Last month, I weighed aloud the notion of relocating oft-delayed con man crime caper The Brothers Bloom just one more time, to somewhere out from under the shadows of many May blockbusters. Summit's reaction to that piece was prompt yet delicate -- they merely blackmailed Universal into moving Bruno away from Bloom's NY/LA bow.
This time around, my latest open letter to futility is being CC'ed to Warner Bros., as my concern now lies with the latest move of Richard Kelly's bumped-and-then-some thriller, The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple forced to weigh the cost of one life against a chance at considerable wealth. (In other words, they get to slip into the shoes of Hollywood executives.)
The main difference between this hypothetical scenario and the one broached then was that I had seen The Brothers Bloom while I have not seen The Box -- few have, since it seems like much less the festival-hopper than that film was. No, this one's a calendar-hopper instead, and while I failed to remember if or when it was ever scheduled to bow in 2008, I do know that it had gone from this February (not good) to this March (not bad) to this September (not great) to this November 6th (maybe, just maybe) and, now, November 25th.
It's this most recent landing that gives me cause for concern. As much as some of our readers would like to assure us that hush-hush test screenings has produced enough of a positive response to merit an awards push, I've been pumped enough before to know that I ought to believe it when I see it, and the problem with this placement over the Thanksgiving stretch is that it hasn't been kind to genre fare before. In 2007, The Mist (which I kinda love) opened on November 21st to an opening weekend of $8.9 million and a total domestic gross of $25.6 million, and the year before that, in 2006, The Fountain (which I also kinda love) opened on November 22nd to $3.8 million and closed with a mere $10.1 million.
There's room to work within the grander scheme of the year-end holiday seasons, whether it be the horror onslaught of October or the alternately feel-good and gold-digging stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The problem with this position, though, is that such tastes come to a head when people go in groups to the movies on that very holiday weekend. The families don't want to see a morality tale from the director of Donnie Darko, which is why what might seem like clever counter-programming will cater to an audience of few; there aren't any genre releases around for a reason (the latest in the Twilight series, New Moon, stands as a grand exception).
So where does that leave things? Well, even without including New Line, Warner Bros. proper has quite the substantial slate set for summer. So, if they're not going to take advantage of the only weekend that really seems weak enough to take on with a wide opening -- June 19th, which features only Year One and the calm before the Transformers storm -- then Warners still has to hold it for the fall. The key, though, would be to take advantage of their set-in-stone demographic-attracting titles: May's Terminator: Salvation, July's The Orphan, August's Final Destination 4 3-D and September's Whiteout are all thrillers that should garner the attention of young males near and far, and attaching a trailer for The Box to one, if not more, of them regardless of its eventual release date seems like a sound strategy. These films are where your banner meets your audience -- make the most of them both.
Now here's where things get tricky. For starters, opening the same week as Transformers 2 in what is less of a counter-programming move and more of a flat-out suicide mission is a Warners weepie called My Sister's Keeper starring (gasp!) Cameron Diaz. It sounds like a gag-fest, or it might even be a good movie, but at any rate, it doesn't deserve a dump like that, not the one that sent Evening limping home with numbers like those of The Fountain while Transformers 1 did its damage in 2007.
Hold off on that one, and save for the October or November months, where teen-friendly horror and kid-friendly cartoons leave drama-seeking adults high and dry, those who might even mistake treacle like this as some sort of awards contender (see: the quiet success of The Secret Life of Bees). More specifically, maybe November 20th would prove ideal for something like this -- the competition there is New Moon, the animated Planet 51, the likely-slapsticky Three Stooges, and a fellow Warner Bros. release by the name of Cats & Dogs 2.
Yes, as one leak is plugged, another springs forth, and the obvious reasons for my ridicule are pretty much the same reasons why this nine-years-later talking-animal sequel no one asked for could stand a shuffle of its own: when parents are pressed to choose between this and the comparably original Planet 51 (not to mention weeks of family fare before that), a push back to, say, December 11th against kid-boring drama The Lovely Bones and two weeks before the other uncalled-for talking-animal sequel seems like an ideal patch for drop-and-dash celluloid babysitting.
Yes, yes, back to The Box. We're pretty much left with two non-Thanksgiving scenarios: the week before on the 20th (filling the grown-up void if My Sister's Keeper doesn't budge), or the week after on December 4th. I know, I know: the week after Thanksgiving tends to be a graveyard all its own -- Punisher: War Zone? Awake? Van Wilder 2? Aeon Flux? Then again, if Cats & Dogs sits and stays, then I don't see the harm of putting something slightly less somber up against The Lovely Bones on the 11th. It's a tough situation to be sure, but I can't help but think that not only would The Box do better in this last corner of 2009, but I wouldn't be surprised if the family flick or the tearjerker wouldn't flourish in the early 2010 wasteland instead. Just please don't bump The Box again.
-My Sister's Keeper opposite Transformers 2: bad for business
-My Sister's Keeper opposite Halloween horror, Thanksgiving or Christmas cartoons instead: better for business
-Cats & Dogs 2 opposite anything family-friendly that's not Cats & Dogs 2: bad for business
-Cats & Dogs 2 opposite an acclaimed adaptation of an acclaimed novel: why not
-The Box opposite turkey-stuffed indifference of the masses: bad for business
-The Box opposite box office leftovers: wouldn't you push that button to make that money?
(Now, while I'm feeling a tad dizzy, please don't even get me started on The Time Traveler's Wife...)