Filmmaker James Wan, over on his Twitter page, asked "so how come no one went to see Conan or Fright Night this weekend?" And though we're loath to Monday-morning-quarterback box office lists, we too were a bit startled by this last weekend's box office totals.
1. The Help – $20.5 mil
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $16.3 mil
3. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D – $12 mil
4. Conan the Barbarian – $10 mil
5. Fright Night – $8.3 mil
6. The Smurfs – $8 mil
7. Final Destination 5 – $7.7 mil
8. 30 Minutes or Less – $6.3 mil
9. One Day – $5.2 mil
10. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – $5.0 mil
The top two flip-flopped their positions from the previous week, and 3-5 are uniformly disappointing debuts (Spy Kids less so than the films beneath it).
The big surprise seems to be that Conan the Barbarian (known as KOHAH BAPBAP, we are helpfully reminded) didn't take the top spot, being the action film that summer is supposedly made for. Also startling, at least to me considering how ubiquitous its marketing seemed in the weeks prior, is the low placing of Fright Night. It's worth noting that 3-7 are all 3-D films, but I don't think this is necessarily PROOF of an out-and-out rejection of 3-D (considering that Final Destination 5 had debuted the previous week with $18 million). More telling, perhaps, is that you have a sequel, a reboot, and a remake (three Hollywood mainstays) all debuting poorly. That Spy Kids did the best of the three is no surprise (you're going to sell more tickets to a family film than an R-rated genre picture), but the indifference greeting the well-known Conan is startling. And a bit dismaying, to this viewer who came of age with films like the original Conan and Fright Night at the plexes. Also of note: The Help's powerful performance. Don't rule out the buying power of the book club (and don't expect them to fall for any mild romance, either - One Day debuted more horribly than anything else this week).
Fright Night, by the way, is a solid little horror film (and a smart remake of Tom Holland's 1985 horror-comedy opus). Well told and beautifully acted, with some nice understated uses of 3-D. That said, because of technical problems that have been well-documented by now, the image was a quarter as bright as it should have been, which fucked up the whole experience. Perhaps those who stayed away had been burned by this more often than I. Shoganai.