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'Kranks' Out-Rank 'Alexander'

by Brandon Gray
Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen in Christmas with the Kranks
November 29, 2004

The New World didn't take to the conqueror of the ancient world, preferring the confines of suburbia during Thanksgiving weekend.

Christmas with the Kranks consumed $21.6 million at 3,393 sites in third place over the weekend, grossing $30.8 million since Wednesday. The $60 million comedy about parents trying to skip the holiday festivities and decorations in their neighborhood skewed female (60% of attendees) and 51% of its audience was over the age of 25, according to distributor Sony's exit polling.

Moviegoers enjoyed the Kranks as 91% rated it "excellent" or "very good" and 80% would "definitely recommend" it. Actors Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis have become brand names in family comedy after such respective successes as the Santa Clause movies and Freaky Friday, and Kranks' advertising played well to their strengths.

Director Oliver Stone mounted a bold production on the life of Alexander the Great but didn't find fortune. Alexander commanded $13.7 million at 2,445 locations. The R-rated, three-hour picture ranked No. 6 for the

Colin Farrell in Alexander
weekend, defeated by the wholesome quintuplets National Treasure, The Incredibles, Kranks, The Polar Express and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The five-day tally stands at $21.8 million.

The $150 million epic was funded mostly by Intermedia Films, the German production company that also backed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and K-19: The Widowmaker among others. Distributor Warner Bros. paid $35 million for domestic distribution rights.

The post-Thanksgiving frame is prone to tremendous drop-offs, especially for pictures that failed to gain traction. Last year's The Missing, for instance, tumbled 63%, and its five-day Thanksgiving bow accounted for 57% of its $26.9 million final total. If Alexander follows a similar pattern, it may not top $40 million.

A sign of poor word-of-mouth, Alexander was rated a D+ by CinemaScore, which tracks the opinions of opening night moviegoers. Generally, those polled tend to be kind, and even grades in the B range indicate mixed reactions—a D+ suggests outright contempt.

The ruckus raised over its portrayal of sexuality aside, Alexander was always going to be a tough sell. Movies about the ancient world must convince potential moviegoers that they matter now, given their inherent distance in setting and mores. Gladiator revived the sword-and-sandal epic with its broadly appealing themes of an underdog hero and his revenge as well as likening its events to modern-day football. Alexander's marketing failed on this front—the poster and billboards even de-emphasized the movie's hero, overwhelming Colin Farrell's Alexander with supporting players.

The sheer greatness of Alexander the Great was an obstacle in a society that prefers fractured fairy tales (Shrek 2) and ordinary, flawed heroes (Spider-Man 2). Earlier this year, Warner Bros.' Troy mitigated similar problems through spectacle and star power, but still waged a disappointing $133.4 million domestic take. Troy also may have stole some of Alexander's thunder—Farrell gallivanting about in his bottle-blond locks may have paled compared to Brad Pitt's battlefield antics.

Historical war epics tend to have far greater appeal overseas, often redeeming soft North American returns. Recently, Troy, The Last Samurai and King Arthur each tripled their domestic grosses internationally.

RELATED ARTICLES
• 12/10/04 - Who is Alexander the Great? The Movie and the Truth
• 12/10/04 - Alexander, Unconquered
• 5/17/04 - 'Troy' Rises with $47M, But Not Immortal

• Review - 'Alexander'

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