‘The American’ grosses a predictable $16.4 million over holiday

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: Despite stupidly opening on a Wednesday (and siphoning off $3 million before the traditional opening weekend), “The American” grossed a completely predictable $13 million over three days and $16.4 million over the four-day holiday. This is no less than the ninth George Clooney vehicle to open to around $11-13 million since “The Peacemaker” in 1997. And, as I’ve written before, every time this happens, the pundits jump up and down about how Clooney may not be a real movie star. As I’ve also said before, true stardom is when it’s just your face on the poster, especially when you’re selling a somewhat uncommercial bit of cinema. That was certainly the case with “The American,” which is a slow and ponderous European-style thriller, with only just enough action to fill up the third act of a trailer (film-goers felt duped, as the Film received a D- from Cinemascore). The fact that it will end up with $19.4 million between Wednesday and Monday is a testament to Clooney’s sheer constancy as an opener for relatively cheap (the Film cost Focus Features just $20 million) and arty projects. For what it’s worth, if you know what you’re getting into, the Film is a relatively satisfying character-driven tone poem. It’s a B-movie classed up and pruned down to resemble an art Film.

The next major opener was Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete.” It was another case of hardcore interest in the geek world not translating into much mainstream interest. Once again, advertising a film as ‘so bad that it’s good’ is a sure-fire way to turn off general moviegoers, and in the era of $10+ movie tickets, it’s a tough thing for any number of younger filmgoers to stomach as well. Still, with an opening three-day gross of $11.3 million and a $14 million four-day gross, the picture more than justified its cost (it had a $20 million budget, and Fox paid around $5 million to distribute it). At the end of the day, the cameo-filled comedic riff on 70’s exploitation was always destined to be more talked about for its nerd appeal and its immigration politics then seen in a theater. For what it’s worth, the Danny Trejo vehicle played to a 60% Hispanic audience. The geek-centric film is destined for cult status on DVD/Blu Ray and, if FX can cut the exceedingly violent and bloody film down to an acceptable TV version, a decades-long run on cable. Point being, don’t be surprised to see Machete Kills in theaters (or just on DVD) in a few years.

The last major opener was the Drew Barrymore/Justin Long romantic comedy, “Going the Distance.” Alas, the picture, along with the weak opening of her fantastic directorial debut “Whip It” last October, proves that Drew Barrymore no longer has the cache of her “Never Been Kissed”/”Charlie’s Angels” peak ten years ago, and that Justin Long isn’t yet an opener. The film got generally negative reviews, but those who liked it really liked it, so it’s $6.8 million three-day gross and $8.5 million four-day numbers will heartbreaking for a select few. The Warner Bros film cost $32 million to make, so it will likely be okay once international and DVD money rolls in. Last weekend’s openers were a study in audience satisfaction. The B-movie heist picture, Takers, basically delivered what its trailer promised, so it only dropped 44% for an $11.4 million three-day second weekend and a $13.5 million four-day gross. The $30 million caper has now grossed $39 million. I have to wonder how many kids bought tickets to the PG-13 Takers and snuck into the R-rated “Machete,” which makes their battle for second place a little more amusing. On the other hand, “The Last Exorcism” promised old-school religious supernatural thrills, but instead delivered a fauxumentary that dealt with religious fundamentalism in the Bible Belt. Cue 62% second-weekend drop, as the Lionsgate release grossed $7.6 million three-day gross and an $8.7 million four-day gross (expect a similar plunge with The American next weekend). Still, the dirt-cheap acquisition has already grossed $32 million.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos.

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