News

Solid 'Silent Hill,' So-so 'Sentinel,' Shattered 'American Dreamz'

by Brandon Gray
Radha Mitchell in Silent Hill
April 24, 2006

Sold on its menacing atmosphere and twisted monsters, Silent Hill crept to $20.2 million at 2,926 sites, claiming the weekend top spot. Based on a popular series of video games, the nearly $50 million horror picture drew about as many moviegoers as the first Resident Evil did out of the gate and generated similar business as Hostel and Final Destination 3 from earlier this year.

The combination of Silent Hill and fellow newcomer The Sentinel as well as holdovers Scary Movie 4 and Ice Age: The Meltdown helped propel 2006 to its fifth consecutive up weekend versus 2005. Overall business improved 17 percent from the comparable frame last year. As a whole, 2006 now leads 2005 by four percent at the same point.

Distributor Sony, which is on a horror roll this year after Underworld: Evolution and When a Stranger Calls, acquired United States and Latin American rights to Silent Hill for $14 million. In line with the genre, the studio's exit polling showed that the picture skewed young, with 67 percent of moviegoers under 25 years old, and 55 percent were male.

Two pictures that feature assassination plots against the President debuted to mixed results, with thriller The Sentinel out-running comedy American Dreamz. Marking Michael Douglas' first foray in his most lucrative genre since Don't Say a Word in 2001, The Sentinel tracked down a modest $14.4 million at 2,819 locations.

Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Douglas in The Sentinel
The Sentinel was below par among past Douglas thrillers, but distributor 20th Century Fox hopes it will have the longevity of similar adult-appealing pictures. Earlier this year, Harrison Ford's thriller, Firewall, bowed to $13.6 million, but ended up with a somewhat face-saving $49 million. Fox's research indicated that Sentinel's audience was 72 percent over 30 and 52 percent female.

On the same weekend last year, another assassination plot thriller, The Interpreter, attracted $22.8 million, but The Sentinel was a more pedestrian affair—for example, its blown-up helicopter was no match for Interpreter's exploding bus highlight—and lacked the woman-in-jeopardy suspense of that Nicole Kidman vehicle.

True to the old George S. Kaufman quote that "satire is what closes on Saturday night," American Dreamz was out of tune with $3.7 million at 1,500 venues. Writer-director Paul Weitz' politics and pop culture satire cost $17 million to make and featured the stars of his previous hits About a Boy (Hugh Grant) and In Good Company (Dennis Quaid). Distributor Universal Pictures reported an audience breakdown of 62 percent female and 51 percent over 30.

Part of American Dreamz' comedic conceit was a send-up of the top-rated television singing competition American Idol, but it merely fictionalized what the show already does with real contestants: making fun of lousy singers. There was no compelling reason for moviegoers to pay to see what they currently get for free on TV.

The other major satire in the market, Thank You for Smoking, tumbled 38 percent in its second nationwide weekend and, despite all the hype, has coughed up $15.8 million so far.

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NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, April 23 and was revised on Monday, April 24 with actual grosses.



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