Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Four days late, many dollars short

I thought it was a strange enough decision to release This Means War on Valentine's Day, a Tuesday, even before this past weekend at the box office came and went.

It's not your typical romantic comedy by any stretch of the imagination. Clearly, there are romantic comedy elements they are trying to emphasize, otherwise the Valentine's Day release date makes even less sense. But if you're going to release the movie on the actual holiday, the only way to capitalize on the general buzz created by the holiday is to get couples who are planning to see it that very night, on opening night. You'd be better off just releasing it the Friday before, like The Vow.

How much better off? Just ask The Vow.

The Vow led a jaw-dropping weekend at the box office with a staggering $41.2 million in domestic ticket sales. I don't know what the actual projections were for its performance, but I can only assume this shattered them. I mean, that's a blockbuster-sized opening. It's especially noteworthy given the fact that romance movies have become increasingly marginalized in terms of their mainstream box office potential.

But it wasn't just The Vow that performed mightily this past weekend.

I had checked the box office tallies on IMDB (something I do some Mondays, but not every Monday) to assess how The Phantom Menace performed in its opening weekend. As you remember from last week, I discussed that the Star Wars team has threatened to withhold the other 3D re-releases unless Episode I had a strong box office performance. When I saw it came in fourth, I figured that fans had indeed turned their noses up at it. But when I looked at the box office total next to it, I realized that wasn't really the case. Even in fourth place, Episode I hauled in $22.5 million. Not bad, really. Perhaps enough to give us Episode II.

So that means there were two other movies that made over $22.5 million this past weekend. Those being Safe House ($40.2 million) and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($27.3 million), which both probably qualify as very healthy returns on their projections. In fact, even the fifth and sixth place films cracked $10 million (Chronicle with $12.1 million, The Woman in Black with $10.1 million).

In essence -- maybe now that the football season is over -- audiences were just throwing their money at whatever was available on screen. You telling me This Means War wouldn't want in on that? One wonders if even its six-day total, tallied sometime this Sunday afternoon, will rival those totals.

Of course, one of the things I like to write about on this blog are release dates that seem over-crowded, especially when there are two movies that could speak to the same audience. Even without This Means War, February 10th was one of those release dates I almost wrote about. For about six weeks leading up to it, every billboard in town carried a release date of February 10th. Perhaps This Means War was the last to try to come out that day, and shifted forward to the 14th to avoid the bloodbath.

But a bloodbath implies that although there may be some winners, there will definitely be losers. In a very strange phenomenon, none of last week's new releases lost out. Even finishing fourth out of the new movies, The Phantom Menace can't be too disappointed because it's a movie most of its audience had probably already seen. Re-releases are known commodities that are already available on video, which makes them a tougher sell to begin with. Methinks this is probably one of the most successful openings ever for a re-release, which makes its fourth place finish quite easy to stomach.

But back to This Means War for a second. Is it possible that even the stars of this movie knew there might be something wrong with it? I'm thinking of one star in particular. Let's see which one it might be ...

Could it be ... this guy?

Nope, he's on board. He's got that sly smile. He's happy enough to be here.

Could it be ... her?

Nope. She took the same direction as the other guy. Sly smile, you're happy to be here.

What about ... this guy?

Yep. That's the one.

Is it just me, or does Tom Hardy look like a deer in the headlights here? Is Tom Hardy contemplating firing his agent? Is Tom Hardy pleading with us, asking us "What the hell am I doing here?"

Since making his first real mainstream appearance in Inception, Hardy has gotten very good notices in two films, both of which came out last year: Warrior, for which there was even some awards talk, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Those titles don't solidify him as some kind of indie darling, but they do seem like intelligent choices made by a selective person. (He's also in The Dark Knight Rises this summer.)

This Means War doesn't seem like the kind of movie he'd have chosen, if he had his druthers.

If you think you know that about him, it makes this poster even funnier. It really highlights the contrast between the expressions Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon are making, and the blank stare offered by Hardy. Of course it's possible the photographer didn't want all three of them to be making the same expression. But it's more fun to think that Hardy was so unenthusiastic about this movie that he couldn't even play ball for the poster.

So if you're spending your Valentine's Day at the movies tonight, at least Pine and Witherspoon hope you'll consider This Means War.

Hardy's hoping you'll go to The Vow, so his agent won't try to get him more roles where he plays a lovestruck spy in a McG movie.


Nick Prigge said...

I love Rachel McAdams but "The Vow"? Then again I'll help Tom Hardy since I won't be seeing "This Means War" either.

I saw the Oscar Live Action shorts last weekend and I get to see a screening of "Margaret" this weekend. I guess I just don't understand "what the people want". (That, and I live in Chicago. Which helps my options.)

Vancetastic said...

Ooh, I'd love to know what you thought of Margaret. It's gotten a lot of positive talk on the Chicago-based podcast I listen to called Filmspotting (which is an obvious candidate for you if you don't already listen). I'm still waiting for that slippery little movie to make it to some format where I can actually see it.

Don't forget that McAdams was also in The Notebook, which actually seems like it has quite a lot in common with The Vow. Not only is there the obvious Nicholas Sparks appearance of both films (one being an actual Nicholas Sparks film), but in both films, McAdams plays a character who either has lost or will one day lose her memory. (Spoiler alert: The older version of McAdams' character in The Notebook has Alzheimer's.)

Vancetastic said...

Very strange ... I was checking out some listings, and I see that This Means War did NOT in fact open on Tuesday. Which makes the billboards up around town with the words VALENTINE'S DAY emblazoned on top even more perplexing. I know movie posters say "Christmas" or "Thanksgiving" if it means they open AROUND those holidays, but I have never seen that same treatment for Valentine's Day -- and if so, it would mean they would come out BEFORE the holiday, not after.