'Virgin,' 'Red Eye' Fly High for Rising Actors
by Brandon Gray
August 22, 2005
|Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin|
Rising actors Steve Carrell and Rachel McAdams scored solid grosses for their first times in top-billed roles, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Red Eye, but overall business was so-so, down four percent from the comparable weekend last year.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin attracted an ample $21.4 million at 2,845 theaters. The $26 million sex comedy's opening came in the same range as Old School and the first American Pie and was in the middle of the season's previous raunchy entries, the hit, Wedding Crashers, and the miss, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.
According to distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling of moviegoers, the "humor" was by far the main reason people saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin, followed by the "story" and Steve Carell. Carell developed audience recognition through supporting roles in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and via television as a correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Universal ran ads spotlighting Carell's transition from Bruce Almighty to The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Comedies about men trying to pick up women draw both sexes, and this year alone has seen two blockbusters that take on the theme, Hitch and Wedding Crashers. The 40-Year-Old Virgin seemed like a cross between the two movies in Universal's aggressive marketing campaign. Emphasizing the cruder elements over story, the ads featured a body-waxing session like Hitch's trailer but more pronounced. What's more, the picture's title helped it stand out on marquees, for better or worse, telling prospective moviegoers what they were in for.
Red Eye arrived with $16.2 million at 3,079 locations. Tapping into fears of flying and being trapped with a strong female character at its center, DreamWorks' $26 million thriller sold a similar amount of tickets as past gimmick-driven suspense successes, Phone Booth and The Net, and significantly more than Cellular and Nick of Time.
Other than romantic comedy, a key type of picture for today's up-and-coming actress is the thriller. Stars like Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock had career-edifying roles in the genre, and Red Eye was a natural progression for Rachel McAdams after establishing herself in comedy (Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers) and drama (The Notebook).
|Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy in Red Eye|
If Red Eye didn't exactly take off out of the gate, part of the blame belongs to marketing that didn't quite crackle with suspense. After a romantic comedy-like set-up, the teaser trailer invoked horror with co-star Cillian Murphy's eye literally turning red in conjunction with Wes Craven's name, identified as "the director of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street." The subsequent trailer cleared things up, but the horror perception still lingered, which may have kept away older moviegoers who like reality-based thrillers—60 percent of the audience was under 25 years old, according to DreamWorks' research.
The computer-animated Valiant, a $35 million British comedy about carrier pigeons, distributed by Buena Vista, delivered $5.9 million at 2,014 theaters. The average computer-animated feature grosses nearly $170 million, appealing to audiences of all ages, but Valiant landed at the low end by skewing mostly towards young children. Lacking the massive promotions and theater counts usually afforded the genre, its debut was nearly identical to Buena Vista's recent Winnie the Pooh movies, Pooh's Heffalump Movie and Piglet's Big Movie.
Pigeons had nothing on penguins. Without computer animation or the ability to fly, March of the Penguins' ninth weekend topped Valiant's first weekend with $6.5 million. The nature documentary again had the strongest hold among wide releases, down five percent for $48.4 million in 59 days. At this rate, the South Pole-set picture is headed north of $80 million by the end of its run.
Opening in 15th place, Supercross barely kicked up dust with $1.3 million at 1,621 sites for a $2 million five-day tally. The motorcycle-racing picture was distributed by 20th Century Fox but produced in part by Clear Channel Entertainment, which also produces Supercross circuit events. Niche sports movies almost invariably flounder, including Lords of Dogtown earlier this summer and Grind from mid-August of 2003, but Supercross is a new low.
• 8/15/05 - 'Four Brothers,' 'Skeleton Key' Bury 'Deuce Bigalow'
• 7/18/05 - 'Charlie,' 'Crashers' Draw Golden Box Office Ticket
• 2/14/05 - 'Hitch' Scores Romantic Comedy Record
• 11/10/03 - 'Elf' Elevates Ferrell with $31M Bow
• Aircraft / Pilot Movies
• Computer Animation
• Extreme Sports Movies
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, Aug. 21 and was updated on Monday, Aug. 22 with actual grosses.