Oscar films continue to soar – ‘Roomate’ tops slow Super Bowl weekend

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: The Super Bowl weekend is not what anyone would consider prime movie-going real-estate, so it stands to reason that there wouldn’t be much on the wide-release circuit this weekend. Screen Gems scored their biggest opening weekend ever last Super Bowl Sunday with the romantic drama Dear John, which opened to $30 million and knocked Avatar off the top spot. But generally speaking, Screen Gems’s has had pretty decent success opening teen girl-friendly PG-13 horror pictures, often remakes of R-rated 70s and 80s slasher pics, over the last several years, so they went that route again this year. This year’s entry, The Roommate, a film so obviously copied from Single White Female that complaints/summons are probably being drafted as we speak.

Yes, The Roommate was number one at the box office this weekend, as the ‘your college roommate wants to be you and kill you’ alleged thriller opened with an okay $15.6 million. The only relevant comparison is how well this picture opened compared to their other ‘safe-for-kids’ horror entries over the last several years. It’s actually in the middle on the Screen Gems list, as even the core audience knew they were being sold a bill of goods. Of their PG-13 epics, The Stepfather ($12 million) and The Convanent ($8 million) opened noticeably lower. This opening is right in line with the last Super Bowl Screen Gems horror flick, the 2007 entry The Messengers, which opened to $14 million. But it was a bit below the $19 million opening of Boogieman during Super Bowl weekend 2005. Darkness Falls, a Sony release, opened to $12 million during Super Bowl 2003 (Screen Gems is a Sony distribution wing). Tops is still When A Stranger Calls, which opened to $22 million back during Super Bowl 2006. Of course, that one had the primal horror premise of a pretty girl (Camilla Bella) being menaced by a scary man (the voice of Lance Henriksen), which appeals of the feminist or misogynist in all of us.

The big selling point of The Roomate was basically: ‘we got tons of hot girls pretending to still be teenagers (Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Alyson Michalka) and occasionally something scary happens’. Alas, most of said actresses can be seen for free every week on the likes of Gossip Girl, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and Hellcats, so the appeal was limited without an R-rating and R-rated content. Point being, without anything to sell other than the prurient appeal of the gals and male lead Cam Gigandet, Screen Gems did little more than hope that enough young people wanted something that might make them jump a couple of times. Still, the film cost about $16 million to make, so profits will be had by all and we’ll surely see more of these. On the plus side, the film started a worthwhile discussion regarding how the MPAA deals with animal torture (hint – it’s less harmful than Colin Firth screaming the ‘f-word’).

In second place was the low-budget underwater survival adventure, Sanctum. The $30 million picture opened to $9.2 million. Of that, 17% came from 178 3D screens. So, while the Universal release will probably struggle to equal its budget domestically, the film should eventually make a token profit once overseas and DVD dollars are accounted for. More importantly, Universal acquired the film for just $12 million. I’m laying all of this out so you can properly respond to anyone who screams that this is a mega-flop of epic proportions. Why would anyone do that? Because the film was sold on the back of James Cameron, one of several producers, which had countless pundits predicting that it was somehow going to be seen as a sequel to Avatar. More importantly, there will surely be a bunch of headlines screaming ‘James Cameron bombs!’, which makes about as much sense as blaming Tim Burton for the box office failures of Cabin Boy or James and the Giant Peach.

This is not a great opening figure, but it was a low-budget film that was burdened by its R-rating and then further burdened by revelations that the film earned its R primarily for profanity (ie – no meat for the gore-hounds). I’m all for artistic freedom, and kudos to Universal for not ordering a PG-13 cut of the film, but I have to wonder whether that was the right commercial choice. There are several movies over the last few years that would have likely benefited from an R-rating (X: Files: I Want to Believe, Drag Me to Hell), but Sanctum was likely not one of them. Point being, if you’re going to be R-rated, BE an R (violence, gore, etc). Otherwise, just dub a few ‘friggin’s and be on your way. Anyway, had Cameron’s name not been attached, this film would likely have struggled to get a mainstream release. Even with his name on it, a star-less, R-rated monster-free mash-up of The Descent and Vertical Limit was never going to open to blockbuster numbers. So don’t be that idiot.

There is little else to report on this slow weekend. Last weekend’s two main openers sank like stones in their second jaunt. The Rite dropped 62% and The Mechanic (free tip villains: stop trying to kill Jason Statham) dropped 53%. Their respective ten-day totals are $23 million and $20 million. No Strings Attached is showing remarkable staying power, as the Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher comedy has already crossed the $50 million mark. At $51 million, it’s already Portman’s third-biggest non-Star Wars picture, behind V For Vendetta ($70 million) and Black Swan (an astonishing $95 million). Portman actually had another debut this weekend, but The Other Woman did just around $2,900 on each of its two screens, which makes sense since it’s been available on Video On Demand for a month. The Green Hornet is also displaying staying power, as a film that once seemed like a tax-write off is now heading toward $100 million domestic and at least $100 million overseas. The various Oscar contenders are still plowing through, as True Grit ($155 million), Black Swan ($95 million), The King’s Speech ($84 million), and The Fighter ($82 million) continue to prove that mainstream, studio pictures can be both critically acclaimed and financially successful.

To read more about this article go to Mendelson Memos

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