“Suburbicon” Plunges Into Box Office Sinkhole While “Jigsaw” Lacks Teeth With Ho-Hum $16 Million Debut. This Weekend at the Box Office.

By Jim Amos | October 29, 2017 6:29 pm PDT

There is a famous 1980s era photo of one solitary baseball fan sitting in the far upper reaches of cavernous Municipal Stadium in Cleveland where the (then) sad sack Indians used to play their baseball games. It’s clear that there isn’t a single soul within another time zone of him. We probably could have used that photo for a live look into any movie theater playing “Suburbicon” this weekend and no one would have been the wiser. From a box office perspective, the George Clooney directed black comedy was never going to be mistaken for “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” but did it have to bear too close a resemblance to “Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star”?

How is it possible that a film with a bankable actor, one of the most famous directors (and celebrities) in the world and the writing team of the Coen Brothers not only ended up with a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 26 but a Cinemascore of D-. Told you we were talking Bucky Larson territory here. It also gives us our Celluloid Junkie Review Quote of the week, this week from Matthew Lickona from the San Diego Reader who writes, “The narrative automobile lurches from fifth gear to first, then swerves into a white picket fence and bursts into flames.” Yeah.

All of this translated to a pitiful $2.8 million debut and yet another example (after last week’s “Only the Brave”) of adult titles that had trouble finding an audience hitting previously unimaginable lows. No one in the industry thought either of these two films would sink to these levels, but alas welcome to 2017 where the poor really are getting poorer. Why did this tank so badly? My money is on the fact that if moviegoers are to be lured into cinemas for a film set in the suburban 1950s it would be for nostalgic reasons. Many in this country, for right or wrong, have this picket fence, mowing our yards in shirts and ties image in our minds of the way America used to be and they don’t want to see that image shredded to bits. This was never going to be a middle of the country film but the problem was that it didn’t appeal to the coasts either. Besides Matt Damon sitting bloodied at a dinner table I had a hard time understanding what the movie was about. And I do this for a living. Asking your audience to have to actually work to figure out a movie’s selling point is akin to requesting that hotel guests make their own beds and clean their own toilets. As my old French teacher used to say, “Ain’t gonna happen, no such animal”.

I wish this was a good news/ bad news weekend where I could put “Suburbicon” in the rear view mirror and turn our attention to a snappy gross on “Jigsaw” but, well, ain’t gonna happen, no such animal. While the film garnered a decent B Cinemascore and had the added benefit of being the last horror boat out before Halloween, the Lionsgate “Saw” reboot could only scrounge up $16 million worth of scares, most of which came from Thursday previews and Friday opening night attendees. Perhaps moviegoers were frightened-out by the time this past weekend rolled around after the cornucopia of October horror titles that included “It”, “Happy Death Day” and “Geostorm”. (I know, cheap shot).

Elsewhere, “Thank You for Your Service” managed a serviceable debut of $3.7 million and enjoyed the best reviews of the week with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77 and a Cinemscore of A-.

I was always told if you can’t say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all so I’ll simply mention that “All I See is You” opened this weekend from Open Road.

In other items of note…

  • ShowEast was this past week and I wanted to extend a congratulations to several award winners in Miami that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. Kudos to Bob Lenihan, John Lundin, Elaine Purdy, Doug Whitford, Darryl Schaffer and Greg Laemmle.
  • If you want to see what a cinema restoration is supposed to look like check out the Stella Cinema in Dublin, Ireland.
  • One of the most talked about issues in Miami this past week was the concept of surge pricing. My two cents on the subject can be found here.
  • Most release schedules still show November 22nd as the release date for TWC/Dimension’s “Polaroid”. With everything that has gone on at The Weinstein Company look for this to move to TBA this week.

Box Office Chart - October 29, 2017

Looks like we’ve finally come to the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone ready to start your engines? Here we go:

“Thor: Ragnarok” (BV)—Leave it to the gang at Marvel to make yet another critical and crowd pleasing superhero movie. Reactions are all extremely positive from early screenings of the latest “Thor” effort with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95 and tracking through the roof. The first “Thor” outing opened to $65 million in 2011, ending up at $181 million Stateside and $268 million internationally. Volume 2 scored a debut of $85 million and a $206 cume here in the U.S. and $438 overseas. The film has opened very well overseas.

The Verdict: Outside of “The Last Jedi” this should be the can’t miss title of the holiday season. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum provide the star power and from all accounts this film has a terrific comedy layer to it as well. The over/under in the industry is right at $100 million. Go with the over. $116 million

“A Bad Moms Christmas” (STX)—They’re back and they’re still bad. And now their moms are as well. That’s all of the synopsis that the target audience needs to know. Joining Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn are Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski and Cheryl Hines. Also returning are directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The first “Bad Moms” opened to $23 million and enjoyed an almost unheard of multiple of 4.9 It wasn’t as successful overseas where it could only manage $70 million and that figures to be the case again this time out.

The Verdict: Yes, this Christmas themed movie does open one day after Halloween but frankly does it really matter? Especially considering it opens on a Wednesday, the opening three day will probably not knock anyone’s socks off but it will be another situation where once the dust finally clears it should finish up around the century mark. The only question will be will those limited screen dine-in theatres, that were so integral to the success of the first film still be available in weeks 3 and 4, end up being prime playtime for a film that is catering to an audience that has to actually find the time to schedule a girls’ night out at the holidays, which is never an easy task. $21 million and a final cume of $100,000,001.

“LBJ” (Electric)—Woody Harrelson stars in this biopic of President Lyndon Johnson. Co-stars Richard Jenkins and Bill Pullman.

“Lady Bird” (A24)—Actress Greta Gerwig steps behind the camera for her directing debut and from all accounts this high school dramedy is a winner. Hence the current 100 Rotten Tomatoes score.

“Last Flag Flying” (LG/Amazon)—This sequel to 1973’s “The Last Detail” is getting Oscar buzz for its acting triumverate of Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. It also helps to have director Richard Linklater on board.

On the EVENT CINEMA front this week, the encore for the Kirk Cameron starring “Revive Us” is Wednesday in the States along with “Conor McGregor: Notorious” in the UK and Ireland. There’s more inspiration on tap on Thursday with “I’ll Push You”. We dip into the gaming world Saturday for “League of Legends World Championship” and Sunday begins the two night “Pokemon, I Choose You” in-theatre event.

As for his mum, she was clearly insane and appeared to be wearing some kind of yeti costume- “About a Boy”

Jim Amos
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