Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D ended the weekend with an estimated $16.5 Million. While that’s not an unmitigated bomb, it’s certainly not a success given its reported production budget of $69 Million (tack at least another 30-40 on for P&A and I think a conservative number for the cost of the film still exceeds $100 Million). I guess there’s still a remote chance this movie makes its money back theatrically, but the C+ Cinemascore (indicating audiences didn’t really like the movie) means it will likely have a precipitous drop-off next weekend. As far as foreign numbers go I wouldn’t expect ALVH to expand much beyond its current take of $7.8 Million. Abe Lincoln is our historical figure, not so much the world’s.
Now, I didn’t outright hate the movie. I actually really enjoyed the first 30-40 minutes or so, but then the script lost me. There are some good performances and some cool set pieces, but there still needs to be some sort of narrative thrust if I’m going to be down with watching a guy in a top-hat kill vampires for two hours. The CG was fairly terrible and I found the film’s image itself unpleasant, too bright and contrasty. Whatever, it’s just another so-so movie, right?
But here’s the thing. I read a report this morning that claimed that the failure of ALVH to catch on could be a bad thing for “original” and “risky” films. That its the audiences’ way of telling studios that they want more remakes and sequels. This is 100% incorrect. And while I normally wouldn’t give much thought to this kind of reporting (or that kind of reporter), I know that this is the sort of thinking that many studio execs can latch onto.
In anything, the failure of ALVH is the failure of a pre-fabricated brand. It’s produced by Tim Burton. Timur Bekmambetov’s last movie, Wanted, did great business. It’s based on a popular book. It’s got vampires. It also has a recognizable brand name – our 16th president and civil rights hero Abraham Lincoln. Where’s the “risk” in this? How is this an audience rejecting an “original” movie? Even though ALVH isn’t a sequel, the reason it exists springs from the same mentality. That’s what mashups are – they are literally mathematical equations. The desire to combine a known entity with an X-factor in order to create a “new” marketable entity is a mutation of the sequelitis gene, not a break from it. Call it the KE+X=$$$ theorem if you want. Except, financially, it just didn’t work out this time.
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And that Cinemascore… I can understand Cabin In The Woods getting a low ranking because that movie just isn’t for everyone. It’s smart and quirky and esoteric. Abraham Lincoln is none of those things. A movie this big, broad and supposedly full of dumb fun should be able to knock it out of the park with the general public. It could have been a real crowd pleaser, but the fact is the movie loses the audience right after the – admittedly great – horse stampede sequence.
Ultimately the failure of ALVH is the failure of a film that simply wasn’t good enough. So I call bullsh*t on the idea that the audience is rejecting originality here. They rejected it because they’re actually begging for originality and quality, and this movie didn’t have either one. It has the same tired, black heart that most sequels rely on to pump their blood.
Also, as pointed out in the comments below, this is likely the point where the Pride And Prejudice And Zombies adaptation officially dies.
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