are in for the weekend, and the news is good! At the top of the list
is Barbershop, a $12
million-budgeted film which took in $20.6 million over the three days.
Next is the unstoppable My
Big Fat Greek Wedding, crusing over the $110 million mark in total
gross despite a budget of only $5 million. Then there’s One
Hour Photo, which cost $12 million to make and grossed $8 million
in one weekend despite difficult subject matter and the fact that the
intelligentsia in New York and LA have already had three weeks of limited
release in which to see it.
What’s more, each of the top three films was shown in fewer theatres
than any of the films in the rest of the top ten. One Hour Photo, for
instance, in 1,212 theatres, grossed more than Swimfan,
in 2,860; Barbershop, in 1,605 theatres, almost quadrupled the gross
of Signs, in 3,061.
Clearly, there’s an appetite for quirkier fare, for films which don’t
slavishly follow the Hollywood rule-book. There’s an appetite for blockbusters,
too, of course, but look at MGM’s films over the past year and a half:
Barbershop was the studio’s biggest opening weekend since Hannibal
in February 2001. It beat out at least three of the studio’s would-be
blockbusters which turned out to be flops: Windtalkers,
War, which cost over $250 million between them.That’s enough to
make 20 One Hour Photos, or 50 Greek weddings.
Studios need blockbusters, of course. They’re the foundation upon which
Hollywood is built, and a lot of the mystique of the movies would disappear
if all we were offered was intelligent, quirky films. But this week’s
box-office chart, even if it is a bit anomalous, points to the fact
that there is an audience of moviegoers out there who aren’t the lowest-common-denominator
adolescent boys at which most of the rest of the list is targeted. Swimfan,
Stealing Harvard, xXx, Austin Powers, Spider-Man, Men in Black II
in their attempt to reach a broad consumer base, they ironically end
up alienating most of the population. Meanwhile, Igby
Goes Down, an $8 million film also from MGM, managed to gross more
than $300,000 in just ten theatres last weekend. When it finally goes
into wide release, it, too, should have a better weekend than Rollerball
But the best news of all this weekend was the success of Barbershop
outside its "urban" (read: black) niche. The idea of a neighbourhood
store where local characters can drop in and pass the time of day is
pretty universal, and the film obviously appealed to Middle America
as well as the inner cities. I’m looking forward to seeing it myself,
after which I’ll post a review; for the time being I’m assuming that
it’s basically Smoke
moved to the South Side of Chicago. One thing I am sure of: America
is waking up to the fact that rappers can make great actors. Ice Cube
takes the lead in Barbershop, alongside Eve; elsewhere, we’ve seen fantastic
performances from Ice-T, in New
Jack City, say, or Mos Def, in Top Dog/Underdog on Broadway.
Later this autumn, Eminem is appearing in 8
Mile, and already he’s received a lot more critical acclaim than
Britney Spears or Mariah Carey ever got as actresses.
Cross over, say I! Let the rappers act, let the actors sing. (Think
of Michelle Pfeiffer, Jane Horrocks, Nicole Kidman.) Let the whites
go to black films, let the teenagers go to indy flicks, let the movie
business get shaken up a bit. We don’t need to rely on DV to change
cinema, all we need to do is break out of our niches.