This Week in Movies By Pete Hammond: The Smurfs

By Pete Hammond Either someone is fudging the numbers or we have a hell of a horse race (or in fairness, Smurf/Horse race) going on at the boxoffice this week in movies. Both Universal which released the sci-fi/western hybrid Cowboys And Aliens and Sony which released the Live Action/animation hybrid The Smurfs are separately estimating that they will finish the weekend tied for number one with $36.2 million each. So we will have to wait for Monday’s final ACTUAL numbers to determine a winner and bragging rights for the weekend. But in truth the real winner here is Smurfs which was not expected to be anywhere close to Cowboys for the boxoffice crown but Friday night it actually beat the Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed epic although it dropped a bit on Saturday. Because Smurfs has a built-in following of kids and nostalgic adults who grew up with the cartoon series on NBC in the 80’s there was built-in wanna- see for the movie version which follows in the style footsteps of Alvin and the Chipmunks. It really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to the industry that people might run out to see it the first day , and that they did. In fact I was at a multi-plex at L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angeles Friday night (seeing the terrific new documentary, Life In A Day with six other people who showed up – sad turnout for an opening night) and when I tried to exit my theatre I was nearly trampled by an eager, determined crowd racing into the 9:30pm showing Smurfs on the screen next door to mine. You would have thought they had the Smurfs confused with Justin Bieber (on second thought some people probably do).I had a feeling an upset might be in motion .

Not only did Smurfs “overperform” like they say in the trade, it also got a sterling ‘A’ Cinemascore grade of audience satisfaction compared to Cowboy’s just-okay ‘B’. Considering the huge budget of the latter film and the people involved including gaggles of top screenwriters and producers ( Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer among ‘em) this reception was definitely much lower than Universal was hoping. The number $45 million had been bandied about as a good opening gross but it won’t come anywhere near that. One area where Cowboys trounced Smurfs was in the Rotten Tomatoes aggregated rankings of critics reviews. The latter got a lowly 20% fresh vs the former’s 44%, neither anything to write home about.

In the case of Cowboys it may be the old fashioned western milieu or just the fact of summer blockbuster burnout that contributed to its lesser showing . After one big fanboy type movie after another since the beginning of May , the fatigue factor may be something for the numbers crunchers to look at. And even though 3D receipts aren’t that great this summer, the fact that Smurfs used the process and Cowboys didn’t is probably the prime reason they are tied at this point, thanks of course to higher ticket prices for 3D.

The absolutely sensational new romcom, Crazy , Stupid , Love was the other new wide release of the week and it came in fifth with an estimated $19 millionish take and a B+ overall Cinemascore rating. It’s 74% approval rating on RT made it the critics choice of the week (and rightly so) and it was the only one of the three films to enter FRESH territory there. The extremely well-written (by Pixar vet Dan Fogleman) and directed romp (Bad Santa’s Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ) gives star Steve Carell his best screen outing since The 40 Year Old Virgin. And Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone nearly steal the whole thing from him. Warner Bros. heavy marketing campaign paid off in delivering the expected Adult audience who should keep this thing humming for weeks to come due to strong word of mouth.

And finally, speaking of Warners, congratulations are in order as this weekend Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II became the first film in the eight part series to pass one billion dollars at the Global boxoffice and it tied for the fastest film to do that meaning there’s lot more gold in them there Harry hills. It also has become the most successful film ever released by Warners and its all due to a lopsided nearly $700 million + international total , and of course the $318 million dollar domestic haul so far (and after just 17 days). How Warners is ever gonna top this golden franchise is anybody’s guess!

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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