Box Office: ‘Secretariat’ Stumbles Out Of the Gate

A lot of people thought that Secretariat would be a shoo-in for first place this week. There has been Oscar talk for Diane Lane, and Disney was pinning its hopes on having a “Blind Side” type four-quadrant hit film on its hands. Alas, at the end of the day, Secretariat stumbled across the finish line in third place with $12.6M  for the weekend, dashing the dreams of studio executives hoping for a huge hit.

The Social Network came in at the top spot, with $15M.  It dropped about 30% from its opening weekend, and has made $46M to date. Katherine Heigl’s latest rom-com Life As We Know It came in at a respectable $14.6M, good enough for second place this weekend, though it came in on the lower end of expectations.

Holdover Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole won the number four spot. Wes Craven’s latest offering, My Soul To Take, was a disappointment with $6.9M, despite having 3D up charges.  It goes to show that 3D does not ensure big numbers at the box office.

You still have to have a quality product.  The movie wasn’t screened for critics, and feedback from audience members has been dismal.  Cinemascore reports a horrible “D” grade.

Newcomers Buried and It’s Kind of a Funny Story were on limited screens, but their per/screen averages were pretty bleak.  Each only garnered about $2,000 per showing, and neither placed in the top ten. I Spit on Your Grave only made $33,000 over the weekend, a truly frightening total.

Outside of the mainstream, there are a couple of documentaries making some serious waves.  Waiting for “Superman” is a film about the plight of the American public school system, and it is getting great reviews and interest.  It played on 103 screens, and had a healthy $6,000+ per/screen take.

Even better was the performance of Inside Job, a documentary about the financial collapse of the stock market.  It only played on 2 screens, but its per/screen average was an astonishing $21,000!  Those are numbers similar to what we saw last year when Precious slowly rolled out in limited release.

Next Friday a couple of Jackasses will vie for your dollars with Jackass 3D.  Opening opposite the film is RED, the film about a group of retired CIA agents who reconvene when they realize they have been targeted for assassination. Talk about some counter-programming.

  • Laferpurcell
    October 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Movies like Secretariat make you wonder how power people in studios attain their power to start with. Six months ago I made a wager (fitting for a movie about a racehorse) that this movie would open weak and fade fast. I never doubted that it would be well made or grandly acted but at the end of the day it is a movie without an audience. If this was apparent to me six months ago, how could the studio honchos have missed the boat so badly? At the finish line, the basic problems with Secretariat the movie are these:

    (1) this is not the story of the little horse that could. Seabiscuit (the movie) interwove the stories of several people – and one horse – who seemed on the lower rung of hope but who miraculously found enough magic in each other to lift an entire nation. It was the equine predecessor of Cinderella Man. By contrast, Secretariat tells the story of a horse that was born to be great, that was almost instantly recognized as being great and that rarely if ever disappointed. Rooting for Secretariat in the movie is like rooting for the Yankees. Worse, it’s like rooting for all the past Yankees teams whose records have already been recorded.

    (2) If rooting for Secretariat is like rooting for the Yankees then rooting for Penny Chenery is like rooting for George Steinbrenner. Yes, she faced considerable potential difficulties if Secretariat hadn’t turned out to be the horse everyone expected him to be. But he was so she didn’t. Especially in these down economic times it seems like more people are likely to be turned off by the “poor little rich girl” reality than inspired by the attempted “I am woman hear me roar” approach attempted by Disney.

    (3) No horse is Secretariat. Most who actually saw Secretariat run don’t want to see an imitation of what they still clearly remember. Most I suspect actually would prefer to watch the grainy Belmont video of the real Secretariat than a knock off version – no matter how expertly done. So if you’re nor likely to attract the nostalgia crowd who is left? Well, the only real audience left to target are today’s younger generation of thoroughbred fans. Unfortunately, this is not a large demographic.

    It is a miracle that the movie did as well as it did. Next time Disney wants to make a movie about a horse they should consider Ruffian or Seattle Slew. These horses are near-contemporaries of Secretariat but they both have far more compelling story lines than the the little (big) horse that couldn’t (miss).

    • Shannon Hood
      October 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

      @Laferpurcell Excellent points. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t wonder about the powers that be. They frequently bury a promising movie and spend their money on marketing questionable ones. I know it is all calculated business, but jeez. I have heard that they were hoping to capture the same audience that made The Blind Side such a hit last year. However, I think that movie was just a fluke, and the success cannot be replicated.

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