'Ocean' Swings, 'Blade' Dulls
Ocean's Twelve lifted $39.2 million from over 6,000 screens at 3,290 theaters. Warner Bros.' $110 million sequel to the 2001 Rat Pack remake Ocean's Eleven did comparable business to that picture's $38.1 million opening at 3,075 venues in December 2001, and the demographics were similar, with 53% of moviegoers under age 25 and 54% female, according to studio exit polling.

Adjusted for ticket price inflation, Ocean's Eleven's opening would equal nearly $43 million today, so Ocean's Twelve had fewer admissions. Given that sequels tend to be more frontloaded, Twelve likely won't match Eleven's $183.4 million unadjusted gross.

Ocean's Twelve lacks the novelty of the first picture's unique teaming of the hot stars of the day—George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts—and much of their individual star power has since faded. Twelve's miscellaneous European locales simply aren't as striking as Ocean's Eleven's scheme to rob three Las Vegas casinos of $160 million in one night. Twelve's trailer fails to hint at what the stars are stealing this time—a crucial component of any heist picture, even when character interplay is more important. Paying back the money they stole in Eleven—striving to get back to zero—isn't as fun as gaining a fortune.

At the end of the trailer, Clooney asks "What are we stealing?" emphasizing that plot and point are afterthoughts to the celebrity riffing. In interviews, the cast stressed that the movie was nothing more than a vacation for them (at Clooney's estate at Lake Como in Italy) and that things like the script and characterization weren't taken seriously. Although, the marquee was. For Ocean's Eleven, they were billed alphabetically in the spirit of ensemble fun. This time, a hierarchy was imposed—Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Zeta-Jones, the lesser-known names and a special "and" credit for Roberts at the end.

To Ocean's Twelve's credit, comedy sequels usually have a tough time living up to their predecessors. On the same weekend (Dec. 10-12) in 1993, for instance, Wayne's World 2 and Sister Act 2 bowed to disappointing results and each ended up with about 40% of their originals' final grosses. A closer match to Twelve, Warner Bros.' Analyze That made 30% of Analyze This in December 2002. Twelve could have at least 75% retention of Ocean's Eleven.

Meanwhile, Blade: Trinity drained $16.1 million from 2,912 theaters, hunting down $24.5 million since its Wednesday bow. The opening is the weakest of Wesley Snipes' vampire-slaying franchise after Blade II's $32.5 million in 2002 and the first Blade's $17.1 million in 1998. Blade II out-grossed Blade—$82.3 million to $70.1 million—progress that gave sufficient validation for a third movie even if Blade II had short legs.

Dubbed "the final hunt," Blade: Trinity had obvious signs of sequel fatigue like Ocean's Twelve. The most glaring being the addition of a Buffy-like Jessica Biel and wise-cracking Ryan Reynolds—new, younger cast members tend to be reserved for revitalization of an aging series, which Blade is not. Snipes' Blade appeared diluted in the marketing, and the movie looked generic after similar action heroine fare like Underworld and Resident Evil. What's more, this finale's stakes didn't seem as high as the previous Blade's, and the villain, Dracula, not as menacing.

Other franchises that lost significant steam with their third entries after potent sequels include The Matrix, Alien, Terminator, Rambo, Friday, The Karate Kid and Hannibal Lecter. Growth for a third movie, like with The Lord of the Rings, tends to be the exception.

Debuting opposite Ocean's Twelve, Blade: Trinity may have done more business had it opened last weekend when it would have been the sole new wide release. The first two Blades were essentially off-season hits—Blade bowed in late August while Blade II was a March release and neither had direct competition.

Blade: Trinity's performance seems reminiscent of Star Trek: Nemesis on the same weekend in 2002. That picture, 10th in the Trek series, blasted off with $18.5 million and logged $43.3 million by its close, by far the least popular movie of the franchise.


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REVIEW: 'Ocean's Twelve' - Cheaper by the Dozen

REVIEW: 'Blade: Trinity' - A Pale Finale

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