Ready, Set, ‘Hustle’

Kung Fu Hustle - Image courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsIn its second weekend of limited release, Stephen Chow’s KUNG FU HUSTLE earned nearly $38,000 per screen for a total of $264,000. Its cumulative gross is $639,000, according to Box Office Mojo.

Amazingly, the per-screen average is down just 1.9% from its first weekend, which should bode well for its expansion on Friday, April 22 to more than 2,000 cinemas nationwide.

That’s a lot of suburban multiplexes. Sony Pictures Classics’ trailer emphasizes the slapstick action comedy and uses The Sweet’s 70s bubblegum hit “Ballroom Blitz” to sell the picture as a crazed flick, while their print advertising in dailies and alternative weeklies has been emphasizing different characters from the film.

If the film doesn’t perform to financial expectations, expect the audience to be blamed for not being willing to try something different.

The competition is interesting. Three other studio releases will be vying for box office gold.

Sydney Pollack’s THE INTERPRETER, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, is a thriller set in New York City. In the trailer, Sean Penn looks like an exhausted policeman with barely the energy to pick up his paycheck, and Nicole Kidman’s accent sounds wobbly. Still, could be fun if expectations are lowered to zero. It’s the widest release of the week, at 2700 theaters.

Former Jet Li cohort Anthony Anderson stars in KING’S RANSOM as a man who plots his own kidnapping. From the director of JASPER, TEXAS — a made-for-cable movie about the nasty murder of a black man who was killed by being dragged behind a car driven by white racists. Need I say more about the challenges of making your way in Hollywood? Potentially, KING’S RANSOM could divide the “urban” audience and keep them away from KUNG FU HUSTLE. But it’s booked into fewer theaters (1500), while HUSTLE’s count is 2300, so that may be a decisive factor.

Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet star in the romantic comedy A LOT LIKE LOVE. It sounds a lot like garbage, though it might pull in some couples if men can be dragged away from their televisions before the NBA playoffs start on Saturday.

All in all, KUNG FU HUSTLE presents a strong alternative for moviegoers.

It needs to hit big this coming weekend, because the following week two heavily-advertised movies come barreling down the pike: HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and XXX: STATE OF THE UNION. But if HUSTLE gets enough people to sample it, the word of mouth will spread and it could easily develop staying power, even under the expected blitz of the May blockbusters.

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