Weekend Briefing: Desert-set 'Sex,' 'Prince' Potentially Arid

by Brandon Gray
Prince of Persia

May 28, 2010

Two movies set in the Middle Eastern desert caravan through this Memorial Day weekend. Sex and the City 2 cavorts on over 6,200 screens at 3,445 locations, while Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time rubs off onto more than 5,800 screens at 3,646 locations.

Sex and the City 2 got a jump on the weekend with its Thursday launch, making $14.2 million. That ranks as the sixth highest-grossing Thursday opening ever, edging out Terminator Salvation's $13.4 million on the same day last year. Sex 2's figure includes $3 million from its midnight opening at 2,200 venues, which was greater than its predecessor's $2.5 million at the same point.

However, the first Sex and the City's full opening day was $26.8 million on around 5,700 screens at 3,285 sites, although that was a Friday and therefore not a precise apples-to-apples comparison. Its opening weekend came in at $57 million, which was on the non-holiday timeframe after Memorial Day in 2008. Through its fifth day, it had taken in $68.1 million, leading to a final gross of $152.6 million.

The first Sex and the City benefitted from four years of pent-up demand since the HBO television series ended, four years of audience build-up through DVD and basic cable and from the novelty of seeing Carrie and company on the big screen for the first time. Two years later, Sex and the City 2 is essentially the second episode of the movie series, riding on the brand to carry the day as opposed to building on it.

Sending the ladies off on some random trip to Abu Dhabi and reintroducing a previously put-to-rest love interest screams of sequelitis with Sex and the City 2. Comedy and relationship sequels tend not to fare as well as their predecessors (examples: Bridget Jones, Miss Congeniality), because they are usually retreads of what was already resolved in the first movies. The first Sex and the City provided plenty of closure to the characters and storylines, making this sequel a superfluous, short-sighted money grab. What's more, the first Sex movie wasn't resoundingly loved by the fan base.

Sex and the City 2's smaller opening day was corroborated by Box Office Mojo's "When will you see it" reader polling. The sequel scored an 11.2 percent for "opening weekend," compared to the original's 14.1 percent at the same point in 2008.

With Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Walt Disney Pictures and producer Jerry Bruckheimer appear to be trying to recreate the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, even releasing it on the same weekend that At World's End inhabited in 2007 and inserting the critics' quotes inside the action in some ads, just like the first Pirates. Aside from that and some vague swashbuckling, the video game adaptation bears little resemblance commercially to Pirates.

Prince of Persia's Middle Eastern fantasy premise is rather distancing and unrelatable to audiences, and Jake Gyllenhaal is no Johnny Depp. Worst of all, the marketing has been incoherent, both in terms of story and visually, and it has lacked any wow moments of character or spectacle. Gyllenhaal's attempts at repartee have been drowned out in the blurry nonsense.

With its sandy, supernatural action, Prince of Persia recalls the recent Mummy movies, but it lacks a villain in its marketing like those pictures had. In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, Prince of Persia's scoring pattern was most comparable to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, albeit slightly higher. That picture's first weekend was $40.5 million.

Another curiosity about the Prince of Persia marketing is how the release date, May 28, took precedence over the movie itself. Bus ads and billboards sold "May 28" in giant type, while the movie title and images were a fraction of its size.

Last Weekend
'Shrek' Shrinks with Fourth Movie

This Timeframe in Past Years:
2009 - 'Night at the Museum,' 'Terminator' Dominate Memorial Weekend

2008 - 'Indy' Whips Up Massive Memorial Start
2007 - Third 'Pirates' Sacks Memorial Record
2006 - 'X-Men' Marvels with Memorial Record
2005 - 'Star Wars' Edges Out Critters & Convicts on Memorial Weekend
2004 - Globe Warms to 'Day After Tomorrow'
2003 - 'Bruce' Blesses Memorial Weekend
2002 - 'Clones,' 'Spider-Man' Lead Record Memorial Weekend

Similar Movies to:

'Sex and the City 2'

'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time'

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