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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Summer 2009

posted by Nell Minow

The end of August is the worst time of year for movies. This makes no sense to me. I would think that people would want to see some good movies before the end of vacation. But it has been true for as long as I can remember and this year is no exception. Because Labor Day comes so late this year, we have two weeks filled with movies not screened for critics like “Halloween II,” “Final Destination 3D,” “Gamer,” and “Carriers.”
This provides a moment to look back on the summer’s hits and misses. Time Magazine has a good piece called 10 Lessons from the 2009 Box Office. Keeping in mind the perennially re-learned lesson from Oscar-winner William Goldman — “Nobody knows anything,” Time’s Richard Corliss has some important insights. Stars don’t guarantee success (“Land of the Lost” and “Funny People” did poorly; “The Hangover,” “Star Trek,” and “District 9″ did well). Women go to movies — this is a lesson Hollywood always forgets, until the next “Julie and Julia” comes along. Big budget films did well.

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Five other films in the summer’s top 10 domestic winners — “Up,” “Star Trek,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Angels & Demons” — had budgets of at least $150 million. Their sponsors must have been pleased, since each of the five earned more than $350 million worldwide.

You could make just as strong a case for the other side by comparing “District 9″ ($30 million budget, $80 million box office) to “G.I. Joe” ($175 million budget, $124 million box office). But it is true that big budget movies did better than smaller independent films. This summer had no “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Blair Witch Project,” “March of the Penguins,” or “Juno.”
For me, the most interesting point Corliss makes is the way technology has changed the way people make decisions about what movies to see.

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Instant-messaging can make or break a film within 24 hours. At any rate, something viral happened to Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s followup to Borat. Its opening-day gross was a burly $14.4 million, which that Saturday plunged an abysmal 40%. Somebody got out the word — stinker — and did it quick, possibly in 140 characters. The movie’s opening-weekend total was $30 million, and it’s taken six weeks to earn its second $30 million.

So, keeping a movie from critics may not make much of a difference. They can run, but they can’t hide from the audience members who become critics via Twitter and Facebook.
But the most surprising fact in the article was which movie was the top world-wide box office champ of the summer, in fact of the year so far. I’ll bet you can’t guess. Think for a moment before continuing, and, if you have the nerve, give me your guess in the comment box before clicking ahead to see the answer.


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  • jestrfyl

    What is the opposite of schadenfreude (laughing at others misfortune? Whatever the word is (moaning at other’s success?), it should be applied to “G-Force” In many ways I am appalled that the movie has done as well as it has. “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is another for which the word would apply. It is great that there are films for kids to go see. But why don’t their parents take them to see better works, like “Panyo” or some of the films that are not sanitized by a particular company’s logo (and I am a fan of that company – which is distributing “Panyo”). Perhaps they would rather drop their kids off for drek than take the time to watch something good with them. Sad, I suppose.

  • ANTAS901

    I would have guessed “UP” would have been the #1 movie this summer. I never was a fan of the Ice Age series (although, I do enjoy the trailers with the squirrel!) As the summer movie season come to a close, I have a question for the Movie Mom; where was the review of the “G.I. Joe” movie? As I do my homework, in checking what movies may not be appropriate for my daughters, your reviews are (and have been) a central piece in helping me decide.
    If you are not going to do a review, would it be possible to indicate that? This is only the second time that I can remember coming to look for your review on a movie and I didn’t find it (the other was Bratz).
    I’m a huge fan and truly appreciate the work that you do. Thank you and keep up the good work!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, ANTAS901! You made my day. I also guessed that “Up” made more than “Ice Age 3.” Wishful thinking. I did review “Bratz” and the review is here:
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/2007/11/bratz.html
    I did not review “GI Joe” because it was not screened for critics prior to the release date. For some movies, I will buy a ticket after it opens so that I can review it, as I did with “Aliens in the Attic,” but most of the not-screened movies are so targeted at one specific audience (a lot of movies based on games or horror franchises) I do not go to all of them. You’re more than welcome to write to ask any time, either through a comment or directly at moviemom@moviemom.com — if I have a sense that it is a movie people want me to cover, I’ll do it!

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