West Side Story Jets to first place, National Champions Latifi-s itself, Red Rocket blasts off TO THE MOOOOOOOOOON, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
As the Omicron variant of the still-ongoing and nowhere-near-done COVID pandemic takes further hold… first of all, please get your jabs, for fuck’s sake. Admittedly, I probably don’t need to tell any of you lovely STT readers that since you’re good, smart, caring people who have already done so or are waiting to get your main vax or booster vax. But, still, worth mentioning anyway for safety. Get jabbed and vote Tories/Conservatives/Republicans (delete depending on name of right-wing party in your country) out ASAP. But, more relevantly for this series of articles about how good or bad capitalism is doing when it comes to the film industry, it’s becoming harder and harder to shake the fact that audiences are rather wary about potentially risking their lives for anything less than a reality-shaking, nostalgia-heavy, four-quadrant, crowdpleasing blockbuster. Unfortunately for them, Spider-Man isn’t until next week so we gotta settle for Steven Spielberg taking on West Side Story.
Yes, perhaps the greatest Broadway musical ever composed(?) Previously adapted into perhaps the greatest movie musical ever(?) Now interpreted by perhaps the best to ever get behind the wheel of a director’s camera dolly. (I kind of want to cover my arse there with another Todd Sanchez-style “question mark?” but I’m genuinely struggling to think of any other director so consistently great across so many films in such a breadth of genres for so long.) With some of the best reviews of the year. Still only barely enough to see off the third week of Encanto. West Side may have screamed away to start with on a $4.1 mil Friday, aided by $800,000 in previews, but Encanto came roaring back in the middle stint with a $4.4 mil Saturday. The battle came down to the wire but, ultimately, the plucky upstart on fresher tyres ended up besting the consistent veteran on worn-out compounds to pip the title at the post with West Side’s $10.5 mil to Encanto’s $9.4 mil. A fair, skilful, gripping fight decided on equal terms and NOT, repeat, NOT by last-second bullshit officiating from dogshit race directors gift-wrapping the title to one film under the (admittedly funny in-context) pretence of “we went car-racing.” That’s what we like to see!
Despite all coverage making it look like only two people were taking part in this race weekend, there were in fact other competitors on the grid. Midfield-wannabe turned-backmarker STX, for example, had National Champions opening up in Wide despite the studio’s notorious underperformance as of late – perhaps marred by ownership troubles meaning that they can’t advertise their shit decently and have to wait until three weeks from release before dropping even a single trailer. Unsurprisingly, the sports drama spent the weekend battling for the box office equivalent of Least Worst Last Place before careening off into the wall and forcing a safety car INSTEAD OF A RED FLAG LIKE THERE SHOULD’VE BEEN COME ON! …ahem. Thirteenth place with a spectacularly awful $300,000 from 1,197 theatres, the fourth-worst such opening on more than 1,000 screens of all-time and definitely the worst of the pandemic-era.
Meanwhile, all this focus on the two leaders and major crash-out mean that the surprisingly excellent performance of Sean Baker’s divisive Red Rocket has gone somewhat unnoticed. One might say it snuck onto the podium with its weekend earnings of $96,593 from six screens, a PTA of $16,098. In related news, the turbo-hybrid charge of Paul Thomas Anderson’s still strong Licorice Pizza posted another weekend in excess of $176,000 despite United Artists’ dogged refusal to expand its reach from the same four theatres it started on until Xmas. One could maybe even argue that it had a decent shot at challenging the two top drivers for the lead if only THE RACE DIRECTOR HAD DONE HIS GODDAMN JOB AND LET ALL BLUE-FLAG CARS OVERTAKE INSTEAD OF THE ARBITRARY AMOUNT REQUIRED TO BUNCH UP VERSTAPPEN AND HAMILTON! WHAT FUCKERY WAS THAT, HUH?!
Sorry. Sorry. It’s been 10 hours since the F1 at time of writing and I’m still pissed about that utter farce. I’ll stop now. Here’s the Full List.
US Box Office Results: Friday 10th December 2021 – Sunday 12th December 2021
1] West Side Story
$10,500,000 / NEW
…no, but seriously, the fuck was that? Yeah, I’ll admit to having been rooting for Hamilton, but my anger stems from the side of me who’s a motor-racing fan that likes to see things resolved on the track rather than due to the nonsensical whims of the drunk FIA and Race Director gods! Michael Masi suddenly reversing-course by letting the traffic between Verstappen and Hamilton – and ONLY the traffic between the two – pass the safety car before immediately green-flagging in defiance of established FIA rulebook protocol taints Verstappen’s victory to a degree which honestly is not fair to the man who put in great drives for most of the season. That sucks. There’s a Schumacher-‘94-sized asterisk against what should be a momentous changing-of-the-guard historic moment.
$9,425,000 / $71,345,055
Like, if he can’t deliver future titles in later seasons – extremely unlikely since, y’know, he and Hamilton are currently the two absolute best drivers on that grid getting unreal performances out of their cars whilst their teammates struggle, but I’m making a point – then his championship’s gonna be treated in the eyes of historians similar to Jacques Villeneuve’s 1997 win. And despite some of his needlessly aggressive, and sometimes downright petulant, antics in the latter half of the season, that would be a disservice to those commanding performances he put in in Styria, the United States, and going from last to second in Russia.
3] Ghostbusters: Afterlife
$7,100,000 / $112,004,281
If the race had restarted with Max in blue-flag traffic and he did successfully overtake Hamilton – which he had a not-insignificant chance of doing, honestly, with those scrubbed soft tyres vs Hamilton’s 40 lap-old hards – then I would’ve fully accepted that. Mercedes really didn’t help Hamilton by their bizarre decision to not pit him under the virtual safety car, especially since Hamilton more than had the pace to overtake Verstappen if they did lose track position. But, this? God, it’s just so blatantly manufactured that if it were a Hollywood film I’d be turned off by the contrivance.
4] House of Gucci
$4,060,749 / $41,032,121
I get the impulse in the decision made by Masi, too. It’s the biggest race in years, more eyes of the world are on the sport than there have been in forever, you don’t want this title fight to close out via safety car procession cos it’d be anticlimactic – even though that’s sports and we all deal with it. But if even the expert commentators hired to explain the sport to viewers can’t quite understand what’s going on in the moment, that’s bad officiating and makes your shit look bush-league to said new viewers. They’ll at best get confused, at worst smell a rat, and overall just not wanna come back. There’s a level of dramatic bullshit sports fans are willing to take, y’know.
$3,100,000 / $161,217,043
And furthermo- OW! OW! WENDY! Cut it out! OW! I’ll stop! I’LL STOP, I PROMISE! Jeez, you don’t need to spray me with that water bottle! I’m not a cat!
6] Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
$1,650,000 / $15,851,944
Before getting similarly wound up by how things went down in Abu Dh-WAIT, WAIT, IT’S AN ARTICLE PLUG SET-UP, I PROMISE! PLEASE PUT THE BOTTLE DOWN! …err, Kelechi Ehenulo continues her beat on the Blade Runner 2029 comics with a more lukewarm take on the latest issue.
7] Clifford the Big Red Dog
$1,325,000 / $47,708,811
Quoth the great Amon Warmann: protect Olivia Colman at all costs.
8] Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers
$1,290,000 / $13,438,000
Tis the season! No, not for celebrating the birth of Christ nor for toasting the wonders of capitalism as arbitrary means of showing how much affection you have for the people in your life! But, rather, for podcasts! 12 Days of Podmas is back for another year and we got all sorts here for you pod-people to try! Go catch-up and test-drive!
9] Dune: Part One
$857,000 / $106,210,160
Not a bad total for Dune the First to part ways on, frankly. I’ll be shocked if Matrix Resurrections can end up matching that total, since I have a horrible feeling it’s gonna bomb hard. Of course, I don’t lose any sleep over that hypothetical since the Wachowski Sisters have proven themselves to be too good for the normie general public, so financial success isn’t a metric to hold either of them to. What does cause me night sweats, though, is the possibility of the film being boring. Bad Lana Wachowski, I can vibe with since Wachowski works are always at least interesting. But boring? Nope, I don’t wanna live in a world where a Wachowski project is as dull as Venom 2.
10] Venom: Let There Be Carnage
$850,000 / $212,052,968
… … …ok, but seriously? This F1 thing? A total clusterfuck. Either the title gets decided in the courtroom post-season, which less than nobody wants, or it got decided via blatant FIA shithousery which undermines the integrity of the spo-OW! OW! I REGRET NOTHING! OW!
Dropped out: King Richard, Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night
Callie Petch can see you’re afraid, but you don’t know it.