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How deep is Woody Allen's fan base?

September 27, 2010 |  7:00 am

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By the simple standard of limited releases, Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" performed well this weekend.

But by the standard of Woody Allen releases, the matter is ... less clear.

After grossing about $50,000 on Wednesday and Thursday, the Sony Pictures Classics film, a marital comedy packed with stars such as Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts and Freida Pinto, tallied $164,000 over the weekend. That’s an average of about $27,300 per screen — a number most small films would be ecstatic about, and rightly so. (By comparison, Lionsgate's "Buried," which also opened in limited release, averaged only about one-third of that total.)

But Allen has always had a hard-core coastal fan base that comes out to see his films on opening weekend. So high per-screen averages are not exactly surprising. And when you look at it a little closer, "Stranger" shows a less favorable result. Many Allen films in the past decade have generated as much as $40,000 or $50,000 per screen on opening weekend (in lay terms, that's a few hundred people at each showing).

This one, on the other hand, had a lower average --- in fact, the lowest per-screen average of Allen’s last seven movies that have opened in limited release. (You have to go back to 1995’s "Mighty Aphrodite" to find a lower one.)

It's too soon to say what this weekend's numbers will mean for the final commercial verdict on the director's 41st feature. Allen's films tend to hang in there, holding theaters months into their release. And the 74-year-old filmmaker has of course had a commercial resurgence with some of his recent efforts. Two of them -- "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Match Point" -- have even topped $20 million, the first time in more than two decades he's hit that milestone.

But there have been signs that he's reverting to a fallow period that preceded "Match Point." In early 2008, just seven months before "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the heist picture "Cassandra's Dream" bombed, failing to even take in $1 million. And despite the presence of star Larry David, last year's "Whatever Works" topped out at only about $5 million domestically.

The reviewers haven't loved "Stranger" and its black comedy take on modern relationships -- the film failed to hit the 50% fresh mark on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Times' Betsy Sharkey was not alone in noting the feeling of an "empty-calorie letdown." It's hard to deny that that Allen is breaking little new ground with some of his recent work. Mostly he's offering something reliable, comedic comfort food for the misanthropy set. The question is how many people keep scarfing it down, and for how long.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

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Comments () | Archives (6)

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I have never understood the appeal of Woody Allen films. In my opinion, he is a niche director,and the fact that he is touted as this great heralded director is laughable.

Sophiie,

I'm so glad story-telling and character development is a long lost niche relegated to old hacks like Allen.

Better for us. More Michael Bay please!


What a bizarre, spiteful entry. And wrong on several counts:
Cassandra's Dream was barely distributed in the US, hence its tiny gross (my theory is that the Weinsteins acquired it simply so that they could get first dibs on Vicky Cristina Barcelona); Whatever Works likewise only reached about 300 locations, besides which Larry David is hardly a star, unlike the cast of Stranger; and if you'd bothered to check before posting this tripe you'd have discovered that it has been inching its way up the Rotten Tomatoes scale since its bilious reception at Cannes and is now at your magical 50%.

As for how long people will continue to see Woody Allen's films - the answer is, as it has always been, for as long as he wants to continue making them. Which should be for at least another 10 years.

There. Hope you learned something.

The answer to the question, "How deep is Woody Allen's fan base?" can be answered with three words: "Six feet under."

wait wait wait... woody allen's last 5 movies in total have grossed almost 300 million dollars worldwide... and that's based on a total budget of probably 75 million to make all 5 movies. that doesn't include all the money made from dvd sales, rentals and tv worldwide.

allen films are money makers because of overseas... while whatever works made 5 mill here it did 30 overseas. plus sony made money on the release because they bought us rights for only probably in the 4 million range and dvd sales and rentals and tv makes it a nice profit that's why they picked up strangers. so strangers just needs to do what... whatever works did and they'll be happy.

and vicki christina barcelona and match point made more than 20 here but both films made close to 100 million worldwide... and these are with budgets around 15 million dollars

you can't just look at u.s. numbers...

plus strangers has a 58 on meta critic with 8 good reviews 7 mixed no bad ones. it's already made around 5 million in spain... good for allen there but not great. his films do very well in spain, italy, france.. and what he does in other countries really depends on the cast

plus cassandra's dream was only released in like 100 theaters... so it's hard to claim flop when it really didn't even have a real release. and again if you throw in international numbers it grossed 22 million. and it made probably 15 million on the dvd rental market. that alone made the us rights holder weinstein some money because they spent almost nothing on the release in theaters.

and if you look at his box office history from the 80's and 90's it's not unusual to have a film by him now and then barely released, under 10 or 5 million and then a hit... it's just recently that his international numbers have been so incredibly high. that's why he's able to make movies still. if it were based on the u.s. alone then no way.

Woody Allen's fan base are most likely in their late 40's and early 5o's. He is past his peak, but manages to turn out good ones once in a while. His films in the 2000's weren't bad, but most of them were undeveloped and had too much recycled material. Maybe if he quits making films every year, he can sit down and truly come up with some great script and do another good film. I hope his next film, Midnight in Paris, comes out well.


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