Surprises at the box office

Marketplace Staff Jun 16, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The year is half over and already, we’ve seen a few unusual things at the movies. The first is the popularity of Al Gore’s film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, which you might expect to be popular among Democrats or political geeks. But it’s doing well both at the box office and among critics. Stuart Levine is Senior Editor at Variety. I asked him, what’s happening?

STUART LEVINE: Well, it’s not really a political film which I think is to Gore’s advantage. He’s not presenting the film as a Republican or a Democrat. He’s presenting it basically as a humanitarian trying to save the planet from global warming. So I think there’s really little to argue about the facts he’s presenting in the film and I think he comes off as just kind of a good guy wanting to better for both the Earth and for the human population. So if you didn’t vote for Gore or if you did vote for Gore I don’t think it really makes a difference as far as box office. I think you just want to see the film do well because it overall helps the environment.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Let’s talk about the new Superman film that’s coming out in a couple of weeks. Warner Bros. has done something pretty crafty that hasn’t been done before by opening it on the 28th of June. Can you explain the significance of that?

STUART LEVINE: Well they wanted to open the film originally on Friday the 30th and have it a long five-day July 4th weekend, but they figured well if we’re going to make it a five-day weekend, why don’t we just make it a seven-day weekend and open it on Wednesday the 28th . This way the box office numbers will be even more impressive than they were originally for a five-day, which would have been more impressive than a three-day. So if a film opens, you know, at $190 million over seven days the headlines will read “$190 million, biggest of all time” which is not really true because it’s a disadvantage for the three-day weekend films versus the seven-day “weekend” films. So I think they’re doing it for headline potential and to just get it out of the gate as big as possible.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: It could work against you if you have seven days and then it opens to $70 million.

STUART LEVINE: Exactly, yeah if the film bombs, which I don’t think it would, but if the film bombs then people are going to say ‘it only did $80 million over seven days, that’s nothing.’ Look at a film like you know X-Men which did a huge amount over three days. So it’s taking a little bit of a risk but I don’t think it’s that big of a risk because it is Superman and it’s gonna open huge. It just depends what the numbers will be, but it’ll be big whatever it is.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Pixar-Disney films are always money in the bank and even though Cars will do a very good box office, the opening weekend wasn’t what everybody was expecting. Is this significant or is it just a blip?

STUART LEVINE: I think it is a little significant. This is the worst Pixar opening in their last four films, which includes The Incredibles in 2004, Nemo before that and Monsters Inc before that. This is the first Pixar film that did not get rave reviews across the board. There were some people that thought it didn’t kind of hit on all cylinders, no pun intended, for Cars. So it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Will it do well? Yes. Will it be over $150-$170 million yes. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But the Pixar standards have been so high over the years that I think there might be some concern both from Pixar and Disney that the Pixar machine might be running out of steam a little bit.

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