Box Office Mojo is back – and how tons of information online can vanish when you least expect it
By now, everyone who cares about movie box office information is aware that the website Box Office Mojo, the Web's premier source of box office news and data, is back online after disappearing for much of Friday and Saturday, Oct. 10-11, '14.
During that period of total silence, Twitter was abuzz with speculations – a technical glitch? A hacker attack? An alien invasion? – lamentations, and eulogies. For a brief while, the ever-reliable (sarcasm) Wikipedia referred to Box Office Mojo in the past tense.
How did it all happen? Well, sometime on Friday, journalists, bloggers, and box office aficionados noticed that Box Office Mojo was being redirected to an Internet Movie Database page featuring the latest box office information – which, on that site, isn't either much “latest” or much information at all.
But why would Box Office Mojo be redirected to the IMDb? Well, the IMDb has owned Box Office Mojo since 2008. For its part, the IMDb is owned by Amazon, the online retail behemoth whose CEO is multibillionaire magnate Jeff Bezos.
Box Office Mojo resurfaces
Just as it had mysteriously disappeared, on Saturday evening Box Office Mojo mysteriously reappeared. It was like Michael Apted's 1979 movie Agatha, when Agatha Christie (played by Vanessa Redgrave) vanishes into thin air and then just as inexplicably reappears again. (Well, in real life that's more or less how it happened; the movie, by way of Dustin Hoffman's character, tries to explain what Christie had been up to.)
Anyhow, why bother writing about the Box Office Mojo disappearance two or three days after the fact?
Well, first of all to remark that those who jumped to the conclusion that Box Office Mojo had perished and its corpse was decomposing in some virtual back alley, were, no pun intended, dead wrong. Among those lamenting the demise of Box Office Mojo – without any concrete evidence – were news sites such as TheWrap and Variety (and the news sources that syndicate their content).
Second, Box Office Mojo editor and box office analyst Ray Subers, who took over the site following the departure of founder Brandon Gray, remained mum during the blackout. Not even a tweet to let the site's fans know what was going on.
Now, was that a blatant disregard for Box Office Mojo's (and Subers' own) fans? Hm… not so fast. On Sunday, Subers tweeted the following:
I think it's about time to resume normal programming here…
Actually, two things. 1) I am 100 percent OK. No health/family/personal issues whatsoever. 2) I will not be answering any Qs re: the past 3 days.
Now, for that normal programming…
(Unfortunately, Subers failed to address another issue: True, Box Office Mojo is back, but his detailed box office analysis was missing this past weekend. So, at least for the time being, “normal programming” hasn't been quite resumed.)
And finally, bear in mind that Ray Subers' Box Office Mojo doesn't own the IMDb and/or Amazon. It's the other way around.
The dangers of corporate control of information
Pure speculation here, but it's hard not to believe that during Box Office Mojo's mysterious disappearance, Subers had to keep his mouth shut and his fingers away from his keypad.
But even if that was not the case, why didn't the IMDb's corporate office – or rather, its parent company, Amazon – send out a press release, even if just to issue the usual bullshit that major corporations (and governments) disseminate whenever there's a serious problem at hand? Corporate arrogance could be the culprit here. Alongside utter, total, complete unprofessionalism and an utter, total, complete disregard for their visitors / readers.
But most troubling of all is how, with one click (to paraphrase the New York Times) – or perhaps with one Apache redirection rule – a website containing thousands and thousands of pages, featuring an infinite number of informational bits that Internet users have relied on and taken for granted for years and years can simply vanish at the whim of an individual, or, more likely, at the whim of a corporation, including, to some extent, the world's current search-engine oligopoly.
Or at the whim of a government, including the world's so-called democracies. Just picture Google removing thousands of articles from its search-engine results to abide by the European Union's “Right to Be Forgotten” law.
Domestic weekend box office
Oh, yes. Now for What Truly Matters: David Fincher's Gone Girl collected an additional $26.4 million this past weekend, October 10-12, '14, topping the North American box office chart for the second weekend in a row. The psychological thriller features Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Patrick Fugit.
Next in line was Gary Shore's $70 million-budgeted Dracula Untold, featuring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon (going mainstream following David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars and Cosmopolis, among others), Dominic Cooper, and veteran Charles Dance, with $25.51 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to an estimated $62.6 million international cume.
Hardly great 'Alexander'
In third place was what is usually referred to as a “family comedy”: Miguel Arteta's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which scored a no-good-but-not-very-bad (for a $28 million-budgeted film) $18.36 million at 3,088 locations. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day features Steve Carell, (Ben Affleck's wife) Jennifer Garner, Bella Thorne, Dylan Minnette, Megan Mullally, and Jennifer Coolidge.
John R. Leonetti's Annabelle was no. 4, with $15.85 million – down a steep but not unexpected 57 percent compared to the previous weekend. Now, what's most impressive is that Annabelle has already grossed an estimated $60.3 million internationally. Not bad at all for a cheaply made ($6.5 million) – even if not cheaply marketed – horror flick featuring a cast of mostly little-known performers.
Robert Downey Jr. 'The Judge' dud
Rounding out the top five movies at the domestic box office this past weekend was David Dobkin's The Judge, with only $13.11 million, and a mediocre $3,468 per-theater average. Which goes to show that Robert Downey Jr. is hardly a surefire box office draw when not starring in tentpole franchises like Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man.
Also featured in the $50 million-budgeted “adult” drama are Best Actor Oscar winner Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies), Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Leighton Meester, Dax Shepard, and Balthazar Getty.
The box office figures above were found at, where else, Box Office Mojo. Which is back. And I hope it stays around for a long time.
Image of Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl: 20th Century Fox.
Robert Downey Jr. The Judge image: Warner Bros.