With kids out of school for spring break and loved ones gathered to celebrate the Easter holiday, family films dominated the box office. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder’s figure-skating comedy Blades of Glory (No. 1) landed another triple lutz and earned its second gold medal with a terrific $23 million haul over the three-day weekend, according to Sunday’s estimates. Meanwhile, fellow holdover Meet the Robinsons (No. 2 with $17 mil) and the Ice Cube-starring opener Are We Done Yet? (No. 3 with a strong $15 mil) took silver and bronze.
But the big story was in what they left behind at No. 4: Grindhouse. The Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez exploitation homage grossed a paltry $11.6 mil — a sum way below pretty much all predictions, including, ahem, mine. So, okay, navel-gazing time! What went wrong? Certainly, it wasn’t a lack of buzz or bad reviews, because the film had plenty of both to spare: It scored a strong 78 out of 100 on Metacritic.com and earned a solid B+ CinemaScore grade from viewers.
Rather, I think, blame should go to Grindhouse’s R rating, its release date on a weekend when audiences clearly weren’t in the mood for a violent genre picture, and its three-hour-plus length. Any of those debits alone wouldn’t have been so bad, but the combination was deadly. Only 17 movies with running times in excess of three hours have ever opened wide, and the last wide-opening three-hour film that was also rated R was The Green Mile, seven years ago. (While Pearl Harbor, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and King Kong all bowed with more than $50 mil, The Green Mile made a more mundane $18 mil.) In other words, this kind of release is rare, and even though it sometimes works for major event films, Grindhouse’s fate helps explain why studios don’t put out such super-long, super-violent movies more often. Now, I suppose this movie could recoup its $53 mil production budget on video, but its sharp decline over the weekend (it earned $5 mil on Friday, $4 mil on Saturday, and just $2.5 mil on Sunday) shows that it may have a hard time gaining cult status among folks outside of the Tarantino/Rodriguez fan base.
As it turned out, Grindhouse was hardly the only underperforming newcomer. Hilary Swank’s religious-themed horror movie, The Reaping, tallied just $10.1 mil to round out the top five (it sowed a rotten B- CinemaScore). Firehouse Dog was the weekend’s lone family-flick failure, coming in at No. 10 with a neutered $4 mil. Richard Gere’s fact-based dramedy The Hoax brought in a so-so $1.5 mil in 235 theaters. And the Hollywood satire The TV Set averaged a middling $5,019 in eight locations. All paled in comparison to the frame’s small-release champ, Paul Verhoeven’s foreign-language WWII epic Black Book, which averaged a strong $13,386 in only nine venues.
Overall, Easter weekend 2007 was up an impressive 10 percent over bunny time a year ago. And, hey, here’s to your holiday winding up just as sweet.