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David Poland

By David Poland

Box Office Hell on Speed

Interesting weekend.
By any previous metric, other than the first Spider-Man, Iron Man will be at $40m or lower, but none of the predictors are near that number and one has the film dropping just 40%, which would be a Spider-Man-like triumph of a second weekend.
On the flip side, tracking has Speed Racer in the low 30’s, but tracking is notorious for missing kids. The question on the film is whether parents will let little kids see the film or if they are scared of the Wachowski of it all. The reviews, screaming hyperactivity, will not inspire many parents to want to spend the time with their kids in the theater, even if it seems clear that the kids will love the film. Will they hold them off and take them to Narnia next weekend, even if they are begging?

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43 Responses to “Box Office Hell on Speed”

  1. BrandonS says:

    I’m taking my 6- and 3-year-old boys tomorrow, and I’m much more comfortable with this than Narnia. The bad dream potential is way bigger with minotaurs and water demons than it is with cars and kung fu.

  2. gradystiles says:

    Tracking does not have Speed Racer in the low 30s. Not sure where you’re getting that information.

  3. David Poland says:

    Reading tracking, as you must know, Grady is not an exact science… especially with family films.
    Where do you see the tracking on the film?

  4. mattn says:

    Taking my kids (8 and 4 years old) tomorrow. This looks like a $100 million cartoon, and while that seems a bit expensive (the original was considerably cheaper, wasn’t it?) there’s not much else on the horizon I can take them both to. Plus I still have fond memories of watching this when I got home from school every day, although after reading A.O. Scott today (who seems of my vintage) I might be better off just going to

  5. Jerry Colvin says:

    Not too loud, not too fast, not too many colors…. Just a wreck. The first hour was SO boring. The cast was fine, except why did Sparky and many, many lesser characters have an Australian accent? *Very* distracting. I wanted to like this… the low Metacritic score and the fact that only two dozen people showed up for a 5:10pm opening day screening, I tried to ignore. But after about 5 minutes in, I got that sinking feeling we’ve all felt that tells us we’re witnessing major suckage. Too bad.
    So you think Iron Man is a bad movie and Speed Racer is a good movie? Then maybe you don’t know movies.

  6. martin says:

    i love car racing, flashy meaningless images, quick cuts, and christina ricci, and yet I can’t get excited about seeing the movie in theaters. It just looks so young, a more expensive and younger skewing spy kids. I will probably like it on DVD, but the prospect of seeing it in theaters just makes my stomach churn. The box office predictions seem low to me, perhaps because it looks like it was made and promoted to open much bigger than $35 mill. Dave has been very quiet about the budget on Speed, but I’ve heard $150. If it ends up under $100 mill here it may still end up being profitable worldwide. It has a bit of a European feel to it that will play well internationally.

  7. Blackcloud says:

    Saw this at a mid-afternoon showing with no more than 20 people. Maybe half of those were kids, who lapped it up. I saw some kid-centric ads last night on, I think, Cartoon Network. They need to run those ads on ESPN where dads can see them, instead of the current racing and action ads they are showing now. Get those ads showing this is a kid movie out where mom and dad will stumble on them and they will do a lot better. Apart from Spritle flipping the bird and the use of “ass” three or four times, it’s quite innocuous. Parents will definitely be plugging this one into the DVD player for years to come. It will be great in Blu Ray.

  8. brack says:

    Kids are hard to track. Alvin and the Chipmunks, anyone?

  9. Aris P says:

    Well, there’s a slight difference…. alvin and the chipmunks had CHIPMUNKS. singing, fun, cute chipmunks. Speed Racer has… what exactly? Let’s see…
    A movie based on a tv show that was marginally popular 40 years ago. Okay. So. Let’s say people who were fans then MIGHT be interested in seeing this movie…. Fans who are in their 50s now. Not exactly the target audience for a 150 million dollar summer movie.
    Who else might want to see this? Maybe teens who are just discovering themselves and who now suddenly define themselves by what they like (hey! i’m suddently a speed racer fan! i’m going to LOVE this movie because it’s hip to like it!). There’s those people.
    There’s also mid to late 20’s wannabe junior art director-types, or what have you, of small internet companies, etc, who have discovered the original Speed Racer, oh, about 2 months ago, in perfect timing of the release.
    Then, let’s not forget, the Wachowski fans — all 58 of them. This tandem hasnt made a decent movie since the first Matrix, and they never ever will again. Not only do they not have the narrative skill, nor a style other than BULLET TIME to speak of, no executive in town will give them carte blanche ever again.
    DO people really wonder why this film will bomb in north america?? If it was called Shiny Cars on a Colorful Track it would make the same amount of money.
    Time to wake up Hollywood brain-trust. Paying HUGE MONEY for titles like Halo, Speed Racer and whatever the hell else is DUMB. dumb dumb dumb.

  10. brack says:

    Well, the kids at the theater where I saw it ate it up.
    As far as Speed Racer cartoon goes, that show has been on reruns for decades (I’ve seen most of them, though can’t remember a specific episode to be perfectly honest). I think a lot of people my age (in their 20s) watched it.

  11. brack says:

    But my main point, Aris, was that NOBODY thought Alvin was going to be a hit. there was zero talk about it.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    It got applause in the half-full show that I just came out of, and I think kids will be fine with it. It’s too long for sure (DP says 10 min., I say more like 20) and the anti-corporate stuff was forced, but it was reasonably entertaining.

  13. Blackcloud says:

    ^ Some of the talky scenes could be cut with no loss. As for the anti-corporate stuff being forced, the W bros. have never been masters of subtlety. What’s weird is how their stories generally are incredibly complex and simple, if not simplistic, at the same time. This one is a continuation of their main theme of the hero vs. the system/the world. As usual, the hero wins. Which pretty much belies all the other stuff about corruption, malfeasance, conspiracy, etc. they beat you over the head with.

  14. Geoff says:

    Just saw Iron Man, tonight, and just loved – fun, well acted, well-written, and certainly well cast. I really don’t see what DP disliked so much about it – the actor’s alone were quite charming and the effects were tip top. And it did not oversell the action and the film never dragged.
    Fantasy Moguls is already giving Friday B.O. projections and Iron Man dropped by just over 50%, today, but will probably recover a bit and end up around $50 million in its second weekend – on its second weekend, now, it’s just $10 million behind Spiderman 3. Not bad.
    Looks like Speed Racer underperformed, with just under $7 million – it will probably end up around $23 million, which is just about $10 million less than I expected.

  15. jeffmcm says:

    Blackcloud, that’s another thing: the W’s have a real jones for messiah supermen. Speed doesn’t save the world in this movie but it sure look like they wanted him to.

  16. Malone says:

    Speed Racer ROCKS.
    It’s just unconventional and people can’t seem to get past that. If you don’t get it, then it’s prolly over your head.

  17. IOIOIOI says:

    Speed is another awesome Wachowskis film. It’s freakin tremendous. I once again believe that the kids will go see this movie. The parents may not want to go, but this flick is bloody awesome. Comparing it to Spy-Kids, denotes that that director has the ability to use blue-screen the way the Wachowskis do, and that is simply not the case. It’s a tremendous film that I love even more than Iron-Man. It’s good to be in the Summer again.

  18. Crow T Robot says:

    I was fearing the worst with the Zacharek review. But the movie is so much of a fantasia I couldn’t help but surrender to it. One can knock these Wachowskis to hell and back for their high-strung airless style, but at the end of the day they ARE on the vanguard of computer generated visuals like no one else. Good CGI is easy now. Great CGI is still hard. But “new” CGI is something to be applauded. And the “collide-o-scope” of Speed Racer gives us just that.
    Even more, the filmmakers seemed to have learned with the bust of the Matrix sequels that big f/x must be balanced with a modesty of storytelling. The more innocent and simple the Racer narrative is, the more we’re willing to accept the sensory overload.
    So I guess I enjoyed it as much as the first Charlie’s Angels.

  19. Matt, a lot of animated films these days can cost close to $100mil anyway, so you’re about on target.
    Jerry Colvin, movies aren’t solely for America ya know. And considering the actors playing the roles are Australian (well, I know at least one, Kick Gurry, is so it would be fair to say that there are others) what’s the problem when them using their natural accents? People had the same problem with Rachel Taylor in Transformers. Is it so freakin’ hard to understand that people from different parts of the world have different accents? If there was one in, I dunno, Gone Baby Gone, then sure, but… ugh. That just pisses me off. I’m glad the Wachowskis didn’t make them put on fake American accents.

  20. jeffmcm says:

    If the movie had been explicitly set in Australia, nobody would have cared.

  21. matro says:

    boxofficemojo is reporting that Speed Racer made less than $6 million on Friday. Does that count as an “Ouch”?

  22. Joe Leydon says:

    No, I think that qualifies as the friggin’ wrath of God.

  23. swordandpen says:

    If it can’t even beat a Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher crap comedy, then that’s a huge “Ouch”.

  24. LexG says:

    In all fairness, considering its target audience, probably not a lot of parents took their kids last night at 7:00 or 10:00 shows; I’d imagine it’ll at least benefit front a bump today and tomorrow.

  25. Blackcloud says:

    But isn’t the whole question whether or not kids are the “target audience”? No one seems to have figured that out, least of all the marketers.

  26. jeffmcm says:

    When you’re watching the movie, kids and families are clearly who it was designed for. The problem is (a) the marketing didn’t make that point clearly, (b) it’s not going to crossover well to teens and adults, and (c) it was risky to spend such a huge amount on that kind of untested property. If this movie had been made on half the budget it wouldn’t have hurt as much.

  27. Joe Leydon says:

    Or could it be…. cue dramatic music… The Poland Curse?

  28. LexG says:

    I think the answer is obvious.
    The marketing should not have name-checked a nine-year-old sci-fi movie that people no longer feel affection for.
    Chucky was right!

  29. Blackcloud says:

    Lex, now that’s funny.

  30. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Thank you, LexG. My theory has been vindicated.
    FWIW one person’s “crap comedy” is another person’s Chick Flick.

  31. Joe Leydon says:

    Well, even a stopped clock can be right twice a day… But, seriously, Vegas strikes me as more likely choice for a date movie than Speed Racer.

  32. jeffmcm says:

    Your theory has _not_ been vindicated. The movie’s marketing failure had to do, as Poland says, with the awkwardness of trying to sell the movie to kids and to teens/general audiences at the same time and not finding either. The movie being good and entertaining kind of makes a sham of your ‘theories’ as well. There’s a tiny grain of truth in what you say, Chucky, which you have chosen to over-apply into absurdity.

  33. Cadavra says:

    “So I guess I enjoyed it as much as the first Charlie’s Angels.”
    To a lot of us, that doesn’t even remotely qualify as a recommendation.

  34. Jeff, maybe the character is AUSTRALIAN! Just like movies set in England can have American characters or movies set in France can have Chinese actors.

  35. jeffmcm says:

    Maybe…but that raises the question of why every character in the movie who isn’t one of the top 8 or so is also Australian.
    The point is, it’s distracting. Granted, the distraction comes from the current convention that the default nationality for movie characters is American, but distracting nonetheless.

  36. Nicol D says:

    “…and the anti-corporate stuff was forced,…”
    There is something spectacularly arrogant, ignorant and painfully naive for filmmakers like the W’s to include this sort of crap in a film that could – only – be made, marketed and released with the hundreds of millions that only a multi-national corporation like Time-Warner can buy.

  37. brack says:

    oh noz, accents! run for the hills!

  38. Blackcloud says:

    Really, the W’s whole outlook can be described as painfully naive, not just the anti-corporate stuff. The whole superman/messiah stuff Jeff and I mentioned –how else can you describe that? What Pops says about Speed believing he can change the world by driving a car–that’s exactly what Speed does, and it’s hard not to conclude that’s exactly what the W’s believe. They believe the whole world is hopelessy corrupt, opaque, iredeemable; yet at the same time believe that one man can change it. It doesn’t get more contradictory than that. I don’t think it is sophisticated enough to merit the name paradox. Their philosophizing is too half-assed to deserve it.

  39. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, have you actually seen the movie at this point, or is it another one of those where ‘you don’t need to’?

  40. brack says:

    “They believe the whole world is hopelessy corrupt, opaque, iredeemable; yet at the same time believe that one man can change it. It doesn’t get more contradictory than that. I don’t think it is sophisticated enough to merit the name paradox. Their philosophizing is too half-assed to deserve it.”
    blackcloud, didn’t Pops say this, you know, a character in the movie? why then do you assume that’s what the Wachowskis think is true?

  41. jeffmcm says:

    It would appear from their movies that the Wachowskis think the world is corrupt, but changeable; but changeable only by a lone superman figure who achieves extraordinary powers through his own determination.
    So now I understand why the Boxofficemojo guy liked the movie even though it’s anti-capitalism – because the W’s have more in common with Ayn Rand than we’ve realized.

  42. brack says:

    what I like about Speed is that he isn’t a “chosen one.” He’d been driven his whole life, doing what he loves. It just so happened that to bring down those who want to stop him, he just has to stay true to who he is.

  43. hendhogan says:

    i have yet to see the movie, but reading your comments is confusing me. any fan of racing knows it takes corporate sponsorship to run any team (even the quote unquote independent teams). to make the corporations the bad guys seems to be missing the point of the sport. and i have to imagine that some of the targeted audience has to be the growing fan base of NASCAR.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon