This year's Thanksgiving movie weekend was certainly one for the books as both "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Frozen" lured people out of their food comas and into theaters, setting new box-office records with the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ($110.2 million) and biggest Thanksgiving debut weekend ($93.3 million) of all time, respectively.
Meanwhile, another film was staking its claim in box office history as one of 2013's biggest flops (or, rather, turkeys) — Spike Lee's remake of "Oldboy," which failed to meet even modest expectations by coming in 17th at the box office, scoring a mere $1.25 million over the five-day weekend. This leaves little hope that "Oldboy" will make back its $30 million budget, rendering it something of a disaster for FilmDistrict and an even bigger bomb than October's "The Fifth Estate," which opened to just a little over $1.6 million against a budget of $28 million.
So what happened? Here are five reasons why the reimagining of the 2003 Korean cult classic just didn't fly.
1. Underwhelming critical response.
"Oldboy" currently holds a 43 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It could be worse but even the kindest reviews say that Spike Lee & Co. played it safe with this grim, subversive material, failing to make the story their own or give any sort of reason as to why the movie needed to be remade at all ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," anyone?). Why pay 12 bucks to see a watered-down version when you can watch the groundbreaking original on Netflix?
Really unfortunate to see some of the #Oldboy reviews, but I can't say I'm surprised. It's a movie that should never have been touched.
— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) November 26, 2013
2. Spike Lee backlash.
Spike Lee has proved he can do terrific work with "for hire" material, as evidenced by "25th Hour" (2002) and "Inside Man" (2006). However, having "Oldboy" credited as "A Spike Lee Film" rather than "A Spike Lee Joint" may have kept his own fanbase away, as such a bland billing implies that the film is without his personal stamp — and maybe even his own support.
Save your money if you were considering seeing Spike Lee's Oldboy remake, in fact, it's not even labeled a "Spike Lee Joint." #disturbing
— Adam Parrilli (@scooparrilli) November 30, 2013
Oldboy is apparently a Spike Lee "film," not a joint, so I will absolutely not be seeing it. — Jim Gallagher (@jgall0610) November 27, 2013
Lee has also been recently criticized for his Kickstarter campaign to raise $1.25 million (about what "Oldboy" made at the box office, oddly enough) for his upcoming "The Sweet Blood of Jesus" — and there's also the even more recent matter of someone claiming the "Oldboy" poster designs were stolen.
3. Josh Brolin isn't Will Smith.
That's an odd statement out of context, though remember that once upon a time, the "Oldboy" remake was set to be a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and the Fresh Prince himself. Josh Brolin is a solid actor, though he doesn't have nearly the box office draw of his "Men in Black 3" co-star (even though he was arguably the best thing about "MIB 3"). And really — does anyone want to watch Brand from "The Goonies" hittin' people in the face with a hammer?
4. Fanboy loyalty.
It's safe to assume that many fans of Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy" just simply had no interest in seeing Spike Lee's "Oldboy." There's always some sort of puritanical response to any remake of a beloved film property, though in the case of this twisted revenge tale, the hardcore fans really stayed away.
Not shocked in the slightest that Oldboy is massively under-performing. Well done for not seeing it guys.
— James Dorrington (@jamesenscene) December 2, 2013
Saw a review of Spike Lee's Oldboy remake; why am I not surprised it's just meh? Won't be seeing it. The original was perfect. — Megan Frampton (@meganf) November 26, 2013
5. Bad timing.
"Oldboy" isn't exactly ideal moviegoing for the entire family over the holiday weekend, especially when it's up against such sure-thing heavy hitters like "The Hunger Games" and "Frozen." Sure, there's usually some sort of counter-programming over an otherwise family-friendly Thanksgiving (Frank Darabont's ultra-grim "The Mist" opened in 2007 with almost $9 million against an $18 million budget), though in this case it made for barely a blip on the radar.
Watch Josh Brolin talk to Yahoo Movies about 'Oldboy':