TARA BRADYon the idiosyncrasies of the Irish box office
WHAT RICHARD DID hits Irish cinemas next week. Lenny Adam and Paul Abrahamson’s third feature brings a cool, de-dramatised gaze to events inspired by the Anabel’s nightclub court case and provides a much-needed antidote to hysterical local representations of both crime and teenagers. It’s likely the best film to emerge from Ireland since the turn of the millennium, and it certainly feels like the most important.
But that may not matter at the box office, where Irish titles, regardless of merit and notices, have failed to connect with Irish audiences for more than a year.
Indeed, the outlook for any indie title entering the box-office race is not particularly bright. Theatrical monies have plummeted here and everywhere else since late August. In the ROI, the overall box-office take has failed to hit the million mark over successive weekends, and that includes a good run for last weekend’s returning champ, ParaNorman.
Spooky, anomalous things are happening in the marketplace. Last weekend produced a three- way tie at the top of the US chart: only $900,000 separated End of Watch, at the top spot, from House at the End of the Street and Trouble with the Curve, all on mediocre tallies. Prepare, too, for the rapture: earlier this month, for the first time in living memory, an Adam Sandler title (That’s My Boy) failed to crack the Irish top 10.
Help, we’re told, is at hand. The Grey Euro, the kind that helped propel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to a global return of $131,733,492, will rebalance the books and save the farm. Sure enough, Hope Springs emerged with €258,847 after only two weekends on release here. It’s not Dark Knight Rises money (running total: €5.5 million) or Ted money (running total: €4.1 million). But it does illustrate that there’s an audience for watching Streep and Jones squabble.
The older folks certainly had it over the lovely dying teen film Now Is Good. Despite good notices, the poor creature only just limped in to the top 10 with €19,961 from 31 locations.
But let’s not pull the plug on teen movies just yet. We seem to remember a time before this grey miracle. We seem to remember a Comic-Con miracle. Enter Dredd, which tested so well at this year’s annual jamboree. The 2000 AD adaptation somehow managed to do worse than its Sylvester Stallone predecessor: a Stateside bomb last weekend, with $6,278,491 and a No 6 placing.
Dredd’s poor performance adds credence to the urban myth of the Comic-Con jinx. And it falls in line with a string of Comic-Con wows, Real Wold flops: Cowboys Aliens, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Green Lantern, Jonah Hex.
Dredd was a gift for those industry analysts who are increasingly sceptical about Hollywood’s cult of the fanboy. Their argument is simple: the costs of courting online symposiums called What Should Happen in Iron Man 3 are simply too high and the yields are too unpredictable. For every Marvel’s Avengers, there’s 1998’s The Avengers times 20. For every
$100 million earned by Tron: Legacy, there’s a $90-million spend on years of teaser trailers.
Far away from this demographic kerfuffle, there’s a much bigger issue. Hollywood has divided its year into summer pop and winter prestige. They’ve decided people don’t much go to the cinema during the in-between bits. And so, as they rush all the stuff they weren’t too sure about into multiplexes, people don’t much go to the cinema.