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Box Office Autopsy: The Summer of 2012 - June
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Saturday, September 8, 2012
Playing the role of a mortician for the summer 2012 movie season, I can’t help but get some red on myself. And maybe there’s more of it than usual, but that’s only because when you try and find out what why some movies were good and others terrible, you can’t help but get a little messy.
When last I left you, it was with my dissection of the movies released in May 2012 and how they faired, both financially, critically and culturally. Now it’s time to move on to June. During those 30 days we saw several major tentpole movie releases and witnessed firsthand what happens when the advance hype meets the reality of what you see on the screen. You’ve paid to see the shows, you’ve formed your own opinion of them, now it’s time for the creator of Coming Attractions to weigh in and tell you what I think. Was June 2012 a good time to go see the movies?
Snow White and the Huntsman – June 1
This had all the trappings of being a smart summer risk for Universal to take. Buy a hot spec screenplay from up-and-coming writer Evan Daugherty, cast it with a hot actress in an even hotter movie franchise (Kristen Stewart, still known for her turn playing Bella in the Twilight film series), supporting roles with another up-and-coming actor (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth, swinging a woodsman’s ax this time instead of a magical Norse hammer), and fill the flick with a lot of fantasy special effects to remind people of The Lord of the Rings movies (when’s the last time you heard of a troll in the Snow White story?)
Whatever you may think of the finished product, Universal’s $125 million dollar gamble paid off. Snow White and the Huntsman became one of the hits of the summer and held its ground in the top ten for a month, finishing with $155 million domestically. And that’s not all that the movie did: it also created a very public celebrity scandal for actress Kristen Stewart when compromising romantic photos of her with director Rupert Sanders surfaced. Stewart’s romantic relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson may have fallen into the flames from her indiscretion with the married Sanders, but it also may have wrecked the public’s interest in seeing Snow White and the Huntsman 2. A script is being prepared just in case Universal feels like inching it forward.
The Fallout: Universal will wait and see how the home video market for the movie fares and if the final Twilight movie (Breaking Dawn Part 2) takes a hit from Kristen’s bad girl antics before greenlighting Snow White 2.
Piranha 3DD – June 1
The first Piranha 3D movie was a goofy fun enjoyment. Piranha 3DD should have been just like that, but it went too far into the absurdity of its subject matter. There’s a fine line that a filmmaker walks when he calls in David Hasselhoff to star in their movie, and Piranha 3DD went over that line.
Even its release, which should have guaranteed the movie at least $20 million at the U.S. box office, was messed up. The movie has a extremely limited theatrical release before hitting VOD, not even scraping up one million in ticket sales before vanishing from theaters. A school of scathing reviews on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes certainly didn’t help the sequel’s chances.
The Fallout: Will there be a sequel? I’d say yes, but it will be ultra-low budget, direct to video and probably star adult film actors showing lots of nudity. Weirdly enough, it’s like this franchise is headed back to its original B-movie roots.
Prometheus – June 8
The build-up to Ridley Scott’s prequel of Alien whet appetites but the final product deflated most peoples’ expectations. Prometheus is a visually gorgeous movie, and one that is a welcome return to seeing a big budget sci-fi haunted house romp, but it’s inhabited by stupid people doing stupid things on a spooky planet. The script (by Lost’s Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts) fails to get much further than the start of the second act. After an intriguing opening, the promise of learning more about the origins of mankind is jettisoned in favor of recycling the same old boring monster movie story elements. And Prometheus’ creature design fails to rise to the stark nightmarish beauty of Giger’s iconic Alien creatures, thus guaranteeing that Prometheus is an inferior prequel.
As a stand-alone movie, it also disappoints. Read my Prometheus movie review if you need more reasons.
Prometheus wasn’t the movie that we had hoped for from Ridley Scott, but it might be the only movie that the Alien film franchise has left in its sputtering gas tank.
The Fallout: Prometheus is a financial success, breaking even now and likely producing a small profit for Fox, but will it warrant a sequel? I think that it rests mainly on whether Scott needs a movie paycheck in the next two-three years. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are moving on to bigger things, but if the studio has roped them into a sequel clause in their Prometheus contract, then we could see Prometheus 2 soon – and without Ridley Scott in the director’s chair. If so, it’s not a sequel that I have any particular interest in seeing.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – June 8
Much like one of those Terminators coming from the future, DreamWorks’ talking animated animals will not stop. The movie has made over $600 million worldwide, meaning that Madagascar 4 will happen. Critically, Madagascar 3 has also been fairly well-received, so DreamWorks has a kids franchise that they can continue to mine. I’m sure that David Schwimmer appreciates the future work.
The Fallout: Maybe Jennifer Aniston can put a call into her old Friends pal and see about playing a cute polar bear in Madagascar 4: Antarctic Bound?
Rock of Ages -- June 15
They had Tom Cruise headlining this one and promoted it as coming from the director of the Hairspray movie musical but in the end none of that mattered. Audiences decided that they didn’t want to see big hair songs from the ‘80s crooned by the girl from Dancing With the Stars and more recognizable actors, so they avoided Rock of Ages when it was released smack in the middle of the summer. If you want your Poison retrospective fix, you’re going to have to wait for it on home video when it arrives next month.
The Fallout: Rock of Ages’ $50 million dollar gross didn’t help the comeback ambitions of Tom Cruise nor did it signify that audiences will treat big Broadway musicals with the same success at movie theaters. This won’t help the prospects for other Broadway-to-Hollywood adaptations like Wicked, the Wizard of Oz-inspired musical, from becoming a movie.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22
Timur Bekmambetov got some clout in American showbiz when Wanted proved to be a hit. Seeking an idea for his second American movie, the Russian director turned to the second novel of Seth Grahame-Smith and the current pop culture fascination with vampires. The problem with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may have been that these vamps don’t sparkle in the sun.
The movie came and went without much of a fuss. It didn’t find its audience with horror fans, nor did it attract the mainstream crowd who might have been too alienated by its bizarre mash-up of real history and fictional vampire slaying. Ask yourself if, in five years, you’ll even remember that this movie exists; chances are good that you’re saying no, right?
The Fallout: Bekmambetov will need to find something more safe for his third studio movie. As for writer Grahame-Smith, after this and the Dark Shadows fiasco he’s going to have to work double-as-hard to prove that his ideas can attract a wider audience.
Brave – June 22
Pixar’s thirteenth movie was their first to feature a female lead. Brave’s wonderful animation and splendid color palette aside, the story wasn’t as strong as other Pixar films. Audiences seemed to have sensed that because Brave’s box office and critical reception wasn’t nearly as high as other Pixar movies.
Sure, there was the dismissal of Brave’s original director and rumors of major story overhauls, but when you stack Brave up against Pixar movies like Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc., it doesn’t have the same kind of magic. That’s a shame because I was rooting for Brave to open the door for more female-centered animated films.
The Fallout: Knowing how conservative Hollywood is with its business practices, there’s a strong likelihood that Brave will be considered a failure because it didn’t appeal to the young boy market. After getting the same cold feet with Tangled, Disney played up the male hero element in that film. Even though both movies made nearly the same amount of good box office, there’s a sense that Brave wasn’t as much of a success as Tangled.
Sorry girls, but there’s always the next time…whenever that comes.
Madea’s Witness Protection -- June 27
Tyler Perry, you’re the 21st century’s Mrs. Doubtfire, but even so, Robin Williams had the sense to dress in drag for just one movie.
The Fallout: As long as these kind of movies continue to make money for Perry there will be more Madea’s to see. Even though I don’t begrudge him for his financial success, the thing is that Perry isn’t trying to break out from stereotyping himself. The Alex Cross movie he toplines will prove whether he can cross over and get away from Madea pictures or if he’s destined to spend the rest of his showbiz career wearing lipstick in 35mm.
Magic Mike – June 27
Meet the new Sex and the City. Channing Tatum drew inspiration from his real-life job as a male stripper, put some of the financing money up for the movie, and it paid off big. Magic Mike earned $113 million in North America from a $7 million dollar budget, and in the process became the highest grossing movie in the dance film genre.
And it’s also a mark of commendation for director Steven Soderberg. While Soderbergh has always shown that he’s capable of leaping from genre to genre, who really expected Magic Mike to be Soderbergh’s second-highest grossing movie after his Ocean’s 11 pictures? Who thought that a movie about good looking guys stripping down would be one of the breakout stars of the summer of 2012?
The Fallout: Magic Mike 2. You know that it’s going to happen.
Ted – June 27
Seth MacFarlane’s first movie as a director has earned over $200 million dollars at the box office. It’s also proved that CG FX have progressed to the point that a walking, talking teddy bear can look completely realistic in a movie. This is the future that Jurassic Park has wrought.
Ted works because it’s got the smarts of MacFarlane and his Family Guy pop culture comedy, plus it can go that extra step into adult territory. That’s essentially why audiences went to go check out Ted, but when they got there they also got the benefit that it’s a funny movie. Any film that can give a paycheck to Sam Jones deserves a pat on the back.
The Fallout: Ted 2 is a certainty. MacFarlane still has a lot of material that he could mine for a sequel, but in the end he’s going to be given carte blanche to do whatever he wants. The guy could even wind up using his new movie cred to branch off away from comedy. I hear that he’s a bit of a sci-fi nerd and Trekkie, so conceivably he could go off in that direction if he so wanted.
And so ends the part of the autopsy we call June. Next up is July. Stay tuned for the next cut to be made.
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