‘Inception’ three-peats as ‘Dinner For Schmucks’ opens well, but ‘Cats and Dogs 2’ tanks
By Steve Mendelson
Hollywoodnews.com: ‘Inception’ was number one for the third straight weekend, as it fended off three challengers and neared the $200 million mark. Dropping just 35%, the Chris Nolan thriller grossed another $27.5 million for a new total of $193 million. It will likely cross the $200 million mark on Tuesday, its nineteenth day of release. By Wednesday, it will surpass the $205 million gross of ‘Batman Begins’ to become Nolan’s second-highest grossing domestic grosser, behind the $533 million earned by ‘The Dark Knight.’ At this point, ‘Inception’ is having a slightly leggier run than ‘Star Trek,’ with smaller drops to compensate for a lower opening weekend (it too ended weekend three with $191 million). So it would appear that the audience-pleasing mind-bender should finished between $260-300 million, depending on how well it handles the direct demo competition in the next few weekends. Ironically, it will lose at least some of its IMAX screens a little earlier than expected, as ‘Avatar’ has a planned re-release on August 27th in IMAX and 3-D theaters. There’s not really much more to say aside from repeating the fact that the film has already recouped its budget in domestic numbers and is slowly expanding overseas (it’s worldwide total is now $363 million).
The big new release was Paramount’s ‘Dinner For Schmucks,’ which had an unusually low screen count of just 2,911 screens. While the reviews were decidedly mixed and the marketing was almost low-key, the picture still proved the drawing power of Steve Carell and/or Paul Rudd, as the film opened with $23.3 million anyway. This remake, of a French comedy, underwent a bit of a makeover following disappointing test screenings, apparently to add more heart and compassion to an inherently mean-spirited story. We won’t know whether the changes had an effect until next weekend (opening weekends are about marketing, second weekends are about audience reaction), but my dad didn’t care for it one bit (‘a movie for schmucks’). Regardless, this proves that star power is not completely dead, as pretty much anyone who saw this went because of one of the big names involved (I’m sure the appearance of Zach Galifianakis didn’t hurt).Regardless, the film cost a somewhat reasonable $69 million (remember when only big-budget action films cost more than $50 million?), but it’s probably going to get hammered next weekend, when the all-star (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, etc.) cop satire ‘The Other Guys’ opens.
The next major opener was a financial disaster. Warner Bros unwanted/unneeded/much too late sequel to the 2001 hit ‘Cats and Dogs’ opened with just $12.5 million. Subtitled ‘The Revenge of Kitty Galore’, this $85 million-picture seemed green-lit purely to convert it into 3-D after the fact, and even audiences could smell the desperation (I’m assuming this was a film rushed into production just before or after the 2007 writer’s strike). The original film cost $60 million, opening to $21 million over the July 4th holiday, and ended up with $93 million domestic and $200 million worldwide. The marketing failed to answer a question of ‘why’ a sequel to a forgotten kids flick was released nine years later, and the novelty of seeing dogs and cats partaking in spy games was no longer there. Quality wises, even my two-year old got a little restless, and frankly the film makes G-Force look like Babe. The only thing the picture has going for it is the genuinely inspired three-minute ‘Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote’ short that proceeds it. I laughed my butt off, even if my daughter apparently has no appreciation of the arts (‘I don’t like this’, she snidely commented as it was ending). Anyway, audiences gave this stinker a B-, so expect it to lose many of its 3-D screens when ‘Step Up’ 3-D opens next weekend.
The last major opener was the slightly supernatural drama ‘Charlie St. Cloud.’ While the film ended up being severely frontloaded ($12.1 million weekend off a $5.6 million Friday = 2.16x multiplier), it still proved that Zac Efron is a genuine movie star. This $44 million (too expensive!) Nicolas Sparks-wannabe was sold 100% on the would-be drawing power of Mr. Efron, and the kid pulled in a $5 million opening day on his name alone. The film pulled a B+ from Cinema Score, with an A- from the under-18 crowd (the film played 59% under-25 and 79% female). I still say it was a mistake not to release ‘Me and Orson Welles’ wide late last year, and this opening number seems to bear that out. Point being, combine Efron with a marketable premise and you get 17 Again ($23 million opening weekend, $64 million finish). Combine Efron with… absolutely nothing else of marketing value, and you still get a $12 million opening weekend. While some of his High School Musical alumni like Ashley Tisdale, Olesya Rulin, Monique Coleman, and Lucas Grabel have yet to break out following the third picture (Tisdale may spend the rest of her life playing Sharpay, be it in Sharpey’s ‘Fabulous Adventure’ or ‘High School Musical 4: East Meets West’}, Efron has successfully left the franchise in his wake.
The main indie-film news was the four-screen opening of the acclaimed depression-era drama ‘Get Low’ ($22,725 per screen), and the wide expansion of ‘The Kids Are All Right’ (the film grossed another $3.4 million on 846 screens and now stands at $9.5 million). In holdover, news, ‘Salt,’ dropped around 47% for a second weekend take of $19 million and a ten-day total of $70.5 million. It’s an okay hold, as the film will surely get to $100 million, but it may fall short of the $134 million earned by the much cheaper ‘Wanted’ or even the $131 million earned by Tomb Raider back in 2001. Point being, as is often the case, the film cost enough that it will need overseas bucks ($103 million worldwide so far) to bring home any real profit. Still, ‘Salt,’ ‘Dinner For Schmucks,’ and ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ provide a solid counter-argument to the whole ‘star power is dead!’ argument that gets brought up once a month. Those films will do pretty much every dime of their business based on the drawing power of their top-billed stars.
Images by WB and Paramount Studios