Weekend Briefing: 'A-Team,' 'Karate Kid' Ape the '80s
by Brandon Gray
June 11, 2010
This weekend, two 1980s retreads hit theaters, aiming to tap into the themes that made the originals so popular as well as to draw the nostalgic. The Karate Kid crane-kicks its way onto close to 5,400 screens at 3,663 locations, while The A-Team marches onto approximately 5,200 screens at 3,535 locations.
Produced by Will Smith and featuring his son, Jaden, in the title role and Jackie Chan as the martial arts mentor, The Karate Kid remake seems less faithful to its source material than The A-Team. The titular Kid is a pre-teen verus Ralph Macchio's teenager from the 1984 smash, arguably lowering the dramatic stakes and relatability for older audiences. The Kid moves to a new location: China instead of Los Angeles, so now only the Kid is a cultural outsider, whereas, in the original, the mentor was as well. What's more, the martial art is now kung fu instead of the titular karate.
The original Karate Kid debuted nearly 26 years ago in June, grossing $5 million at 931 sites (or the equivalent of around $12 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) and ended its run at $90.8 million (or around $215 million adjusted). The Karate Kid Part II, in which the Kid goes to karate's native land Japan (like the Kid goes to kung fu's native land in the remake), made even more in 1986, but the franchise fell apart with The Karate Kid Part III in 1989. The 1994 revival The Next Karate Kid, featuring the original's Pat Morita and Hilary Swank as his new student, failed, grossing $8.9 million in its entire run.
Though the franchise faded, martial arts continued to be a facet of action movies, and Jackie Chan rose to prominence in America. Mr. Chan mined similar material (albeit in the fantasy genre) with The Forbidden Kingdom, which opened to $21.4 million in 2008 and closed with $52.1 million, and he's generally been popular among the kids the new Karate Kid has targeted. Recently, Never Back Down, which was essentially a Karate Kid remake, delivered modest numbers ($24.9 million total), but it shot for teens and young adults.
The new Karate Kid's remake is banking on its universal underdog, fish-out-of-water and culture clash elements that help made the original such a success, and distributor Sony Pictures' has cut trailers and ads designed to rouse moviegoers with those themes. In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, 12.9 percent have voted to see The Karate Kid on its opening weekend. That's a relatively strong number given the type of movie it is.
The A-Team is the latest television show adaptation, and the sub-genre has had a mixed track record. The first two Mission: Impossible movies were huge as was the first Charlie's Angels and the less-well-known S.W.A.T.. On the other hand, pictures like I Spy and The Mod Squad fizzled, while the comedies The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch and the serious Miami Vice were mid-range performers. An unrelated blast from the '80s, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, posted a $54.7 million opening last summer on its way to $150.2 million.
Instead of being entirely beholden to The A-Team name to generate interest, the marketing campaign has pushed a slick buddy action-comedy. With its outrageous action and its attitude, the ads have recalled the first XXX as well as Nicolas Cage's June action movies of yore (The Rock, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds) that each drove past the $100 million mark. However, the movie's aerial action involving a parachuting tank (combined with the presence of Jessica Biel) brings flashes of the bomb Stealth.
Box Office Mojo readers have shown a decent amount of interest: 30.2 percent have voted to see A-Team on opening weekend, and the voting pattern was closest to Miami Vice, only with better numbers.
Last Weekend Briefing
• Four Middling Movies Muddle Through
Latest Weekend Report
• 'Shrek' Reigns Over Meager Parade
This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2009 - Lush 'Hangover,' 'Up' Linger Over Typical 'Taking'
• 2008 - 'Hulk,' 'Happening' Hit Ground Running
• 2007 - 'Fantastic' Sequel Storms Top Spot
• 2006 - Flagging 'Cars' Pins Chipper 'Nacho'
• 2005 - 'Batman' Begins in the Shadows
Similar Movies to:
• 'The Karate Kid'
• 'The A-Team'