This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond – Hollywood’s 3D August clearance sale or call it a disaster

By Pete Hammond Call it Hollywood’s 3D August clearance sale or call it a disaster but what ever way you look at it the glut of new movies unleashed this week pretty much tanked. When a small drama about black maids in the racially-tinged South of the 1960’s in its second weekend wipes the floor over brand new big genre action and family movies It may be time for Hollywood to think again just what it is that audiences want these days?

The Help’s success might give them a clue. Dropping just 20% in its second weekend and moving from number two to number one, this well-reviewed social drama based on the best-selling novel made an estimated $20 million and now is up to $71 million after nearly two weeks in theatres. This should easily hit $150 million or more and gain year end awards attention. The quartet of new movies also had to deal with the continuing strength of 20th Century Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes which did an estimated $16.3 million in its third weekend and a sterling $134 million so far .
So what went wrong with the newbies, nearly all in 3D and fighting for those screens in order to goose ticket sale totals due to the increased price of those tickets? It’s a case of deja view or been there-seen that on the part of audiences I think. I mean Hollywood isn’t even bothering to change the names anymore or add a roman numeral next to it. Forget the fact we’ve seen Conan The Barbarian(1982) and its 1984 sequel Conan The Destroyer along with countless ripoffs of the initial Schwarzenegger success, Lions Gate just finds another muscle guy, dusts it off and releases it as , you guessed it, Conan The Barbarian. Arnold was at least a star. This new guy, Jason Momoa they probably found in a gym in Hawaii (he is gaining traction in HBO’s Game of Thrones though). Been there-Seen that. Arnold we forgive you your trespasses , come back please. So what do the studios throw at this Conan reboot for competition? Fright Night. Forget that we already had this Fright Night in 1985 followed by its sequel Fright Night Part II four years later. Can’t get enough Fright Nights I guess especially if you can fool the public by calling it Fright Night 3D. Still, been there- seen that. And then the Weinstein brothers and director Robert Rodriguez just had to waste production dollars on another Spy Kids movie , this one in “4D- Aromarama” or something like that. At least they are labeling it Spy Kids 4 although the way things are going they might as well have left off the ‘4’. Who cares? Been there-seen that! The aroma gimmick is one that goes back to the 50’s and a movie called Scent of Mystery produced by the great showman Mike Todd (Around The World in 80 Days). Audience members are given scratch ‘N sniff cards with their ticket and scratch off numbers as they flash on screen, ideally setting of smells that match what the characters are experiencing. In other words if a movie stinks, make sure it really stinks.

Or is it best just to have an old fashioned stinker WITHOUT the scratch ‘n sniff cards. If that’s the case Focus Features provided one with the fourth wide opening of the weekend (the only one NOT in 3D), the romantic sudser One Day starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. The gimmick here is that we check in on the two best friends on the same day each year to see where their lives are even though we eventually know they were made for each other and have to get together during one of those ‘days’. Been there-seen that. Despite the best efforts of its stars it just doesn’t really work, the characters are just basically obnoxious or unappealing. Audiences gave it less than $6 million for the opening weekend while critics pounced with a disastrous 27% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch. That’s not good for an adult-skewing movie. Adults actually READ reviews to decide which films to see. Word of mouth is not gonna be good.

Better luck next week Hollywood. You need more (The) Help.

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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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