Weekend Briefing: Five Movies Aim for a Late Summer Nibble
by Brandon Gray
August 20, 2010
Five movies of modest proportion enter the nationwide fray this weekend. Vampires Suck bites into approximately 3,150 screens at 2,978 locations. Nanny McPhee Returns pops onto 2,784 locations (screen count is unclear at this time). Piranha 3D leaps onto around 2,600 screens at 2,470 locations. The Switch bastes 2,012 single-screen locations. Lottery Ticket draws close to 2,250 screens at 1,973 locations. Last weekend's champ, The Expendables, has a shot at remaining on top: if it continues to follow Inglourious Basterds' pattern, it would make nearly $17 million this weekend.
After getting thwacked two years ago by the commercial rejection of Disaster Movie, purveyors of random movie and pop culture imitations, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, return with Vampires Suck, which was hastily put together to capitalize on the current Twilight and vampire craze. Vampires Suck debuted on Wednesday and grossed $6.4 million in two days, which was more than the $5.8 million that Disaster Movie did in its entire first weekend back in August 2008. Disaster Movie flopped, in part, because it ramped up the randomness with imitations that had no bearing on the disaster movie theme and no known movie anchor. With a clearer target in its marketing, Vampire Sucks seems less random than Disaster Movie and closer to the writer/director duo's Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. The more focused the spoof, the better the box office is likely to be. However, only a fraction of Twilight's fans will be interested, and hatred of a fad is not a motivator to see a movie, so don't count on people who are sick of vampires to attend in droves.
Nanny McPhee returns with relatively little fanfare, though it's often a challenge to get people worked up over a sequel to a family movie, especially one that arrives more than four and half years after its predecessor. The norm is for business to drop precipitously: see sequels to Babe, Stuart Little, Baby Geniuses, The Pink Panther remake, etc. The first Nanny McPhee had a solid run, opening to $14.5 million at 1,995 locations back in January 2006 and closing with $47.1 million. Aside from showing off some cute little pigs, Nanny McPhee Returns' marketing has made the picture look like just another appearance by Emma Thompson's title character.
Piranha 3D aims to be an over-the-top-gory, tongue-in-cheek creature feature, and it's positioning has struck a similar tenor as past titles like Snakes on a Plane, Eight Legged Freaks and Lake Placid. Comedic horror movies don't often go far, and creature features are rarely deemed theater-worthy by many, given the genre's proliferation on cable television and the straight-to-video market. Brandishing the tagline "This Summer, 3D Shows Its Teeth," Piranha is hoping that 3D will punch up its grosses after the numbers that The Final Destination and My Bloody Valentine 3-D posted last year. To that end, Piranha will have 2,200 theaters showing it in 3D, representing around 85 percent of its screens.
The Switch may star Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, but it has been presented as an also-ran. Many of the movie's television spots eschew the movie's premise and show a nondescript comedy, relying on the charm of the actors and how the movie is supposedly from the folks behind Juno and Little Miss Sunshine. Not that the premise of a man replacing the sperm in an artificial insemination with his own would be particularly palatable for a supposed romantic comedy. Ms. Aniston headlined Rumor Has It, which had a salacious storyline and disappointed, and, last year, she starred in Love Happens, which took the bland route and had little impact.
Lottery Ticket rounds out the new releases, and it's a play for the same audience that made successes out of the Friday and Barbershop movies. Featuring Bow Wow and Ice Cube, the comedy has the potentially-appealing premise of a young man who wins the lottery but has problems when his neighborhood catches wind of the windfall before he can cash in. The movie also recalls The Cookout, a late-summer comedy that debuted to $5 million six years ago.
In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, Piranha 3D has fared the best: more than 17 percent of respondents voted to see it on opening weekend, which was close to My Bloody Valentine 3-D and less than The Final Destination's 21 percent. On the other hand, Splice scored 14.7 percent, which only translated to a $7.4 million opening weekend earlier this summer.
Vampires Suck nabbed a 7.3 percent opening weekend score, which was a lot better than Disaster Movie's 4.1 percent but was worse than Epic Movie. The Switch notched around 6.8 percent, which was around half way between the scores of Mr. Bateman's Extract and The Ex but better than Love Happens. Nanny McPhee Returns's scoring was nearly identical to Shorts from last August, coming in at 2.6 percent, and showed much less general interest than the first Nanny McPhee. Lottery Ticket came in at 1.8 percent, which was comparable to The Cookout though better than The Longshots.