Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Dreamgirls" Hits False Note At Box Office

Box Office Prophets has spent the week exploring how movies behave between Christmas and New Year's, a strange atypical week in which almost every day feels like a Friday at the box office because everyone is off from work and going to the movies in a mad frenzy. (I saw two today myself, both disappointing -- Curse of the Golden Flower and Little Children). "Dreamgirls" was always going to behave differently because it only opened on Monday, Christmas Day, with huge pent-up demand and is clearly more of a nighttime drama than an any time of the day comedy. But with all those caveats and even ignoring the opening numbers on Monday, from Tuesday to Thursday "Dreamgirls" has had the steepest drop of any movie in the Top 10 percentage-wise. Given the rave reviews, numerous nominations and easy accessability, this should NOT be happening. It's at $23 million after Thursday and this weekend will demonstrate how word of mouth is working. Hopefully, it can lay low on 800+ screens until Oscar nominations give it a boost. $100 million is looking awfully far in the distance right now, but it should play for a long time with all those Oscar boosts, assuming the bottom doesn't fall out. That might actually help it at the Oscars. "Dreamgirls" just went from looking inevitable to a likable underdog.

10 comments:

Alex Lewin said...

I just think the movie isn't getting the "you gotta see it" word-of-mouth. To miss "Chicago" was to miss an event. But it feels like there's a kind of malaise about "Dreamgirls": People seem to agree it's good, but no one's getting enthusiastic about it. I think it's better than "Chicago," but still I was surprisingly unmoved by it.

Buddy Cole said...

When I saw DREAMGIRLS on Christmas night, I was THE white guy in a sold out audience of 400. When I saw it again last night (at a very nearly sold out screening), the audience was more mixed, but still overwhelmingly african american.

There may be a perception in some of the early releasing cities that it is (to use a phrase from the film), a race movie.

Add to that it's possible that more of the people who are going to see DREAMGIRLS do have to work the week between christmas and new years and you'll see it have a large spike on the weekends leading up to its national release on the 1/12.

To Alex, who was underwhelmed by the movie, DREAMGIRLS is hands-down my favorite movie of the year. I didn't tear up like I do in many movie (I cry at movies, yes), but it pushed so many other emotional buttons, Joy, anticipation, even anger and disillusionment, that it was a more satisfactory cathartic experience, even if I didn't boohoo (like I did when the little girl gives Helen Miren flowers in THE QUEEN).

If you went to Best Buy the day after Christmas, there was a swarm of people in the soundtrack section, lots of word of mouth around my office (I work for a donation-based non-profit, there is NO getting out of work this past week) from me and a couple of others who saw the film on Christmas. I'm not a professional prognosticator, but I predict that DREAMGIRLS is going to have legs and have a stronger weekends as it approaches it's wide release. A theatrical "re-release" coinciding with The Oscars will push it then into an even wider audience.

altmike said...

This is kinda sorta what I was expecting. I commented earlier on Popsurfing that I thought the appeal of Dreamgirls was going to be extremely limited...though it looks good on paper. Beyonce may be in this movie, but this movie is not relevant to today's kids. White kids. Black kids. No kids period. There are wall to wall black performers, but is this a movie that has a particular appeal to a black audience? Is this "their" music? Don't think so. The smartest marketing was done by charging preview audiences $25 to see it There are groups (gay guys) that are loyal (and wealthy)that shelled out money to see it early. I don't think this movie will do anywhere close to what has been predicted....even if there is an Oscar buzz.

Ed Sikov said...

I object to your headline. The film isn't hitting a false note. The public - maybe. But not the film.

Alex Lewin said...

Throw down, Sikov! Bring that shit to the Iras, why don't ya?!?!

Michael in New York said...

Alex, I agree it feels more like a film and less of an event. That may be better in the long haul if we can see a musical as just another movie, rather than a rare bird that has to be marveled over. I think it's better than Chicago but I have to see it a second time to see how I'll react emotionally to it; that was missing for me the first time too. Buddy, it is definitely a race movie and should have stronger appeal to a balck and latino audience. Why not? It's their story. I certainly felt more identity with Brokeback Mountain than some straight guy, however universal it may be in theory. The soundtrack is at 31 right now, but should get a bigger boost after its first full weekend at the box office. Though it is a glossy musical, maybe it will appeal to a more working class crowd that is likely to be working this week, though that runs counter to the industry perception that black audiences are known for turning out opening weekend. And Buddy, you didn't tear up during "And I Am Telling You?" Just felt defiant I guess? I teared up at the thought of Hudson tackling that monster and getting through it. Altmike, so far you are looking smart for saying this movie may be more limited in appeal than people thought. It certainly doesn't have a chance of hitting Chicago numbers and seeing $170 mil. Still, when the Oscar noms come out it will be one of the very few movies in history to have an all-black cast and get a nom for Best Picture (w A Soldier's Story and The Color Purple being two other examples) and if it wins, it'll be the first ever. The music may be Broadway via Motown but with Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce and Eddie Murphy I do think this is a film that has to appeal to them. Yo, Ed! Fair enough, the accolades and awards mean the movie is bulletproof to my need to write a short headline. I was of course referring to box office and not the movie's quality. Dang, girl!

Ed Sikov said...

This is precisely where you and I part ways on our approach to popular culture, Michael. You are fascinated by the popularity of the culture in question, whereas I couldn't care less about it. So many great movies bombed when they were released - THE RULES OF THE GAME, BRINGING UP BABY, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, DARLING LILI... - that I don't even know what popularity has to do with anything other than the most fleeting of judgments. Yes, these judgments bear enormously on the ability of filmmakers to continue working, but beyond that, I don't care about box office figures whatsoever.

Michael in New York said...

Fair enough, Ed, as long as you don't limit me to ONLY caring about popularity. I do find box office fascinating, but it certainly doesn't influence me into thinking a movie is good or bad or will last. I actually find that fascinating too - how a movie can bomb at the box office but 50 years later loom large while another can be a big hit but forgotten next week. And of course this website feeds on news items, not just reviews or my personal riffs on movies, so sadly box office and album debuts will always figure in here. But hey, at least I tweaked the headline.

Ed Sikov said...

Oh, I know that, Michael - you've got great and interesting taste. I'm just being a boor today. It's because I hate this holiday. Gives me the creeps.

Michael in New York said...

Stay hidden in your home. I am.