Box Office Mojo, among others, is terribly surprised that the media's collective wet kiss for "Grindhouse" didn't translate into #1 status at the box office. Instead, "Blades of Glory" continued to rule the roost with $23 million, followed by another second-weeker, "Meet the Robinsons," with $17 million, followed by -- this really hurts -- the wretched Ice Cube sequel (and remake of the actually pretty overrated 1948 Cary Grant classic "Mr. Blandings Bulds his Dream House") "Are We Done Yet?" with $15 million. And then "Grindhouse" with $11.5.
We are not surprised. First of all, it's a three hour movie, which means fewer showtimes (twice as few as the 92-minute "Are We Done Yet?"). Theaters tried to make up for that by doubling up on screens: While "Grindhouse" was in fewer theaters than the Ice Cube "comedy" (2,624 versus 2,877), it played on more screens (3,700 in total).
So the chances to see it were there, but the audience didn't turn up. Again, we're not surprised. Airhead family comedy versus hard-R campfest? One is a safe bet with a wide appeal -- being any good is entirely secondary -- while the other stands to draw in a self-selected audience of those who A) at the very least don't mind ultra-violence and/or B) get the joke. The "Kill Bill" movies debuted in the mid-$20 million range, but they both stuck close to the two hour mark and -- far more important -- were promoted with the image of a single star, Uma Thurman.
Stars have always sold tickets. Stars always will sell tickets. Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg is not a star. Tarantino and Rodriguez, while they may be names, are not stars, no matter what QT himself may think. Hilary Swank, by contrast, is a star, and "The Reaping" did a perfectly okay $10 million, despite possibly the worst reviews for a 2007 release to date.
The reviews for "Grindhouse" were mostly ecstastic. So what? Good reviews get people out to see arthouse movies like "The Lives of Others," not vroom-vroom irony fests, and, in the end, the critical notices will probably translate to more DVD rentals down the pike, now that "Grindhouse" has been implanted in the public consciousness as "gross but good."
In other words, this is simply not a populist movie. That has an impact on its box office but does not reflect on its quality.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Glenn Yoder is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.