As the weekend grew closer, it seemed like nobody thought M. Night Shyamalan's new flick was going to do anything short of kill his once spectacular career. The Hulk remake which looked virtually identical to Ang Lee's failed CG-fest had about as many on the fence, but all turned out well for both and all the Shyamalan haters are going to eat crow after The Happening opened above expectations. The Incredible Hulk Edward Norton got all the press for "writing" the script and a lot of people seemed shocked to learn that he wasn't going to get screen credit at all -- Zak Penn wrote it and got top billing for the work. Rumors that Norton was feuding with the studio and the seeming inability of Marvel to let go of the cartoonish special effects that pull you out of the film made this remake feel like it was heading for the gutter. Not only did that not happen, it ever-so-slightly beat expectations bringing in $54.5 million for the weekend, guaranteeing a sequel.
The Happening Liked it better when it was called The Green Effect, the script for this was shopped directly to the heads of all the major studios -- if that doesn't tell you about how big this guy is in Hollywood still than nothing will -- and they all rejected it out of hand. Fox gave Shyamalan some notes, he want him to Philly to rewrite, and then bought it on the spot next time around. Bloggers and critics have been jealous of the guys early success and have been rooting for his crash ever since, but all they've really been handed has been a slow decline to the mortal plains with every other film maker. Ended up third for the weekend but only because the animated holdover from last week, Kung Fu Panda, had more screens.
Happening did $30.5 million above expectations of mid-to-low 20's for a per-theater average of $10,214, beating Panda's $8,298. Had Shyamalan's flick screened in a similar number of theaters, he'd have pulled a $42 million weekend.
Haters are going to have to wait a while longer, because Shyamalan is still making good money for his studios.
Update: For all those bloggers doing the "Hulk smash Shyamalan" joke (stop it) I just read on THR that Happeningbeat outHulk for the top spot internationally, breaking $31 million for a $60+ weekend to Hulk's $80+ worldwide. As far as Fox is concerned when playing against a comic movie, that's a win right there.