Box Office (#110 of 28)

Box Office Rap The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and 3D’s Grey Area

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Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and 3D’s Grey Area

Lionsgate

Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and 3D’s Grey Area

When writing about the box-office prospects for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire two years ago, I commended the film's producers for shucking a 3D conversion in favor of an exclusive 2D release and staying true to their original intentions by refusing to cash-in on of-the-moment trends. Big questions remain regarding 3D's longevity, but less so for the immediate future. In 2014, 12 of the year's 15 highest domestic grossing film's benefited from a 3D release, with American Sniper, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, and 22 Jump Street being the only titles to make the ranks without it. This year has seen similar results.

Box Office Rap The 33 and Three Female Directors

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Box Office Rap: The 33 and Three Female Directors

Warner Bros.

Box Office Rap: The 33 and Three Female Directors

Before Universal Pictures decided to scale back the release of By the Sea from wide to limited this past week, this Friday was to be the first time, in North American cinema history, that three films directed by women would open in wide release on the same weekend. In fact, as far as my research shows, it will still be the first time that two female-helmed wide releases have opened on the same day. Considering the recent findings by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University that only 7% of Hollywood movies are directed by women, it's a surprising and hopeful moment for female artists in Hollywood.

Box Office Rap Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

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Box Office Rap: Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

Columbia Pictures

Box Office Rap: Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

In September 2014, Miles Teller gave an interview to W magazine explaining his frustrations with the Divergent franchise: “I didn't have an interesting part, and I'd taken the film for business reasons.” But just a day after the story ran, Teller offered an explanation to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that “when he spoke of the 'business,' he said he was referring to things like working with costar Shailene Woodley, playing a villain, and participating in a movie that would translate internationally.” Teller's immediate rescind of his own words reveals one of Hollywood's long-unspoken rules: If you're making money, especially if it's from a high-end studio movie, you don't get to bitch about it.

Box Office Rap Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

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Box Office Rap: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

20th Century Fox

Box Office Rap: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Presale Box Office

Voltaire once said: “If Star Wars did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.” Of course, these were not Voltaire's actual words, but the sentiment still rings true: In a hyper-mediated society, citizens believe they need a cultural entity larger than themselves for the purpose of uniting around vacuous communal ties, like debating “Who shot first: Han or Greedo?” or why stormtroopers, supposedly skilled marksman, can never hit a damn thing?

Accompanying the premiere of the third trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which aired during Monday Night Football this week because Disney owns ABC and needed a ratings boost, is the news that, as the New York Times put it, the film is “a Hit at the Presale Box Office.” “Hit” suggests the film has kept pace with other blockbusters of its ilk, but the data reveals that anticipation for the film is reaching something closer to outright hysteria.

Box Office Rap Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

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Box Office Rap: Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

Universal Pictures

Box Office Rap: Crimson Peak and Two Brands of Horror Nostalgia

Of the nearly 200 R-rated films to open with over $20 million at the domestic box office, almost a quarter are horror films. A quick rundown of the list reveals that nearly all the entries from the Resident Evil, Underworld, Saw, Paranormal Activity, and Scream franchises are accounted for. Reboots and remakes abound too, with found-footage and home-invasion films like The Purge, The Devil Inside, and The Strangers all screaming their way to the bank. The titans, however, have books as their sources or build on the preceding mythology of a popular franchise. There's Prometheus, which promised—and lied!—a reboot to match the tension of Alien. Hannibal cashed in on years of audiences waiting to see Anthony Hopkins once again torment Clarice Starling. And The Passion of the Christ, the ultimate torture-porn film, let bloodthirsty masses watch their savior be ripped to shreds.

Box Office Rap Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

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Box Office Rap: Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

Warner Bros.

Box Office Rap: Pan and the End of the Fantasy Franchise

When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opened on December 17, 2014, Kevin Tsujihara, the CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, had to realize it was, in some ways, the passing of an era. No longer would these Peter Jackson staples be surefire moneymakers on the backend of a calendar year; after six films and some $5.85 billion in global box office, it was back to the drawing board to find even a modest replacement. For the remainder of the year, Creed and Point Break are their only releases that could have even a modicum of hope for global box-office glory, but they're modest (and tremulous) at best. For the time being, the studio will simply lie in wait until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice drops in March 2016.

Box Office Rap Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap

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Box Office Rap: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap
Box Office Rap: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap

Adam McKay’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opens on Wednesday and looks to become the eighth live-action comedy of 2013 to gross over $100 million in its domestic run. That's a significant jump from only three comedies in 2012 which made that benchmark—a doubling in margin that suggests, by all conventional accounts, that it was a “good” year for comedies. Yet, upon further inspection, we find the titles of these moneymakers to be Bad Grandpa, Grown Ups 2, The Heat, and The Hangover Part III, which are among the laziest, if not the worst, Hollywood films of the year. Instead of “good,” we should say it was a profitable year for comedies and leave any such evaluative adjectives out of box-office summations.

If live-action comedy hits were aplenty, so were their animated counterparts, with Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, The Croods, Frozen, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 all meeting or exceeding financial expectations. The same could certainly be said for nearly every endeavor into superhero territory, as audiences still prefer cinema that transports them from the confines of reality and into a playground of fantasy-infused triviality, with a treatment of characters that ranged from tongue in cheek (Iron Man 3) to bombastic (Man of Steel) to hopelessly imitable (The Great Gatsby).

Box Office Rap The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex

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Box Office Rap: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex
Box Office Rap: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Fantasy-Entertainment Complex

Confession: I don't like The Lord of the Rings films. All of them. Well, at least the first three, as I skipped The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey because of my disdain for its predecessors, and needless to say, I'll be skipping The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as well. Of course, millions of others will not be skipping the film this weekend, as it tries to land somewhere in the $80-90 million range, matching the previous film's performance. For me, director Peter Jackson's initial trilogy operates on bloated runtimes meant to appease fanboy OCD, including Jackson's own. The apex of contemporary pop-cultural obsession-as-sickness is no better embodied than by these films, which edify young moviegoers to view film culture as narrative/character/imaginary playtime rather than a mindful and serious medium for artistic expression.

However, rather than further lambast The Hobbit, Jackson, and Warner Bros. for their transparent, masturbatory decisions to turn one novel into three films for means of tripling profits, of more importance this week is examining how critics are responding to The Desolation of Smaug, and the sorts of qualities being sought after in their evaluations of Jackson's latest. The film currently boasts a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 75%—a full 10% higher than the first installment, though the middling reviews did not negatively affect its box office, as The Unexpected Journey had the highest-grossing opening weekend of any films in the entire franchise. Critic proof, like most franchises, but it nevertheless remains the critic's role to instruct attentive filmgoers to the qualities worthy of contemplation.

Box Office Rap Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

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Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)
Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

As Bane raises Batman above his head and prepares to snap his back in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane postulates, “I was wondering what would break first: your spirit or your body!” The scene is faithful to the comic books for its “krakt” intensity, but also reflexive insofar as it speaks to Christian Bale's acting career, which has been founded on consistent bodily transformation and, before donning the cape for Christopher Nolan's franchise, a lack of commercial success that could have easily broken the actor's spirit in becoming an A-list star. Yet, even after the Batman films, Bale's financial viability removed from franchise confines remains questionable, and one wonders with Out of the Furnace opening this weekend if Bale's name alone is enough to guarantee a $10 million opening.

Bale's career began as a child actor in films like Empire of the Sun and Newsies, but it wasn't until 2000's American Psycho that he found a leading role that began to define his star persona. As Patrick Bateman, Bale's slender, muscular body and strikingly handsome face were apparent enough, but perhaps more surprising was the ease with which the actor seemed to project Bateman's affability-masking-psychopathy lifestyle, wielding an ax with the same quotidian detachment as when he visits the tanning salon. Roger Ebert said in his review of the film that “Bale is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor.” Audiences generally agreed, as the $7 million film grossed just over $15 million domestically.

Box Office Rap Frozen and the Frost-y Showdown

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Box Office Rap: Frozen and the Frost-y Showdown
Box Office Rap: Frozen and the Frost-y Showdown

Some say the box office is going to end in fire, but some say it'll end in ice, as Disney's Frozen looks to unseat Catching Fire over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. For Catching Fire, the lack of a significant improvement over the opening weekend of the first film suggests many viewers could have been holding out to round up the family for a viewing over the long weekend; nevertheless, almost every box-office prognosticator had Catching Fire pegged too high (especially yours truly), making talk of “catching” The Avengers appear foolish in hindsight.

Frozen goes nationwide on Wednesday, entering a marketplace that hasn't seen a legitimate animated contender since Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 nearly two months ago. Although trailers make the film look rather pallid, reviews have been white hot, which should boost interest among core demographics and adults alike. In fact, interest could be high enough for Frozen to top Tangled's $68.7 million opening three Thanksgivings ago.