The fall movie season has begun, and all we can say is, Bring back summer!
Like the guys who sweep up the elephant dung after the circus has paraded through town, the first autumn releases tiptoed into movie theaters. Rather, one of them sauntered Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself, which ignored the critics and most of the Caucasian movie audience to clean up with $24 million while the rest staggered. It's as if the longest possible summer stanza (from May 1 to Sept. 7) had finally collapsed from satiety. Hollywood would say it was a grand gorging: all-time box-office records were broken both in North America and abroad.
Perry doesn't need outside directors, writers or big-name co-stars; he can do box office all by himself. Made on the cheap at his studio in Atlanta, his raucous, down-home, Christian-tinged comedy-dramas bring out imposing masses of African Americans the largest niche audience in the country. This was his third highest opening weekend, behind two movies that featured his tart-talking drag grandma in the title: Madea's Family Reunion and Madea Goes to Jail, which respectively grossed $63.3 million and $90.5 million. By doing the Lord's work with a touch of sass, Perry has proved himself a prophet who makes a profit.
I Can Do Bad easily outgrossed the other three new entries in wide release. Shane Acker's visually imaginative animated feature 9, which finished second with $10.9 million, benefited from being presented by Tim Burton, as District 9 had by its Peter Jackson connection, but is unlikely to escape its art-house patina. The other two newbies the horror film Sorority Row and Kate Beckinsale's Antarctica killer-hunt drama Whiteout got the theatrical equivalent of a window display in a video store before their imminent DVD releases; each took in just over $5 million.
Here are the official studio estimates for this weekend's Top 10 movies:
1. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself, $24 million, first weekend
2. 9, $10.9 million, first weekend
3. Inglourious Basterds, $6.5 million; $104.3 million, fourth week
4. All About Steve, $5.8 million; $21.8 million, second week
5. The Final Destination, $5.5 million; $58.3 million, third week
6. Sorority Row, $5.3 million, first weekend
7. Whiteout, $5.1 million, first weekend
8. District 9, $3.6 million; $108.5 million, fifth week
9. Julie & Julia, $3.3 million; $85.3 million, sixth week
10. Gamer, $3.1 million; $16.1 million, second week
In a month when nothing much new is happening, Hollywood moguls look back at the blockbuster summer; they might be teenage girls who can't forget the boys on the beach. Moneywise, the memories will be sweet. Transformers 2 hit the $400 million mark, Harry Potter 6 wand-ered toward $300 million, and Up and The Hangover weren't far behind. The robotoid sequel is just the ninth film to enter the 400 Club, and soon it will pass No. 8, Spider-Man though adjusted for inflation, Transformers 2 is just 67th.
A few summer surprises. The bargain-basement sci-fi epic District 9 surged on ecstatic reviews and fanboy support past $100 million. With Inglourious Basterds and may I never have to type that misspelled title again Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt got people to sit through a 2½-hr. film mostly in foreign languages; it too has surpassed $100 million domestic, and is nearing that abroad. And female stars whacked their male counterparts in the season's comedies. Movies featuring Sandra Bullock (The Proposal), Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) all outgrossed films starring Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost), Adam Sandler (Funny People) and Jack Black (Year One).
North America isn't the only place where people buy movie tickets. Just as much money is to be had abroad, and there the big hits were Harry Potter 6 and ... huh?... Ice Age 3! The CGI comedy has earned a woolly-mammoth $614 million in foreign climes, $200 million more than Transformers and nearly five times as much as Up, which is just opening throughout much of Europe. That means you'll see more prehistoric capers and sequels of all kinds, since the international audience is even more conservative than the American. Black ink for the movie business is not necessarily good news for adventurous moviegoers.
Here are the final figures as of Sept. 7 for the Top 10 summer movies each with domestic gross, foreign gross and worldwide total, respectively in millions (m):
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $400.7 m, $430 m, $830.7 m
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $297.6 m, $619.7 m, $917.2 m
3. Up, $290.9 m, $124.9 m, $415.1 m
4. The Hangover, $272.2 m, $168.3 m, $440.5 m
5. Star Trek, $257.1 m, $126.4 m, $383.6 m
6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, $194.2 m, $613.8 m, $808 m
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $180 m, $183.5 m, $363.4 m
8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, $176.7 m, $227.6 m,
9. The Proposal, $161.1 m, $109.8 m, $271 m
10. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, $141 m, $138.8 m, $279.9 m