By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Weekend Report:May 22, 2011

Pyrites of the Caribbean
By Leonard Klady

To no great surprise Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides led weekend box office with a not quire six figure estimate of $89.6 million. The industry decided to give the franchise a wide berth; providing clear sailing for the Yo Ho Ho fourth installment.

The closest thing to counter-programming was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris that generated a jaw-dropping $93,830 average from a mere six engagements. On reflection the picture probably should have stepped out with a more aggressive launch in the 25 to 40 screen range.

The rest of the freshmen class stuck to the niches or exclusive runs. And without exception the responses ranged from dull to poor. The best (marked on the curve) of the bunch was the single screen revival of the 1942 British drama Went the Day Well with a box office of $6,400.

Weekend revenues generated slightly more than $165 million that represented a 19% boost from the prior frame. It was also a 10% improvement from 2010 when the debut of Shrek Forever After dominated the scene with a $70.8 million launch.

The fourth chapter on Pirates of the Caribbean high seas didn’t receive a great deal of love from the critics. It stepped out two days early internationally and grossed $45 million prior to the domestic bow. The picture’s early exit polls skewed male (54%) and older (ditto 54% over the age of 25). The studio was also surprised to poll 53% attendance by couples.

But the big surprise was that only 46% of its opening box office derived from 3D and large format engagements that comprised 66% of Pirates initial foray. Had tickets matched the percentage of 3D playdates, the film would have grossed more than $100 million this weekend. A studio spokesman said that he didn’t have an explanation for this but it was something that was definitely being investigated.

The industry has been mulling the prospect of stereoscopic fatigue in the marketplace and up until now the wisdom was that young children were rejecting the 3D glasses. Following on that was the sense that animated films were taking the hit and films appealing to plus 18s would not be affected. That doesn’t appear to be the case on the initial tide of the new release and the answer for the disparate flat/stereoscopic box office might be as simple as the premium ticket price for the latter … not exactly good news.

While Woody Allen films, regardless of quality, have a devoted core audience that translates into torrid initial per screens, great reviews just escalate that factor. Midnight in Paris has enchanted reviewers and despite the pictures more arcane elements could emerge as the filmmaker’s biggest domestic grosser in a decade.

Meanwhile the industry is bracing itself for next Thursday’s sequel face off between The Hangover and Kung Fu Panda. Early tracking favors the R-Rated comedy with some pundits predicting a commercial tsunami approaching $100 million with the cuddly family martial artist the bridesmaid at a not to be sneezed at $60 million.

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3 Responses to “Weekend Report:May 22, 2011”

  1. Proman says:

    This quote from LA Times blog gets a rise out of me:

    “Captain Jack Sparrow no longer rules the high seas at domestic movie theaters, but took home a record-breaking booty overseas with the biggest international opening of all time.”

    If the “Captain” doesn’t rule the domestic movie theaters then who does? What does that even mean?

    I am not a Pirates fan (though I did like the first two films quite a bit) but I am so sick of people trying to sink the film on the first day it was out.

  2. Proman says:

    And another thing, for a a such a prolific filmmaker, Woody Allen’s film have been of a very consistently high quality. Take it from someone who followed nearly every film the man has made.

  3. SamLowry says:

    “up until now the wisdom was that young children were rejecting the 3D glasses”

    Duh. Taking my young son to Toy Story 3 was borderline disastrous because the glasses bugged him but the picture looks like crap without them. I would rather have taken him to a 2D presentation but the theater wasn’t offering any.

    And as for Cap’n Jack and the domestic take–there have been lots of articles recently about risk-averse studios focusing exclusively on movies that appeal to an international market. Action doesn’t need subtitles or dubbing and they work very well abroad, but dialogue-heavy flicks that might actually appeal to grownups keep getting kicked to the curb.

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“When Bay keeps these absurd plot-gears spinning, he’s displaying his skill as a slick, professional entertainer. But then there are the images of motion—I hesitate to say, of things in motion, because it’s not clear how many things there are in the movie, instead of mere digital simulations of things. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s a car chase through London, seen from the level of tires, that could have gone on for an hour, um, tirelessly. What matters is that the defenestrated Cade saves himself by leaping from drone to drone in midair like a frog skipping among lotus pads; that he and Vivian slide along the colossal, polished expanses of sharply tilting age-old fields of metal like luge Olympians. What matters is that, when this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. What matters is that the enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience. Bay has an authentic sense of the gigantic; beside the playful enormity of his Transformerized universe, the ostensibly heroic dimensions of Ridley Scott’s and Christopher Nolan’s massive visions seem like petulant vanities.”
~ Michael Bay Gives Richard Brody A Tingle

How do you see film evolving in this age of Netflix?

I thought the swing would be quicker and more violent. There have been two landmark moments in the history of French film. First in 1946, with the creation of the CNC under the aegis of Malraux. He saved French cinema by establishing the advance on receipts and support fund mechanisms. We’re all children of this political invention. Americans think that the State gives money to French films, but they’re wrong. Through this system, films fund themselves!

The other great turning point came by the hand of Jack Lang in the 1980s, after the creation of Canal+. While television was getting ready to become the nemesis of film, he created the decoder, and a specific broadcasting space between film and television, using new investments for film. That once again saved French film.

These political decisions are important. We’re once again facing big change. If our political masters don’t take control of the situation and new stakeholders like Netflix, Google and Amazon, we’re headed for disaster. We need to create obligations for Internet service providers. They can’t always be against film. They used to allow piracy, but now that they’ve become producers themselves, they’re starting to see things in a different light. This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward. And it can’t just be at national level, it has to happen at European level.

Filmmaker Cédric Klapisch