(Photo by Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection)
It was in 1993 that Hollywood realized the dream of putting a video game movie up on the big screen with Super Mario Bros., and setting the stage for a long legacy of questionable choices, troubled productions, and gamers’ pixel tears left in their wake. But like the kid who just has to pump in one more quarter to reach for that high score, the studios keep on trying (while the fans just keep on hoping), and we’re celebrating that sort of sheer tenacity with this guide to the best video game movies (and plenty of the worst) ranked by Tomatometer!
Here, you will find the near-decent (Rampage, Resident Evil), the should’ve-been-goods (Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft), the ridiculous-but-we-love-thems (Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill), and the ones made by Uwe Boll, who deserves his own category (Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead). We’re using a 20-review minimum cutoff for inclusion from theatrical releases only, because it’s not just enough to make a questionable movie, critics need to witness the aftermath, too.
And in May 2019, Detective Pikachu officially broke the video game curse! Fitting that Nintendo, whose Super Mario Bros. movie started all this trouble, would be the one to end it. And in another surprise 2019 development, the second Angry Birds movie has slingshot the naysayers by racking up plenty of critical praise, toppling Pikachu mere months after its release.
Then in 2020, when it didn’t seem it had a chili dog’s chance in hell, Sonic the Hedgehog to general critics enthusiasm, marking three Fresh video game movies in two years. And then, in 2021, Werewolves Within went Certified Fresh, establishing it as by-far the best-reviewed video game movie! The latest, Uncharted, dives back to familiar territory for this genre. See all the high scores (and lots and lots of the lows) with our guide to 48 video game movies, ranked worst to best! —Alex Vo
(Photo by Dee Cercone/Everett Collection)
During the early ’90s, while he was flashing his abs and modeling underwear as Marky Mark, few could have suspected that beneath Mark Wahlberg’s b-boy cap lurked the soul of a thespian. Now, that’s no longer the case — with dozens of roles and a pair of Academy Award nominations to his credit, Wahlberg has compiled an impressive filmography since making his big-screen debut in Danny DeVito’s 1994 comedy Renaissance Man. Since then, he’s branched out quite a bit, showing a flair for drama (Boogie Nights), comedy (Ted), and blockbuster action (Shooter, the Transformers franchise) along the way. It’s never a bad time to look back on Mr. Wahlberg’s career — and with that in mind, we’ve rounded up all of his major roles, sorting the bunch by Tomatometer. Where do your favorites rank? Read on to find out.
Ratchet & Clank: Recently re-imagined for your PlayStation 4, now appearing on the big screen for the first time. The movie invites viewers back to see the origin team-up of the duo (one a robot, the other a bobcat-ish thing, probably a descendant of prolific serial killer Bubsy), which inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery: a history of video games-based movies by Tomatometer!
As film fans know, video games have been used to inflict pain and senseless brutality at the cineplex for years now. In honor of that miserable tradition, we elected to devote this feature to a look back at some of the least entertaining game-to-film adaptations Hollywood’s ever produced, and while there was definitely no shortage of contenders, we narrowed it down to a particularly pungent few while making room for plenty of variety (in other words, only one Uwe Boll film made the list). Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start: It’s time for Total Recall!
(Photo by Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Here’s where we admit what many of you have known all along: If we’d done things a little differently, this list could have been largely comprised of Uwe Boll movies. For whatever reason, Mr. Boll has displayed a deep affinity for video game adaptations over the course of his remarkable career, and the “bad game movie” subgenre’s byways are clogged with the effluvia of his cinematic efforts. In the interest of variety, however, we decided to limit his appearances here, leaving us with one obvious choice: 2005’s Alone in the Dark, an alleged sci-fi thriller starring Christian Slater as a paranormal detective and Tara Reid as a scientist — both of whom are investigating the disappearance of an ancient civilization that prayed to space demons. Extremely loosely based on the Alone in the Dark game series — which was itself loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s writings — the movie found itself alone in the dark with scores of sparsely populated theaters playing host to scornful critics like the San Francisco Examiner’s Rossiter Drake, who guffawed, “The late Gene Siskel once devised a simple method of measuring a film’s worth: ‘Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?’ Alone in the Dark doesn’t come close to matching that standard.”
(Photo by Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)
He has since ascended to “franchise Viagra” status, but Dwayne Johnson’s early years as a Hollywood action hero were a little bumpy. After his breakout appearance in The Mummy Returns, he struggled to find a solid fit for his beefy build and natural screen charisma, occasionally turning in critically lauded performances in box-office misses (The Rundown) or working overtime to prop up misguided action flicks (Walking Tall). 2005’s Doom falls into the latter category, repurposing the hugely popular first-person shooter as a sci-fi thriller about a crew of soldiers sent to rescue a colony on Mars after residents accidentally open a portal to Hell and unleash a horde of murderous creatures. While the film included plenty of the tunnel-bound warfare that fans of the game had come to expect, the end result was — as critics would repeatedly point out regarding plenty of like-minded pictures over the years — more fun to play than to watch. “Doom,” pointed out Roger Ebert, “is like some kid came over and is using your computer and won’t let you play.”
(Photo by GramercyPictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
How do you make a movie out of a game based on nothing more than a pair of brothers pummeling the bejeesus out of bad guys? If you’re Double Dragon screenwriters Michael Davis and Peter Gould, the unfortunate answer is “come up with a convoluted story involving halves of a mystical amulet” — and things only went downhill from there, after director James Yukich built a cast that included future Party of Five veteran Scott Wolf and former Who’s the Boss? star Alyssa Milano. The result was a deeply hokey 90 minutes of low-budget chop-socky action that provoked near-universal guffaws from critics like Luke Y. Thompson of the New Times, who wondered, “How hard would it be to come up with a story at least as good as that of the original Nintendo game? Impossible, apparently.”
(Photo by 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection)
There have been so many lame game-to-film adaptations that it can be tempting to believe there’s simply no point in trying to bridge the two mediums, but there really are video games that look like they might make good movies; unfortunately, as 2007’s Hitman proved, even the most cinematic backstory doesn’t necessarily mean a polished final product. Starring Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, a member of an army of bald and bar-coded assassins who finds himself double-crossed by the shadowy organization that trained him from birth to kill, it looked on paper like just the sort of globe-trotting action thriller that might keep 007 fans satisfied between Bond sequels — yet the end result was a picture every bit as smoothly anonymous as its protagonist. A planned sequel was scrapped, and although Hitman’s $99 million box office tally ensured an eventual reboot (due in August) that might do a better job of distilling the game’s appeal, the original is still a case of sadly wasted potential. “47 doesn’t even want the girl,” pointed out a frustrated Tricia Olszewski for the Washington City Paper. “What kind of action movie is this? A skippable one, ultimately.”
(Photo by 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection)
For a certain breed of filmgoer, all you really need to make an entertaining movie is hand Mark Wahlberg a gun. Max Payne, director John Moore’s adaptation of the hit video game series about a vigilante cop gunning for justice after the murders of his wife, child, and partner, was made exactly for those people and pretty much no one else — with the possible exception of Sin City fans who want to watch a movie that wishes it could be Sin City, or maybe noir enthusiasts who feel the genre needs more murderous winged man-creatures. For just about everyone else, Max Payne is a painfully misguided hash of “gritty” action and digital effects, all directed within an inch of its life; as Michael Phillips wrote for the Chicago Tribune, “You find yourself rooting against Payne’s survival, even with a good actor in the hollow role. There’s nothing inside the film’s sour, slovenly spirit of vengeance.”
(Photo by New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection)
The first Mortal Kombat may not have been a major work of cinematic art, but it had its moments, and overall made for a pleasantly undemanding afternoon of chop-socky entertainment with mystical mumbo-jumbo overtones — and it was rewarded for achieving those limited goals with a surprising run of box office domination and a gross approaching $125 million. Sadly, little of that fun — or the original cast — remained by the time Mortal Kombat: Annihilation arrived in theaters, and the result was a box office bomb that put the nascent Kombat franchise into a development deep freeze from which, at the time of this writing, it’s still struggling to escape. “Never — at least not since the first Mortal Kombat,” sighed the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea, “has tedium been so loud, so full of backward flips and flying fists to the kissers of centaurs from another realm.”
(Photo by Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Critics pooped all over the first Silent Hill movie, but it made nearly $100 million anyway, so six years later we were treated to Silent Hill: Revelation, which picked up after the events of the first film (but followed the plot of the Silent Hill 3 video game) by following the harrowing new exploits suffered by Christopher Da Silva (a returning Sean Bean) and his adopted daughter Sharon (Adelaide Clemens) after her mother (Radha Mitchell) is trapped in a sinister ghost dimension. It’s a premise with a certain spine-tingling promise; alas, very little of it translated to the screen, and Silent Hill: Revelation ended up grossing roughly half of what the original made. “It’s never a good sign,” groaned Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times, “when the trailers playing before a film have richer, more complete narratives than the feature you’ve paid to see.”
(Photo by MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Given Street Fighter’s lowly reputation, one would hardly guess it made nearly $100 million during its box office run, but that’s the risk a filmmaker runs when he puts a beanie on Jean-Claude Van Damme and casts Raul Julia as a bizarre military dictator — and that’s exactly the sort of infamy that awaited this misbegotten attempt to turn mountains of arcade quarters into box office glory. As with Double Dragon, one of the chief problems was that of plot — specifically, how to spin one out of a game that revolved more or less solely around people beating each other up — and writer-director Steven de Souza compensated by imagining a surreal standoff between the megalomaniacal M. Bison (Julia) and a Megaforce-style military force dubbed the Allied Nations. We could delve into the narrative further, but the end result would be the same: Plenty of silly fight scenes and a heaping helping of horrible reviews from critics like Stephen Holden of the New York Times, who dismissed Street Fighter as “A dreary, overstuffed hodgepodge of poorly edited martial arts sequences and often unintelligible dialogue.”
(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
We all knew this was going to make the list, right? The grandaddy of all game-to-film box office bombs, 1990’s Super Mario Bros. was supposed to be gaming’s Hollywood coming-out party — proof that not only had video games truly arrived as entertainment with real staying power, but that gamers were an audience just waiting to be tapped by film studios who could make millions bringing pre-existing franchises to the big screen. All of which sounds great, but fails to take into account the fact that directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel were trying to make a movie out of a game about sibling plumbers who run through a series of bizarre worlds in pursuit of a princess who’s been captured by a giant turtle, and who have to battle an insane menagerie of villains (including sentient mushrooms) along the way. After an extensive casting search that included attempts to lure in Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks, the filmmakers eventually hired Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo to play brothers Mario and Luigi, while Dennis Hopper agreed to portray the villainous humanoid reptile-thing King Koopa, but all the acting talent in the world couldn’t have made a dent in the cacophonous mess that is Super Mario Bros., which turned out to be such a critical and commercial dud that the game’s developer, Nintendo, swore off film adaptations for decades. “Kids might get a charge out of the mayhem,” groaned the Charlotte Observer’s Lawrence Toppman. “I got the vapors.”
(Photo by 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection)
By the late ‘90s, Matthew Lillard and Freddie Prinze, Jr. were ready to graduate from teen romcoms… which they signaled, unfortunately, by signing up for the disastrous big-screen adaptation of Wing Commander, which found them trying in vain to wring big-screen thrills out of a hokey story involving a future interstellar war between humans and an alien race of catlike bipeds. It’s a premise that sounds thoroughly silly to Commander novices, and director Chris Roberts compounded the problem by making several key changes to the game’s characters and mythology that alienated core gamers who might have otherwise turned out for the film. Observed Anita Gates for the New York Times, “Wing Commander is based on a video game and has roughly the same degree of character development. That is all most moviegoers will need to know.”
No awards season would be complete without the Golden Raspberry Awards (AKA The Razzies), awarded each year to the very worst movies to hit Hollywood. This year’s winners will be announced on Oscar weekend; could multiple-nominee The Love Guru take home top honors? See the full list of nominees below.
This year, a few standout films and filmmakers nabbed multiple nominations, making for really good odds come February 21, when the Golden Raspberry winners will be announced. Leading the pack is Disaster Movie (2 percent on the Tomatometer), which managed to earn six nominations; The Hottie & the Nottie (5 percent), up for honors in five categories; and Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, which also earned the Teutonic Terror a Worst Career Achievement Razzie.
The complete list of nominees:
Worst Picture Nominations
Worst Actor Nominations
Mike Myers, The Love Guru
Worst Actress Nominations
The cast of The Women (Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Meg Ryan)
Paris Hilton, The Hottie & The Nottie
Worst Supporting Actor Nominations
Verne Troyer, The Love Guru & Uwe Boll’s Postal
Worst Supporting Actress Nominations
Carmen Electra, Disaster Movie & Meet the Spartans
Paris Hilton, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Kim Kardashian, Disaster Movie
Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Leelee Sobieski, 88 Minutes & In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Worst Screen Couple Nominations
Uwe Boll and any Actor, Camera, or Screenplay
Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, What Happens in Vegas
Larry the Cable Guy and Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy and Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel Nominations
The Day the Earth Blowed Up Real Good
Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Worst Director Nominations
Uwe Boll, 1968: Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Uwe Boll’s Postal
Tom Putnam, The Hottie & the Nottie
Marco Schnabel, The Love Guru
M. Night Shyamalan, The Happening
Worst Screenplay Nominations
Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
The Hottie and the Nottie
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
The Love Guru
Worst Career Achievement
Mark Wahlberg brings maximum pain to DVD this week in the critically-punished Max Payne, although new horror titles Saw V and Repo! The Genetic Opera didn’t fare much better on the Tomatometer. DVD shoppers will also find intriguing options in the kid adventure City of Ember, William H. Macy’s Hollywood satire The Deal, a tenth-anniversary Powerpuff Girls box set, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong on Blu-ray!
Mark Wahlberg takes it to the streets in this adaptation of Rockstar Games’ third person shooter game, a cop on the hunt for those responsible for his family’s murder and bent on finding out who’s been putting a hallucinogenic drug on the market. Could they be one and the same? Director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, The Omen) did himself no favors with Max Payne‘s over-stylized, yet dull direction; perhaps his biggest mistake was casting pint-sized actress Mila Kunis as a deadly femme fatale. The Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray include both the theatrical and an unrated cut, plus an animated graphic novel, filmmaker commentary, and an hour-long production featurette that dives into the making of Max Payne — in other words, more special features than you probably want.
Watch a clip from the making-of featurette below.
Next: Saw V
Saw V – Unrated Director’s Cut — 15%
At this point in the extremely popular Saw movie franchise, even diehard fans must recognize one fact; the torture-porn adventures of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his minions are getting worse by each passing sequel. Saw V, out this week, is the worst-reviewed Saw film at 15 percent on the Tomatometer. (The first Saw, at 46 percent, remains the best of the bunch.) But if you’re inclined to pick up Saw V regardless, you’ll probably delight in the Unrated Director’s Cut; skip the lackluster commentary tracks by first time director David Hackl and the film’s four producers and go straight to the featurettes on the real stars of Saw V: the pendulum trap, the coffin trap, and the cube trap. Enjoy, sicko.
Next: Darren Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera
3. Repo! The Genetic Opera — 33%
If you were wondering whatever happened to Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman, here’s your answer: Repo! The Genetic Opera. Based on a play by Darren Smith and Terence Zdunich, the goth rock opera follows the saga of a teenager named Shiloh (Alexa Vega) who discovers her connections to a famous opera singer (Sarah Brightman), a shady corporation that finances — and repossesses — organ transplants, and even the head Repo Man of said company, who may or may not be her own father (Anthony Stewart Head). Lionsgate unceremoniously dumped Repo! into limited release last November; support Bousman and writer/co-star Zdunich by giving Repo! a go on DVD.
Next: City of Ember
As the subterranean denizens of the City of Ember fall under threat of permanent darkness — and, accordingly, death — two kids, Lina (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) must race against the clock to decipher age-old clues hidden within the city. In adapting Jeanne Duprau’s novel of the same name, director Gil Kenan (Monster House) delivers smart entertainment for family audiences (and doesn’t pander to kids, like many preteen flicks) but has trouble crafting exciting action sequences and navigating plot holes. Sadly, no additional City of Ember bonus features accompany the disc.
Next: The Express
As far as inspirational sports movies go, you could do much worse than The Express. Based on the true story of Ernie Davis, the first black athlete to win football’s Heisman Trophy, this period flick set in the 1950s and ’60s delivers a solid, touching tale — and a standout performance by Dennis Quaid as Syracuse University coach Ben Schwartzalder. A comprehensive bonus menu includes filmmaker commentary, making-of featurettes, and a look at the real-life legacy of Ernie Davis, who died tragically just before his NFL debut.
Despite boasting a stellar voice cast (John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Molly Shannon), Igor came and went as one of the more forgettable animated films of 2008. Its premise was intriguing — a lowly scientists’ assistant named Igor (Cusack) realizes his dream of becoming a mad scientist himself — but, as many animated movies tend to do, failed to find balance between kid-pleasing animation and adult-engaging wit. Instead, you get an oddly dark adventure with quips that miss the mark. A few bonus features and commentary also come with the feature.
Next: The Deal
The excellent William H. Macy scripted and stars in The Deal, one of those inside-Hollywood indies that come of impassioned and/or struggling filmmakers (see The TV Set, The Player). Based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel of the same name, the satire follows suicidal film producer Charlie Berns (Macy) who takes one last stab at movie making by turning a sober biopic of Englishman Benjamin Disraeli into a Mid East actioner, filmed in South Africa. LL Cool J plays Berns’ star, a Jewish African-American rapper-turned-actor who gets kidnapped during filming; Meg Ryan shows up as a film exec who gets conned into Berns’ bed. .
Next: Moonlight The Complete Series
Since 2008 was the year of the vampire, why not add another romance-tinged vamp property to your Netflix queue? While it didn’t quite find the success of Twilight or HBO’s Golden Globe-winning series, True Blood, the CBS show Moonlight had a full season run before being cancelled last year. (Okay, reviews were pretty bad, but who doesn’t need more vampire romance in their life?)
Moonlight‘s first and only season introduces the viewer to Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin), a vampire/private eye ethically opposed to killing innocent humans. His love life is complicated by an attraction to human Beth Turner (Sophia Myles, playing an “internet reporter”) and his vampire ex-wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon). Get all 16 episodes on four discs (but no additional extra features).
Next: Powerpuff Girls Complete Set
Celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Powerpuff Girls (AKA Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles) with a six-disc set containing all episodes from Craig McCracken’s super popular series. The trio of kindergarten superheroines have been fighting evil in the cutest ways possible since 1998, and Warner Home Video is celebrating by releasing this uber-set, which comes with a documentary about McCracken, music videos, and audio commentaries. Cartoon Network is also celebrating with a Powerpuff Girls marathon today, capped by an all new episode entitled “Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!”
Next: King Kong Comes to Blu-ray!
Peter Jackson’s 2005 fantasy remake King Kong has taken its sweet time getting to Blu-ray, but the wait’s been worth it. For fans of the theatrical cut and even those who already own it on DVD, watching this gorgeous CGI spectacle again on Blu-ray might just be like watching it for the first time. Both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film are included, as well as the extremely detailed extended cut commentary track with Jackson and writer Phillippa Boyens, Picture-in-Picture cast and crew interviews, breathtaking concept art and more.
This week in the UK cinema screens we have Kevin Smith‘s latest, the intuitively titled Zack And Miri Make A Porno. Marky Mark Wahlberg stars in the video game adaptation Max Payne. And riding high on the crest of the German new wave comes the trickily titled The Baader-Meinhof Complex. But what did the critics have to say?
Kevin Smith’s eighth directorial feature is Zack And Miri Make A Porno and features the klutz-du-jour of US comedy Seth Rogen as Zack, and Elizabeth Banks, fresh from playing America’s First Lady in W., as Miri. The old college buddies fall on hard times and with mounting bills, and their heating cut off, the pair decide that a quick and easy solution is to make a homemade skin flick, naturally starring themselves, doing the dirty on film.
Critics were divided, with most complaining that the crude language and vulgar humour was icky and juvenile, and many were disappointed that the film turned from a foul mouthed sex comedy into schmaltzy rom-com. But at 64% on the Tomatometer, Zack and Miri did have many fans who enjoyed assured performances from Rogen and Banks, as well as decent turns from the supporting cast featuring many Askewniverse Alumni. Special mentions for Justin Longs cameo as Brandon St. Randy, with Tim Robey from the Daily Telegraph calling for a spin off film for the gay porn actor.
Next up is Max Payne, the latest in a long line of movie adaptations of hit video games, and stars Mark Wahlberg as the eponymous New York detective. With many video game films falling by the wayside with shoddy productions, and two dimensional characters, how was Max Payne going to fare? Not very well as it turned out; with only one reviewer out of the seventeen counted today giving the film a Fresh rating and the film is currently languishing at 18% on the Tomatometer. Critics mainly grumbled about the poor script, rubbish acting and unrelenting violence on show, with what little character development there is giving way to flashy empty headed action set-pieces. Maybe Marky Mark should pick a Funkier Bunch of people to work with next time?
German drama The Baader-Meinhof Complex is made by the same producers of 2005 surprise hit Downfall, which recounted the last days of Hitler. The film deals with a difficult time in German history, and tells the story of the West German terrorist cell the Red Army Faction in the late 1960’s to 1970’s. At a very respectable 81% on the Tomatometer it looks like the critics weren’t put off by the heavy subject matter and unwieldy title. Indeed the film is praised for its attention to detail and intricate research that effectively recreates this period of history. With a great cast putting in excellent performances, impressive direction and a thought-provoking and gripping script, The Baader-Meinhof Complex is a worthy addition to the recent raft of German films that have been wowing cinema goers recently, including Downfall and The Lives Of Others.
Also worth checking out this week…
I.O.U.S.A – A potent and lithely constructed documentary about America’s financial crisis, I.O.U.S.A grabs you with figures but holds you with irreverent wit. 91% on the Tomatometer.
Quote Of The Week
“John Moore directs like a man playing an eternal pinball machine in Hell.”
Max Payne. Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times.
This weekend, News Corp. scored a well-needed knockout at the North American box office with the one-two punch of Fox’s actioner Max Payne which debuted in the top spot and Fox Searchlight’s The Secret Life of Bees which bowed in third with the best average of any film in wide release. Lionsgate also performed well with its new presidential flick W. which landed in fourth allowing three new releases to post averages north of $5,000 each. The frame’s fourth new player was a dud – Summit’s teen comedy Sex Drive found few takers. Overall, the marketplace remained ahead of last year’s pace but was about even with 2006’s solid October session.
Enjoying its first number one hit in seven months, Fox brought in solid sales for its stylish video game-inspired action pic Max Payne which grossed an estimated $18M to lead the weekend race. The PG-13 film attacked 3,376 theaters and averaged a commendable $5,332 per site. Males made up 64% of the audience for the testosterone pic which surprised nobody. Only three films this fall have opened better – Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($29.3M), Eagle Eye ($29.2M), and Burn After Reading ($19.1M). The bow was a bit ahead of the $15.5M debut for another video game actioner from mid-October, Doom starring The Rock from 2005.
For Fox, Payne came as a badly needed hit following a string of seven films that all opened to under $12M, with many debuting poorly with less than $8M. It was the best opening for the studio since June’s The Happening ($30.5M) and its first top spot debut since March’s Horton Hears a Who ($45M) which remains 2008’s biggest non-summer opener. The rest of the year’s slate for Fox includes the risky Nicole Kidman-Hugh Jackman epic Australia on Thanksgiving weekend, the Keanu Reeves sci-fi actioner The Day the Earth Stood Still in mid-December, and the Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson romantic comedy Marley and Me on Christmas Day.
In a close race for the runnerup spot, Disney’s two-time champ Beverly Hills Chihuahua took the lead with an estimated $11.2M for a moderate 36% decline in its third weekend. With a potent $69.1M after 17 days, the G-rated comedy is aiming for a place in the century club. Compared to other live-action hits from the Disney factory, Chihuahua is running 17% ahead of The Game Plan from this time last year but 4% behind the pace of The Pacifier from the spring of 2005. Those films went on to gross $90.6M and $113.1M, respectively. Look for the studio’s newest kidpic darling to conclude its run right near the $100M mark.
Just $157,000 behind in third was the 1960s-set drama The Secret Life of Bees which exceeded expectations to score an estimated $11.1M in its first weekend of play. With the fewest theaters of any new wide pic, the PG-13 film averaged a muscular $6,945 from only 1,591 sites. African American women made up a large segment of the audience for the film which stars Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys. Reviews were mixed but thanks to a buiilt-in audience of fans of the original novel, moviegoers still showed up in impressive numbers. Bees delivered the third biggest opening in company history for Fox Searchlight trailing only the 2006 horror remake The Hills Have Eyes ($15.7M from 2,620 sites) and last April’s actioner Street Kings ($12.5M from 2,467).
Multiplex voters put Oliver Stone’s new presidential drama W. into fourth place in the polls with an estimated $10.6M in ticket sales on opening weekend. The Lionsgate release averaged a sturdy $5,199 from 2,030 locations. Starring Josh Brolin as President George W. Bush, the PG-13 film played to a much older crowd than other films. Studio research showed that 47% of the electorate was over 40 years old while males made up 52%. Produced for $30M, W. attracted mixed reviews from critics who generally felt that the film did not have the bold controversial slant that many of the director’s past films had. Stone’s previous effort World Trade Center starring Nicolas Cage bowed to $18.7M and a $6,334 average in August 2006.
Paramount’s action hit Eagle Eye dipped only 33% to an estimated $7.3M for fifth place and boosted its cume to a robust $81.3M. Close behind was Ridley Scott’s star-driven disappointment Body of Lies which tumbled 47% to an estimated $6.9M in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release, which is estimated to have cost north of $100M to produce, has grossed just $24.5M in ten days and looks likely to finish its domestic run with roughly $40M. Overseas audiences will have to respond to the DiCaprio and Crowe names in a big way in order for the terrorism flick to approach breakeven. So far Lies has grossed $6.1M overseas from eight markets with openings set for South Korea this coming weekend, much of Europe and Latin America in November, and Japan in December.
The horror hit Quarantine took an understandably large drop from second to seventh place with an estimated $6.3M. Down 56%, the R-rated fright film has banked a solid $24.7M for Sony and looks set to reach $35M. Studio stablemate Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist followed with an estimated $3.9M, down 39%, for a $26.7M sum.
Striking out in ninth place was the new teen comedy Sex Drive with an estimated $3.6M from 2,421 theaters. Averaging a limp $1,473 per site, the R-rated pic was distributed unusually wide for a no-star laugher of its kind. A much better life on video awaits the Summit title. Rounding out the top ten was the Richard Gere-Diane Lane reunion pic Nights at Rodanthe with an estimated $2.7M, off 41%, for a $36.9M total for Warner Bros.
Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The faith-based drama Fireproof eased a mere 15% to an estimated $2.7M bumping the cume to a healthy $20.7M. Budgeted at a mere $500,000, the Samuel Goldwyn release has displayed great staying power and could end up with $30M making the Kirk Cameron starrer one of the surprise hits of the year in terms of profitability. The football drama The Express got sacked in its second weekend falling 50% to an estimated $2.3M after what was a less-than-stellar debut. With only $8.3M in ten days, the PG-rated Universal release will end with a very poor $12-14M. Most inspirational sports dramas perform better.
The arthouse pic The Duchess dropped 33% to an estimated $2.2M giving Paramount Vantage $9.2M to date while playing wide in 1,207 playdates. Yet another period drama Appaloosa grossed an estimated $2M, off 40%, for a $14.3M cume for Warner Bros. Final tallies should reach about $15M and $19M, respectively.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $81.5M which was up 12% from last year when 30 Days of Night opened in the top spot with $16M; but off a scant 0.5% from 2006 when The Prestige debuted at number one with $14.8M.
A video game, a novel, and even the current commander-in-chief all get the big-screen treatment as Hollywood banks on known brands to make multiplex cash registers ring in hopes of a fourth consecutive up weekend compared to last year. Mark Wahlberg leads the way in the actioner Max Payne, Josh Brolin steps into the role of George W. Bush in Oliver Stone‘s W, and Queen Latifah heads up the drama The Secret Lives of Bees. Each film targets a different audience so there should be breathing room in the marketplace. Also debuting is the teen comedy Sex Drive which is not expected to be much of a contender.
Following seven consecutive sub-$12M openings, Fox finally will have a hit on its hands with the stylish thriller Max Payne which finds Wahlberg stepping into the role of the title character of the popular video game. The PG-13 film should be the studio’s first number one hit since March’s Horton Hears a Who and will appeal to teens and young adults thanks to a slick marketing campaign that is generating interest with the target audience. Reviews will be irrelevant. Wahlberg draws respectable numbers in action movies so as an anchor, he has the goods. A stylishly exciting look, a popular star in the lead, a commercially-friendly rating, and a built-in audience already familiar with the brand all join forces for what should be a solid top spot bow. Attacking 3,200 locations, look for Max Payne to debut with around $20M.
With three months left in his eight-year stay in the White House, President Bush stars (sort of) in a major wide release for the second time thanks to director Oliver Stone who takes a friendlier approach than Michael Moore did. The narrative feature W stars Josh Brolin as Dubya and chronicles the ups and downs of his adult life. The PG-13 film also stars Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, and Thandie Newton. Early reviews have been very strong, although the film critics community is not known for having many fans of Number 43 in the first place. Stone is known as a filmmaker who likes to present history through his own viewpoint so Republicans may write off the film without even researching how fair and balanced the pic really is. Blue-staters are more likely to take interest. Lionsgate should score points with politically-minded adults thanks to its purchase of a :30 spot on CNN during the first commercial break after Wednesday’s night final presidential debate. Aside from putting a big W pin on Obama’s lapel, you’re not going to find a much better way to reach the target audience here. Thanks to the unique idea of making a fictional film on an unpopular sitting president, curiosity should help boost business. Of course there are many that are just plain turned off by films that deal with serious politics and those will never be sold on this. Opening in 2,030 theaters, W might debut with roughly $10M this weekend.
Queen Latifah, the other former rapper with a new film this weekend, leads an all-star cast that brings book to screen in The Secret Lives of Bees. The PG-13 film also stars Dakota Fanning, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, and Grammy winner Alicia Keys in the story of a 14-year-old girl escaping her past in 1964 South Carolina. Bees will skew heavily female and African American audiences will make up a large portion of the turnout as well. Though based on a best-selling novel, it is not expected to reach Tyler Perry territory at the box office. With Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball) directing and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith producing, the film has some behind-the-scenes starpower as well. Competition for the Fox Searchlight release will not be fierce since the marketplace has almost nothing at the moment for black women and most films aimed at adult females are aging. Latifah’s guest role on Saturday Night Live’s recent Sarah Palin-Joe Biden debate skit should help since the film’s advertising has been attached to the online videos of the popular sketch. But mixed reviews will prompt some fans to take a pass. With the fewest theaters among the new releases, The Secret Life of Bees will enter about 1,400 locations on Friday and could collect around $7M.
Prepping a theatrical run just to raise its eventual home video profile, the R-rated comedy Sex Drive arrives telling the tried and true tale of a young man on a quest to lose his virginity. James Marsden and Seth Green join a group of mostly no-name actors which means that the target audience of older teens and young adults will find little reason to shell out top dollar to see this in theaters right away. Competition will be a major factor since Max Payne, Quarantine, and Eagle Eye are all offering more for the money to the same age group. Opening in about 2,400 locations, Summit’s Sex Drive should score a limp $4M debut.
After two weeks on top, Beverly Hills Chihuahua will have to give up the number one spot to Mr. Payne. But another weekend with no competition for the family audience will mean that a strong hold could put it in the runnerup spot. A 35% fall to about $11.5M could result giving Disney a robust $69M to date and a likely invitation to the $100M club.
Quarantine opened better than expected last weekend but will fall hard like most fright films do. No new terrorfests hit theaters on Friday, but Marky Mark does plan to steal away plenty of young adults. Look for a drop of 55% to about $6.5M putting Sony’s ten-day total at $24.5M.
Warner Bros. saw an underwhelming turnout for its Middle East political thriller Body of Lies which debuted to less than $13M. A 45% decline to around $7M should occur raising the cume for the expensive Ridley Scott vehicle to a weak $25M after ten days. Rival actioner Eagle Eye, which takes place in America and has proven to be far more popular, could drop by 40% to roughly $6.5M and lift Paramount’s total to a stellar $80M.
LAST YEAR: Sony’s vampires-in-Alaska thriller 30 Days of Night claimed the number one spot opening to $16M on its way to $39.6M. The Tyler Perry flick Why Did I Get Married? held up well in its second frame dipping 43% to $12.2M for Lionsgate. Two more holdovers followed – Disney’s The Game Plan with $8.2M and the Warner Bros. drama Michael Clayton with $6.7M. A pair of new releases followed. The sports spoof The Comebacks bowed to $5.6M while the Casey Affleck thriller Gone Baby Gone opened to $5.5M. Final grosses reached $13.3M for the Fox comedy and $20.3M for Ben Affleck‘s directorial debut. Also launching was Disney’s 3D release of The Nightmare Before Christmas with $5.3M and a potent $9,451 average, and the Reese Witherspoon flop Rendition with just $4.1M for New Line. Final tallies reached $14.5M and $9.7M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com