'Watch' leads anemic weekend
Posted September 23, 2012
Despite four new films, including one from Clint Eastwood, Hollywood couldn't pull itself out of the September doldrums as nearly every movie barely met expectations or under-performed.
The cop drama End of Watch and the horror film House at the End of the Street tied for first with $13 million each, according to studio estimates from box office tracker Hollywood.com. Final figures will settle the tie Monday.
Of the two, Watch had the better showing, as it played on fewer screens than House. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, Watch met the lower end of projections despite stellar reviews. About 85% of critics liked it, according to survey site Rottentomatoes.com.
The film may have a brighter future than its competition, thanks to fan response: According to the site, 92% of fans enjoyed it, a good sign in a slow fall.
House's future may not be so bright. While it tied for first, it earned thumbs-up from just 14% of critics and 59% of fans.
Ray Subers of Boxofficemojo.com called the slate of newcomers "middling," and said none of their performances "were very impressive."
The slowdown began in August and has continued through September, as no breakout hit has invaded theaters since July 20's The Dark Knight Rises.
"The overall box office looks like it has the blahs," says Todd Cunningham of industry website Thewrap.com.
Count among the cinematic shrugs Clint Eastwood's baseball drama Trouble with the Curve, which analysts predicted would win the box office with at least $16 million. Instead, the movie did $12.7 million, good for third place. The movie got a thumbs-up from just 53% of critics and 66% of fans, says Rottentomatoes.com.
But analysts wondered whether Eastwood's one-man monologue with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention turned off some audiences.
"Insert your own 'empty chairs' joke here," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.
Briody says that debut "isn't a bad opening. But it does feel somewhat surprising that Clint Eastwood's first acting role since Gran Torino (which did $148 million in 2008) wasn't worth more."
Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com says that stars take a chance with their box office any time they become politically vocal.
"George Clooney and Sean Penn probably lose some moviegoers because of their political position," he says. "It's just a chance you take."
The cartoon re-release Finding Nemo 3D was fourth with $9.5 million, followed by the horror film Resident Evil: Retribution with $6.7 million.
The last major newcomer, Dredd 3D, took sixth with $6.3 million. Analysts were expecting at least $12 million from the sci-fi cop movie.
The industry has all but lost its momentum in ticket sales over 2011. Attendance remains up just 1.3% ahead of last year, Hollywood.com says.
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