Despite many critics smashing The Hulk, one of the most expensive releases of the season, Ang Lee's latest film got off to a decent start. It is estimated that the $150 million movie grossed about $62 million in three days.
Even if the film loses 50-60 per cent of its audience with each passing week, it will gross about $160 million in North America alone. And with international grosses and ancillary sales factored in, The Hulk will be a profitable film, though it may not make the kind of money Universal Pictures had expected. There was speculation earlier that the film would be as successful as Spider-Man, also based on a Marvel Comics character, which went on to earn about $800 million worldwide.
Impressive though it is, the opening for The Hulk was far below expectation. The buzz and hype for the movie starring Australian actor Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who mutates into a raging green beast when he is infuriated, had led many people to believe that it might gross $100 million in three days.
The Hulk, however, was far behind Spider-Man, which set a three-day opening record of $114.8 million last year. Neither could it overtake the recent Marvel entry, X2: X-Men United, which opened with $85.6 million over a month ago.
Lee scored an international hit with his last project, the Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The subtitled film opened on a handful of screens three years ago and expanded across America, grossing about $125 million. Its budget was about one-third that of The Hulk. Lee's new opus opened at about 3,600 movie houses and on more than 4,500 screens.
The new film received good reviews from Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone and Newsweek, but not from The New York Times, New York Post, and USA Today. In Seattle Post-Intelligencer, William Arnold complained, 'It's amazingly static and talky for a $150 million popcorn movie.'
In New York Post, Lou Lumenick called the film 'messy, disappointing, self-important, and utterly humourless...' But in Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt mused, 'Throughout the movie, Lee engages the viewer with the visual spectacle of comic-book graphics transformed by movie magic.'
The bar set by Spider-Man and X2 is so high, mused Avi Arad -- one of the producers of The Hulk -- that people are asking him if he is disappointed with the $62 million gross. He told Reuters and several news organisations that he was 'very pleased'.
'People coming out of the movie didn't seem to have anything but high praise for what the creature ended up looking like,' he said, referring to some of the negative press 'because they saw it for the first time in context; [they were] not just seeing a frozen picture of the Hulk.'
The film collected more than the combined gross of the next five films on the chart, including the sturdy Finding Nemo, which was the No 2 film of the week and is on a steady course to overtake The Matrix: Reloaded ($264 million and fading fast) as the highest grossing film of 2003.
There are expectations that Nemo could even reach $300 million, the first film to achieve that distinction this year.
With its disappointing $6 million gross and seventh position on the chart, the light-hearted romance Alex & Emma woefully showed that director Rob Reiner couldn't resurrect the magic touch that turned his When Harry Met Sally into a smash hit more than 14 years ago.
The film tells the story of a novelist with a gambling problem, Alex (Luke Wilson), who decides to try to force himself out of a writer's block by courting risks. Taking a $50,000 advance on his next novel to pay off his (gambling) debts, he agrees to turn in a novel in a month. If the deadline is not met, the publisher will own anything else he writes.
Alex hires beautiful stenographer Emma (Kate Hudson) to help him meet the deadline. Though Hudson and Wilson are fairly charming, there isn't enough chemistry between them. The film is neither romantic nor comic.
Hudson, who scored a huge hit with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, is back in the Four Feathers territory. That film grossed just about $20 million. Maybe we could expect her to score better in Le Divorce due in a few weeks.
The Los Angeles Times called Alex & Emma 'a painfully contrived and artificial exercise in futility'. The New York Times complained: 'The picture is desperate to be a Date Night event, but it feels more like a Last Date movie'. The San Francisco Chronicle observed the film is 'a cute and amusing little romance that has all the fiery impetuosity of an egg sandwich'.
Three new movies, which opened last week to awful reviews and disappointing box office, fell heavily in their second week. The Harrison Ford-starrer Hollywood Homicide is dying fast, with a $30 million gross in sight. Rugrats Go Wild! is faring slightly better.The US box office this week:
|This week||Film||Weekend gross||
|Number of weeks|
|$62 million (in three days)||$62 million||New|
|2||Finding Nemo||$20.5 million (down 29 per cent from the previous weekend)||$228 million||4|
|3||2 Fast 2 Furious||$10.2 million (down 44 per cent from the previous weekend)||$102 million||3|
|4||Bruce Almighty||$10 million (down 30 per cent from the previous weekend)||$210 million||5|
|5||The Italian Job||$7 million (down 26 per cent from the previous weekend)||
|6||Rugrats Go Wild!||$6.6 million (down 41 per cent from the previous weekend)||$23.5 million||2|
|7||Alex and Emma||$6.2 million (in three days)||$6.2 million||New|
|8||Hollywood Homicide||$5.8 million (down 48 per cent from the previous weekend)||$21.4 million||2|
|9||Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd||$4 million (down 61 per cent from the previous weekend)||$20 million||2|
|10||The Matrix: Reloaded||$4 million (down 30 per cent from previous weekend)||$264.5 million||6|