By Gabe Toro | The Playlist February 13, 2011 at 6:38AM
Bark all you want about how the early months have become a viable period for movie going in terms of both box office and quality, this past January was the least-attended opening month in 29 years. This February weekend seemed actively spiteful towards anybody who sought challenging fare, with the main attractions being yet another low-energy Adam Sandler programmer and a concert film featuring an adorable moppet running into the double digits in his fifteen minutes of fame.
Valentine’s Day gives awful couples a chance to show their contempt for themselves and each other, making “Just Go With It” the top attraction for the weekend and likely a big earner on Monday. The $31 million number is actually one of the lower openings for Sandler, who is usually a guaranteed $100 million every time out. At least some audiences seem to be catching on, as this film, with the same cast, would have done at least $40 a decade ago. Of course, $31 million for a braindead piece of shit is pretty good for two stars who have been in the limelight for, probably, too long. Cinemascore audiences rated the film an “A-” (and female an “A” - appalling) which likely speaks to the Sandler core, as no one in their right mind went to this movie expecting something other than the usual toxicity from the megastar.
It certainly says something troubling that Sandler’s main audience has been perfectly content enjoying the same awful movie, only worse, for fifteen years now. Sandler had one of his biggest hits last year with “Grown Ups,” but that film also benefited from the appeal of household names like Kevin James and Chris Rock, and it came in the wake of the complete audience rejection of “Funny People.” With the sophomoric-looking “Jack And Jill” coming this Thanksgiving, Sandler should be fine to continue playing to the cheap seats. But enough about him: who are these people that keep seeing his movies? The people who were ten when “Billy Madison” came out are now twenty six, and that vast demographic now votes, consumes, and freely affects our culture. Soon they will be able to run for major office. Sandler has raised an entire generation through a steady helping of hateful, sexist, homophobic, and casually racist pieces of garbage. This is cause for concern.
It’s troubling that a film featuring the forty-something Sandler counts as an “adult” offering, with the other big attraction being “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D.” As much as everyone seems to know Bieber’s name, his appeal exists in a teenybopper bubble: older self-loathers in the audience who listen to Bieber’s music would never cop to catching this thing in audiences surrounded by teenage girls. And so you have your opening—weaker than the Miley Cyrus concert film years ago—but plenty stronger than the Jonas Brothers offering. It would be galactic for the Bieber brand if this had a 2X multiplier, but it mostly speaks to the innate disposability of this type of pop star.
With no CG-toons in the marketplace, “Gnomeo And Juliet” took a rake to projections, with a surprising $25 million. Not bad for a film orphaned by Miramax, and distributed absentmindedly by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures (they’re still around?). And especially impressive considering the 3D kiddie demographic was being taken up by Bieber Fever™. Then again, those CGI toons… as long as they’re not pit against each other, they remain close to a sure thing in the marketplace, and the last major one was “Yogi Bear,” so specific audiences were fairly hungry.
Debuting at a distant fourth was “The Eagle,” which seemed to be marketed as both a big action epic and a historical drama. Tough weekend, but consider this a slight black mark against the marketability of supposed leading man Channing Tatum, who’s likely running back to “G.I. Joe 2” right about now. The picture made a nice chunk of change through foreign pre-sales, so they shouldn’t be worried, but Focus Features was likely hoping this would open in the vicinity of “The American.”
“The Roommate” dropped from its perch at #1, but it fell off less than 50%, which is cause for celebration at Screen Gems, since the picture is at $26 million and could land at $40, a pretty good return for a cheapie programmer dumped in the beginning of February. Next week, it should be lapped by “The King’s Speech,” which still has a number of screens to its disposal, and dropped less than 4% from last weekend. $100 million is next weekend. After that? Likely Oscar gold. And probably a position on the shelf next to “Driving Miss Daisy” and other similarly “tasteful” Oscar winners that no one gives a shit about anymore. Regardless, good job, Weinsteins.
“No Strings Attached” seemed like it would deflate with the arrival of “Just Go With It” but instead it has held steady, and considering it’s still in 2700+ theaters, it could see a massive Monday from Valentine’s couples. Monday could be the difference between $75 and $85 million for this film, which has surely outperformed expectations. Man, imagine if someone actually released a romantic movie for Valentine’s Day for once? “Sanctum” continued its fall into the abyss (har!) with an ill-fated run to $30 million that likely pleases no one, while “True Grit” passed $160 million. 'Grit' still has the legs to possibly challenge the final take of “Dances With Wolves” as the highest-grossing western of all time, but “The Green Hornet” is likely completing a limp to $100 million. Maybe a straight-to-DVD sequel with Josh Gad and Mark Dacascos?
In limited release, “Cedar Rapids” debuted on fifteen screens, grabbing $311k for a per-screen average of $20k, the strongest per-screen of the year, which likely bodes well for future expansion. Magnolia released the Oscar-nominated shorts in a feature package this weekend, pulling in $305k on 95 screens. Cannes hit “Poetry” debuted on three screens, collecting a solid $20k in only New York, with further expansion coming.
Meanwhile, Oscar nominee “The Illusionist” completed its biggest expansion, moving into 206 engagements and pulling in $321k, for a total of $1.1 million. We’re rooting for the film, though we do wish Sony Pictures Classics got this one out there a bit quicker. “Vidal Sassoon: The Movie” also debuted, pulling in $14k on only one screen, which is actually a whole lot more hair enthusiasts than we would’ve guessed. Support your local art house, boys and girls.
1. Whatever, It's Another Adam Sandler Movie (Sony) - $31 million
2. Justin Bieber 007: Never Say Never Again (Paramount) - $30.2 million
3. Gnomeo And Juliet (Disney/Touchstone) - $25.5 million
4. The Eagle (Focus) - $8.6 million
5. The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems) - $8.4 million ($26 mil.)
6. The King's Pleats (Weinstein) - $7.4 million ($94 mil.)
7. Marionettes Unwanted (Paramount) - $5.6 million ($60 mil.)
8. Sanctum (Universal) - $5.1 million ($18 mil.)
9. True Grit (Paramount) - $3.8 million ($160 mil.)
10. The Green Hornet (Sony) - $3.6 million ($92 mil.)