Weekend Briefing: 'Town,' 'Easy,' 'Devil,' 'Alpha' Hit Theaters
by Brandon Gray
September 17, 2010
This weekend, four movies of distinctly different genres debut. The broadest releases are The Town with approximately 3,500 screens at 2,861 locations and Easy A with around 3,500 screens at 2,856 locations, followed by Devil with over 3,200 screens at 2,809 locations and Alpha and Omega at 2,625 largely single-screen locations.
Director Ben Affleck's follow-up to the $20.3 million-grossing Gone Baby Gone, The Town packs a nondescript title. Its marketing campaign has alternately sold a generic ensemble heist thriller, typified by the poster's nun-costumed robbers, list of actors and the tagline "Welcome to the Bank Robbery Capital of America," and Affleck's character wanting out of his life of crime. Ads have also stressed that The Town's from the "studio that brought you The Departed," a card that distributor Warner Bros. frequently plays, but The Departed was more specific and character-driven in its promotions. The Town's also the second movie in less than a month to invoke Heat in its marketing, following Takers, pulling a quote calling it "Heat meets The Departed." The Departed opened to a genre-busting $26.9 million, so it would be unrealistic to expect The Town to reach that level.
Easy A is the first vehicle for Emma Stone, who had prominent roles in Superbad, The House Bunny and Zombieland, although she's joined by a gaggle of familiar faces in support. The movie's advertising has promoted a teen comedy in the vein of Mean Girls with its tale of a girl gaining attention at school by pretending to be easy. Trailers have diligently explained the premise, which is not likely to strike as broad a chord as Mean Girls. While there is no successful September antecedent to Easy A and Jennifer's Body failed on the same weekend last year, similar fare has drawn decent crowds, including John Tucker Must Die and She's the Man. Recent ads have focused on Stone opening a greeting card that plays the banal song "Pocket Full of Sunshine," scoffing at first, but then later getting into it and singing along. While this may be a cute skit to those familiar with the Natasha Bedingfield tune, it was off point for the movie as a whole.
Despite being presented by M. Night Shyamalan and an uninspired title, Devil has a potentially appealing horror mystery premise of five strangers stuck in an elevator and one of them may be the Devil. Demonic horror is consistently potent at the box office, given the many recent haunting and exorcism successes, and Devil adds in fears of heights and confined spaces. The movie's trailer clearly set up the story and ramped up the terror through old horror stand-bys, including the money shot of a character turning on a light to reveal something scary. Devil recalls past titles ranging from Quarantine to Identity.
Alpha and Omega should prove, yet again, that the 3D illusion is not a draw unto itself. The title alone may make people think science fiction, but the movie's actually about wolves with a journey plotline that's a cliche in animation (Bolt, Shrek, Ice Age, etc.). The computer-animated feature appears to be so by-the-numbers and unrefined in its marketing, it's hard to imagine it appealing far beyond tykes. Distributor Lionsgate has never released a successful animated movie and is generally at a loss when it comes to family audiences.
In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, The Town has generated the highest "opening weekend" score at 24 percent. This type of picture generally provokes inflated polling interest relative to box office, examples of which include Gone Baby Gone, We Own the Night, Eastern Promises and The Departed.
Devil followed with a 14.7 percent opening weekend draw, which was greater than Quarantine and The Last Exorcism but less than Drag Me to Hell and 1408. Easy A earned a 14.4 percent opening weekend vote, which seemed solid for a teen comedy. However, comparable titles were all over the map in their polling-to-box office ratios. Alpha and Omega brought up the rear with a 3.6 percent opening weekend score, which was a bit over a third of Open Season and a quarter of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which topped the box office on the same weekend last year.