Weekend Box Office: 'Tron' Saves Face, 'How Do You Know' Doesn't Get To Know Anyone

by Gabe Toro
December 19, 2010 6:35 AM
8 Comments
  • |


Are you ready for another “Avatar” experience? No? Well, okay, guess that’s fine. “Tron: Legacy” opened to the same midnight numbers as the James Cameron epic, but failed to equal that film’s general attendance or gross in its first weekend. 'Tron' has been pushed for a couple of years now as a near out-of-body cinematic experience, and an opening south of $50 million domestic isn’t really what you're hoping for when you spend $150 million or so in marketing alone. Enthusiasm should be further tempered when you consider this opening is in the realm of “Paranormal Activity 2,” despite that picture forgoing the 3D surcharge.

All things considered, though Disney got lucky. Not only did they have the audacity to make a $300 million sequel to a film from 28 years ago remembered only by those who considered it a bomb, but they got away with releasing a subpar product from a first-time director as well. Even if terrible movies often make a lot of money, executives sweat a whole lot more going into opening weekend when they know they are responsible for inferior product. Fortunately, this was a winter season suspiciously lacking in big ticket attractions. Slap “Tron: Legacy” in any other modern blockbuster schedule and it’s maybe the fifth or sixth most buzzed-about attraction. But in 2010, people said, “Tron seems big, let’s go see it.”

The other studios missed a golden opportunity to slay this dragon, as a more recognizable brand (perhaps a Bond movie?) would have sent 'Tron' to the showers. As families come together for the holidays, 'Tron' will be buoyed by steady ticket sales into the new year. But if another major film were a part of the marketplace (not “Green Hornet,” originally scheduled for December), 'Tron' could have endured some serious negative media buzz, leading to a major money loss for the franchise.

Like Disney’s other mega-mega expensive film of the season, “Tangled,” “Tron: Legacy” is expected to pull in huge overseas numbers, though this belief comes from the expectation that visual-heavy films dazzle abroad, a supposition that makes slightly more sense than the 'Tron' name having major cachet in other regions. The target has always been $500-$600 million globally, and with this holiday opening, a $100+ domestic gross should be in the cards, but if that’s all there is, Disney is going to pray that they double that number internationally while moving a crapload of toys.

Opening right behind “Tron” and seemingly dying a merciful death was “Yogi Bear.” Kiddie films are expensive (and now frequently in 3D), and this is the second straight weekend a major family-centric property failed to even get a sniff of a $30 million opening, always the target for this type of movie. Warner Bros. likely knew what they had here, rushing this film into production and settling on the very-not-hot Dan Aykroyd to voice the rather obnoxious title character, so there’s a possibility that the studio didn’t spend much.

Like “Marmaduke” earlier this year, “Yogi Bear” is one of those global brands that everyone knows but have always been apathetic about. It’s hard to gauge the audience’s passion for older cartoon characters that don't have contemporary exposure - both “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies killed in this spot the last few years, with another slated for next winter. But then “Garfield” ended up being a smash hit, only for its sequel to flop hard stateside, suggesting a fluky box office atmosphere for this type of picture. Whatever the case, it’s too early to worry about “Yogi” so far - that second “Garfield” absolutely murdered the international marketplace.

Despite the opening of two major 3D pictures in the same weekend, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” didn’t lose any screens in that format. That didn’t stop the bleeding as the kid sequel continued to lose half its audience, further diminishing any hope of a fourth entry in the turgid series seeing the light of day. The first picture opened big and had strong legs, whereas the second debuted smaller and didn’t. Not promising, but Fox, appropriately, threw this to the lions with a significantly smaller ad presence in hopes of seeing some profit. Unless the Trinity Broadcasting Network comes up with an obscenely expensive bid for the television rights, that profit’s gonna be a long time coming.

Expanding into a mid-range wide opening, “The Fighter” built on the muscular first weekend numbers to break into the top five. What’s important is that Relativity Media builds on this number with further expansion, as the movie wasn’t going to bust out on such a crowded weekend with similar adult and prestige choices. It was apparently made on a budget close to $20 million, but the studio has thrown, and will continue to throw, big bucks at the advertising campaign. An under-examined subgenre is the Adult Family Movie, as there are several holiday gatherings occurring with adult-aged children and their folks seeking something that offers both some appeal. Those college student aren’t going to take grandpa to 'Tron' on Christmas.

“Tangled” was a sacrifice to the 'Tron' gods by Disney, losing a huge portion of its 3D screens. The film is knocking on $130 million, and the jig would be up if the next few weekends weren’t holiday territory. $150 million is the worst the film could do, but Disney is banking on more. Still, if 'Tron' starts to flounder, will they surrender screens in the hope that “Tangled” can make up the difference? Next weekend will tell the tale if family audiences embrace or reject 'Tron,' and if they don’t, but continue to say yes to “Tangled,” then expect the ’toon to maintain its screen count for a few more weeks.

That second weekend hold didn’t occur for “The Tourist,” which predictably gained no momentum from the Golden Globe nominations. With years like this, where “The Tourist” and “Burlesque” can grab multiple nominations and a Coen Brothers picture gets none, you have to question the viability and necessity of the Globes. Critics didn’t take the Hollywood Foreign Press seriously when the nominations were announced, and the public appears to also be disinterested in what makes a Globe-nommed film, with no discernible boost in business for either this or the already-forgotten Cher-Christina Aguilera collaboration.

In limited release, “Black Swan” looks like a specialty picture performing like a bonafide art house blockbuster. The Darren Aronofsky critics’ darling, still in less than 1000 theaters, pushed into the top five, and demographic breakdowns are strongly suggesting the core audience is overwhelmingly women. Last weekend’s numbers didn’t hint at this sort of success, so the original $30 million+ target has likely been upgraded. Nobody wants to make last year’s mistake, when massive limited release numbers led to Lionsgate execs crowing that “Precious” would be a $100 million hit due to sheer momentum, but in content, “Black Swan” is a marketplace anomaly: truly the number one choice for adventurous moviegoers this season. It’s hard to figure what the coming 2000 theater push will look like on Wednesday.

Let’s see… faded writer-director? Check. Uninspired cast with zero appeal to minority audiences? Check. Apathetic title? Check. Confused ad campaign? Check. How do you know you have a flop on your hand? When you’re Sony, and you’re spending almost $200 million to produce and market “How Do You Know.” At almost 1500 more theaters, “How Do You Know” couldn’t match the take of “Black Swan,” and didn’t approach the success level of similar titles from the Nancy Meyers’ body of work, likely Sony’s thinking when they allowed James L. Brooks free reign in overspending to get this movie made. Aside from Paul Rudd, the lowest-paid member of the cast with a $3 million paycheck, consider this a damning condemnation of the price tags of Owen Wilson ($10 mil.) and Reese Witherspoon ($15 mil.). The movie could easily play to adult audiences into January, a minor saving grace for a debacle of an opening, but these are numbers that get people fired.

Harry Potter” looks about done, with the WB possibly showing interest in goosing this past Alfonso Cuaron's“The Prisoner Of Azkaban.” At this point, when there are no records to break, it’s all about benchmarks. It’s bad for morale if the studio heads into the final “Potter” picture coming off the least successful yet, particularly after the series’ biggest opener. Moreover, “Azkaban,” the series’ current lowest-grossing picture, represented a turning point for the studio and “HP” fans, a noticeably dark departure from the first two films, transitioning into the teenage years of the young protagonist.

The second film didn’t match the first, and with the third film declining further, the studio felt a for-hire auteur plan, allowing different visions for each installment, would be too risky a financial decision. Hence, the “Potter” franchise became an interesting footnote in blockbuster history, in that a strong creative vision was denied a chance to shape the perspective of a well-received franchise - the next film was directed by team-player journeyman Mike Newell, with affordable TV helmer David Yates taking cues for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth pictures. While it hasn’t stopped Warners’ from reaping box office success, one could say that shying away from the decision to make the highest grossing film franchise outside of “Star Wars” auteur-driven, hurt interest in the series, leading to the apathetic reception for this latest film, which the “normals“ viewed as “more of the same.” Glass half full, or glass half empty - fans could merely be primed for the very last installment only, or, damningly, interest in the boy wizard could be at an all-time low. We're betting on the former, but the latter wouldn’t be terribly surprising.

In limited release, "The King's Speech" expansion got it a $25k average on 43 screens, allowing it to cross $1 million in three weeks on a fairly small number of screens. No other returning indie gained nearly as much, with "127 Hours" and "Fair Game" shedding 100+ screens each. Meanwhile, "Rabbit Hole" made a five screen debut with $55k in receipts, and "Casino Jack" debuted at seven engagements, only scamming up $35k. Support your local art house, boys and girls.

1. Tron: Legacy 3D (Disney) - $43.6 million
2. Yogi Bear 3D (WB) - $16.7 million
3. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader 3D (Fox) - $12.4 million ($43 mil.)
4. The Fighter 3D (Paramount) - $12.2 million ($12.6 mil.)
5. The Tourist 3D (Sony) - $8.7 million ($31 mil.)
6. Tangled 3D (Disney) - $8.6 million ($128 mil.)
7. Black Swan 3D (Fox) - $8.3 million ($16 mil.)
8. How Do You Know 3D (Sony) - $7.6 million
9. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 3D (WB) - $4.8 million ($266 mil.)
10. Unstoppable 3D (Fox) - $1.8 million ($77 mil.)

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

8 Comments

  • BradZuhl | December 20, 2010 5:03 AMReply

    Bored people wasting their money = # 1 movie in America.

  • jimmiescoffee | December 20, 2010 12:57 AMReply

    tron was a beyond average 4/10. olivia wilde is a 12/10.

  • Webster1 | December 20, 2010 12:31 AMReply

    So why didn't Disney's Tron Legacy make the money this weekend like they hoped pleasing their crying "WE WANT A SEQUEL!" fanbase. Because the fat fucking fanboys are in their mother's basement playing X-Box games, eating Doritos and unemployed.

  • Scott Mendelson | December 19, 2010 10:20 AMReply

    A funny and accurate review, except for one detail Tron: Legacy didn't get greenlit as a bone for the geeks. It got green-lit because Dick Cook's daughter told her dad that Tron was cool.

    "Then one day, like Jack getting his beanstalk on, Lisberger’s dreams came true. “TRON’s” roots sprouted, and right inside the Disney greenhouse, too. The daughter of Dick Cook, chairman of the Disney Motion Pictures Group at the time, raved to her dad one day in the early 2000s about how she and her friends at USC thought “TRON” was the s---.

    Of course, this is how business often gets done in Hollywood. One day your kids are eating Gummi Bears in the backseat of the car and in 20 weeks it’s a cartoon series on ABC. Based on the enthusiasm of his daughter and her friends, Cook decided to develop a “TRON” sequel."

    http://www.thewrap.com/movies/blog-post/inside-story-how-tron-legacy-came-true-22601

  • Gabe Toro | December 19, 2010 10:17 AMReply

    There's an element of truth to that review, but it's written from such a pointlessly juvenile angle that I can't endorse it, and I'm struggle to understand why it was reposted here, of all the places.

  • Rashad | December 19, 2010 9:01 AMReply

    What an angry bitter gimmick.

    The movie was fine and the story wasnt bad.

  • omegaballs | December 19, 2010 7:26 AMReply

    review cont'd...

    Jeff Bridges reprises his role in Tron as a software engineer who gets trapped in "The Grid", which is either one computer, or one application, or every computer and all software. Through contrived bullshit, Bridges can't return from the ethereal Grid and leaves a young son behind. When the son (Garrett Hedlund) grows up, he enters the Grid to find his father, and the two of them must race to get out. The ticking timebomb of a closing portal to the outside world is arbitrary. The way into the Grid is arbitrary. The bad guys and most of the action inside the Grid is silly and, wait for it, arbitrary. There are no rules that create boundaries for the movie, so it does whatever the fuck it pleases. The result is that the audience doesn't know the limits of what may and may not happen, so we're stuck watching and waiting for it to end without a sense of tension.

    Inside the Grid, Bridges is held captive by a younger version of himself named Klu. Klu is the program he created years ago. It doesn't age while he does, so the movie uses that creepy Robert Zemeckis motion-capture shit to make an animated younger Bridges. It's supposed to dazzle us, but the cartoon dude looks fake, with very little movement is his smooth skin and such dead eyes that it gave me the willies to watch. It's distracting as fuck, too.

    Tron: Legacy's plot is the standard "we must escape before the portal closes" horseshit. The older Bridges has what is supposed to be a hot sidekick, a chick played by Olivia Wilde, who gives furtive glances but doesn't really have much to do other than look hot. Michael Sheen does a long, cheesy, horrific impersonation of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. I don't know why, and I wish he hadn't.

    As in the original, there are light cycles playing Snafu, disc warriors and light planes that shoot laser beam machine guns. The action sequences are doled out sparingly, and separated by too many boring people talking about nonsense with too much seriousness. Even though Tron: Legacy is supremely silly, nobody in it except Bridges seems to recognize that, or have the skill to express that. They all think this is really fucking important shit.

    The fat fucking fanboys will tell you it's not about the plot, though. What matters to them is that it got made because they wanted it to. They are predetermined to love it, to demand a sequel, and to ascribe all sorts of significance to it, just as they have with their other childhood toys. They'll also rave about how fucking cool it looks.

    It doesn't look cool. Tron: Legacy looks as good as computers and a lack of imagination can make it look. Actually, I thought it mostly looked like kids at a rave party with a blacklight: strips of neon and bright colors in a sea of black. For contrast, there are a few blindingly white scenes, as though an iMac circa 2003 threw up. While the movie is loaded with special effects, the design is slavishly based on Tron. There is little artistic invention, and no new spectacle, just the same old shit, only now rendered by better computers and in 3D (for the rich fucks or the fat fucking fanboys who can afford it because they don't pay rent to their parents).

    You can thank the fat fucking fanboys for the lack of originality. They don't want original because that takes imagination, which they don't have. They want it to be just the same as what they saw as a kid, so they can compare and revel in detail, and they can be vindicated that their childhoods deserve to endure. Disney is only too happy to do that for them. Something new is a risk, but the same old shit is money in the bank.

    The point of Tron: Legacy was never to make a good movie, though. It was to make what the fanboys wanted. They wanted a ten-pound sack of shit, and that's what they got. Had it been a movie, they'd have been pissed. They want what the want, and Disney delivers."

  • omegaballs | December 19, 2010 7:25 AMReply

    Here's a funny review fron the Filthy Critic on why tron sucks and fanboy culture needs to die...or grow up for that matter.

    "The decision to make Tron: Legacy came way before the script or any motivations that didn't have to do with buttloads of cash. There was no compelling artistic reason to make this movie, and it wasn't given a green light by people who thought there was a story to tell. This, more than most other movies, is the product of the unholy alliance of Hollywood and fanboys. It's the baby that a syphilitic whore and an obese asocial mouth-breather made when they got together and fucked us all.

    The fat fucking fanboys decided there would be a new Tron long before they knew what it was. The fat fucking fanboys slobbered and jizzed all over their keyboards in their sad little studio and basement apartments, or back home in the bedrooms they grew up in, where their weight now makes the bunkbed groan as they tuck themselves into their star Trek sheets every night. They demanded this movie get made, they swore their allegiance to it, they squealed over the wires about how awesome it would be, nevermind there was no product, no concept and the original sucked purple nurples. They are why this movie was made. Not because it deserved it, not because the story had to be told and not because some suffering genius had something to say.

    The fat fucking fanboys wanted Tron: Legacy purely because Disney made a shitty movie called Tron 28 years ago that was about computers. Fanboys love computers because they connect to the Internet, because they don't ask questions or laugh at you. The 1982 Tron was an awful, boring movie with a preposterous story and some cool-for-the-time computer graphics. To the fat fucking fanboys, a remake, or continuation of that shitty movie, further validates their conviction that it's okay to never grow up, that the shit they loved when they were ten was and is the best stuff ever to be created. For the fat fucking fanboys, it is easier to perpetuate that conviction than to try to understand the adult world around them.

    Rather than mature and acquire grownup tastes of nuance, subtlety and intellectual discourse, the fat fucking fanboys haul their childhoods everywhere they go in Radio Flyers. They cling to Star Wars and comic books, they pretend to be knights at Renaissance Faires, and they learn to speak Klingon. They care more about Call of Duty than world peace. They insist The Dark Knight is literature because claiming that is easier than understanding actual literature, what with all those words.

    Not growing up isn't such a bad thing, although, it was ultimately sad for Peter Pan, and he actually got out of the house and did stuff. It's only sad because the fat fucking fanboys, now adults, have provided nothing to society except more dreck for fat fucking fanboys to consume. Now that they're adults, they have more disposable income and time to whine and moan. The Internet and their dollars give them ways to demand that the world pretend their childhood obsessions are acceptable for adults to indulge in. They want us all to think that Superman, Spiderman, Batman and all of their other childhood fantasies are all grown up, too. They aren't just men in tights anymore, they are dark brooding characters with rich backstories. Hollywood let's them believe they're right because it's incredibly popular. Real grown ups don't stand up to them because they have lives and shit to do, and the hue of Daredevil's hotpants just isn't important.

    Comparing the fat fucking fanboys' make-believe heroes with anything in the real adult world is superficial and convenient. Nietzsche is Nietzsche, Batman is not. Tron is not an elegant essay on the role of technology in our lives. It may pretend to be at a surface level, but that's just cynical marketing. Any look past the surface reveals that it has nothing to say. It's about computers and people, but not in any profound way, and with nothing to say about how they affect our human condition. It's cheap, pointless, shitty entertainment brought to you on demand by fat fucking fanboys.

    I'm sure Disney was more than happy to resurrect a dead product for the fat fucking fanboys digging deeper into the toyboxes of their youth for entertainment, rather than look for something age-appropriate. Hell, if crack were legal, Disney would be happy to sell that to them, too. It's not, though, so Tron: Legacy will have to do.

Email Updates