Despite a ridiculously tepid wave of new films this week, people actually showed up and went to the movies. Well, a few people did anyway. However, the weekend’s big X-factor, the re-issue of James Cameron’s multi-billion-dollar grossing ‘Avatar,’ failed to crack the Top 10. (It came in at #11.) This almost certainly is mainly due to the fact that the movie’s been available on DVD and Blu-ray for a few months now. Also, many of the theaters that could play the 3-D spectacle are already booked with ‘Step Up 3D,’ ‘Piranha 3D,’ and (still) ‘Despicable Me.’ Or maybe people are just sick and tired of Pandora and won’t be swayed by a few new CGI creatures to spend another $16 and pay for a babysitter?
Back to the matter at hand: the actual Top 10. The #1 movie this weekend was the cheap-o horror flick ‘The Last Exorcism,’ which was produced by ‘Hostel‘ director Eli Roth. It squeaked into first place with $21.3 million. I didn’t make it to this shocker, even though it had an attractively slim running time and somebody already ruined the ridiculous ending for me. For much of the weekend, it was unclear whether ‘The Last Exorcism’ or ‘Takers’ would win out. There are probably a lot of reasons why ‘Exorcism’ nabbed the crown. Most notably, its PG-13 rating meant that younger kids could get into the movie (unlike the borderline NC-17 rating of ‘Piranha 3D’ – more on that in a minute). But here’s one thing that no studio will admit yet I heard time and again over the weekend: people thought that this was a new entry in the ‘Exorcist‘ franchise. Yes, seriously. I heard a bunch of “everyday people” talking about how it was the latest in the franchise started by William Friedkin in 1973 and effectively laid to waste by the twin indignities of ‘Exorcist: The Beginning’ (in 2004) and ‘Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist’ (2005), two different cuts of the same lame origin story by two powerful directors (Renny Harlin and Paul Schrader). Of course, this isn’t actually a sequel to ‘The Exorcist.’ It just uses the same hook, and its marketing hasn’t done anything to specifically distance itself from that noted franchise.
Onto the #2 movie! That’d be ‘Takers.’ The crappy-looking heist picture from Sony managed to steal $21 million from North American audiences. From what I understand, the film didn’t cost all that much to make, so any money it grosses is good money – especially when you look forward to cable, home video, etc. This is one of those unappealing, grubby little genre pictures that doesn’t pique my interest at all, so if you did see it, please chime in below.
Third place was Sly Stallone’s unstoppable (and unspeakably awful) ‘The Expendables,’ down only 44% from last week with another $9.5 million. Why, God, why?
Other than that, the weekend box office was pretty flat. The only exciting thing to note is that ‘Inception‘ moved back UP the chart two places from last weekend, hanging tough (even without gravity) at #7 with another $5.1 million.
And then there’s ‘Piranha 3D,’ which barely stayed in the Top 10 with $4.3 million. Last week, I speculated on why the movie isn’t doing as well as it should. Even though I’ve run through the scenarios, it still pains me to see the movie doing this poorly. Fortunately, it’s not like the film’s going to disappear forever. Even with its meager grosses, it’ll probably still turn a profit. (It only cost $24 million to produce.) Dimension has prematurely greenlit a sequel. (I bet you dollars to donuts that Alexandre Aja, the talented French director behind this one, won’t be back for seconds). I imagine there will be hordes of film fans who will discover the movie on DVD/Blu-ray (another prediction: it’ll be out before Halloween) or on cable, and say to themselves, “Why didn’t I go see this when it was in 3-D? Damn!” Because, really, as summer winds down and we take stock of the few cinematic pleasures this season, ‘Piranha 3D’ ranks at the top.
Next week sees an interesting mixture of the high-brow and the low-brow. George Clooney’s stylish international thriller ‘The American,’ the unofficial first entry into this year’s Oscar derby, opens alongside Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Machete,’ based off the hysterical ‘Grindhouse‘ trailer. I’ve talked to a critic friend of mine who saw the latter and said that it was absolutely dreadful. Do you think that’ll keep me from seeing it? Nope.
The Top 10:
01 ‘The Last Exorcism’ (Lionsgate) – $21.3 million
02 ‘Takers’ (Sony) – $21 million
03 ‘The Expendables’ (Lionsgate) – $9.5 million
04 ‘Eat Pray Love’ (Sony) – $7 million
05 ‘The Other Guys’ (Sony) – $6.6 million
06 ‘Vampires Suck’ (Fox) – $5.3 million
07 ‘Inception’ (Warner Bros) – $5.1 million
08 ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ (Universal) – $4.7 million
09 ‘The Switch’ (Disney) – $4.6 million
10 ‘Piranha 3D’ (Weinstein Company) – $4.3 million