News

'Fog' Tops Soggy Weekend

by Brandon Gray
A scene from The Fog
October 17, 2005

The weekend's top-grossing picture, The Fog, couldn't muster much bluster, and overall business was down ten percent from the comparable weekend in 2004 when Shark Tale dominated in its third outing. Indifference to the new releases, including Elizabethtown and Domino, was expected—after an up September, recent box office has suffered from a glut of unappealing new movies.

The Fog crept to $11.8 million at 2,972 sites, narrowly claiming the top spot over Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit's solid $11.5 million second weekend. Distributor Sony's exit polling suggested that 61 percent of The Fog's audience was under 25 years old and 53 percent was female.

With an $18 million production budget, the remake of John Carpenter's 1981 horror picture will likely be profitable for Sony, but it's no The Grudge nor even a Boogeyman. It's on par with the melted House of Wax and below what has come to be expected for a major horror movie in October. The original, considered a disappointment for Carpenter at the time after the success of Halloween, grossed $21.4 million, which would equal over $50 million today adjusted for ticket price inflation—a figure the remake will fall well short of.

Holding back The Fog was not only its inherently diffuse terror but the marketing's lack of a central character to orient the horror around—a relatable element present in most of the genre's hits, from Halloween to The Grudge. The Fog's main selling point was the creepy atmosphere and shocks the trailer attempted to create, good for middling business.

Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown cobbled together $10.6 million from 2,517 locations. Director Cameron Crowe's music-driven coming-of-age tale featuring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst cost about $45 million to make, according to distributor Paramount Pictures, whose research indicated that the audience was 54 percent over 25 and a whopping 75 percent female.

Coming-of-age pictures aren't the easiest of sells, given the difficulty in recreating their nuances in 30-second television spots. Crowe specializes in the genre, and, outside of his Tom Cruise collaborations, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky, his previous pictures haven't been box office successes, although Say Anything and Almost Famous have grown in reputation after their theatrical releases. Lead actor Bloom does not yet possess the necessary rapport with audiences, like Cruise had, outside his elfin and pirate roles to pull off the genre commercially. Coincidentally, the last Bloom picture, Kingdom of Heaven, also opened opposite a tepid horror remake, House of Wax, and floundered.

Elizabethtown had a similar vibe as In Good Company and Big Fish, and industry expectations had it opening in the same range as their $14 million nationwide starts.

Keira Knightley in Domino
After bouncing around the release schedule from August to November, Domino captured a weak $4.7 million at 2,223 theaters. Distributor New Line Cinema paid $15 million for the rights to director Tony Scott's $50 million crime drama, and the debut was Scott's least attended since his first movie, The Hunger, in 1983. Scott, who also directed the comparable True Romance in 1993, built upon the strum and drang aesthetic he employed for last year's hit, Man on Fire. The result was a picture that mostly conveyed confusion and murkiness in its many trailers outside of its gimmick: British actress Keira Knightley's electronically-modified voice uttering "My name is Domino Harvey. I am a bounty hunter."

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was one weekend bright spot, easing 28 percent. The DreamWorks-released clay-animated feature has taken in $33.1 million in 10 days, and it should hold strongly throughout the month as the studio's Shark Tale did last October.

Meanwhile, Serenity burnt off 54 percent of its business, landing at 12th place with $2.4 million. Despite a supposedly dedicated fan base, the $39 million space western has performed like a below average genre picture.

Good Night, and Good Luck continued to show promise in its second weekend. Expanding to 68 theaters, George Clooney's journalistic drama drew $1.2 million, averaging $18,304 per site, for a $1.9 million tally after 10 days. Distributor Warner Independent Pictures will roll the picture out to over 200 engagements on Oct. 21.

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NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, Oct. 16 and was updated on Monday, Oct. 17 with actual grosses.



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