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Rediff.com  » Movies » Despite savage reviews, The Happening does well at box office

Despite savage reviews, The Happening does well at box office

Last updated on: June 16, 2008 13:49 IST

M Night Shyamalan redeemed himself with his new film The Happening, which surprised many industry forecasters, grossing an estimated three-day worldwide gross of $62 million.

The film, produced by India's UTV Motion Pictures and Fox Searchlight, beat the $150 million The Incredible Hulk, the number one film in North America, in foreign markets. But to put things in perspective, Hulk opened in 39 territories while Happening was showing in 88 markets.

With the $30 million weekend gross in North America, Happening far outweighed the dismal opening of Shyamalan's previous film Lady In The Water, which made just about $36 million in its entire run and sank in foreign markets too.

In North America, Hulk grossed about $53 million; Happening was number three on the North American box office charts. It followed the comedy hit, Kung Fu Panda, which in its second weekend collected $32 million.

Even if Happening, which was made for about $60 million, were to plunge by about 60 percent the next weekend, it would be able to make a profit thanks to the good overseas opening and the ancillary markets including DVD sales.

A still from The HappeningAccording to Fox, the film opened at top spot in France, Spain, Italy, Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador. In France, it took $4.7 million and it was at third spot in the UK where it grossed $3.4 million from 389 screens, while Spain contributed $3.8 million. Though the film does not have big stars and lacks the adrenaline pumping action of Hulk, it still drew commendable number of viewers. Its last major territory Japan will see the film next week.

Many reviewers savaged the film. But it won a surprisingly strong review in The New York Times, which also pointed out that daggers were drawn and the film was condemned by many writers even before it had been shown to critics. The San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a decent review.

In the United Kingdom, The Scotsman wrote: Indeed the noble truth is that M Night Shyamalan's new thriller isn't that bad. But the awful truth is that it's not really that good, either, just a tame and tepid puzzlement.

But Philip French was far less charitable in his review in The Observer. 'Shyamalan's career has been going steadily downhill after peaking with The Sixth Sense in 1999,' he wrote. 'A succession of pretentious, mystical thrillers has led to The Happening, an ineffectual attempt to reprise the Cold War, nuclear-angst horror flicks of the Fifties and Sixties (most obviously Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Panic in the Year Zero!) for the era of global warming.'

Fox took advantage of the year's only Friday the 13th to launch Happening in every market except Japan and Argentina, the trade publication Variety reported. It also quoted Fox International officials Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus saying that the Shyamalan picture beat internal forecasts.

As for the reviewers slamming the film, the studio executive Jegeus told Variety: 'There's a real disconnect between critics and audiences, who are responding well to a very watchable film.'

Most horror films come down by about 50 percent in the second week and if Happening does not go for a steeper fall, it could end its North American run with about $75 million.

Arthur J Pais in New York