Box Office Special - "2012" Splits the Uprights

If the moderate temperatures (in the Northeast, anyway) and blockbuster fare at the box office have anyone feeling a little confused, well, join the club. It turns out though, that Sony's idea of rolling out their late season tentpole "2012," on this the 46th weekend of the year, has some precedent. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2002 before you hit a group of new releases that doesn't feature a $150+ million film. So we probably should be thinking of the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving as a mini-blockbuster season. This year, Buena Vista even tried to scoop the big budget fun by releasing their $200 million motion-capture version of "A Christmas Carol" last weekend. It didn't work out so well.

That slow start did not deter Roland Emmerich's disaster epic however, and "2012" swept through theaters like a tidal wave, bringing with it a decent $65 million in domestic returns and a staggering $160 million overseas. That total was good enough for 7th biggest domestic opening in 2009, but the question now becomes how big can it go? In the mid-90's disaster movie mania ripped up the box office, coming to a head in 1997 with "Titantic" unprecedented (and as of yet, unmatched) success. These days, Roland Emmerich seems to be keeping the genre alive virtually on his own. In 2004, Emmerich's "Day After Tomorrow" opened over Memorial Day, bringing in a very similar $68 million, before going onto over a half-billion dollar total worldwide. "2012" though already seems poised to blow by "Day's" overseas totals, and if it can survive "Twilight" next week, it shouldn't have too much competition on the genre front.

What will be interesting to see is how the success of this decidedly low-brow disaster film has on Weinstein Co's "The Road," another film centrally concerned with the apocalypse. Though the latter comes with as much literary and high-art cache as a Hollywood film can muster these days -- the novel having won McCarthy a Pulitzer in 2007 -- and while Opera did her best to push the book into the public consciousness, it remains unclear if movie goers will either A) make the connection or B) care. Now, with "2012" having sucked all the air out of the apocalypse movie scenario -- hopefully for the next decade or so -- "The Road" will have to do something very different to differentiate itself. Of course, if you've seen the trailers, you know that these movies couldn't be any more different. But it just seems like some tough luck that there might be a lot of theater goers saying to themselves, "I don't know if I'm ready for another movie about the end of the world..."

Running down the rest of the box office numbers, three horror titles held on to spots in the top 10: "The Fourth Kind" dropping to the six spot, "Paranormal Activity" falling to eighth in its eighth week in release, and this week's podcast subject, "The Box," dropped to 10th in its second week. Upcoming, just be prepared mentally for the full "Twilight" onslaught. Depending on how things go, maybe we'll address it in this space next week. It's hard to say, there may just be too much angst.

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