'Grindhouse' Dilapidated Over Easter Weekend

by Brandon Gray
Kurt Russell in Grindhouse
April 9, 2007

Grindhouse had a fawning barrage of media hype behind it and a seemingly built-in audience primed for its brand of nihilistic thrills, but Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez' attempt to revive 1970s schlock was mostly ignored over Easter weekend.

Instead, Blades of Glory held well to capture the gold for the second weekend. Down 32 percent, the figure-skating comedy drew $22.5 million, lifting its total to $67.9 million in ten days or about the same as DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story through the same point. Meet the Robinsons clung to second place with $16.7 million, off 33 percent for $51.9 million in ten days.

The top debut turned out to be Are We Done Yet?, a combination sequel to Are We There Yet? and loose remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House from 1948. The family comedy nailed $14.3 million at 2,877 locations for $18.5 million in five days. It packed less punch than its predecessor, the 2005 surprise hit Are We There Yet?, which opened to $18.6 million, but sequels in this genre seldom live up to their predecessors.

Grindhouse churned out a shabby $11.6 million, the least-attended nationwide start for directors Tarantino and Rodriguez. At 2,624 theaters, the horror double feature wasn't the widest new release, but it had the highest screen count—an estimated 3,700 screens—making up for a showtime-limiting three-hour runtime. If many moviegoers had wanted to rip into Grindhouse, they had plenty of chances.

Director Quentin Tarantino on the set of Grindhouse
While nihilistic movies frequently open to higher numbers, Grindhouse rang particularly hollow. The last pictures from Tarantino (the Kill Bill movies) and Rodriguez (Sin City) each debuted to well over $20 million. Each was an unusual success, leading to expectations (including this writer's forecast) that a double-billed event could follow suit.

However, Grindhouse was sold on the directors' names, the style and the novelty instead of story or character. Much of the promotional campaign was dedicated to explaining the term "Grindhouse," blanking out on the point of emulating niche cinema from the '70s in the first place. It couldn't work as a spoof because it lacked identifiable references for today's audiences that patronize similar trash, and it suffered the usual horror comedy dilemma that afflicted Snakes on a Plane and Slither among others: too funny to be scary, too scary to be funny.

What's more, Grindhouse was essentially a horror anthology, and that sub-genre has never been big business. Grindhouse was also a self-referential movie about the movies, and such navel-gazing often leaves the public cold. The promise of lurid thrills can only take a picture so far.

For distributor The Weinstein Company, Grindhouse marks the ninth weak box office performer in a row. Their last hit was Scary Movie 4, which started with $40.2 million on Easter weekend last year. Despite Grindhouse's failure, overall weekend business this year was up three percent from that frame.

Hilary Swank in The Reaping
Also opening, The Reaping harvested $10 million at 2,603 sites for $12 million in four days. The Warner Bros. supernatural horror's opening was comparable to the studio's previous entry in the genre, last year's The Wicker Man remake.

Firehouse Dog fetched a meager $3.8 million at 2,860 venues for $5.1 million in five days, which was below average for a live-action animal picture aimed at families.

Among holdovers, March stalwarts 300 and Wild Hogs remained strong, down 27 and 23 percent respectively. 300 claimed $8.4 million for $193.4 million in 31 days, surpassing the final tally of Gladiator (which still has a five million plus advantage in attendance). Wild Hogs snared $6.6 million for $145.3 million in 38 days.

In limited release, Lasse Hallstrom's The Hoax hatched a modest $1.4 million debut at 235 sites, while Paul Verhoeven's Black Book bore a soft $112,521 at nine locations.

• Review - The Hoax
• Interview - Lasse Hallstrom on 'The Hoax'
• 4/17/06 - 'Scary Movie 4' Cracks Easter Record (Easter, 2006)
• 4/10/06 - 'Ice Age' Cools, 'Benchwarmers Scores (Same Weekend, 2006)
• 4/11/05 - 'Sahara' an Oasis in Box Office Desert (Same Weekend, 2005)

Weekend Box Office Results
All Time Easter Openings
Horror Anthologies
Family Animal Movies (Live Action)

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, April 8 and was revised on Monday, April 9 with actual grosses.

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