Kick-Ass underperforms, but why?

Senior Editor
04.19.10 24 Comments

Putting aside my bias because I liked it (though I can see why some people didn’t), the general consensus was that Kick-Ass would win the weekend and make $30 million or so.  Early estimates (final numbers come out tomorrow) have it earning $19.75, trailing How to Train Your Dragon by $250,000, which, though not a flop, would make it a moderate disappointment, like having a son who grows up to be a movie blogger.  I’d be inclined to blame illegal immigrants and the Dutch for this disappointment, but for a true phony explanation of this box-office misforecast, I turn to Brandon Grey of BoxOfficeMojo:

Kick-Ass didn’t bust out of its unpopular superhero comedy confines nor did it match its hype, but it nonetheless delivered one of the highest-grossing starts ever for its sub-genre.

Shackled by its unappealing subject matter, Kick-Ass packed a not-so-walloping estimated $19.8 million on approximately 4,300 screens at 3,065 locations. The Incredibles holds the record for superhero comedies and is the only truly successful one, but, among live-action entries, Kick-Ass boasted the biggest debut. Mystery Men was the previous high with $10 million (or over $15 million adjusted for ticket price inflation), showing how little interest the sub-genre has stirred in the past.

Kick-Ass’s turn-out was closer to the other violent action movie from April 16, 2004: The Punisher. That’s because the Kick-Ass machine rammed outrageousness, colorfully vicious action and self-referential humor down people’s throats but lacked purpose and story. It was true to its sensory-bound but nondescript title. Furthermore, while some spoofs work, people aren’t as eager to see heroes torn down. Watchmen and television series Heroes alienated viewers with such themes, so a movie brazenly dissing heroes like Kick-Ass was only going to go so far.

So there you have it, folks.  Before you release a movie, you should check with Brandon Grey about what “sub-genre” it falls into and he can tell you whether you should change the theme so as not to alienate viewers.  He does it all on his specially-made, box-office calculator watch.  It’s impressive, really.  “Hmm, I don’t know, this title is too sensory-bound,” he’ll say, while thoughtfully spreading cheese on a Handi Snak.

Film Weekend Per Total
1 How to Train Your Dragon $20,000,000 (-19.6%) $5,229 $158,618,000
2 Kick-Ass $19,750,000 $6,444 $19,750,000
3 Date Night $17,300,000 (-31.4%) $5,118 $49,246,000
4 Death at a Funeral $17,000,000 $6,913 $17,000,000
5 Clash of the Titans $15,770,000 (-40.8%) $4,202 $132,985,000
6 The Last Song $5,800,000 (-41.0%) $2,096 $50,000,000
7 Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? $4,180,000 (-62.1%) $2,249 $54,880,000
8 Hot Tub Time Machine $3,545,000 (-34.7%) $1,536 $42,505,000
9 Alice in Wonderland $3,500,000 (-34.0%) $1,729 $324,000,000
10 The Bounty Hunter $3,200,000 (-24.1%) $1,293 $60,378,000

It sucks that it seems like the choice for filmmakers is between a movie that’s interesting and idiosyncratic but a disappointment commercially, or a kind of disappointing and lamely traditional story that’s a box office success, like The Blind Side. I find the only real solution is to start drinking before noon.

[chart via CHUD]

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