It was an unholy weekend for Evan Almighty. The film turned out to be a huge disappointment for General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC Universal division.

The sequel effect
The movie took in a little better than $31 million over the weekend at the domestic box office, according to By contrast, its predecessor, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, grossed just under $68 million in its opening three-day timeframe four years ago.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Universal was counting on Evan to do boffo biz and be at least reasonably competitive in a tentpole league which includes Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Marvel's (NYSE:MVL) Spider-Man 3, DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE:DWA) Shrek the Third, Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Ocean's 13, and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Unfortunately, the film got lost in all the multiplex hoopla.  

Now that's an expensive ark
Evan had a budget reported to be $175 million; in fact, according to, its budget is the largest ever for a project in the comedy genre. Are you, like I, scratching your head at this? The filmmakers needed $175 million to make this thing? I'd love to know how much of that budget was actually used to compensate Steve Carell, the movie's lead and star of hit television show The Office, as well as Morgan Freeman, who reprised his role as God from the first feature. I've argued in the past for more disclosure from media companies in terms of celebrity salaries.

So, what went wrong here? Well, although I haven't seen Evan, I defy anyone out there to point out one single thing in the trailer that would make me want to see it. I saw Bruce, and I found that to be a complex, cinematic gem -- a hybridization of Carrey slapstick and a Twilight Zone episode. This Evan flick just doesn't seem to possess the same skill set.

Another problem is that Universal overestimated the value of Carell. Hollywood needs to get used to the fact that big names don't guarantee reduced risk for big-budget projects. Carell has momentum thanks to The 40 Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, but did Universal really believe that he could carry $175 million of capital? It's like buying a stock -- at a certain price, it has value; at other levels, it's just too darn shaky.

Some say that the movie will have a very hard time making a profit. This isn't what GE wants to hear -- NBC Universal isn't exactly the conglomerate's most popular operating segment right now. Hopefully Universal's next shot at a hit, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, top-lined by Adam Sandler and scheduled for next month, will have a more righteous opening weekend than Steve Carell's flop (the trailer for Chuck and Larry is pretty funny, at least). For now, GE shareholders will just have to accept that audiences didn't believe in Evan Almighty and instead have faith in the long-term future of NBC Universal. 

Welcome to the Foolish Multiplex:

DreamWorks Animation, Marvel, and Time Warner are selections of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service. Sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service with no obligation whatsoever. The Gardner brothers can help you construct a long-term, wealth-building portfolio.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of General Electric and Marvel Entertainment. As of this writing, he was ranked 13,990 out of 31,079 in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.