Tomatoes and significantly higher (61 and 58, respectively) at Metacritic.

The obvious explanation is that while critics were roughly evenly split on the movies, those who liked it liked it more than those who didn’t like it didn’t like it. Less stupidly, each got marginally negative reviews and enthusiastic positive ones in equal measure.

But I wonder if these special cases speak to some sort of critical fear. My theory is that these outliers reflect that critics were afraid to dislike these movies, or perhaps more accurately that a significant segment of critics felt obligated to “love” them. The Holocaust movie about heroic Jews, and a bio-pic of a slain African-American rapper. I could see it.

Alternatively, maybe they’re simply exceptions. I dunno.

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

grantorino.jpgIn 2008, only one movie got a perfect score in the Box Office Power Rankings: Iron Man, twice in May.

In the second weekend of January, we already have our first perfect score of 2009: for Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.

At the outset, I will note that a perfect score says more about a movie’s circumstances than it does the movie itself. The Dark Knight was, by a hair, a better move than Iron Man in critics’ eyes, yet it opened with WALL•E in theaters, thus blocking its chance at a 40 in our weekly contest.

Gran Torino joins the rarefied company of Iron Man and The Bourne Ultimatum with its Box Office Power Rankings perfection. (Our rankings were launched in mid-2007.) But it’s the lesser of the three. Eastwood’s movie has a combined Rotten Tomaotes/Metacritic score of 148, compared to Bourne’s 179 and Iron Man’s 171.

From that, we can see that Gran Torino benefited from relatively weak competition in the box-office top 10.

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

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