Witherspoon's Withering WeekendS

Ms. Reese had a bit of a bad stumble this weekend, her glossy new romantic comedy stalling out at the box office. The new TRON, however, did well as expected, while two smaller indies continue to surge.

1) TRON: Legacy — $43.6M
This exciting movie about a bunch of people hanging out in front of a green screen performed ably over the pre-Christmas weekend, raking in a significant amount of dollars from its big-time IMAX 3D showings. What do you think people would have said twenty-eight years ago if when leaving the original TRON, some shadowy guy walked up to them and said "In twenty-eight years there will be another TRON that plays an enormous screen and costs $17 to see, and Jeff Bridges will still be in it!"? What do you think people would say? I think they would say "Sure thing, pops. Now buzz off. Man, the '80s are weird already, huh Rhiannon?" "Sure are, Bruce. C'mon, let's go to Coconuts and buy some cassettes." And then a year later a blogger is born and things get really weird and now they're writing about the new TRON 27 years later and Bruce and Rhiannon broke up and he lives up by Lake George and last anyone heard, Rhi was living with her daughter and some guy named Randy out in Klamath Falls.

2) Yogi Bear — $16.7M
Some people are calling this opening a failure or at least a disappointment, probably because the movie cost some $80 million to make and all, but come on. This Yogi Bear movie, when no one has watched the Yogi Bear television show in years and years and the movie looks so deeply bad, made almost seventeen million dollars! From people like you and me who actually walked up to the movie ticket counter and said "Yes, several tickets to Yogi Bear: The Movie, please. No, I don't need any cyanide pills with that, I brought my own, thanks." That actually happened like almost a million times or something across this country this weekend. And that, I think, is a stirring success for the Yogi Bear movie. It just is. I mean, did you make $16.7 million this weekend? Don't answer that, Tron robots. But everyone else? No, no you didn't. So we should be proud of Yogi, he's done a re— Hey, wait a minute! Where's my picnic basket?? Awwww fuck. Get my gun.

4) The Fighter — $12.2M
Jumping up some 3,000% in receipts as it expanded from 4 theaters to 2,500, this Lowell, MA-set boxing flick did respectably, buoyed I'm sure by its many award nominations and stellar reviews and... well, no, I'm pretty sure people just wanted to see Mark Wahlberg, shirtless and punching people. That's just something people have been enjoying for a while, so I don't know why this instance would be any different. Sure some folks enjoy watching Christian Bale do his creepy Method thing, or Amy Adams being angelic even under some well-applied grime, or even Melissa Leo being tough and craggy, but all those things combined can't compare to the appeal of a shirtless Mark Wahlberg punching people. Shirtless Mark Wahlberg Punching People isn't quite the same draw as Will Smith Standing With a Gun While the Camera Circles Him or Angelina Jolie Holding Two Guns and Bending (her The Tourist, No. 5, isn't doing so hot, maybe because she doesn't hold two guns?), but it's still pretty potent. I mean, it's certainly more popular than Gerard Butler Being a Sack of Meat or Vin Diesel Doing Much of Anything Besides Driving a Car.

7) Black Swan — $8.3M
This movie is doing so well! It had the second-highest per-screen average of the week, has already surpassed its budget after three weeks in limited release, and is still on less than a thousand screens. They're certainly doing a slow build with it, maybe hoping to hit something of a peak next month when Natalie Portman's near inevitable Oscar nomination is announced? Though, that might be a bit too late. At that point everyone who wants to may have already seen it. I wonder how big the audience is for this movie, anyway? They're certainly playing some sorta deceptive "this is a straight up girl vs. girl thriller" commercials on like MTV and other channels, trying to rope in a bigger audience, so maybe that'll work. If they start playing just the sex scene in entirety on Spike or during the football games, well it'd probably be the biggest hit of the year!

8) How Do You Know — $7.6M
Yiiiikes. Not good, everyone! For a movie that cost some $120 million (pre PA/DC tax rebates) to make, this is really not good. Though, how in the hell did this thing cost that much money to make? I mean, yeah Reese Witherspoon is a big movie star and commands many doughlars per picture (well, she did, at least...), but srsly? It's a romantic comedy that was filmed in Philadelphia. That really does not translate to $120 million for me. Oh, here's why! It was indeed the stars' salaries, which, including writer/director James L. Brooks', cost $50 million alone. Oops. Also, you're going to be OK naming your $120 million investment "How Do You Know"? Note that the question mark is outside the quotes there, as there is none in the title. Even if there was, it would still be a terrible title. It's just no good. So, what does this mean for everyone? Well, Brooks is richer than the Pope, so he'll likely still keep making movies if he wants to, but probably more on his own dime. Reese Witherspoon.... well, it's hard to say. If her Water for Elephants is received well, it could restore some lost cred, but it's been a while since she's had a big mainstream hit (I'd argue Four Christmases wasn't really hers), which Elephants is not terribly likely to be. Owen Wilson seems to weather things fine. Who I'm most worried for is the near-always delightful Paul Rudd, who really could have benefited from a success at this juncture in his road to the A list. I don't think this will ruin his, or anyone's career, but it is a big blow, no doubt. How Do You Know when your movie is a failure? When a movie that's in less than half of the screens, has been out for three weeks, and cost a tenth of the budget does better than yours. I'm pretty sure that's how you know.