MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Weekend Box Office


It’s one of those weekends where “I told you so” has an odd personal reverb because I don’t really know who I told what…

My sense on Team America has been that Paramount had its head turned by the high percentage of critical support. But I knew School of Rock, sir, and Team America is no School of Rock.

Team America is a movie that Bob Weinstein could have opened to double the gross, much as he handled the far superior Bad Santa last year.

Why didn’t you see Retard Matt Damon or Alec Baldwin – F.A.G. or Susan Sarandon being insulted as an aging actress losing her skills and her looks in the advertising? After all, this is a movie that not only has no real stars, but is populated by puppets. Because Paramount has a Susan Sarandon movie coming out in a few weeks (Alfie) and would like to have Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn and George Clooney, etc, etc, etc movies coming out in the future. The movie may cause these people some discomfort, but that’s on Parker & Stone. Making these stars into objects of ridicule in commercials is another thing indeed. Of course, Miramax/Dimension, which markets with balls of steel, would just barrel forward and sell what they had to sell.

Remember, as I have always said, opening weekend is about marketing, not the movie. So even though I don’t think the movie pays off as richly as anticipated, this weekend was just about the message coming out in ads and publicity. And isn’t it ironic that after the crashing thud of Thunderbirds, Paramount decided to sell Team America as a parody of Thunderbirds (which it mostly is), with dancing puppets at cocktail hour and monuments whose heads peel back like the Batcave switch, instead of emphasizing the stuff, most of which is not R rated, that makes you go, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they did that.”

If you want a marketing lesson, look at The Incredibles, which is also primarily a satire on Bond movies with some oversized elements that makes it about “supers,” but is selling the hell out of the notion of a family of “regulars” who are unprepared to become super again… which is what it is for about one act. Smart, not because the other two acts aren’t as wondrous as the first act, but because making a satire of something that is already a bit campy is really hard… and selling it based on that element it is an act of masochism.

The financial hope for Team America, which will not gross its production cost domestically, is not just home entertainment, which will surely take the movie into the black, but international, where hating America is sport that may inspire box office returns. (No doubt, Matt Stone’s French auteurist satire Le Petit Package should have been attached to the front of the domestic release of Team America… a movie Fox Searchlight would make in Weekend Four.)

Shall We Dance also came stumbling out of the blocks, though they’re probably feeling pretty good about the per-screen average. The film the release seems to be built around is The Notebook, the summer surprise that opened to $13.5 million and held on, primarily thanks to women, young and old, to crack a breathtaking $80 million.

I doubt that Shall We Dance will have that kind of staying power. Firstly, the movie is not as good, within the genre, as The Notebook. Secondly, competition is not far away. Thanks to Paramount, Alfie is two weekends away now. But after that, there is Bridget Jones: Edge of Sanity and then, A Very Long Engagement. There were really no alternatives to The Notebook this summer.

And don’t think that New Line didn’t learn the lesson of valuing key-demo space. They moved the Joan Allen – Kevin Costner film The Upside of Anger into the spring a couple of weeks ago, realizing that they could market the film to their Notebook audience, but not in the middle of awards season insanity.

Meanwhile, no one seems to be talking about two formula films that are each going to gross more than $65 million domestically, one of them probably over $70 million… The Forgotten and Ladder 49.

Why aren’t pundits talking about these two hits? Well, The Forgotten is from Revolution Studios, released by Sony and is likely to be among the five most profitable films released by Revolution over the three years since the film started delivering movies. But Revolution is expected to be, at best, reconfigured when their deal with Sony comes up for renewal next year and has been seen as a kind of dead man walking since Claudia Eller’s wea culpa piece in the L.A. Times a few months back… and Terry Curtin’s exit ain’t exactly a shot of encouragement. So the good news goes silently into that good night, sucked into the ether like Alfre Woodard through a roof.

And Disney’s Touchstone division… woe is anyone who writes a nice word about it. Ladder 49’s box office is running just a few hundred thousand behind the beloved (and aforementioned) School of Rock, both after three weekends. It will certainly outgross Kill Bill, Volume 1. It was also more expensive than either film (once Bill was hair split), so there is that. But still, it is sure to be the second, third or fourth highest grossing movie in the “fall” season (now just September/October, as the entirety of November has become a heavy hitting “holiday” season). The fact that no one is acknowledging it tells you just how “it’s about what we like” the media has become and gives a good excuse, horrifyingly, to studios wishing to diminish the media’s roll in the lives of their films.

Finally, Napoleon Dynamite passed $40 million this weekend. Awesome! Huge kudos are deserved. And now, they have to bring Sideways, still the best American film seen this year, home to similar box office and into the awards season blazing.

Be Sociable, Share!

14 Responses to “Weekend Box Office”

  1. Sandy says:

    Once again, I find a “disconnect” between the critics and the audiences in the case of Team America. The film is funny and imaginative at points but how much and how long can we sit there listening to puppets saying f*** this and that after two or three times…it’s just not that funny. The bashing of the “liberal” Hollywood stars may be funny to people living in L.A. but I don’t think middle America cares about that stuff. The best thing about TA was the puppet sex.

  2. BrotherhoodOfTimRattay says:

    I agree. The puppet sex easily steals the show in
    TA. The rest of the movie pretty much has nothing
    going for it. Oh wow, great production design! I
    appreciate such a thing, but this movie succeeds
    on a TECHNICAL level more than anything else. In
    the future; someone should give the Chiado brothers
    some cash, and let them do an ORIGINAL project of
    their own. It could not suck worse than TA.
    One last thing; the geeks couldnt get it done
    again for a film. The New Paramount must be
    wondering why they are in business with Harry
    Knowles, because apparently he and sites like
    his have no relevance towards box office. His
    site has even become irrelevant.

  3. Raj H says:

    The basic premise of Team America is that Americans are idiots and one can sell anything if it is stupid and outrageous. To make a satire it would require some smarts that the makers of this movie clearly lack. Being potty-mouthed and stupid might work on a limited scale on cable TV. When the audience have to pay for this pile of cow dung, they might react differently. That is why Team America is an Utter Flop even with all the hype and controversy.

  4. Mark says:

    No one does comedy like the South Park guys. The way they lambast the left wing, actor people is hilarious.

  5. Mark says:

    It’ll make its money back and double on dvd. Comedies are tough sells these days for some reason. They don’t know how to promote them unless it stars Ben Stiller or Will F.

  6. Martin says:

    I figured TA would do moderate business. As was previously stated, it had no major stars and (unlike south park) no franchise to drive people into theaters. It was an unfamiliar product on a number of levels that simply didn’t connect with audiences. It will do $25 mill then disappear and never be heard of again. Matt and Trey are certainly talented guys, so hopefully they’ll take this failure and make something great next time.

  7. BrotherhoodOfTomBrady says:

    I think it does a good job, of as Ebert descirbed
    it, being nihilistic. It lambast no one, because
    it believes in NOTHING. So it pisses all over
    people on both side of the fence, and I am sure
    the NEW Paramount will have some real happy execs
    sitting in some meetings in the coming months
    that should go really bad.
    Plus some of the actors lambasted are not even
    known for their politics. Sam Jackson? Matt Damon?
    Liv Tyler? Helen Hunt? Yes. These are really
    big names when it comes to politics in LA LA land.
    This movie just shows that the Trey and Matt are
    lucky to have the stuff of writers they have on
    South Park, because those two plus Pamela Brady
    have put on screen something totally pointless.
    Something that takes no stance, but has funny
    puppet sex. Good job.
    Thank god there are people like Seth McFarlane in
    the world who know how to lambast people like
    Sam Jackson damn it!

  8. bicycle bob says:

    i think the point is some americans are dumb aka liberal schmucks. the point is that the USA does everything in this world for everyone else. feed, everyone, buy everything, help everyone, save people, kill terrorists, and we get no credit for any of it. zero. all we get is resentment from everyone because they’re jealous. so lets stop apologizing for being number 1. and embrace it

  9. John Crichton says:

    SHARK TALE goes over the $100M mark that you didn’t think it could do… and you talk about the non-surprising non-starting of TEAM AMERICA – RIGHT WING POLICE.

  10. mike says:

    The picture is only a failure in terms of expectations. Its budget was just $30 million, and with no gross participants other than Rudin, plus the expected windfall of the unedited version on DVD, it will still be a significant moneymaker for Paramount.
    By the way, did anyone notice the relatively small drops for other films this weekend, especially THE FORGOTTEN? Has it occurred to none of you that kids were buying tickets for PG and PG-13 movies and then sneaking into TA?

  11. bicycle bob says:

    its going to be a huge moneymaker on dvd and will build from there. for 30 mill in todays market? name me any studio who wouldnt take it?

  12. Martin says:

    Well, you can’t base a film’s profitability entirely on box office. Who knows how much TA cost to advertise, possibly as much as its production budget. Thats 60 mill. in the hole right now, not 30.

  13. BrotherhoodOfWillieMays says:

    But the film really has nothing to do with liberals.
    It has more to do with Trey and Matt’s delusional
    take on the world, then anything else. Again,
    this movie should not even do well on DVD, because
    it’s just boring. It’s uninspired. And Scott Rudin
    should ask Trey and Matt to front him some cash
    from their most recent Comedy Central contract.
    It has nothing to do with liberal or conservative.
    It has to do with two guys, and their warped
    perspective of the world.

  14. Mark says:

    I think their “warped” sense of humor is damn funny. But thats what you get when you have no sense of humor like Steel.

The Hot Blog

Leonard Klady's Friday Estimates
Friday Screens % Chg Cume
Title Gross Thtr % Chgn Cume
Venom 33 4250 NEW 33
A Star is Born 15.7 3686 NEW 15.7
Smallfoot 3.5 4131 -46% 31.3
Night School 3.5 3019 -63% 37.9
The House Wirh a Clock in its Walls 1.8 3463 -43% 49.5
A Simple Favor 1 2408 -50% 46.6
The Nun 0.75 2264 -52% 111.5
Hell Fest 0.6 2297 -70% 7.4
Crazy Rich Asians 0.6 1466 -51% 167.6
The Predator 0.25 1643 -77% 49.3
Also Debuting
The Hate U Give 0.17 36
Shine 85,600 609
Exes Baggage 75,900 62
NOTA 71,300 138
96 61,600 62
Andhadhun 55,000 54
Afsar 45,400 33
Project Gutenberg 36,000 17
Love Yatri 22,300 41
Hello, Mrs. Money 22,200 37
Studio 54 5,300 1
Loving Pablo 4,200 15
3-Day Estimates Weekend % Chg Cume
No Good Dead 24.4 (11,230) NEW 24.4
Dolphin Tale 2 16.6 (4,540) NEW 16.6
Guardians of the Galaxy 7.9 (2,550) -23% 305.8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4.8 (1,630) -26% 181.1
The Drop 4.4 (5,480) NEW 4.4
Let's Be Cops 4.3 (1,570) -22% 73
If I Stay 4.0 (1,320) -28% 44.9
The November Man 2.8 (1,030) -36% 22.5
The Giver 2.5 (1,120) -26% 41.2
The Hundred-Foot Journey 2.5 (1,270) -21% 49.4