STRONG B.O.: King Of The Jungle

Since it's announcement, everyone expected very big things from Peter Jackson’s KING KONG. As Christmas 2005 drew near, KONG was picked to be the dominant predator at the box office. This proves once again that, when it comes to predicting hit movies, nobody knows nothin’. The dust is starting to settle and the holiday’s big winner is HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE.
Worldwide, HARRY has passed REVENGE OF THE SITH to become the most successful film of the year and could become the 2nd most successful POTTER film in the history of the franchise. With over $850 million it’s on the verge of passing FINDING NEMO and cracking the all-time top 10.

Harry’s dominance isn’t too big a surprise. It’s a well-reviewed film based on what is considered the best book in a franchise that defines the term ‘cultural phenomenon.’ The real surprise is that KONG is actually the 3rd biggest movie of the holiday season. #2 belongs to THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE.
How is this possible? Film geeks, industry analysts and fellow pundits are all scratching their collective heads. KONG is clearly the better movie, with jaw-dropping action sequences, groundbreaking special effects and it was made by the guy who did LORD OF THE RINGS.
I’ve heard some discussion where NARNIA’s success is credited to its longevity as a best selling book. I don’t think that’s entirely the case. Sure NARNIA comes with a built in audience, but loyal fans of the book are significantly smaller than those of say…LORD OF THE RINGS. Plus KING KONG was previously brought to the screen in both the 30’s and the 70’s. That’s two generations of filmgoers. (And as you know, more people go to movies than read books.)
I subscribe to the alternate theory, which is that NARNIA simply appeals to a wider audience. Think about the people in your family you would recommend KING KONG to. Now think about those who you think might enjoy NARNIA and your age perimeters start to encompass more grandparents and younger siblings.

NARNIA also plays better to young girls. It’s become so common that people often forget that the film geeks which so dominate internet chatter are overwhelmingly male. And of course they’d rather watch Kong wrestle with dinosaurs and airplanes then watch a little girl share a cup of tea with a faun.
“Well I’d recommend KONG to any of my friends and family that want to see a GOOD movie.” I understand that. KONG is certainly better, but NARNIA isn’t bad. (In fact I thought it was pretty darn good, despite a lingering scene of cruelty before the finale.) And the truth is, KONG isn’t as great as we hoped. And it’s way, way too long.

KONG’s biggest stumbling block is its low rewatchability. For inside of a 3 hour plus running time is an extraordinary 2 1/2 hour movie. Critics use the cliché quote on how the movie is worth seeing for the Dino fight alone. I can’t wait to watch the mid-section of KING KONG again, but I don’t want to sit through the comparatively dull first hour to get to it. That’s what DVD is for.
Family films are currently really profitable box office. (7 of the year’s Top 20 are rated ‘G’ or ‘PG’, plus there are family friendly PG-13’s like THE FANTISTIC FOUR and HARRY POTTER.) That doesn’t mean the death of mature entertainment. There will always be a home for Peter Jackson, a raunchy Vince Vaughn and a darker Batman. And if this means that Jackson may have to shave a few minutes off his running time next time out, I’m not afraid to say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


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