How is it that Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand -- which drops to below the 400-screen radar this week, playing on 332 screens with a gross nearing $233 million -- outgrossed the first two films? The movie is a vastly inferior sequel to Bryan Singer's excellent X2: X-Men United (2002), slammed together by a man who could be, in fact, the very definition of "hack director." He has made nothing but intellectual, artistic offenses with his films (Rush Hours 1-2, The Family Man, the truly dreadful Red Dragon and the should've-gone-straight-to-video After the Sunset), and yet has reaped millions and millions for Hollywood, with more zeroes at the end of his checks than the top half-dozen most talented filmmakers put together.

I'll do the math: Bryan Singer's first X-Men (2000) clocked in at about $157 million, and his second, even better film stopped at about $215 million. According to Lee's Movie Info, the average movie ticket price in 2000 was $5.39, and in 2002 it was $5.80. This year it's an estimated $6.56. That's 29 million tickets sold for the first movie, about 37 million for the second, and about 35.5 million for the third one. Yes, we can assume that lots of people saw the first couple on DVD -- but you have to account for a certain amount of word-of-mouth; wouldn't people tell their friends about how badly X-Men 3 sucked?

categories Cinematical