Jodie Foster-Neil Jordan revenge drama comes in at the low end of expectations ($14 mil), but that's still good enough to outdraw ''Yuma,'' ''Woodcock,'' and ''Dragon''
Well, hmph! Maybe everybody doesn’t like Jodie Foster so much after all. The usually popular actress’ vengeance drama The Brave One did, in fact, open at No. 1 this weekend, according to Sunday’s estimates, but its $14 million take was remarkably soft — it was well below most prognosticators’ estimations and a full half as much as I expected the movie would earn. (But, hey, Michigan clobbered Notre Dame yesterday, to start a one-game winning streak, so it’s not like I’m feeling too bad for myself!)
Certainly, this isn’t wonderful news for Foster. The last time the double-Oscar winner had such an unimpressive debut was in 1999, with the King & I remake, Anna and the King ($5.2 mil), and before that you have to go back to 1993’s Sommersby ($8.1 mil) to find a bow this bad. Point is: Such a weak performance is rare for the actress, and rather than dwell on the nasty combination of so-so reviews, a stiff R rating, and an unhappy looking plot that probably turned away some moviegoers, I’ll just mention that, on the bright side, this was top-notch director Neil Jordan’s second-best premiere ever, after 1994’s Interview With the Vampire ($36.4 mil). Good on ya, Neil!
Anyway, as things worked out, The Brave One wasn’t alone in its gloom: Pretty much all of the bigger-budgeted multiplex releases fared merely fairly this weekend. Second place was won by Western holdover 3:10 to Yuma, with a $9.2 mil take, while a close third went to the long-delayed comedy Mr. Woodcock, which brought in a better-than-expected-but-still-not-fantastic $9.1 mil. Meanwhile, the new CG fantasy Dragon Wars took fourth place with an unremarkable $5.4 mil, edging out Superbad (No. 5), which audiences continue to mclove after five weeks in release. The bawdy teen comedy earned $5.2 mil and brought its cumulative take up to $111.3 mil.
While all the big guys were beating up on each other, it was the smaller releases, the art-house films, the auteur-driven movies that played best. Tops among them was David Cronenberg’s Toronto Film Festival award winner Eastern Promises, which averaged a super-strong $36,845 in 15 theaters. Then, Julie Taymor’s Beatles-music phantasmagoria, Across the Universe (another film that took forever to make it to the screen!), scored a $29,782 average in 23 venues. And the Iraq War-veterans drama In the Valley of Elah, Paul Haggis’ follow up to 2005’s Best Picture, Crash (hey, David Cronenberg made a movie called Crash, too — and they’re both Canadian!), averaged $15,333 in nine locations, no doubt on the strength of rave reviews like this one from EW’s Owen Gleiberman.
Overall, well, the bigger picture featured a few factoids of note. This was the fifth consecutive weekend on which an R-rated movie has taken No. 1 — a sure sign that the summer is over and studios are done courting ultrabroad audiences. The last time such a trend took hold was in 2001. Still, that hasn’t hurt the collective box office performance of late: This weekend’s total was nearly 2 percent better than that from a year ago, and, as a result, the box office has been ”up” for a whopping 10 straight weeks. Now that’s definitely a winning streak worth boasting about.