Home Movie News ‘Killers’ Ashton Kutcher-Katherine Heigl Bombs & Audiences Truly Tired of Unoriginal Fare?

‘Killers’ Ashton Kutcher-Katherine Heigl Bombs & Audiences Truly Tired of Unoriginal Fare?

Ashton Kutcher Katherine Heigl Killers
Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Killers.

June 8 update: This past weekend, the 2010 North American box office was down 24 percent from the equivalent weekend last year. Memorial Day weekend had the lowest box office take since 2001 and the lowest number of tickets sold since 1993.

Pundits and non-pundits everywhere have been blaming the low quality of the movies being offered, the sameness of the storylines, and the overabundance of sequels, remakes, and adaptations. In other words, movie audiences want both quality and originality.

Never mind that The Karate Kid (a remake), Toy Story 3, The Last Airbender (based on an animated television series later turned into a videogame), and especially The Twilight Saga: Eclipse are expected to be summer hits. Later in the year, there’ll be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and TRON: Legacy, among others. (As an aside: I, for one, wouldn’t put my money on The Karate Kid; and Christopher Nolan’s truly original – at least in concept – Inception is also expected to do solid business this summer.)

Never mind that among the top five highest-grossing 2010 releases (Avatar was released in late 2009) in the U.S. and Canada, two are sequels (Iron Man 2, Shrek Forever After) and two are remakes (Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans). How to Train Your Dragon is no original story, either, as it’s based on a novel. Among those, only How to Train Your Dragon was generally well-liked by critics.

And if you look at this year’s top 20 films to date – such as the highly original Valentine’s Day, the innovative A Nightmare on Elm Street, the instant classic Why Did I Get Married Too, the masterpiece Sex and the City 2 – I can only think of two with any chance of winning or getting top-level nominations when awards season begins: the aforementioned How to Train Your Dragon and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (no. 6).

If only Hollywood filmmakers learned from the past, when truly original, critically acclaimed movies were the big domestic hits year in, year out.

In 2009, for instance, Michael Bay’s highly original classic Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the no. 2 movie. Ah, there were also two other franchises among the top five: The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Avatar, of course, was the no. 1 hit. Now, you may find Avatar the greatest movie ever made anywhere in the whole wide universe, but its plot and characters are anything but original, borrowing from a range of ancient tales, from Pocahontas to The War of the Worlds. Its visual effects were indeed revolutionary, but had its characters and plot been truly original and innovative, Avatar would in all likelihood have been a monumental flop.

Now, the biggest movie of 2008? The Dark Knight, a sequel to Batman Begins, itself both a remake of sorts and a comic-book adaptation. The biggest movie of 2007? Spider-Man 3. In 2006? Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. In 2005? Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In 2004? Shrek 2. In 2003? The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

True enough, some of those received good (or even great) reviews. Some didn’t. All of them were sequels or prequels.

Back to 2010 and the North American box office: Way down below on the box office chart you’ll find unoriginal and/or low-quality stuff such as The Ghost Writer, Remember Me, A Prophet, Ajami, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, La Mission, Vincere, City Island, The Secret in Their Eyes, Exit Through the Giftshop, The Runaways, Mid-August Lunch, The Secret of Kells, Mother and Child, Mother, Harry Brown, Greenberg, Please Give, and Fish Tank.

Those titles – most of which earned less than $5 million at the North American box office – provide further evidence that it’s all about movie audiences desperately yearning for quality and originality.

P.S.: No such box office woes overseas, where audiences are obviously too unsophisticated to care if Hollywood product consists of sequels, remakes, or are just downright rotten. Movies that have performed below expectations in North America have been faring quite well abroad, including Robin Hood, Sex and the City 2, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Box office data: Box Office Mojo

According to Hollywood.com, this year James Cameron’s Avatar grossed $465 million of its $749 million at the domestic box office. The Na’vi’s ability to bring people to (more expensive) 3D/IMAX theaters has helped to offset what has been otherwise a highly disappointing year, with underperformers such as Robin Hood, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Sex and the City 2.

Although revenues are up 3.65 percent largely thanks to costlier ticket prices (3D surely has played a big role in that), total attendance is down an estimated 2.74 percent to 561.9 million admissions, as Michael Cieply explains in the New York Times. (Whether Hollywood.com has factored in 3D/IMAX surcharges when calculating the number of tickets sold remains unclear.)

But if the late 2009 release Avatar is taken out of the picture, attendance in 2010 would then be down 12.9 percent and revenues 7.1 percent, as per Hollywood.com calculations.

Other 3D movies that have helped to keep box office registers ringing this year are Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon, and Shrek Forever After. In fact, five or the year’s top six (including Avatar) box office hits have been 3D releases.

June 10 box office update: Shrek Forever After, which features the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy, and Julie Andrews, was once again the no. 1 movie at the North American box office on Wednesday, June 9. The 3D animated fantasy grossed $2.86 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, the comedy Get Him to the Greek was the no. 2 movie, with $2.23 million, followed by Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl’s Killers with $1.61 million.

June 8: Get Him to the Greek (barely) topped the North American box office on Monday chiefly thanks to the fact that Shrek Forever After shredded more than 70 percent of its Sunday business, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo.

Starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, Get Him to the Greek opened in the second spot this weekend with a passable $17.57 million. On Monday, it grossed $2.49 million.

Featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Julie Andrews, Shrek Forever After earned $2.42 million.

At no. 3, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl’s Killers took in $1.58 million, followed by Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, and Ben Kingsley, with $1.53 million.

The no. 5 movie was Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City 2, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis, with $1.42 million.

At no. 6, Marmaduke, about a talking dog with Owen Wilson’s voice, grossed only $991,000.

Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man 2 was no. 7 with $802,000. Next in line was the sci-fier/thriller Splice, featuring Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, which drew $788,000.

Rounding out the top twelve were Cate Blanchett’s Robin Hood with $571,000, Vanessa Redgrave’s Letters to Juliet with $363,000, Queen Latifah’s Just Wright with $77,000, and Steve Carell’s Date Night with $75,000.

The Box Office Mojo chart had no information on Raajneeti‘s earnings. The Bollywood production was no. 11 at the North American box office this weekend, having grossed $850,000 at 124 sites.

Among the top twelve movies on the chart, Get Him to the Greek had the highest per-theater average, a not too impressive $925. Date Night had the lowest average, $115.

Also among the top twelve, Get Him to the Greek had the lowest drop-off rate, down 48.8 percent. Marmaduke had the highest, down 71.2 percent, followed by Shrek Forever After with down 70.4 percent.

Photo: Get Him to the Greek (Universal Pictures)

Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heighl, Killers
Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Killers

Shrek Forever After was the top movie for the third weekend in a row at the North American box office. The 3D animated fantasy featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Julie Andrews, took in an estimated $25.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s closer to the lower end of expectations, as some had been prediciting $28-$30 million for the weekend.

To date, Shrek Forever After has earned $183 million in the U.S. and Canada. At this stage, it seems unlikely it’ll break even at the domestic box office. In order to cover its production costs alone – officially $165 million – Shrek would have to earn approximately $300-$330 million domestically.

Shrek isn’t alone. Five weeks into the summer box office season, total ticket sales revenue is down 4 percent from last year despite a 6 percent rise in ticket prices, explains the Los Angeles Times. According to figures provided by Hollywood.com, movie attendance in the U.S. and Canada has fallen 10 percent.

Starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, the comedy Get Him to the Greek (cost: $40m) took in $17.4 million, which is just about what pundits had been expecting – and hardly enough to shake things up at the box office. At no. 3, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl’s Killers ended up with $16.1 million.

Neither new entry had very impressive per-theater averages: Get Him to the Greek with $6,460; Killers with $5,631. Considering Killers’ $75 million price tag – not including distribution and marketing costs – Lionsgate can’t be at all happy with the film’ opening numbers.

Down two spots at no. 4, Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, and Ben Kingsley, earned $13.9 million following a sizable but not unusual 53.8 percent drop. Total to date for the $200 million production: a disappointing $59.4 million. It seems like Prince of Persia will have quite a bit of trouble reaching the $100 million mark at the domestic box office.

And that’s where the international market comes to the rescue. Like Robin Hood, another domestic box office disappointment, Prince of Persia has been doing much better overseas (following a slow start). Total to date: $156.4 million. Does that mean Disney has a worldwide hit in its hands? Well, yes and no.

In terms of box office figures, it’s true that $215.8 million is nothing to be sniffed at (though, for comparison’s sake, Iron Man 2 has grossed about $580 million worldwide in six weeks). However, when your movie cost $200 million to produce, it’ll need to gross about twice that amount merely to cover production costs – not including marketing, distribution, and other contractual expenses. In that regard, Prince of Persia still has a long way to go.

Shrek Forever After‘s once again held the lead at the North American box office on Friday, June 4. The 3D animated fantasy took in an estimated $6.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

As a film made for children and their obliging (or, oftentimes, reluctant) parents or “guardians,” this fourth installment in the Shrek franchise will doubtlessly top the thus far unimpressive weekend as well, as kiddie movies soar on Saturday and Sunday. However, those expecting $25m-$30 million for the weekend may have overestimated Shrek‘s reach. We shall see.

Starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, new entry Get Him to the Greek collected about $6.22 million on Friday. Whether this comedy will match (or even surpass) weekend expectations – circa $18 million or so – depends on how well it’ll do on Saturday. But Get Him to the Greek will almost surely end up in second place, ahead of all other newcomers.

At no. 3, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl’s Killers grossed an estimated $5.7 million on its debut Friday, and is probably on track to earn between $15-$18 million over the weekend.

Image: Iron Man 2 (Francois Duhamel / Marvel); Killers (Melissa Moseley / Lionsgate).

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9 comments

Justin -

I saw Marmaduke today! It was WAY better than I expected it to be! Before I left, I read reviews on this movie. Just about all of the reviews were bad ones.

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Gamma -

Inception will probably garner critical love but I don’t think it’s going to be a hit. Audiences have already seen this type of film in The Matrix. Even the trailer causes confusion. Leo only does big box office with Scorcese. Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are box office poison.

The economy isn’t great. People want to see movies that are comfortable and they’ve been watching for a while. That’s why HP and Twilight will be huge hits. They have huge fan bases that read the books and want to watch the movies.

The Last Airbender was a Nickelodeon cartoon. I expect it to be one of the biggest losers of the summer. It has to compete with Eclipse, there is already controversy over changing the character’s races from Asian to white, and M. Night hasn’t been forgiven for The Happening. I’m surprised a studio greenlit it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made over $80 million dollars before it ever played in a North American theater. The Runaways got mired in business problems with Apparition, but is probably going to do great sales on DVD and has international release to look forward to. A Prophet was nominated for several awards. I had to Google Remember Me and I’m not sure why you included it with the indies. It didn’t do much in box office, but it played wider than any of those other films, thus not making it a true indie.

Avatar was overhyped so the audience turned out to see it. I hope that 3D is not the future of film making because it takes the needed realism out of the films. Since it cost over $500 million and another $300 million or more in marketing, it needed the $2 billion to make a profit. It was very unoriginal and the acting was sub-par at best.

Smaller films will do better on DD and with cable deals. The same sequels, prequels, and books based on toys and movies will continue to do well in theaters because they are widely available.

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Wesley -

Whoever wrote this article needs to do their research a bit better. The Last Airbender is not based on a video game, it’s based on a very successful television series. Other than that, everything else looks very good. Great job!!!

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Editor -

Thanks for the correction. “The Last Airbender” was indeed a videogame, but it was a television series first. I’ll amend the article.

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PatriciaM. -

Remember Me did flop because it sucked. Only fangirls think it was a hit. It deserved to flop because Pattinson can’t act his way out of a paper bag, and Brosnan is ten years past his shelf life. Then they had that awful girl from Lost that no one even likes on television. To top it off, the writer plagiarized Catcher in the Rye and added 9/11 as an ending to try and prove that he was fresh and different. The critics got it right on that one. Then the robtards go on to say it was a small movie. Over 2100 screens is small? Advertisements on the Oscars and an NYC and London premiere are small? I’d love to see what you guys call big. The movie could have made a $100 million and it would have still been a piece of crap.

The box office is down so far this summer because there is nothing great out there. Of course, people are going to see big budget films that are familiar. Then you have films like SATC2, The Killers, and The Bounty Hunter which make me ashamed to be female. It’s a sad year. The same old crap will make money, but if you look hard enough there are some good performances out there.

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belle -

Thank you for commenting back to me. I appreciate it. You care about what you write and how it is received.

I will admit that I did miss the point of the paragraph where you mentioned “Remember Me” with movies that earned 5 million an under. Thank you for clarifying that for me. You got me on the unsophisticated international audience, also.

I cringe anytime I see anything written about Remember Me. It had it’s faults, but deserved more credit than it received. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I should have re-read your article instead of jumping the gun. Again, I appreciate you caring enough to comment back to me.

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belle -

You need to do your homework. Remember Me, which was actually a decent movie with solid performances by the entire cast, was never meant to be a big movie. Pattinson signed on before the first Twilight movie even came out. The media turned it into the movie that was going to show if Rob had Star Power, and built it up to be a bigger film that failed, so they could trash it. It had a 16 million budget, and has more than tripled that, which makes it a box office success. It made close to 20 million in the US, but you lumped it with the movies making 5 million or less. Add 20 million to the total it’s made in Europe, where the audiences are too unsophisticated, as you put it, to care, it comes to almost 60 million. What about the Green Zone. It had 100 million budget and bombed big time. Didn’t see it mentioned on your list. I’m sick of reading the same old garbage.

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Andre -

belle,

I’m very much aware of how much money “Remember Me” made domestically and internationally, the kinds of reviews it got, etc. etc. I’m this site’s chief editor, after all. “Remember Me” has been mentioned here quite often in the past. “Remember Me” wasn’t a flop in North America, that’s true; but no matter how you cut it, it was no hit, either. (International figures weren’t part of the equation; some of the “small” movies listed in that paragraph earned good money overseas.)

Also, you *completely* missed the point of that paragraph. I included “Remember Me” and Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” — two movies that earned between $15-20m domestically — along with the other “small” movies, for the very fact that those are two films that tried to do something different. Neither was a sequel, a prequel, a remake, an adaptation of a videogame or comic book - and even so (or rather, at least in part *because* of it), they failed to connect with North American audiences. My point: those who say American audiences want something “original” are bullshitting. And they must know it.

The remark re: “unsophisticated” international audiences was dripping with sarcasm. I’m surprised you didn’t get it.

P.S. “Green Zone” wasn’t included on that list — though theoretically it could have been — because it did earn $32m domestically. I drew the line at $20m. “Green Zone” was a major flop, yes, but only in relation to its $100m cost. Worldwide it grossed nearly $95m.

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Faith -

Amenabar distorted a lot of history in service to his art, but that’s what artists do and I don’t fault him for that. Folks who are interested in the historical Hypatia should pick up the biography “Hypatia of Alexandria” by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995) - highly readable! Also I have a series of posts on my blog covering the historical events and characters depicted by the film - not a movie review, just a “reel” vs. “real” discussion.

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