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Glitz and Glamor Are No Match for Good and Evil in Holiday Box Office Wars

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Posted on December 2 2010 2:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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It appears that high-tech glitz and A-list celebrity glamor are not the keys to moviegoers’ hearts. Pre-release box office tracking for movies hitting theaters this holiday season has yielded some interesting results. Disney’s long-hyped cyber-reality actioner Tron:Legacy may end up a financial loser.

The 3D sci-fi film has been marketed heavily for months en route to its Dec. 17 bow, and many have been suggesting a big opening and leggy theatrical run based on built-in interest from the cult base of its 1982 predecessor. But at this point, tracking suggests Tron: Legacy with as little as $35 million.

In the spirit of the original, Tron: Legacy boasts state-of-the-art computer graphics. The bells and whistles include a digital facelift for actor Jeff Bridges, who reprises the role of a character 28 years his junior. Some shots of the digitally de-aged Bridges seen in the film’s trailers look remarkably convincing. Others could use some work before release. Regardless, considering it cost about $200 million to make, an opening weekend take as low as predicted would make profitability doubtful.

Elsewhere among the holiday-season releases, Sony’s Dec. 10 opener The Tourist, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, is showing soft prerelease interest. A Tourist debut of just $20 million or so is possible, based on light must-see sentiment expressed so far by respondents to tracking surveys.

Depp and Jolie are considered among Hollywood’s hottest commodities, each drawing the lingering attention of their respective opposite sex. Even so, the uninspiring synopsis for The Tourist clearly fails to connect with audiences.

Meantime, Fox’s Dec. 10 opener The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is outpacing most of the other season titles in the breadth of its must-see sentiment.

A quirky family film based on a book published in 1952 is set to beat techno-wizardry and Hollywood royalty? Say it isn’t so.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. A 2005 study commissioned by the family-friendly Dove Foundation found that G-rated fare brought in far more revenue than films with mature themes and graphic content.

Granted, neither Tron nor Tourist appear to have gratuitous sex and violence, and Narnia is rated PG. But the applicable principle lies in the breadth of appeal. Narnia is a film entire families will see, parents and grandparents with a cadre of children in tow. Tron and Tourist play to comparatively niche audiences.

While I would like to see Tron do well, if for no other reason than to encourage the advancement of film technology, it says something of how such technology ought to be used that a family film with Christian themes is on track to trounce it. Will production companies finally embrace the message sent through the box office and place a greater emphasis on traditional fare? Probably not.

Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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