This weekend saw the debut of a pair of high profile releases, some smaller indie gems making their way into the market, and some heavy-hitters trying to stick around and make a few more bucks before being cast off into home video oblivion. The week’s biggest, at least from a production and marketing standpoint, was the $60 million-budgeted ‘Despicable Me.’ Despite having a marketing campaign that stretched back to last year (I remember seeing a teaser trailer attached to ‘Transformers 2‘), some voice-work star power (Steve Carell, Julie Andrews, etc.) and some appealingly eye-catching characters (those little yellow minions are all around New York), people were estimating that it might not be the surefire hit Universal and new animation partner Illumination Entertainment were hoping for. Well, it turns out the naysayers were wrong.
Coming in at #1, ‘Despicable Me‘ made $60.1 million over the weekend, which is at least $10 million more than the conservative studio estimates predicted. Sure, the fact that it was projected in 3-D at many locations, which offered up a nice high ticket premium, certainly helped matters. But the movie was warmly received by critics (or at least critics who aren’t A.O. Scott), and family audiences seem to be eating it up. I haven’t seen the movie yet (going tonight), but will report back. I’m sure it doesn’t offer the quality or depth that ‘Toy Story 3‘ provided. Then again, what will? It’ll be interesting to see how this movie fares against Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ which will go after that same, highly coveted family audience. We shall see.
The other biggish movie to open this weekend was the Robert Rodriguez-produced ‘Predators.’ I really enjoyed the flick, but most of my contemporaries seem to have given it the see-sawing hand of indifference. (Indeed, its Metacritic score of 50 exemplifies this split-down-the-middle consensus.) It debuted at #3 with $25.3 million. That’s not too shabby considering that the film was really the first R-rated major player this summer (besides the shambling ‘Get Him to the Greek,’ which went for a much different crowd). Also, the movie only cost $38 million to produce. Most of this summer’s big budget fare has cost upwards of $200 million, such as ‘The Last Airbender,’ ‘Knight and Day,’ ‘The A-Team,’ or ‘Prince of Persia.’ In comparison, this thing was made for peanuts. Even ‘Twilight: Eclipse,’ which hung tough at #2 despite a drop of 48.5% for another $33.4 million, cost $65 million to produce and doesn’t have a fraction of the visual wit or style. I saw it again this weekend to a packed house of paying moviegoers, and they seemed to really like it. This could end up being a little sleeper hit, and will undoubtedly lead to a sequel.
I’ve previously stated my curiosity at how much of a tumble the abysmal ‘Last Airbender‘ would take in its second week. The answer was: pretty big, but not as much as I expected. It was down 57.5%, which meant that it went from #2 to #5. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this next weekend, after ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ comes out. Not only is ‘Apprentice’ in the market for the same audience, it’s also similar thematically, in terms of a young man learning to use his magical abilities. ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ is, on the other hand, way more fun than ‘Last Airbender,’ and a better movie overall. (My review is forthcoming.)
The rest of the Top 10 is pretty much what you’d expect, without a lot of change. In the indie market realm, ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire,’ the very meh sequel to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ nearly cracked the Top 10 while only playing in 85 theaters. The movie above it, ‘Cyrus,’ played in 200. When ‘Girl’ expands next week, I’m sure we’ll see it hit the Top 10, even against some new heavyweight openings.
The biggest question, of course, is what will happen with ‘Inception.’ I remember sitting in a theater a few weeks ago next to a couple of older, gray-haired women. A trailer for ‘Inception’ played. I leaned over. “You excited about this one, ladies?” They replied: “We don’t know what it’s about!” My answer: “Nobody does!” And it’s true: nobody does know what ‘Inception’ is about, and those last-minute television commercials that try to explain something about the characters aren’t helping matters. When I showed my mother the trailer a few months ago, she said: “I didn’t understand the last Leonardo DiCpario movie.” This is going to be a big stumbling block. The kind of anticipatory curiosity for this one is just off-the-charts, especially in the movie geek community. But can the movie, a high-minded meditation on dreams, connect with an average American audience? It could be too intellectual for the popcorn-munching public. At the very least, it’ll have an explosively huge opening. Look for my review mid-week. Until then: dream on…
The Top 10:
01 ‘Despicable Me’ (Univeral) – $60.1 million
02 ‘Twilight: Eclipse’ (Summit) – $33.4 million
03 ‘Predators’ (Fox) – $25.3 million
04 ‘Toy Story 3’ (Disney/Pixar) – $22 million
05 ‘The Last Airbender’ (Paramount) – $17.1 million
06 ‘Grown Ups’ (Sony) – $16.4 million
07 ‘Knight and Day’ (Fox) – $7.8 million
08 ‘The Karate Kid’ (Sony) – $5.7 million
09 ‘The A-Team’ (Fox) – $1.8 million
10 ‘Cyrus’ (Fox) – $1.3 million