‘Seven Pounds,’ ‘Yes Man,’ ‘Despereaux’ Enter Fray
by Brandon Gray
December 19, 2008
The pre-Christmas weekend sees three different kinds of pictures debut nationwide. Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man has the most saturated release with approximately 5,100 screens at 3,434 theaters. Animated mouse adventure The Tale of Despereaux catapults onto around 3,600 screens at 3,104 theaters, and Will Smith drama Seven Pounds coasts onto over 3,600 screens at 2,758 theaters. The Day the Earth Stood Still remains the largest release with approximately 5,500 screens at 3,560 sites, while Four Christmases has around 4,000 screens at 3,515. Additionally, Slumdog Millionaire expands to nearly 700 screens at 589 venues, up from 260 screens at 169 venues last weekend.
While Yes Man and The Tale of Despereaux are clearly defined in the market as a comedy and a family movie, Seven Pounds is the mysterious entry in terms of story and appeal, but gives potential moviegoers comfort in the fact that it stars Will Smith. Smith is the current top actor at the box office after his past eight vehicles grossed well over $100 million each (and the last two did over $200 million). Smith cemented his status with the one-two punch of Hitch and The Pursuit of Happyness, his first non-action, non-special effects hits in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Last December, millions were willing to spend some alone time with him in I Am Legend, recalling the holiday solo success that Tom Hanks had with Cast Away.
Distributed by Will Smith's frequent collaborator Sony Pictures, Seven Pounds is in the vein of The Pursuit of Happyness, featuring the same director (Gabriele Muccino) and similar pre-Christmas release date. Pursuit opened to $26.5 million on around 3.600 screens at 2,852 theaters and went on to gross $163.6 million. Thematically, though, Seven Pounds appears to share more with such relatively modest pictures as Pay It Forward, Bounce and Crash in its marketing, which presents a serious Smith vaguely changing seven strangers' lives and little else.
"We think Seven Pounds is the perfect adult choice," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide distribution. "I think it's one of those pictures where you're going to have a terrific multiple." ("Multiple" refers to the ratio of total gross to opening weekend gross.) "It'll get a 5 times plus multiple at the end of the day." Bruer cited Will Smith as the top attraction with a nod to the movie's mystery and love story. "You can see in the advertising that there's such a human element, and that's one of the great things that Will Smith does. What makes him such an amazing star is that he's always so relatable to a moviegoing audience."
Though Jim Carrey's movies haven't been as consistently successful as Smith's, Carrey in a broad comedy has been box office gold, and the advertising for Yes Man attempts to recall his past smashes Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. The premise of a man saying "yes" to all opportunities that come his way is succinctly conveyed in the marketing, leaving plenty of room for Carrey's shenanigans. Various characters laughing are among the key images, and distributor Warner Bros. has seen comedy pay off recently with Four Christmases.
Rodents were all the rage last year with Ratatouille and Alvin and the Chipmunks, the latter opening to a whopping $44.3 million on the weekend before Christmas. Now, Universal Pictures' The Tale of Despereaux stirs on the same timeframe as Alvin, though a more direct comparison would be fellow mouse movie Stuart Little. Stuart debuted before Christmas to $15 million at 2,878 venues in 1999 (or nearly $21 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) on its way to $140 million. Other past December releases comparable to Despereaux include Charlotte's Web and Mouse Hunt.
Representatives for Warner Bros. and Universal were unavailable for comment.
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