FUNNY PEOPLE LAYS AN EGG
Several critics on Friday indicated that Funny People isn't very funny. The same could be said for its box office results. Although it topped the box office, it earned only an estimated $23.4 million, making it the worst opening for a No. 1 film this year. Several reports suggested that it ended Judd Apatow's reputation as the comedy producer with the golden touch. It also represented another hard hit to Universal Studios, which has failed to produce a hit film all summer and, with corporate sibling NBC, continues to tax the resources of parent GE. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had been expected to increase business with its release on IMAX screens, ended up with $17.7 million -- at the low end of forecasts. Disney's G-Force, which debuted in first place a week ago, dropped to third place with $17.1 million. Perhaps the greatest disappointment, however, was 20th Century Fox's Aliens in the Attic, which opened with just $7.8 million, less than half what had been predicted for it. On the other hand, The Hangover earned another $5.1 million over the weekend to bring its total to $255.8 million, making it the third-highest-grossing movie this year. Overall, the box office was down a whopping 22 percent from the same weekend a year ago and bringing the total for the year below that of 2008. Attendance is down 4.4 percent after a striking rise at the beginning of the year.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:
1. Funny People, $23.4 million; 2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $17.7 million; 3. G-Force, $17.1 million; 4. The Ugly Truth, $13 million; 5. Aliens in the Attic, $7.8 million; 6. Orphan, $7.3 million; 7. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, $5.3 million; 8. The Hangover, $5.1 million; 9. The Proposal, $4.8 million. 10. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $4.6 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: ALIENS IN THE ATTIC
Aliens in the Attic, which was not pre-screened for critics, got mostly ho-hum reviews from them over the weekend. Peter Hartlaub's review in the San Francisco Chronicle was typical: "It's doubtful that many people will be asking for their money back after seeing this movie," he wrote. "But they won't be remembering too much about it 24 hours later, either." Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star had the identical reaction, calling the movie, "a forgettable bit of fluff that will zip out of your orbit as soon as the credits roll." Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel offered a few ideas for an ad campaign for the movie: "Aliens in the Attic: At least it's not I Love You Beth Cooper!" "Aliens in the Attic: Cheaper than G-Force 3D." Or "Aliens in the Attic: See it or we'll make a Chipmunks sequel!" At least Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Times found it "better than most movies that aren't screened in advance for critics."
UNIQUE PROMOTIONS FOR G.I. JOE
Paramount is attempting a different marketing strategy in its effort to promote next weekend's big-budget action movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Although the film has generated widely divergent opinions on entertainment blogs, tracking among moviegoers remains propitious, largely because the studio is targeting middle America, according to the Los Angeles Times. For example, the newspaper cited the decision to preview the movie at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, "embed" the movie in the Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tour, advertise it during the Country Music Television Awards, and screen excerpts on digital screens and billboards at the Mall of America and the streets of Kansas City, Charlotte, Columbus and Grand Rapids. "The subtext is none too subtle," the Times observed. "Critics are likely to roast the film, and fanboys of the original toy line and comic book may be indifferent, but if you're a flag-waving, NASCAR-loving American, it's practically your patriotic duty to see this movie." As Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore put it in an interview with the newspaper, "There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority. But we're making them a priority."
SPIELBERG PULLS RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT
Harvey, the imaginary rabbit in the eponymous Jimmy Stewart classic, will return in a remake to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Surprisingly, the movie will become a co-production not between Spielberg's DreamWorks and Disney -- which agreed to distribute DreamWorks films last February -- but between DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox. Initial reports indicated that Disney may still wind up distributing Harvey, although no mention of a distribution deal for the movie was made in the original announcement. Fox, whose chairman, Tom Rothman, reportedly brought the idea for the remake to Spielberg, will put up half the money for the movie; DreamWorks, through its deal with India's Reliance, will put up the other half. No mention was made about who will play the Jimmy Stewart role, although speculation immediately centered on Tom Hanks.