The Northeast is blanketed in 10 of inches of snow — sounds like the perfect time to curl up in a blanket in front of the TV and catch up on your Netflix queue. Great for you (and the hot cocoa industry), but kind of a bummer for the movies that opened in theaters this weekend. If people in Massachusetts can’t leave their homes under orders from the governor, what will become of Identity Thief and Side Effects, the biggest new releases of the week?
While their box office numbers may certainly take a hit, Hollywood.com’s President of Box Office Paul Dergarabedian says that this weekend’s massive blizzard (unofficially dubbed “Nemo” by the Weather Channel) won’t necessarily affect how much money the movies earn over the weekend.
“The weather plays a factor, obviously,” he says. “If people can’t get to a movie theater or the weather is so inclement that the better option is to stay home, there’s no question that on a regional or local basis that can hurt the box office. Studios want every available audience member to have the opportunity to get to a theater. However, in my experience, if the weather in the rest of the country is good, you can still have a solid box office. If the box office is down for a particular movie, it means that the weather affected it, but it probably wasn’t going to do very well anyway.”
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Essentially, inclement weather is a wonderful excuse for movie studios that need to point fingers for an under-performing movie. “The weather is a great scapegoat,” Dergarabedian says. “There have been plenty of bad weather weekends where the box office was up versus the comparable weekend the year before.”
That said, there’s no question the blizzard will cause problems. Some of the highest-grossing theaters in the country are located in New York City, which is bad news for everyone. And because Steven Soderbergh’s films tend to perform better in cities like New York and Los Angeles, if NYC traffic is impeded, Side Effects will certainly take a hit.
With that in mind, Hollywood.com decided to take a cursory look at how past weather disasters have affected the nationwide box office haul in recent years.
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Hurricane Sandy (Oct. 26-28, 2012)
There’s no question the weather certainly played a part in the low box office numbers as a hurricane ravaged the Northeast, but while Argo came in first place in its third weekend of release (a strong showing) with $12.35 million, hard weather (and anticipation of the storm’s landfall) hammered new releases Silent Hill and Fun Size. Silent Hill tied for fifth, while Fun Size barely made 10th place.
Hurricane Irene (Aug. 26-28, 2011)
The storm didn’t really hit the U.S. until the Sunday, Aug. 28, so it makes sense that Sunday was a particularly low-grossing day. None of the new releases could stop the reign of The Help, which came in first place for the third week in a row with $14.5 million, per BoxOfficeMojo, but all three — Columbiana ($10.4 million), Our Idiot Brother ($7.0 million), and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ($8.5 million) — finished in the top five.
Hurricane Katrina (Sept. 2-4, 2005)
The year was already unimpressive in terms of ticket sales, but Katrina’s effect on movie-going could certainly be felt. The storm destroyed movie theaters across the Gulf Coast — among so many other things — as people in the rest of the country watched their TV screens helplessly. Plus, the weekend after the storm, Labor Day weekend, is a typically low-grossing time. Still, the widest new release, Transporter 2, managed to come in first with $20.1 million over the holiday weekend, while the previous weekend’s winner, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, pulled in a respectable number too with $16.6 million.
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What did we learn? Essentially, the severity of the storm matters. Hurricane Irene caused massive destruction in certain areas, but nothing as wide-ranging as Katrina (or even Sandy). Therefore, the box office didn’t suffer too much that particular weekend. Katrina’s height of destruction came mid-week, so although the Gulf Coast was devastated, the overall box office numbers didn’t take a massive hit. In the case of Sandy, though, which struck over a weekend, the new releases performed poorly — which means Identity Thief and Side Effects could suffer similarly.
As Dergarabedian notes, the only bad weather that means good things for the box office is a heat wave. “People tend to cocoon and stay indoors during bad weather. The only time when bad weather is a good thing for movies is when it’s very hot. People want to go into movie theaters and stay cool.”
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Open Road Films]
Doesn't it seem like, more and more, the Oscars are only handed out to a select few that Hollywood has deemed worthy? It's like anything that Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, or Amy Adams does gets a nomination more as a reflex than as an actual consideration. If Meryl had actually faked an orgasm in Hope Springs you could expect to see her name up there on the official nominees list. This year the nominations seem to spell a trend away from nominating people for the first time. It's hard to find a virgin to sacrifice this year.
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There are only six people nominated for Best Director or in all four of the acting categories who haven't been nominated before. Of those six people two – Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper – are already giant Hollywood stars, one – QIWillNeverLearnHowToSpellThis Wallace – is only 9 years old and hasn't had time to act in anything else, and one – director Michael Haneke – we shouldn't even count because his 2009 movie The White Ribbon won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Who does that leave us with? Emmanuelle Riva, who is a French actress and, well, Americans really hate subtitles, don't they? Yes, they do. The only one who really leaves us with is Benh Zeitlin, the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild. That is an acceptable first-time nominee.
Aside from Ben(Don't Forget The)h, it's almost as if these newbies don't even count. Meanwhile, for the first time ever, the Best Supporting Actor category is full of men who have each won at least one Oscar. Yes, these people are going to be getting the gold for the second time and meanwhile John Hawkes, who gave the performance of the year in The Sessions, didn't get any love at all. Or what about Jack Black totally changing gears in Bernie? But no, let's dip back into the well-worn Oscar well. In fact, of the 25 nominees, there are 19 Oscars already awarded, and that goes up to 21 if you count Spielberg's two trophies he didn't win for Best Director.
This is a recent trend because back in 2010, 14 of the 25 nominations were first timers and four of the five winners (Kathryn Bigelow, Sandra Bullock, Christoph Waltz, and Mo'Nique) had never seen the Nominees Luncheon before. In 2011 that was down to 11 nominees and 2 wins (Tom Hoopper and Christian Bale) and that number shrunk again last year with 10 nominees and 3 wins (Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin, and Octavia Spencer) with two of those winners making their American film debut. This year we can have a max of three new winners, but it will probably be more like zero (and not of the dark thirty variety). None of these people, right now, are frontrunners.
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So, why are we just recycling old material when it comes to the Oscars? It might be because the voters are older and nominate and then vote for people they already know. It's easier to write down Naomi Watts than try to figure out how to spell the young Ms. Wallace's first name. And when it comes to campaigning, so much of it has to do with past snubs and oversights that the Oscar often goes to someone as sort of a lifetime tribute rather than for that one specific role. (Heck, Melissa McCarthy even won an Emmy because she lost an Oscar.)
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It's also harder to get a movie made these days, especially if there isn't a known quality. Getting someone to plop down a bunch of coin for anything by Spielberg or for a giant movie musical based on one of the most popular stage shows of all time (Les Mis, of course) than some experimental allegory about giant beasts and post-Katrina New Orleans. But when they do put that money down, it can really pay off.
The Oscars shouldn't just be about glad-handing the usual suspects (except, when Kevin Spacey won) but also about discovering and rewarding new talent so that the luster of the ceremony can rub off on the most deserving so that they can go on to bigger and better projects. A nomination is not only a chance to win, but a launching pad, something that has given us some of our best and brightest stars. We wouldn't have Amy Adams 100th consecutive nomination if she didn't get plucked from obscurity and nominated for Junebug. Sure, sometimes it doesn't work out (I haven't seen Mo'Nique's apostrophe in quite some time) but we're always grateful when it does. While Daniel Day-Lewis may be deserving of his third (third!) statuette, maybe it would behoove the Academy to start making the next generation of celebrities before this one goes entirely extinct.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, Universal Pictures]
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There should be a rule stating if a movie has already won the Academy Award for Best Picture it should never EVER be remade at a later time no matter who is involved. Why mess with a good thing? The 1949 All the King's Men based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren starred Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark a 1950s Louisiana politician who uses fiery rhetoric to get the poor folk to elect him as governor but who becomes corrupt in the process and is eventually assassinated. The story is loosely based on the real-life legendary 1930s Louisiana governor Huey P. Long and the original film adaptation was equally brazen and subtle wonderfully executed and won three Oscars including the top prize. But apparently the original wasn’t as authentic as this current incarnation. This time Sean Penn stars as our prime filibuster who tries to keep things lively but gets bogged down by the muddled subplots especially the one involving Stark’s PR guy Jack Burden (Jude Law) and his relationships with his very Southern godfather (Anthony Hopkins) and childhood friends (Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo). Yawn. With a cast like this it’s no wonder King's Men got remade. Penn clearly stands out of course. How could he not? His Willie Stark is the only thing sparking anything close to life in the film. But with the part such as it is Penn also tends to unnecessarily chew up scenery while everyone stands around him in a wilting repose. Law—once again narrating the proceedings (must he do this in ALL his films?)—tries to embody a character who really doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about anything except being Stark’s beck and call boy even after all the horrible things Stark makes him do to the people he supposedly loves. Winslet as Jack’s unrequited childhood love Ruffalo as her put-upon brother and Hopkins as a former judge who stands in Stark’s way to success are all just completely wasted. As is Patricia Clarkson as Stark’s campaign manager and mistress Sadie Burke who was so brilliantly played by the Oscar-winning Mercedes McCambridge in the 1949 original. Whatever happened in translation is surely not Clarkson fault. Come on guys you’ve got a powerhouse crew here. Why fritter them away? Apparently redoing All the King's Men has been a dream project of political pundit James Carville one of the film’s producers for some time. He has dabbled here and there in the entertainment industry especially in the riveting documentary The War Room so periodically through the years Carville would mention to filmmakers in passing how he had a passion for Robert Penn Warren’s novel and how deeply he wanted to see it filmed authentically. Lo and behold someone finally listened and a new King's Men was underway helmed by writer/director Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) with an all-star cast. Filming on location in New Orleans and the outlying areas of Louisiana just before Hurricane Katrina hit Zaillian provides the faithfulness Carville was looking for. But did anyone at any time ask the question “Why are we doing this movie again when it was already done so well?” I repeat it was a Best Picture winner for chrissakes. And now remaking it into a giant snore-fest just ruins the mystique. Sometimes they just don’t get it.