How two new PG movies just made history for very different reasons

Published: Monday, Oct. 1 2012 10:45 a.m. MDT

This film image released by 20th Century Fox shows Maggie Gyllenhaal, right, and Viola Davis in a scene from "Won't Back Down." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Kerry Hayes)

Kerry Hayes, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The new films “Won’t Back Down” and “Hotel Transylvania” — both of which bear the PG rating — experienced wildly divergent fortunes over the weekend.

For its part, “Won’t Back Down” notched the second-worst opening weekend ever for a movie playing on at least 2,500 screens.

“‘Won't Back Down’ … could only muster a $2.7 million debut this weekend,” the film industry website Box Office Mojo reported late Sunday. “That's the second-worst opening ever for a movie in 2,500-plus locations — ‘The Rocker’ holds the record at $2.64 million. Distributor 20th Century Fox clearly realized they had a dud on their hands a while ago (with ‘Won’t Back Down’) and pushed it out without the backing of a substantial marketing effort.”

In last week’s article “New movie ‘Won’t Back Down’ makes the case for education reform,” the Deseret News noted the film stays true to a “core premise of education equality.” Writing on Monday for the conservative National Review Online, John Fund speculated that reform-minded agenda is playing a part in the movie’s historically low numbers.

“The nation’s film critics have also turned out in support of the unions, largely trashing the film for ‘politicizing’ education issues,” Fund wrote. “On the film site Rotten Tomatoes, only 18 percent of ‘top critics’ have given it a favorable review, versus the 61 percent of the website’s users who gave it a thumbs-up. Most of the film critic complaints are political, not artistic.”

However, it’s not like the low revenue of “Won’t Back Down” can be attributed to low movie turnout over the weekend: the animated “Hotel Transylvania” set a September record for box office revenue with a weekend haul of $43 million. (“Sweet Home Alabama” held the previous September watermark by virtue of a $35.6 million weekend in 2002.)

“‘Hotel Transylvania’ also scored the biggest opening ever for Sony’s animation unit, besting ‘The Smurfs,’ which captured that prize with its $35.6 million opening during the summer of 2011,” the Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden blogged Sunday evening. “As expected, the film’s success was driven by families, which comprised 76 percent of the audience.”

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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