THE BLOG
03/21/2013 09:10 am ET Updated May 20, 2013

'Spring Breakers' Box Office: What To Make Of Harmony Korine's 2013 Phenomenon

Now that Oscar season is mercifully forgotten, HuffPost executive arts and entertainment editor Michael Hogan and entertainment editor Christopher Rosen can chat about other things besides the awards race. Like Harmony Korine's crazy fever dream, "Spring Breakers."

Hogan: Hey Chris, what do you make of the "Spring Breakers" phenomenon? The movie averaged a record-setting $87,667 on three screens last weekend, raising the tantalizing question of how it will fare when it opens wide this Friday. Will Harmony Korine's hallucinogenic meditation on gluttony, excess and the gleeful self-objectification of today's active co-eds actually connect with mainstream audiences, or are we witnessing a frenzy of excitement among a very small subset of viewers -- the kind of people who actually know what you mean when you name-check "Gummo" or "Julian Donkey Boy"?

I'm hoping it's the former, if only because that would open up some really interesting avenues for movie culture. This time of year, you've got all the major studios falling over themselves to appeal to young viewers by rehashing superhero sagas, seeding new action franchises, sawing off the limbs of pretty girls or -- and this is about as creative as they get -- making coming-of-age movies about vampires, zombies and werewolves. But what if Harmony Korine proved that young audiences will plunk down $10 or $12 to watch the stars of their favorite kiddie TV shows act really irresponsibly in a demented art movie?

It doesn't seem likely -- didn't Nicolas Refn Winding try something like that with "Drive"? But you don't know till the receipts have been counted.

Also, what do you make of the movie itself? I kinda loved it, even though watching it felt like spending 90 minutes with Satan (the real one, not the Obama look-alike from "The Bible"). I happened to see "Spring Breakers" at an early, empty screening at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, and I remember feeling pretty guilty about liking it so much. Yes, there are titillating pleasures to be enjoyed here, but I also think the scene where James Franco brags about all his "sheeyat" is one of the sharper pieces of social satire I've seen on screen in quite a while.

What do you think? Have I finally lost it?

Rosen: Count me among the mad ones, Mike. "Spring Breakers" might not top my personal best-of 2013 list come December, but then again it might. This is a film that manages to satirize everything that's wrong with American excess and youth culture, while also providing ample opportunity to revel in all that American excess and youth culture. (I've been listening to the Skrillex song "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" on repeat -- constant, y'all -- much to the mockery of our colleague Kia Makarechi.) "Spring Breakers" isn't just a step forward for Harmony Korine, it's like another person inhabited his body. You mention "Drive," and it looks every bit as beautiful as that film (thanks, in no small part, to "Enter the Void" cinematographer Benoît Debie). This is to say nothing, of course, of James Franco. His is the rare performance that deserves Oscar recognition and an MTV Movie Award. Alien is the next Tony Montana; we'll all be looking at his shit for the next 25 years.

As for whether audiences will flock to "Spring Breakers" like co-eds to a booze cruise, I think they could. At worst, "Spring Breakers" is the next "Drive," an indie film that was miscast as a bomb because of inflated expectations and a foolish marketing campaign. In reality, "Drive" made money; that perversely violent, near-silent dreamscape grossed $75 million worldwide on a budget of just $15 million (that global tally includes $35 million in the States). If "Spring Breakers" can follow a similar path, everyone at A24 will be more than satisfied. Even the worst case scenario -- which could be "The Master," I guess, based on the opening weekend limited release per-screen number -- isn't even that bad.

Here's what I want to know: What happens to the four spring breakers? Are any of them future Jennifer Lawrences? Better yet, are any of them even future Mandy Moores?

Hogan: I'm not worried about Selena Gomez' career. For one thing, she plays the lost innocent in this movie (no threeways or nude scenes for her, which may explain why she doesn't appear in the last third of the movie), and for another, her fan base is significantly responsible for whipping up the frenzy of publicity surrounding this release. As for Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, I must admit I found their performances pretty compelling, even if their acting generally fell into the "so bad it's good" category. My advice for them would be to stick with the bad-girl thing for a while. Instead of doing some syrupy Nicholas Sparks adaptation, sign up for a 12-hour FX drama about, say, two small-town cheerleaders who get sucked into an international crime ring. Hell, Franco can direct it! Also, has David Fincher cast the young girlfriend or the poolside grifter in "Gone Girl" yet? Because I could see these two taking those roles and making 'em count.

Anyway, it seems we're agreed: "Spring Breakers" is pretty great. So what do we say to people we know who check it out this weekend and absolutely hate it? Because you know that's happening.

Rosen: Well, that's the thing, right? Like the aforementioned "Drive" and "The Master," "Spring Breakers" is almost destined to be seen by people who wouldn't normally see something like this. Then they're going to hate it and cause people like us to write about foul Cinemascore grades when assessing the box office. But the win for A24, the company distributing the film, is that the reaction doesn't actually matter: People are going to show up this weekend no matter what, and those people who hate the film will spend just as much on it as those people who love it. If I'm putting money on this one, I'd say it slides in near "The Master," with near $25 million in total North American revenue before all is said and done. The real play is what happens at the end of the year, when bozos like us are pushing the film for Oscar nominations. (James Franco, prepare to find yourself as the focus of a HuffPost For Your Consideration column.) Does A24 put it out again? Do they hold the Blu-ray release until 2014? Does Franco appear on the 2014 Oscars broadcast as Alien? Just spitballing some answers here: Yes, yes, motherfucking vampires.

PHOTO GALLERIES
"Spring Breakers"

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