Breezy Blockbuster Against Heavy Drama = Route

In this corner: a big-budget, major studio movie with a dazzling cast and special effects to match.

In the other corner: a small-budget film based on true events, starring an Academy Award winning actress.

And the winner is... the blockbuster.

Sad to say, but A Mighty

Heart, the film about the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, came in tenth at the box office its opening weekend, earning just under $4 million, despite having such a Hollywood heavyweight headliner as Angelina Jolie.

Instead, people opted to see Evan Almighty, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Ocean's

13, a big-budget summer blockbuster each and every one.

But I don't think a small budget is solely to blame. 1408, Stephen King's horror tale about a haunted hotel room, and Knocked Up, a beauty and the beast-esque comedy about having a baby, both made it into the top five with budgets under $30 million.

No, I think A Mighty Heart was mighty disappointing at the box office because of its story. Summer is just not a time when people want to see serious films about real life terrorism, torture and murder.

It's not that the subject is off limits. Now that we're beyond five years since 9/11, and more than four years since the start of the war in Iraq, those topics seem to be fair game for moviemakers.

United 93, the brutally realistic film about one of the doomed flights on 9/11, fared okay in it's opening weekend, earning $11.4 million last year. But it was released in April.

Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, about Port Authority firemen in New York on September 11th, saw even greater success -- $18.7 million in its opening weekend. But it was released in August after most of the summer biggies had come and gone.

Films like A Mighty Heart, Hotel Rwanda, or Munich which tackle real life terrorism and atrocities can be hard to watch sometimes, which is why, I think, they fare better in the spring or fall, when people don't have such obviously more entertaining, less

thought-provoking alternatives.

Still, given the topic and with a budget of just $20 million, it's pretty impressive that A Mighty Heart cracked the top ten in its opening weekend.

But I think the success will be short-lived. Live Free or Die Hard will probably give A Mighty Heart an undeserved

knock-out punch.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.