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The Box Office: An Expected Journey

I was so enamored with Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy a decade ago that it hurts my heart to see him now as merely Smaug, a monstrous collector of coin or even as Gollum, hanging so tight to his precioussssssss (Middle Earth) that he's lost sight of everything that once made him an artist and not a brand. It happens to a lot of über successful people. It's grown increasingly difficult to shake the feeling that his days as a great filmmaker are long gone and maybe ended with the remarkable fantasy trilogy, perhaps casting off to Grey Havens with the elves at the end of The Return of the King. Since then Jackson has made one beautiful but wildly bloated epic (King Kong) that suggested he might have a George Lucas problem (no one willing to tell him "no"), one outright terrible misfire of a whatsit? (The Lovely Bones) that suggested he might not know what the hell he's doing anymore and now The Hobbit, which was a relatively short book that has been stretched into three long films for only one reason: coin.

Maybe that's not a charitable assumption since I haven't seen the film (I REALLY don't want to spoil my Lord of The Rings experience which was beautiful and just-right) but if three big films was enough to cover (grandly) three thick books, three big films is too much to cover one thin one. But on that sordid topic of coin -- we haven't discussed box office in a month -- The Hobbit earned a ton of it though surely not as much as intended given that that seems to have been its entire intent as a cash cow prologue. 

Box Office Top Twenty - Actuals
02 RISE OF THE GUARDIANS  $7.4 (cum. $71.3) Capsule Review  
03 LINCOLN  $7.2 (cum. $107.8) Podcast Discussion
04 SKYFALL  $7 (cum $272.3) My Review & Deborah's Review
05 LIFE OF PI $5.4 (cum. $69.5) Michael on the Ending
06 THE TWILIGHT: AN EXPECTED ENDING   $5.1  (cum. $276.8)
07 WRECK-IT RALPH $3.2 (cum. $168.7)
08 PLAYING FOR KEEPS $3.2 (cum $10.8)
09 RED DAWN $2.3  (cum $40.8)
10 SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK $2 (cum $16.9) Beau's Review

11 FLIGHT  $1.9  (cum. $89.4) Review
12 ARGO $1.1 (cum. $104.9)
13 HITCHCOCK $1 (cum $3) Review
14 KILLING THEM SOFTLY $1  (cum $14.1)
15 ANNA KARENINA $.9 (cum $8.3) Capsule Review

In other moneyed news: Lincoln continues to illustrate that Abraham had long legs and still knows how to use them (100+ million and counting for a talky drama about ideas. WTH? Sasha points out that it's now in the money lead of all the Oscar contenders); Silver Linings Playbook continues to underwhelm (not that it had a chance to break out given that it's a mainstream movie that peculiarly decided to pretend it was an arthouse film); And  Anna Karenina ought to be proud of that gross given the cold shoulder it's gotten from awards bodies. 

Where did you spend your precioussssss coin this weekend?

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Reader Comments (24)

If Ben Affleck had directed Lincoln this race would be over.

(They don't love Spielberg that much to give him a third directing Oscar, do they? And people admire Argo, but who loves it? I think the most logical scenerario would be a split: Les Miz best picture, Affleck Director, but it is not happening)

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I fasted. Last weekend I saw West Side Story at a movie theatre with over 1,000 seats and a huge screen and I still can't get over it. The amount of talent and beauty that pours out of every single frame! Closest thing to an epiphany I ever had.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Except that Jackson's Lord Of The Rings barely covered what was in the thick books, told an entirely different story than Tolkien's LOTR, and was similar to its source material only when it comes to the basic plot line and sometimes not even in this regard. Same goes for Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which unfortunately was where I spend my coin this weekend. By the way, Frodo - or in the Jackson films: The Opposite Of Frodo - was casting off to Valinor with the elves, The Grey Havens was where he boarded his ship.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I really enjoyed The Hobbit, actually. A little long, maybe. Nowhere near as terrible as people are making it out to be. It makes me laugh at the comments that it's too slow- did these people even see Fellowship of the Ring?

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA.J

Always so happy to see a very adult movie like Lincoln succeed. And also good for Anna Karenina...I'm so surprised it has been so consistent with its earnings. I just wish more voters took to it the same the public did.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I wish TWC would re-release The Master — I need Joaquin and Greenwood's haunting score. Hollywood continues to release shit I don't want to watch. I have access to Rust and Bone, Holy Motors, and I can't bring myself to look at either one. The desire simply isn't there. I have been playing catch up with older titles: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (better than its reputation suggest); Frankie and Johnny (it's crap but Pfeiffer's everything in a role she had no business playing).

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

It's not fair to say SLP is underwhelming since it still has yet to go wide. Harvey is holding back a long time til Oscar noms come out to put it in over 1000 theaters and hope it's real earnings start to kick in then as a result.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDean

3rtful -- wait... you're sick of hollywood crap but won't see Holy Motors or Rust & Bone? Hmmm. Bizarre. Totally agree on the Frankie & Johnny comment though.

BIa -- right. Even if i didn't like Lincoln as much as I do, I'd be glad.

Cal -- I still think Ben Affleck is going to win. (*bracing for people calling me crazy*)

December 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Affleck winning is crazy, yes.

SLP isn't underwhelming, it's holds are actually quite good. I don't know whether I agree with the roll-out strategy, though. It seems to be the same as The Descendants last year

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzach

I saw "A Royal Affair," which I quite enjoyed. I especially liked the weaving in of Enlightenment philosophy and Danish court politics. It's much more than the bodice-ripper the marketing would have you believe.

I also saw "Hitchcock" less than 36 hours ago, and I've already forgotten everything about it.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Hey guys, San Francisco Film Critics Circle just announced. Just thought I'd share the winners;

Best Picture – The Master
Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Best Actor – Joachin Phoenix (The Master)
Best Actress – Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Best Supporting Actor – Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Best Supporting Actress – Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Best Screenplay Original – Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
Best Screenplay Adapted – Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
Best Editing – William Goldenberg (Argo)
Best Cinematography – Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
Best Production Design – Adam Stockhausen (Moonrise Kingdom)
Best Foreign Language Film – Amour
Best Documentary – The Waiting Room
Best Animated Film – ParaNorman

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

zach -- but why? Actors make up the largest voting block and most Actors who become acclaimed directors win the Oscar at some point. And he's going to be up against THREE PREVIOUS WINNERS from the top three films. Just something to think about.

December 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Finally saw Hitchcock and, like Liz N., have nary a takeaway. Almost saw Hyde Park on Hudsom -- l-o-v-e Bill Murray -- but just couldn't bring myself to do it.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I saw Anna Karenina and fell in love with it. It's so beautiful. The way that it's filled to the brim with interesting actors reminded me of Campion's Portrait of a Lady. My favorite was Matthew MacFadyen. I'd also like to propose, for you consideration, Shirley Henderson for line reading of the year.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I paid to see The Hobbit and loved it. I wasn't as enamored of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as many others and was pleasantly surprised at how much Peter Jackson did with the material. I knew it couldn't be a straight adaptation because it's much too quiet and silly to go straight to the screen. I think the changes make it work on the screen, especially the promise of more Galadriel action.

In the past couple days, I've also seen Bernie (cold on everything but the acting), Ruby Sparks (why isn't this the indie crowd pleaser instead of Silver Lining Playbook?), and Savages (Salma Hayek is very good but the film is a hot mess). I planned on finally getting to Lincoln today and ran out of enthusiasm. I'll catch it this week.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Because Lincoln and ZD30 are quite a bit a ways out in front for Best Picture. Splits are not as common as people make them out to be and Argo isn't winning Bet Picture. That makes Affleck very unlikely. Plus, his film won't even be second like Ang Lee's presumably was, for instance.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzach

Nathaniel: I'd love for your prediction of Affleck to come to pass because I think what he has done with Argo will be very difficult to top, in terms of his direction, at least.

Nevertheless, I don't think there'll be a split this year and I can't see Affleck as a strong-enough threat to stop the Spielberg x3 or Bigelow x2 train. Not really. Argo looks, to me, as Up in the Air in 2009 (these two races are very, very similar): a very good contender, who took the pole position early in the fall to lose buzz and everything it was nominated for by the time the awards came calling.

However, couldn't you picture him a 2-time Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay? He and Damon are even talking about writing another movie together. How could the Academy resist that...

I say Lincoln has - for now - BP and BD in the bag. Bigelow and ZDT a close second.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Saw Holy Motors. Still digesting this crazy, anything-goes, film-loving, europhic, melancholy masterpiece.

I can see Affleck winning, and I don't agree Argo's out of this picture race at all. Strong box office, solid reviews.... seems like a good enough comnbination

I'm curious: does Spielberg finally direct an actor to an oscar? He's directed Hopkins, Neeson, Fiennes, Goldburg and more to nominations, but not a single victory.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

And you have even said it yourself: they LOOOOOVE Spielberg and he's one of the few multiple winners who could easily win more. He's that beloved (likewise: John Williams).

And I can't see them thinking twice about giving him another Oscar. It's been more than 10 years. The wait was enough for them.

The good that will come from this: Tony Kushner will have an Oscar to join his Tony, his Emmy and his Pulitzer. Can you imagine Tony Kushner an EGOT? Ha! Get to work on that spoken word album fast, Tony! If Barack Obama has 2 Grammys, so can you! :)

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Anna Karenina! And to think I was going to skip this one. It was even more wonderfully theatrical than I expected. Moulin Rouge, Black Swan, Topsy Turvy, like them, going for it with great gusto. Now I understand why it's being predicted for nominations for costume, production design, and score. So lush, so perfect, so eye-catching.

And Tom Stoppard's script is brilliant. I've plodded through the turgid awful endless Tolstoy book, but the script finds the pivotal emotional moments that drive the narrative forward, elegantly streamlining it, yet still thought provoking and humane. I prefer Stoppard as a writer to Tolstoy.

The cast is great too. I especially liked Matthew McFadden, Domhall Gleason, Alicia Vikander, and Kelly McDonald (whose characters are apparently ellided over in most adaptations). At first, I quite liked it that Vronsky (Aaron Taylor Johnson) was so obviously worthless, but by the end, I kind of felt sorry for Vronsky, as a boy just out of his depth, struggling to manage the situation, but helpless in the face of someone else's addiction and depression. And none of these points belabored, due to script and direction.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Saw Lincoln and Anna Karenina.

I loved David Strathairn in Lincoln- definitely preferred him to Tommy Lee Jones. Though, that may be due to my shallow, shallow preference of Strathairn's fabulous wardrobe (seriously- I want every item he wore) over Jones' hideous wig.

And Anna Karenina! It made me happy. Perhaps that's not what you want with a tragedy but I was overwhelmed by the pretty (again, I'm shallow). That transition after the proposal where Levin, on his way to visit his brother, looks down at Kitty on the stage is probably my favourite thing I've seen in the cinema all year. Love!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

I loved The Hobbit. I was really surprised by the negative press.

I am rereading the novel now and frankly, I think Jackson's "additions" all serve to add drama and depth to the characters. While a caper about dwarves going to get some gold works in a children's book, I think people would have complained if Jackson had followed up LOTR with something like that. Could the movie have been a bit shorter? Sure. But I loved that he made it a movie about the need for adventure and belonging somewhere. I also like that he sets up a context for the Ring "magically" falling out of Gollum's pocket.

(and as a short man, a fantasy adventure where a hobbit and dwarves are all badass heroes gets a thumbs up from me)

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

Unfortunately I spent the entire weekend with family celebrating the holiday - which felt weird since I grew up one town over from Newtown, CT where the shooting took place Friday, and learned that I knew two of the adults who died.


I could have really used The Hobbit and/or Anna Karenina this weekend. Or Holy Motors, if only it were playing anywhere near me (PLEASE, MOVIE GODS!).

It turns out The Hobbit is playing in 48fps near me, which I honestly didn't think would happen. And I can't decide whether or not to do it. Part of me wants to, just to experience it, but then part of me is so protective of my favorite book that I'm not sure I want to spend that much money, given what people are saying about the high frame rate "experience". I already cannot STAND that it's being turned into three goddamn movies, even if I can KIND OF appreciate it as a SORT OF return to the old days of movie serials. Except that it isn't. But every time I see that gorgeous trailer, or see a new clip, I get positively giddy. Dammit.

Among the regular, non-cinephile members of my family, there was discussion of only three movies this weekend: Lincoln, Argo, and Flight. Everyone LOVED the first two, and agreed that though Denzel was great, his movie wasn't.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I was originally going to watch Skyfall but then switched to Anna Karenina but eventually settled on The Silver Linings Playbook. I really loved it and I'm glad it lived up to the awards traction as well as the novel (which I read so quickly earlier this year).

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

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