‘Little Fockers’ tops domestic box office: Critically panned crowd-pleasing comedy kickstarts the New Year in lowbrow style
One of the most critically lambasted 2010 releases, Paul Weitz’s Little Fockers was the no. 1 movie at the U.S. and Canada box office on the very first weekend of 2011 (Dec. 31–Jan. 2). That’s hardly surprising. After all, dumb comedies – e.g., Grown Ups, Jackass 3D – tend to fare well on weekends, when apparently families and friends decide to spend some quality time together at the movies.
According to final figures found at Boxofficemojo.com, Little Fockers drew in $25.76 million – several hundred thousand dollars less than distributor Universal had estimated, but still enough to top the domestic chart. Compared to Christmas weekend, the Fockers were down a modest 16 percent.
After 10 days out, Little Fockers’ North American total stands at $103 million. Yet, despite its significant success, it continues to trail its equally lowbrow predecessor, Jay Roach’s Meet the Fockers ($132.85 million on Day 10 in late December 2004), though it’s now ahead of the first film in the franchise, Roach’s Meet the Parents – even when taking inflation into account (an adjusted $86.1 million in mid-October 2000).
One of the year’s worst-received releases
As mentioned further up, Little Fockers is not only a sizable domestic box office hit but also one of the worst-received movies of the year, having thus far earned a dismal 4 percent – you read it right, 4 percent – approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
That goes to prove once again that American critics, some of whom wondered about the need for another Fockers flick, are totally out of touch with American moviegoers.
In fact, movie critics, who clearly can’t spell the words “box office,” should all resign and let those discerning audience members who flock to stuff like Little Fockers tell their online video watchers – people who either don’t or can’t read – what’s cool and what ain’t.
But let’s not despair. As Brooks Barnes explained a little while ago in the New York Times, Twitter and Facebook are helping moviegoers be more discerning in their moviegoing choices. One assumes that helps to explain Little Fockers having passed the $100 million milestone – as opposed to the $200 or $300 million milestone – on Day 10.
In all seriousness, considering the sort of stuff that Hollywood studios will be releasing in 2011 – and that audiences worldwide will flock to see – Little Fockers’ box office victory has heralded the New Year in appropriate style.
Little Fockers’ reported cost: $100 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses.
‘Little Fockers’ cast: Prestigious actors lend name to asinine comedy
The mostly prestigious Little Fockers cast includes the following:
- Ben Stiller.
- Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (as Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; as Best Actor for Raging Bull, 1980).
- Owen Wilson.
- Two-time Oscar winner Barbra Streisand (as Best Actress for Funny Girl, 1968; for songwriting, A Star Is Born, 1976*).
- Two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979; Rain Man, 1988).
- Teri Polo.
- Best Featured Actress in a Play Tony Award winner Blythe Danner (Butterflies Are Free, 1970).
- Jessica Alba.
- Best Actress Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose, 1991).
- Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel (Bugsy, 1991).
- Oscar nominee Tom McCarthy (shortlisted in the Best Original Screenplay category for Up).
* In her film debut as comedienne/singer Fanny Brice, future Little Fockers star Barbra Streisand shared the 1968 Best Actress Oscar with veteran Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter. Streisand co-wrote with Paul Williams the song “Evergreen” from the 1976 A Star Is Born remake.
‘True Grit’: Rare Western hit
Right on Little Fockers’ tail this past weekend, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western True Grit, toplining Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper, grossed $24.4 million (down a minuscule 2 percent from Christmas weekend).
Unlike Little Fockers, the Coen brothers’ latest effort has generally received enthusiastic reviews; it currently enjoys a 94 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
In addition, 2011 SAG Award nods for Bridges and newcomer Steinfeld, and numerous mentions in critics’ Best of the Year and award lists have helped to propel this Western – in the last four decades, hardly the most box-office-friendly of genres – into the blockbuster-in-the-making realm.
True Grit has already become the Coens’ biggest domestic hit ever. After 12 days, it has taken in $86.76 million; that’s nearly $1 million more than the adjusted-for-inflation $86 million take ($74.28 million back in 2007) of their Best Picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men.
Another bit of good news: In relation to its reported $38 million production budget, True Grit is already “in the black.” Of course, marketing and distribution expenses need to be accounted for as well. In other words, it’ll be a little while before True Grit becomes truly profitable.
Four-decade Hollywood veteran Jeff Bridges has two movies among Top Five
True Grit and Joseph Kosinski’s TRON: Legacy – no. 3 on this weekend’s box office chart after collecting $18.75 million – happen to be anomalies in the career of veteran Jeff Bridges.
A leading man for nearly 40 years, Bridges has had relatively few major commercial hits. Most of these became successful less because of his presence than that of co-stars such as King Kong (John Guillermin’s 1976 remake), Barbra Streisand (The Mirror Has Two Faces), Robin Williams (The Fisher King), and Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot).
For comparison’s sake: in its first five days, True Grit earned almost as much money domestically as Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart, which cumed at $39.46 million in the U.S. and Canada last year largely thanks to Bridges’ numerous Best Actor awards, including the 2010 Oscar.
Jeff Bridges’ first $50+ million domestic hits in nearly a decade
Indeed, True Grit and TRON: Legacy will end up becoming the first Jeff Bridges star vehicles to collect more than $50 million at the North American box office since Iain Softley’s 2001 mystery sci-fier K-Pax, co-starring Kevin Spacey.
But what about Seabiscuit and Iron Man?
Well, neither Seabiscuit nor Iron Man was “a Jeff Bridges star vehicle.” The former starred Tobey Maguire and a horse; the latter starred Robert Downey Jr. and a metal suit.
Also worth noting, on its 11th day out TRON: Legacy surpassed the inflation-adjusted box office gross of Steven Lisberger’s original TRON, which back in 1982 earned approximately $33 million – or about $89.2 million in 2010 dollars.
First post-‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ Matt Damon hit
Although not exactly a Matt Damon star vehicle, True Grit also happens to be Damon’s first hit since Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), which was followed by a string of box office disappointments: Greengrass’ Green Zone, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and Invictus, and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!.
True Grit, by the way, is the Coen brothers’ remake of Henry Hathaway’s 1969 Western starring Best Actor Oscar winner John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell in, respectively, the Bridges, Steinfeld, and Damon roles. The original True Grit earned Paramount $14.25 million in rentals (the studio’s take), which translates into about $28.5 million in box office grosses back then and $160 million today.
As for TRON: Legacy, in addition to Jeff Bridges the special-effects-laden sci-fi adventure features Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, and 1982 TRON actor Bruce Boxleitner. Domestic total: $130.85 million, a generally solid figure that feels more than a little underwhelming in relation to the film’s $170 million cost.
And that’s why Hollywood studios love the international market.
Gulliver’s Travels trailer with Jack Black. Rob Letterman’s Gulliver’s Travels coulda been a contender, it coulda been somebody just like those Little Fockers. Somehow, that wasn’t meant to be. Also in the cast of the costly box office bomb: Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, and Jason Segel.
Costly ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ bombs
Regarding the New Year’s weekend domestic box office, I should also remark on the presence – way down the chart – of the Rob Letterman-Jack Black collaboration Gulliver’s Travels, which pulled in $9.3 million at no. 8 – up 45 percent from the Christmas weekend following the addition of more than 500 locations. (Also, keep in mind that Gulliver’s Travels opened on Saturday.)
Total: A measly $27.22 million after nine days out. Reported cost: $112 million. (Initial estimates ranged from $80–$100 million.)
Dumbed down Jonathan Swift
Besides Jack Black, this modernized, infantilized, 3D film version of Jonathan Swift’s sociopolitical fantasy adventure also features Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, and Jason Segel.
The puzzling thing is: considering it’s a dumbed down version of Swift’s tale – one that relies on cheap, cheesy humor – why hasn’t Gulliver’s Travels attracted a much larger domestic audience?
Why isn’t it – at the very least – a more modest Little Fockers?
‘Elite Squad 2’: Biggest Brazil blockbuster ever?
José Padilha’s Elite Squad 2 a.k.a. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within / Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora É Outro, the sequel to the controversial 2007 Berlin Film Festival winner Elite Squad, is now officially the biggest blockbuster ever at the Brazilian box office. At least in U.S. dollar figures.
Perhaps assisted by some real-life events as Brazil tries to clean up its image prior to both the World Cup and the Olympics, Elite Squad 2, which mixes crooked politics with straightforward gunfire, has taken in $60.5 million at the Brazilian box office since it opened about two and a half months ago, according to the film industry site Filme B.
With $60.4 million, James Cameron’s Avatar had been the previous record-holder.
What about ‘Titanic’?
However, ticket sales figures, not box office numbers, are the most reliable barometer of a film’s popularity.
So, here’s the dish: Elite Squad 2 sold more than 11 million tickets versus Avatar‘s 9 million. (Remember, Cameron’s fantasy epic was released at pricier 3D locations.) In other words, Elite Squad 2 was much more popular in Brazil than Avatar.
Having said that, Cameron’s Titanic, the biggest modern blockbuster in Brazil, sold 16 million tickets – which makes this mix of disaster movie & romantic melodrama that country’s biggest box office hit … ever?
Why the question mark? Because one must remember that Brazilian attendance figures for decades-old blockbusters – e.g., Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Robe, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments – in case they do exist, are not readily available.
Biggest Brazilian-made box office hit
When it comes to Brazilian productions, Elite Squad 2 seems to be the unquestionable top movie, followed by Bruno Barreto’s 1976 comedy Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, which sold 10.73 million tickets. Sonia Braga, José Wilker, and Mauro Mendonça star.
Toplining Wagner Moura, Elite Squad 2 will have its international premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
2009 release ‘Avatar’ is biggest movie hit of 2010
In other box office news, thanks to higher ticket prices and loads of costlier IMAX and 3D presentations, the North American box office will once again pass the $10 billion mark in 2010. Last year, domestic revenues reached $10.6 billion; this year, they should reach a slightly more modest $10.556 billion according to Hollywood.com.
Attendance was actually down 5.4 percent from 2009 – the biggest drop-off rate since 2005. In fact, despite the rosy box office dollar figures, 2010 will turn out to be the second-least attended year of the early 21st century.
James Cameron’s Avatar, a late 2009 release starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, was 2010’s top hit with approximately $477 million (including the unsuccessful late summer rerelease). Avatar was followed by:
- Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3.
- Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
- Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2.
- David Slade’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
- Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
- David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
The other three movies that grossed more than $200 million domestically in 2010 were the animated Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, and How to Train Your Dragon.
All but three of the $200+ million blockbusters were costlier 3D releases. All were shown at hundreds of costlier IMAX theaters.
Jessica Alba Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.
Jeff Bridges True Grit image: Wilson Webb / Paramount Pictures.
Barbra Streisand Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.
Jack Black Gulliver’s Travels image: hy*drau’lx / 20th Century Fox.
Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.
Wagner Moura Elite Squad 2 image: Zazen Produções.
“Little Fockers Proof That Audiences Prefer Dumb Movies? Not Necessarily” last updated in July 2018.