Christmas weekend was a tough one at the box office with overall revenues down 45% vs. the same weekend a year ago.
The latest installment in the successful comedy franchise that started 10 years ago, Universal’s Little Fockers is poised to bring yet another number one debut home for Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. Meet the Parents was the 7th highest grossing release of year 2000 earning $166.2 million in the wake of a weekend debut of $28.6 million. Its sequel, 2004’s Meet the Fockers switched to the holiday season by opening on Wednesday December 22 and earned $46.1 million in its first weekend and a whopping $70.5 million in its first five days on its way to becoming the 4th highest grossing film of that year with $279.2 million. This latest Fockers landed between the first two with $34 million for the weekend and $48.3 million in its first five days.
True Grit is a very worthy re-make of the 1969 film starring John Wayne as the crusty Rooster Cogburn, Glen Campbell as La Boeuf, Jeff Corey as Tom Chaney and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. The Coen Brothers make a very faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis novel while paying homage to the original film and at the same time putting their signature visual stamp on the film. With Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, Matt Damon as La Boeuf and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney and incredible newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, True Grit is an Oscar contender for sure and has been on the top of many a moviegoer’s must-see list for months. A much bigger-than-expected debut of $25.6 million for the weekend and an impressive $36.8 million for the Wednesday through Sunday time frame make this one a true winner. Look for “True Grit” to be a long term performer at the box office well into 2011.
Last weekend’s number one film Tron: Legacy from Disney landed in the third spot with $20.1 million over the Christmas weekend and is now closing in on the $90 million mark. The action sci-fi film has done well all mid-week with impressive daily grosses is maintaining a solid audience base through the holidays. Interestingly this gave Jeff Bridges a rare opportunity to become Mr. Box Office with the number two and three films for the weekend.
Fourth and fifth place saw two PG-rated family films going at it with Fox’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in its third weekend earning $10.8 million and Warner Bros.’ Yogi Bear right behind it with $8.8 million. Both films gave kids and families a great option for their post and pre-Christmas shopping entertainment. Of course this bottleneck also included the second week of wide release for Paramount’s The Fighter which continues to draw accolades across the board and earned $8.5 million for the weekend and a domestic total that is closing in on the $30 million mark. Another newcomer in the mix is Twentieth Century Fox’s Friday opener Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black earning which opened in the seventh spot with $7.2 million.
In specialized film news, Weinstein Co.’s brilliant The King’s Speech expanded into 700 theatres nationwide on Christmas Day and cracked the top 12 earning $4.5 million as Sophia Coppola’s “Somewhere” earned over $20,000 per theatre in its 7 theatre debut.
Lionsgate’s Rabbit Hole ended XMAS day with a gross of $40,792 in 34 locations ($1,200 per theatre). A 3-Day weekend gross of $95,200 lifts the overall total for the film through Sunday to $176,000.
A 45% downturn vs. Christmas weekend a year ago sets up a slow end to the box office year of 2010 as specialized films and Oscar contenders reap the benefits of a lack of enthusiasm for the mainstream blockbusters. This was an important weekend at the movies as the year draws to a close, the final wide releases enter the marketplace and Oscar contenders continue to make their mark and impress audiences.
Weekend Box Office
Top 10 Movies - For Weekend of December 24, 2010 - Estimates
Movie Weekend Total
1 Little Fockers (PG-13) $34.0 M $48.3 M
2 True Grit (PG-13) $25.6 M $36.8 M
3 Tron: Legacy (PG) $20.1 M $88.3 M
4 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG) $10.8 M $63.9 M
5 Yogi Bear (PG) $8.8 M $36.8 M
6 The Fighter (R) $8.5 M $27.6 M
7 Gulliver's Travels (PG) $7.2 M $7.2 M
8 Black Swan (R) $6.6 M $29.0 M
9 Tangled (PG) $6.5 M $143.8 M
10 The Tourist (PG-13) $5.7 M $41.2 M
If no one kills themselves while watching Little Fockers this weekend it will be a Christmas miracle. Sure there have been some bad films so far this year but none will make you long for the merciful touch of the Grim Reaper upon your shoulder like the latest entrant in the Meet the Parents saga. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoys the original film (and reluctantly tolerates the second).
Looking on the sunny side of things however at least Little Fockers is the best alien invasion film of 2010. I mean that is the narrative here right? Pod people have taken over the lives of the Fockers and the Byrnes replacing their once moderately charming attempts at bumbling-based comedy with some kind of extra-terrestrial anti-comedy designed to test the patience of normal human beings. That's the only rational defense of the film I can think of. Surely no one who actually lives on planet Earth thinks that you can fashion a complete motion picture — particularly one starring Robert De Niro Ben Stiller Teri Polo Blythe Danner Owen Wilson Harvey Keitel Laura Dern and yes even Jessica Alba — out of nothing but a chain that interlinks the most face-palming no-one-acts-like-that misunderstandings possible with repeated fart barf and penis humor.
Grandpa Jack (De Niro) is getting to be an old man so he tells son-in-law Gaylord Focker that he needs to take over as the Godfocker. This piece of information is the alien code word that turns the previously-normal Gaylord into Pod Person Gaylord. He instantly begins to act out of character deciding for no clear reason that his twin five-year olds who have a fast-approaching birthday must now attend a prestigious private school that is way out of the family's budget. Pod Gaylord then decides to give in to pharmaceutical representative Jessica Alba's flirting and become a spokesperson for an erectile dysfunction drug.
Meanwhile Owen Wilson has re-entered the lives of the Fockers as Pod Kevin a world-travelling philosophically-confused twit whom everyone worships for no apparent reason. Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are back as well as Roz and Bernie Focker with the former now being the host of a talk show about sex toys and the latter suffering from a bout of "manopause" that finds him in Spain learning to be a World Class flamenco dancer. How does the re-integration of these three characters pay off exactly? Well Grandpa Jack wants to convince his daughter and happily married mother of his two grandchildren to divorce Pod Gaylord and marry Pod Kevin. Pod Roz's free-spirited theories about sex result in Pod Grandpa Jack getting an erection for five-and-a-half hours (and don't think for a second you'll be spared the image of an erect penis in Robert De Niro's pants). As for Bernie Focker ... well that one's tricky. As near as I can tell the only reason his character is conceived as being obsessed with the flamenco is so he can later inexplicably dance with a jiggly bra-clad Jessica Alba for approximately six seconds.
I'd apologize for that being a poor summary of the premise of Little Fockers but it's sadly an incredibly accurate one. There's no plot here. It's just a collection of scenes that ineptly fit together solely because they have the same people in them. And if this material is what passes for a feature film I cannot even fathom what the deleted scenes on the DVD will look like.
The crime here isn't even the bad (and often childish) jokes it's that all of the adults involved appear to have suddenly forgotten how to tell jokes at all. Words just tumble out of the actors' mouths never ever finding purchase with the audience. But that's okay because as soon as one gag arrives stillborn director Paul Weitz (who is taking over for previous series auteur Jay Roach) and screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey will break their necks trying to turn their attention to the next bit of hilarity. And the most astounding thing — the clincher that will make you want to stick a gun in your mouth — is that despite running from scene-to-scene as fast as possible Little Fockers feels like it's never going to end. You may think that it'll be passable light entertainment at just 98 minutes but you dangerously forget that these are 98 minutes of alien anti-comedy which equate to over 9000 minutes of human failure.