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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

North American box office: ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ races to a win

Aliens rule, superheroes drool:

1. Race to Witch Mountain: $24.4 million
2. Watchmen: $17.8 million (2nd week; drops 68%)
3. The Last House on the Left: $14 million (NEW)
4. Taken: $6.6 million
5. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail: $5.1 million (4th week; drops 40%)

actual numbers, not estimates
Ouch, but that drop for Watchmen stings, don’t it? That’s it, my geek peeps: don’t expect to see any more dark comic book movies, unless they’ve got huge stars and are based on characters everyone knows, even those who don’t read comic books. A Neil Gaiman Sandman movie? Ain’t ever gonna happen now.

But look what Disney learned with Race to Witch Mountain: it doesn’t need to screen a film for critics — or not for all critics (I wasn’t the only critic not invited) — and it’ll do just fine, as long as it has a likeable star (as Race does in Dwayne Johnson) and it looks like it’s okay to bring the kiddies to. This is a new thing for family flicks — the studios have already figured out that they can release R-rated horror movies aimed at teens and young adults without having to go to the bother and expense of critics’ screenings, and now I’d guess we’ll see more and more family films releasing without benefit of critics screenings, too.

This weekend broke the streak that’d been running since the beginning of the year: overall business was down to a 13-year low, after weeks and weeks of record-breaking attendance. Maybe everyone took a break for pre-March Madness. I do wonder whether the studios planned for basketball insanity in March and April because the next three or four weeks are looking really spare. Or maybe everyone else had been staying out of the way of what they thought would be a Watchmen juggernaut. The movies I’m excited about over the next month to six weeks are all grownup fare like Duplicty, State of Play, and The Soloist, which are hardly the stuff that Hollywood will be excited about in what has, in recent years, been more like an early start on blockbuster season. If it means more room for the adult stuff to blossom, however, that’ll be a good thing.

In more grownup-movie news, Sunshine Cleaning had a spectacular debut, earning $54,798 on each of four screens, the second-biggest per-screen average of 2009 so far. (It was second to Defiance’s opening weekend, over which it earned $61,757 on each of its two screens.) A distant second for this weekend was Tokyo Sonata, earning $14,173 on each of its two screens. Race to Witch Mountain was ranked eighth, on a per-screen basis ($7,657 on each of 3,187 screens), slightly behind another new opener, Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America, which earned $7,686 on its single screen.

Milestones this week: Taken passed $125 million. The Wrestler passed $25 million.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]



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  • drew ryce

    I think that you are putting too much emphasis on the % drop for Watchmen.
    The Watchmen % drop is affected by the huge weekend opening numbers. Watchmen had the biggest opening of the year thus far. The drop off has to be weighed against the size of the opening. (I know that all of Geekdom was expecting $100M+ but the studio wasn’t and those expectations were unrealistic given the films rating and release date.)
    Theatres contract for an initial 2 week run then have the option of renewing or going for a new film.
    The important stat for the theatre chain is $ per screen.
    Watchmen is still drawing more per screen than all but two other films. Both of those being in their first weekend of release. And frankly, W isn’t too far behind those (app6-5).
    So, W still has a lot of draw. It will lose some screens at the end of this week. But, it still has a good way to go.
    Again, keep it in perspective. At $80M+ watchmen has, in 10 days, outdrawn V’s entire domestic run. V is a good comparative in content, origin and rating.
    Witch Mountain is ahead in it’s opening weekend, but I will bet you a large popcorn that, in the end, Watchmen outgrosses it handily.

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