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Winter Box Office: Critical Misfire Is Top Movie

Never Back Down movie Sean FarisNever Back Down movie with Sean Faris: North America’s winter box office is coming to an end.
  • Winter box office: During Hollywood’s prestigious awards season, Jon Turteltaub’s brainless adventure National Treasure: Book of Secrets became the top blockbuster in the domestic market. Other notable titles include Roland Emmerich’s critically panned 10,000 BC and Matt Reeves’ better-received horror thriller Cloverfield.

This year’s domestic winter box office comes to an end as Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! takes the no. 1 spot

As winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end, below is a quick – and oft-updated – look at the box office performances of several major domestic releases in the last three months.

Winter box office – March 14–16: According to studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com, 20th Century Fox’s Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! trampled all over competitor Never Back Down to reach the top of the North American box office this past weekend, collecting a hefty $45 million from 3,954 theaters.

Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, the computer-animated adventure comedy chronicles the attempts of an elephant, Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey), to protect the microscopic community of Whoville, which happens to be located on a speck of dust.

The Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! voice cast also includes Steve Carell, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher, Amy Poehler, Jonah Hill, and veteran television star Carol Burnett (whose few big-screen appearances include those in Pete ‘n’ Tillie and Annie).

Never Back Down takes back seat

Trailing both Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! and last weekend’s top movie, Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC, new entry Never Back Down debuted in third place with a mediocre $8.6 million from 2,729 locations. Directed by Jeff Wadlow, Summit Entertainment’s poorly received, real-life-inspired action drama follows a troubled teenager (25-year-old Sean Faris) who becomes involved in his Florida school’s underground fight club.

Also in the Never Back Down cast: Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, Evan Peters, Leslie Hope, Djimon Hounsou, and Wyatt Smith.

Doomed Doomsday

This past weekend’s third major opening turned out to be a major commercial dud as well. Directed by Neil Marshall, the mostly British-produced, Universal-distributed Doomsday – about a deadly virus all set to destroy London – opened at no. 7 with a mere $4.9 million from 1,936 sites.

In the cast: Rhona Mitra, Adrian Lester, David O’Hara, Best Actor Oscar nominee Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa, 1986), and veteran Malcolm McDowell (If…., A Clockwork Orange).

Movies on their way out: Politics, murder & cute underwater monster

Of note: Below are three notable winter box office titles no longer in release or on their way out: Charlie Wilson’s War, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and The Water Horse.

Directed by veteran Oscar winner Mike Nichols (The Graduate, 1967), the $75 million budget Charlie Wilson’s War has grossed a total of $66.7 million. Starring three Oscar winners – Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, 1993; Forrest Gump, 1994), Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, 2000), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, 2005) – the political comedy-drama is centered on real-life Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson (Hanks), who secretly helped Afghan rebels rise up against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Also in the cast: Supporting Oscar nominees Amy Adams (Junebug, 2005) and Ned Beatty (Network, 1976).

Tim Burton’s $50 million budget Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has earned $52.9 million. Based on Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway show, the horror musical tells the story of a mid-19th-century London barber/serial killer and his equally psychopathic accomplice. In the cast: Oscar nominees Johnny Depp (The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003; Finding Neverland, 2004) and Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove, 1997), plus the Harry Potter movies’ Alan Rickman.

Jay Russell’s $40 million boy-and-his-underwater-monster fantasy The Water Horse reached a cume of $40.9 million. In the cast: Alex Etel as the boy, Oscar nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, 1996; Hilary and Jackie, 1998), Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey, and Brian Cox.

As can be attested by the figures included above, none of the three titles managed to get even close to recouping their reported budgets – which don’t include additional marketing and distribution costs – at the North American winter box office.

10,000 BC movie Camilla Belle10,000 BC movie with Camilla Belle. Roland Emmerich’s critical disaster has become a winter box office hit – to some extent.

Reviled Roland Emmerich adventure flick 10,000 BC is top movie on domestic weekend chart

Winter box office – March 7–9: BC – Despite having been massacred by U.S. critics, Roland Emmerich’s Warner Bros.-distributed prehistoric adventure tale 10,000 BC – about grunting mammoth hunters and a comely blue-eyed maiden – was the no. 1 movie at the North American box office this past weekend, grossing an okay $35.9 million from 3,410 venues.

Just okay?

10,000 BC cost a reported $105 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses. For that reason, a $35.9 million domestic debut from 3,410 venues is no more than just okay.

On the plus side, 10,000 BC has also opened in 20 overseas territories, where it collected an estimated $25.3 million. In other words, if – and this is a big if – there are going to be profits stemming from the theatrical run of their movie, producers and distributors should thank the international market.

In the 10,000 BC cast: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, and Cliff Curtis. Narration by veteran Omar Sharif (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for Lawrence of Arabia, 1962).

College Road Trip trailing far behind at no. 2 while The Bank Job goes bust

Another new entry, Walt Disney Pictures’ College Road Trip trailed 10,000 BC by a wide margin, raking in $13.6 million from 2,706 sites. The Roger Kumble-directed comedy stars Martin Lawrence as an overprotective father who wants to ensure that his college-age daughter (Raven-Symoné) will enroll in the right institution (of his choice). Also in the cast: Kym Whitley, Donny Osmond, and Arnetia Walker.

In fifth place, Lionsgate’s real-life-based, London-set heist thriller The Bank Job debuted with a meager $5.9 million from 1,603 locations. In the cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Keeley Hawes, and Daniel Mays. Roger Donaldson directed.

This past weekend’s only other “major” new release was Focus Features’ Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, starring Amy Adams and Best Actress Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo, 1996), which opened in eleventh place with an underwhelming $2.5 million from 535 sites.

Will Ferrell sports comedy Semi-Pro has amateurish debut

Winter box office – Feb. 29–March 2: Will Ferrell’s latest sports comedy, the basketball-centered New Line Cinema release Semi-Pro, was North American moviegoers’ top choice this past weekend, earning (an estimated) $15.2 million from 3,121 theaters.

Sounds good or…?

Here’s a little context: The Will Ferrel sports comedies Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby opened with, respectively, $33 million (March 2007) and $47 million (August 2006). On a global scale, the commercial prospects of Semi-Pro are even more dire, as neither previous Will Ferrell comedy fared at all well at the international box office (reportedly – and respectively – $27 million and $15 million).

Directed by Kent Alterman, Semi-Pro also features Woody Harrelson, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, André Benjamin, Jackie Earle Haley, and cameos by the likes of Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Patti LaBelle, and Ed Helms.

Vantage Point sharply down, The Other Boleyn Girl in fourth

Last weekend’s box office champion, Vantage Point, was down a steep 44 percent at no. 2, with $12.8 million, lifting its domestic total to $40.8 million after 10 days.

A series of chronicles – from various vantage points – of an assassination attempt on the U.S. president, Pete Travis’ political action thriller features Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Édgar Ramírez, Ayelet Zurer, Eduardo Noriega, Best Actor Oscar winners Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, 2006) and William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985), and three-time nominee Sigourney Weaver.

At no. 3, Mark Waters’ adventure tale The Spiderwick Chronicles took in $8.7 million, down 34 percent from the previous weekend. Based on the book series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, the Paramount release reached a cume of $55 million after a solid three-weekend run.

In the cast: Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, Andrew McCarthy, and Oscar nominees David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck., 2005) and Joan Plowright (Enchanted April, 1992), plus the voices of Martin Short, Ron Perlman, Seth Rogen, and two-time Oscar nominee Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides, 1991; Affliction, 1998).

Based on Philippa Gregory’s 2001 novel, new entry The Other Boleyn Girl debuted in fourth place, grossing a respectable $8.2 million from 1,166 venues. Directed by Justin Chadwick and starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Eric Bana, the period drama tells the story of sisters Mary Boleyn (Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (Portman) – the former, the mistress of King Henry VIII (Bana); the latter, one of his many wives.

Also in the cast: Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, 1996), Mark Rylance, Jim Sturgess, David Morrissey, Oliver Coleman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ana Torrent, Eddie Redmayne, Juno Temple, and Andrew Garfield.

Cloverfield movieCloverfield: Monster movie tops domestic (early) winter box office.

New York City-devouring Cloverfield monster rips romantic comedy 27 Dresses

Winter box office – Jan. 18–20: With $40.1 million from 3,411 theaters, Paramount’s monster-on-a-rampage movie Cloverfield easily destroyed the competition at the North American (U.S. and Canada) box office this past weekend, thus becoming the first sizable big-screen hit of 2008, soaring past – if one chooses to ignore inflation – the $35.9 million record January opening of the 1997 rerelease of George LucasStar Wars.

Produced by J.J. Abrams of TV’s Lost and, as director, of the Tom Cruise hit Mission: Impossible III, and directed by Matt Reeves from a screenplay by Drew Goddard, Cloverfield is a sort of Godzilla meets The Host meets Independence Day meets Friday the 13th meets real-life terrorist attacks.

Featuring plenty of special effects and a mostly little-known cast – Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman – the sleeper hit cost a reported $25 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses.

Of course, the question now is how well Cloverfield will hold in the coming weeks. In any case, expect New York City – like Tokyo back in the day – to be redestroyed in the not too distant future.

Directed by Anne Fletcher, 20th Century Fox’s new entry 27 Dresses landed in second place, scoring $23 million from 3,057 venues. The romantic comedy stars Katherine Heigl as a perennial bridesmaid charged with planning her sister’s wedding; as it happens, the prospective husband is the man (Edward Burns) with whom the bridesmaid has been secretly in love. But is it all for real? Also in the 27 Dresses cast: Malin Akerman as the sister, James Marsden as a cynical reporter, and Judy Greer.

Critical dud The Bucket List down at no. 3 + sedated Mad Money

Last weekend’s top movie, Rob Reiner’s much-panned comedy The Bucket List, dropped to no. 3, earning $14.1 million. The Warner Bros. release lifted its domestic total to a so-so $41.6 million after four weekends.

In the cast: Three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975; Terms of Endearment, 1983; As Good As It Gets, 1997) and Best Supporting Actor winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, 2004).

Of note: At no. 4 with $10 million, Jason Reitman’s sleeper hit Juno has reached $85.1 million after seven weekends. The generally well-regarded comedy failed to collect any Golden Globes, but its expansion to 2,534 venues two weeks ago has considerably boosted its box office profile. In the cast of this Fox Searchlight release: Likely Best Actress Oscar nominee Ellen Page as the titular pregnant teen, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, and Allison Janney.

Lastly, new entry Mad Money opened in sixth place, with a weekend gross of a mere $7.7 million from 2,470 locations. In the cast: Oscar winner Diane Keaton (Annie Hall, 1977), Ted Danson, Katie Holmes, Adam Rothenberg, and Best Supporting Actress nominee Queen Latifah (Chicago, 2002). Director: Callie Khouri (Best Original Screenplay winner for Thelma & Louise, 1991).

National Treasure: Book of Secrets Nicolas CageNational Treasure: Book of Secrets with Nicolas Cage: The no. 1 hit at the North American (minus Mexico) winter box office.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets & I Am Legend edging closer to major domestic box office milestones

Winter Box Office – Jan. 4–6: The Oscars be damned. Walt Disney Pictures’ National Treasure: Book of Secrets – the critically lambasted sequel to the equally derided 2004 blockbuster National Treasure – has topped the North American box office for three straight weekends since its debut at the start of winter. The Jon Turteltaub-directed action adventure is now edging closer to the $200 million domestic milestone after collecting another $20.1 million. Cume to date: $170.8 million.

In the cast: Best Actor Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, 1995) as treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood, Oscar winners Helen Mirren (The Queen, 2006) and Jon Voight (Coming Home, 1978), and nominees Ed Harris and Harvey Keitel.

Trailing both National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Jason Reitman’s Juno, Francis Lawrence’s Warner Bros.-distributed I Am Legend added $15.7 million to its domestic take, thus getting nearer to the $250 million domestic milestone. Cume to date: $228.1 million.

In the cast of this revamped adaptation of Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic novel previously filmed with Charlton Heston (as The Omega Man): Oscar nominee Will Smith (Ali, 2001; The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, and Willow Smith.

Lastly, in case you’d like to go further back in time, here’s a quick look at last year’s domestic summer box office and fall box office.

Update: National Treasure: Book of Secrets reached the $200 million milestone on Jan. 23; its final cume was $220 million, easily making it the biggest domestic winter box office release. A late fall release, I Am Legend reached $250 million on Jan. 25; its final cume was $256.4 million.


“Winter box office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “Winter Box Office: Critical Misfire Is Top Movie” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via various sources, including BOM.

Comments about a movie being profitable or a money-loser at the box office are based on the available data about its production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production budget), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that contractual details and data regarding pre-sales, rebates, and other credits that help to split/alleviate production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for).

Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office gross at top-priced theaters.

Sean Faris Never Back Down movie image: Summit Entertainment.

Camilla Belle 10,000 BC movie image: Warner Bros.

Cloverfield movie image: Paramount Pictures.

Nicolas Cage National Treasure: Book of Secrets image: Walt Disney Pictures.

“Winter Box Office: Critical Misfire Is Top Movie” last updated in February 2022.

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