News

'Stealth' Bombs, 'Wedding' No Longer the Bridesmaid

by Brandon Gray
August 1, 2005

W

Owen Wilson and Vince Vauhn in Wedding Crashers
ithout any broadly appealing pictures opening, overall weekend business was off 22 percent from last year.

In its third outing, Wedding Crashers notched its first weekend conquest, easing 22 percent to $20 million. The debauched $40 million comedy has bagged $115.6 million in 17 days, topping the final gross of last summer's similar hit, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.

"Even though it's an R-rated movie, we seemed to have turned into a four quadrant movie," said distributor New Line Cinema's head of distribution, David Tuckerman. "We're not getting the really young people, but we're getting everyone else, including people over 60."

The last time a picture claimed the top spot after more than two weeks of wide release was 1998, when There's Something About Mary reached No. 1 in its eighth weekend. Like Wedding Crashers, it was an R-rated comedy that opened on July 15, and it went on to gross $176.5 million—a sum Wedding Crashers should match at its current pace, though Mary's tally would equal about $240 million today, adjusted for ticket price inflation.

While comedy was king, action was again the pauper. Following the high profile debacles of XXX: State of the Union and The Island, Stealth was a blip on moviegoers' radar, despite a massive advertising blitz. The $100 million aerial assault took off at an ultra-wide 3,495 sites but crash landed with $13.3 million, backfiring its desperate marketing ruse to make supporting player Jamie Foxx seem like the leading actor.

Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas in Stealth
One could say action is on the wane after failures like Stealth, but the truth is that the genre is not in decline, as the success of Batman Begins and Mr. and Mrs. Smith among others attests. It's poorly conceived pictures, from story to marketing, that bomb. XXX: State of the Union lacked the appeal of XXX, The Island had a clamorous identity crisis, and Stealth was an awkward mix of Top Gun and various movies with anti-technology themes, with a hint of Jaws in the tagline, "Fear the Sky." The spectacle wasn't even there; at best, Stealth resembled cinematic interstitials from a video game.

Riding a premise that melds Harry Potter and The Incredibles, Sky High mustered a solid $14.6 million at 2,905 theaters. Produced for less than $40 million, the superhero high school comedy had broader appeal than expected. Distributor Buena Vista's exit surveys indicated that moviegoers were 51 percent over the age of 17 and 51 percent male, and opening night pollster CinemaScore had them grading it an "A-" overall.

"I think so many of us buy in to the superhero thing, we'd love for that to be a reality, and it's just one of those fantasies that movies can bring to life." Buena Vista's president of distribution, Chuck Viane, said of Sky High's appeal. "Herbie: Fully Loaded only opened to $12.7 million but went on to do over $60 million. That's the beauty of family movies, or rather general audience movies; they play strongly on weekdays [in the summer]."

John Cusack and Diane Lane in Must Love Dogs
Must Love Dogs dug up $12.9 million at 2,505 locations, a decent start for the less-than-$30 million romantic comedy. Females comprised 70 percent of the audience, according to distributor Warner Bros.' polling, but the CinemaScore rating was a "B+," dragged down by the few males in attendance as women gave it an "A."

Hollywood usually skips summer romance, but sometimes that rare fling clicks, like The Notebook last year or My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002. That was Warner Bros.' strategy with Must Love Dogs. "It's good counter-programming," said the studio's head of distribution, Dan Fellman.

The petering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dipped 42 percent to $16.4 million, relinquishing the top spot to Wedding Crashers, though it's made $148.1 million in 17 days. Last weekend's weak opening lot, The Island, Bad News Bears, Hustle and Flow and The Devil's Rejects each tumbled 50 percent or more, but March of the Penguins slid just eight percent to $4 million at 778 theaters. With $16.3 million in 38 days, the trials of the Emperor penguins will expand to 1,500 locations on Aug. 5 and, within a week, will eclipse Bowling for Columbine as the second highest-grossing documentary of all time.

RELATED ARTICLES:
• 7/25/05 - 'Penguins' Gain Warm Reception
• 7/25/05 - 'Island' Deserted, 'Chocolate,' 'Wedding' Take Cake
• 5/2/05 - 'Hitchhiker' Beams, 'XXX' Reamed
• 11/8/04 - $70M Fantastic for 'Incredibles'
• Review - Sky High
• Review - Must Love Dogs

RELATED CHARTS:
• Longest Climbs to No. 1
• Pilot / Aircraft Movies
• Romantic Comedies
• Superhero Movies
• Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, July 31 and was updated on Monday, Aug. 1 with actual grosses.



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