Weekend Wrap-up: Grindhouse Flops

You think we might have learned our lesson last summer, when Snakes on a Plane fell out of the sky after we were all sure that it was going to be pretty much the Biggest Movie Ever.

By "we" I mean we movie geeks who spend our lives online -- hands up! who's a dork? [raises hand embarrassedly] We had so much fun with SoaP, so everyone would love it. Wouldn't they? But the crash-and-burn of SoaP turned out to be a stunning reminder of just how small a part of the overall moviegoing audience the Internet demographic actually is. We don't, in fact, lead the crowd: we're just one little group over in the corner talking amongst ourselves.

And it's happened again this weekend. When I saw Laremy's Friday prediction for today's box office reports, and that he was calling for Grindhouse to make around $22 million, I thought, Is he crazy? This is going to be the Biggest Movie Ever. How could it not be with people going so damn insane over it?

Well, color me a clueless Net dork: Grindhouse earned only half that, around $11.6 million this weekend, reaching only No. 4 on the weekly chart. And that means the online pundits -- including yours truly -- will be scratching our heads trying to figure out just what went wrong. Theories about three-hour runtimes and a lack of familiarity with the concept of the grindhouse will be bandied about, as will commentary about a lack of real star power, the R rating (which really should have been NC-17), and the fact that it was Easter weekend.

But the real truth? There just ain't that many true movie geeks around, and Grindhouse is a celebration of true movie geekery with extremely limited appeal to anyone who ain't a true movie geek. I have to acknowledge that even though I'm delighted to see that Meet the Robinsons was No. 2 at the box office this weekend, earning $17 million, there's no getting around the fact that even though it, too, is a celebration of geekery -- in this instance, of the science fictional kind -- that is not what's drawing so many people. It's a cartoon, it's a kids' movie, it's something to keep the rugrats occupied for 90 minutes. That's why it's doing so well.

The real real truth? Audiences want mindless diversion, and they pay for it: the No. 3 movie this weekend was Are We Done Yet?, and No. 1 was Blades of Glory -- call them dumb and dumber. And Hollywood will never go broke giving people what they want.

(Box office numbers via Box Office Mojo.)

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MaryAnn Johanson

reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com