WTF: The $100 Million Monkey

Sometimes box office pundits piss me off. And while they aren’t pissing me off to the degree they did when they suggested that people didn’t see Valkyrie in mass numbers because Tom Cruise wore an eye patch, they have been yanking my chain for several weeks now.

With box office receipts soaring, delivering mega-hit after mega-hit, the pundits are now wringing their hands and wondering if we are going to see the seemingly elusive $100 million weekend.

What the finance?

Anyone who follows the numbers knows that Hollywood seems to be the only industry not affected by the economic woes that have been plaguing America. Sure, there hasn’t been a $100 million weekend yet, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting the revenue stream.

All you have to do is look at the overall box office of 2009 compared to recent years. Even without a $100 million weekend (which had already happened by this time in 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004), the overall box office has racked up more than $4.1 billion, representing anywhere from a 12% to 22% leap in numbers from previous years… and in this economy, no less.

Who do we have to thank for this? It’s not just the Enterprise crew or Monsters fighting Aliens. Internet fanboys and stuffy critics alike will reluctantly have to give kudos to a fat mall cop, Hannah Montana, Tyler Perry, Liam Neeson on a rampage and original parts themselves, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

All of these movies have done surprisingly well, and Americans are happy to spend the money to see even mediocre movies this year. It’s these smaller films with roaring successes that are giving the industry a banner year.

Only eleven movies in the history of time (or twelve if you count Iron Man’s Thursday numbers last year) have hit the $100 milllion milestone in a single weekend. The original Spider-Man was the first to break the number with almost $115 million 2002, and it didn’t happen again for two years when Shrek 2 came out of the gates with $108 million. But each year since then, we’ve had at least one take home the title.

Like the four-minute mile, once Spider-Man achieved this feat, people have come to expect it to happen at least a few times each year, but isn’t it a little early to start worrying that it won’t happen? It’s barely June, for crying out loud!

The reality is that this monster opening weekend does not paint a definitive picture of a great film, or even a bona fide commercial hit.

In the list of eleven (or twelve), there are some fantastic movies, like The Dark Knight (which currently holds the record as the fastest film to $100 million) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But close to half of the list include films whose lights have dimmed a bit, historically speaking.

For example, during the Revenge of the Thirds summer in 2007, three films had $100 million weekends: Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Any one of these might be a guilty pleasure for some, but they’re not exactly the best summer movies on record. And 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand nearly killed the franchise before Huge Jackman helped revive it this summer.

So while there hasn’t been a weekend of $100 million in 2009 yet, things look pretty darn good for Hollywood. It’s churning out more hits than misses. And even some of these misses (like the lukewarm box office of Watchmen and the tumbling numbers for Terminator: Salvation) are still bringing in decent ticket sales. There’s relatively few Jonas Brothers films out there, which is a good thing on many fronts.

Oh, the $100 million weekend will come, most likely with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in a few weeks, and definitely with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in July

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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