This Weekend’s Winners: With a nearly $147 million worldwide haul from Brave (more than $66 million of it Stateside), Disney’s Pixar proved it hadn’t lost the confidence of moviegoers, even after the poorly received Cars 2. Also making an august debut (in June, no less!) was Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, which said Ciao! to nearly $380,000 from just five theaters.
This Weekend’s Losers: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opened to mediocre results, grossing just $16.5 million — $2 million below rival studios’ estimates — though good enough for third place below Madagascar 3.
How It All Went Down: Four score and ten weeks ago, the suits at Twentieth Century Fox brought forth on this continent a new type of film: the mash-up. Indeed, so desperate was the studio to land Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov’s historical-horror hybrid, execs left a trail of bloody footprints pointing the way to the duo’s first meeting on the Fox lot. It would turn out to be prophetic.
But opinions differ as to why Abe wound up all sizzle and no, uh, stake.
“Mash-ups are for music,” explains one rival studio chief, “but movie mash-ups lead to genre confusion. Exactly who is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer for?”
Another studio’s distribution capo agreed that the mixed genre was too difficult to overcome, but also posited that “perhaps the ‘R’ rating hurt them more than they thought,” given that the wildly popular (though female-leaning, as opposed to this action-heavy film) vampire-themed Twilight films have all been rated PG-13.
And still another studio head of marketing and distribution lamented that with the U.S. economy so slow to revive, moviegoers have been in a pattern of flocking to the one film they can’t afford to miss and taking a pass on the rest. “There's no middle this summer,” said our spy, “It’s either $50 million or $15 million.”
Simultaneously, if Lincoln were unsure of its audience, Pixar’s latest offering seemed to transcend the animated film’s kiddie-centric core. “Don't underestimate the number of adults who went to Brave,” insisted one rival studio chief. “Pixar pulls adults on dates as well.”
“Brave is [a] Pixar [film],” said a second studio chief, with unabashed envy of the mini-studio’s brand equity. “People expect quality and they only make one a year. Up was about an old man. Who cares? It's Pixar!"
Finally, if Rome is (as Anatole Broyard once wrote) “a poem pressed into service as a city” then it has been once again successfully conscripted into an even newer medium. Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love opened to grosses that are second only to Allen’s biggest hit to date, Midnight in Paris, and, for this year’s specialty box office, behind only Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Sony Classics plans to expand Rome into a wider release starting July 6 — which makes sense, after all: As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a weekend.