Box Office: Everyone Wanted to see WALL-E (and Angelina Jolie)

Reject Report

Welcome to the weekend box office edition of the Reject Report, and suffice it to say that the people who are running the theaters are breathing a sigh of relief with some good box-office numbers to report. The story at the top is that WALL-E did exactly the kind of business it was expected to do: it made $62 million for the third-best opening of the entire year so far, behind Indiana Jones 4 and Iron Man and just ahead of Kung Fu Panda. It is the ninth consecutive Number One opening for a Pixar movie.

But it wasn’t the runaway victory that everyone expected. The surprise was how well Wanted did. It brought in $51 million, which is about $15 or $16 million ahead of what box office pundits and studio people were expecting.

So that’s two big performances for this weekend, although the people at Disney-PIXAR have to be kicking themselves for not finding a better weekend to roll out WALL-E. This just ended up being a very competitive weekend against Wanted. If they had found a weekend with less competition or even no competition, WALL-E would have surely creamed everyone and made upwards of $70 or $80 million dollars; maybe more. The reviews for this movie have been universally excellent. So good, in fact, that people are saying they should nominate this movie for Best Picture at the Academy Awards! That it’s the best picture of the year! Wow, that’s high praise, indeed.

I think the WALL-E story is less about its box-office success and more about its critical success. Really, the folks at Disney-Pixar have to be pleased with the reception this movie has received all the way around. The robot will be making gobs of money at theaters, for awhile.

As for Wanted and how well it’s done, I think it was a combination of factors. I gotta say, the people who green-lighted this movie at Universal all deserve big bonuses, because this was the perfect storm for box office success:

(1) It was based on the comic books, and as we have seen with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, these can do no wrong at the box office, seemingly. So the vast fanboy community was bound to show up for this one. I’ll bet this was a weekend when a lot of the fanboys went to see both movies at the top of the charts (one on Friday and the other on Saturday).

(2) It was an ACTION MOVIE, and if there is one thing that we action fans have been starved for lately, it’s good action movies. They just don’t make enough of them anymore.

(3) It kind of helps when you actually make a movie that’s good. (74 per cent fresh at Rotten Tomatoes.)

(4) It’s almost July and stinking hot out, and people didn’t care what was on the screen as long as they could beat the heat and take advantage of good air conditioning. (Don’t laugh, this was my big reason for going to a lot of movies when I lived in stinking-hot Toronto during the summertime.)

(5) Capital letters, now: ANGELINA JOLIE!!

Seems as if Wanted attracted quite a good female turnout at the box office from the reports we are getting, with all these boyfriends successfully convincing their girlfriends to tag along. I can only imagine why: they wanted to see Angelina Jolie. They sure as heck didn’t show up to see Morgan Freeman, I’ll tell you that right now. That Angelina woman is all over the press. Have you seem all the tabloids and these TV shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood”? They are just going on and on about Angelina’s big pregnancy. It’s all Angelina this and Angelina that, and Brad Pitt, too.

There were bound to be people who went to see Wanted just to check on the health of Angelina Jolie, and whether she’s anorexic or on the verge of death, and so on. You know, all the important stuff that the so-called “entertainment journalists” cover.

Of course, lots of guys love Angelina Jolie and think she’s sexy as hell, so they all showed up. But I’m absolutely sure these female consumers of supermarket tabloids were at the theaters, too, in force. I’m not saying it was the only factor, because on her own Angelina has appeared as the female lead in quite a few art-house flicks that did no business. What I am saying is that it was one of several factors put together that made this a big hit. Like I say, Wanted was really the story of the weekend, more so than WALL-E.

Also, in the battle for the top of the box office for the entire summer, the gap continues to close between Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Iron Man is hanging on to first place. At the moment, Iron Man is at $309 million, $10 million more than Indiana Jones 4.

There has been some speculation out there that The Dark Knight could win the box office title outright for this entire summer when it rolls out in mid-July. With numbers like these in the low-$300 million range for these two other movies, it’s certainly achievable. The hype for the caped crusader is on already. But I know that The Dark Knight has quite a bit of competition from new releases to contend with, which could make it tough. It will do big business, though, there’s no question about it.

May I also note The Incredible Hulk and The Love Guru are both dropping like rocks. Hulk down to 9 million and Love Guru to 5.4 mil. Ouch.

Here are the damages for this weekend:

1. WALL-E $62.5 million
2. Wanted $51.1 million
3. Get Smart $20 million
4. Kung Fu Panda $11.7 million
5. The Incredible Hulk $9.2 million
6. The Love Guru $5.4 million
7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull $5.0 million
8. The Happening $3.8 million
9. Sex and the City $3.7 million
10. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan $3.2 million

I wrap up by saying that this was a good weekend all the way around at the theaters and ought to quell a lot of worries from people like myself, especially after last week’s Love Guru debacle. According to reports, this weekend’s box office is up 22 per cent from last year at the same time and business this summer has been steady overall. So no reason to push the panic button yet. Still, we’re not seeing runaway blockbusters this summer. It’s just too crowded with new, appealing releases. Everyone in Hollywood is doing their best to get a piece of the action and their share of the loot this summer.

THE REJECT REPORT will return EARLIER THAN USUAL with a look at the Independence Day Weekend roll-out of Hancock, the Will Smith movie expected to be an absolute powerhouse at the theaters this summer. (I’ve heard predictions of over $100 mil for its opening, already.) I’ll be back around Tuesday with predictions of the holiday weekend. Until then, don’t bet on the movies.

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