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First Look: 'Robin Hood' wobbly in U.S. but hits target overseas

RobinHood Sherwood Forest was light on Americans but crowded with international moviegoers this weekend.

Director Ridley Scott's pricey new big-screen adaptation of "Robin Hood" starring Russell Crowe opened to $37.1 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures. That's a weak start for a big-budget summer event film and on the low end of already unimpressive expectations.

It was the weekend's No. 2 film, opening well behind "Iron Man 2," which dropped 59% following its spectacular debut to an estimated $53 million.

Domestic moviegoers, 63% of whom were over 30, seemed as lukewarm on "Robin Hood" as most critics, giving it an average grade of B-, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Foreigners seemed much more enamored with the serious new take on the origins of the British archer and champion of the poor. "Robin Hood" grossed a healthy $74 million in 56 international territories through Sunday, with particularly strong results in Europe. The four most successful overseas markets for the film were Great Britain, where it was produced and takes place, France, Germany and Italy. Results were also good throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia and in Australia. The movie has yet to open in China and Japan.

While "Robin Hood" is far from the blockbuster $100-million-plus foreign debuts posted by films including several "Harry Potter" sequels, "2012," "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" and "Iron Man 2," it's on the high end of what Universal was targeting and would be good enough, if domestic results were stronger, to make the movie a hit.

Two people familiar with the budget said "Robin Hood" cost Universal and its financing partner, Relativity Media, at least $200 million to produce, though a Universal spokesman said the final cost was $155 million after tax credits. That doesn't include, however, at least $25 million that the companies wrote off after the production initially slated to start in 2008 was delayed, according to one person familiar with the situation.

The second weekend drop for "Iron Man 2" was relatively high -- a bit surprising given that opening weekend audiences gave it an average grade of A. Still, the super-hero sequel financed by Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel Entertainment and distributed by Paramount Pictures grossed a very strong $212.6 million in its first 10 days.

Overseas, "Iron Man 2" took in $31 million this weekend, its third in most international markets, bringing its foreign total to $245 million.

LettersJuliet Romantic drama "Letters to Juliet" starring Amanda Seyfried had a modest but not terrible opening with $13.8 million. Distributor Summit Entertainment had been looking for an opening closer to $20 million based on pre-release polling. However, the mostly young and overwhelmingly female crowd gave the picture an average grade of A-, boosting hopes that the movie will continue to play well underneath summer event films for the next few weeks.

Summit spent $30 million to produce "Letters to Juliet" but has already recouped half that amount through tax credits and foreign pre-sales.

Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy "Just Wright" starring Queen Latifah failed to make much of an impact, opening to just $8.5 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood." Credit: David Appleby / Universal Studios. Amanda Seyfried and Gael Garcia Bernal in "Letters to Juliet." Credit: John P. Johnson / Summit Entertainment

Comments () | Archives (2)

The core of the movie, Robin Hood, in my view was the romance between Robin and Marion, although obviously there were other, politico-historical aspects to it as well. The film showed with subtlety and grace how the pair fell in love; and it did so without resort to the display of highly charged and explicit sex scenes that are so common these days in romantic films. Indeed, it was the restraint Robin showed in this regard, combined with his spirit of generosity and decency, that won her. Perhaps it was the film's nuance in this regard that made it a hit in Europe while accounting for its "wobbliness" in the U.S. (We like to see our love scenes violent and explicitly erotic, afterall).

Albion Urdank
Associate Professor
British and European History
University of California, Los Angeles

I agree with Albion, it could be that we like our sex scenes explicit.
We also like our female leads to have some junk in the trunk.
Or maybe that's just me.


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