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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I can’t believe that we’ve already done twenty of these little articles already. The time just flies by when movies fail, I guess. 2012 has been an up year at the box office (even more so than the ridiculously lucrative year that was 2009). The only real massive flops happened months and months ago, but there have been plenty of other films that have disappointed recently. Today I’m going to take a look at two recently released pictures (one small, one big) that have so far floundered at the box office, discussing why exactly I think each has failed to capture the public’s eye.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
The second collaboration between Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik (the first was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2007), Killing Them Softly is the story of Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a hitman hired by the mafia to clean up after a poker robbery. The film is based on a novel written in 1974, but Dominik updated the setting of the film to 2008 New Orleans, set against the backdrop of the 2008 election. Killing Them Softly received positive critical praise, accumulating a 76% score at Rotten Tomatoes. The film, however, opened with some of the lowest box office numbers of Brad Pitt’s career, and fell by an additional 60% on its second weekend. So, what exactly went wrong?
Delayed from an original September release date (in order to avoid The Master), Killing Them Softly opened wide on November 30th, one of the least robust box office weekends of the year. Despite the presence of A-lister Brad Pitt, this particular weekend is often seen as a dumping ground, which did not bode well for the film. Other, more popular, choices including Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Skyfall continued to post strong numbers because of their established brand, but it seemed folks weren’t in the mood for a talky, lengthy, contemplative piece of filmmaking during the holiday season. Despite the critical praise heaped upon Killing Them Softly, audiences found the film intolerable, grading it the dreaded and rare ‘F’ Cinemascore (which, unbelievably, does not happen all that often). Though the film has so far managed to out-gross its budget if worldwide numbers are factored in, Killing Them Softly has to be seen as a disappointment for The Weinstein Company.
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Rise of the Guardians is the latest animated feature film from Dreamworks (distributed by Paramount). Guardians, like this year’s massively popular The Avengers, is a team-up movie. This time, however, instead of superheroes we see various popular fictions of our collective childhood imagination (including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, and the Tooth Fairy) working together towards a common goal. Featuring an enormously talented barrage of actors (including Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, and Isla Fisher) in voiceover roles, Rise of the Guardians sees our heroes teaming up to take on the villainous Bogeyman (Jude Law), saving the world from threatening children with the dead specter of his awesome fearitude. Opening over the normally lucrative Thanksgiving holiday, Rise of the Guardians disappointed in its debut, grossing only 23 million dollars against a budget of 145 million. So, what exactly went wrong?
In a word, competition – the downfall of Rise of the Guardians (which could easily still contend for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature despite its low gross) can be attributable to the enormous competition it played against. Released just a few short weeks after the well-liked and well-received Wreck-It Ralph and during the same weekend as Life of Pi, Rise of the Guardians was probably an afterthought for most moviegoers. Additionally, Ralph and Pi also drew better reviews. The one-two juggernaut of Twilight and James Bond also continued to enthrall moviegoers, selling millions of tickets on their own. Though its gross has held up in the few weeks since its disappointing opening, Rise of the Guardians isn’t a lock to do 100 million in box office, let alone gross as much as its budget back in domestic receipts. Overseas totals will eventually help, but as of right now, Guardians is looking like one of the year’s biggest misfires.