MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

The Weekend Report, September 18, 2011

I Am Simba … Here Me Roar

The Lion King, reconstituted for 3D, pawed its way to the top of the box office with an estimated $29.1 million. Three other films debuted nationally this weekend to generally disappointing results. The critically acclaimed vehicular crime yarn Drive ranked third with an $11.1 million box office while an update of 1971 violence allegory Straw Dogs sputtered to $5 million and at the bottom was the abstinence in the city I Don’t Know How She Does It with $4.5 million.

There were also a clutch of exclusive bows with the contemporary inspirational Seasons of Gray most impressive with a $21,300 tally from a single Dallas screen. There was good response for the French import My Afternoons with Margueritte of $20,700 at two. But the rest of the scrum was largely lackluster including the coming of age dramady Restless that eked out $16,900 from six engagements.

Overall weekend revenues edged close to $100 million that provided an encouraging 24% boost from the post-Labor Day doldrums. It was a slim 1% drop from 2010 when The Town’s bow generated $23.8 million; followed by freshmen Easy A and Devil with respective grosses of $17.7 million and $12.3 million.

Let me stress that no one foresaw the opening strength of the refurbished The Lion King. The most optimistic predictions pegged it at $20 million that was radically adjusted when opening day estimates generated $8.7 million. To no great surprise exit polling identified opening weekend buyers comprising 74% of the crowd.

From there things go askew. For starters the evolving industry wisdom is that pre-teens don’t like wearing 3D glasses and audiences are opting for non-stereoscopic shows at regular movie prices. So the film’s 92% box office from 3D engagements flaunts perceived logic. Add to that the film’s pre-U.S. international engagements that have been good but almost none topping foreign charts.

Disney’s new distribution chief Dave Hollis believes the unexpected opening strength might be fortuitous timing with the youngsters who saw it back in 1994 now taking their children to share the experience. He said the film is playing well across the board but perhaps a little better in the Heartland and possibly connecting slightly stronger in Hispanic centers. Certainly whether something more definitive evolves will require closer scrutiny and time.

Drive, as well as Straw Dogs and I Don’t Know How She Does It, were expected to debut to bigger numbers than the tale of the box office revealed. Drive attempted a mixed message campaign to appeal to both action and art house crowds and exit polls skewed younger and male _ similar to Straw Dogs that some felt siphoned off some business.

FilmDistrict’s Bob Berney nonetheless implied that more follow up was necessary to enhance the film’s appeal with genre fans. Critical response has generally been strong and early award’s talk has been an asset for niche dates.

The biggest misfire of the frame was unquestionably I Don’t Know … that pundits saw drawing in opening ticket sales of $8 million to $10 million. Armchair quarterbacks posited that it looked too much like a Sex in the City spinoff with the casting of Sarah Jessica Parker and despite the popularity of the book it’s based upon. It played older and female just not to the ferocity anticipated.

On a more positive note, last weekend’s leader Contagion had a stronger than anticipated hold. However, that wasn’t the case for Warrior and, to everyone’s great relief Bucky Larson appears born to be a commercial black hole and not his generation’s Deuce Bigelow.

Weekend (estimates) September 16 – 18, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chng Thts Cume
The Lion King 3D BV 29.1 (12,520) NEW 2330 29.1
Contagion WB 14.5 (4,510) -35% 3222 44.2
Drive FilmDistrict 11.1 (3,860) NEW 2886 11.1
The Help BV 6.4 (2,120) -28% 3014 147.3
Straw Dogs Sony 5.0 (2,090) NEW 2408 5
I Don’t Know How She Does It Weinstein Co, 4.5 (1,810) NEW 2476 4.5
Warrior Lions Gate 2.8 (1,480) -47% 1883 9.9
The Debt Focus 2.9 (1,580) -39% 1831 26.5
Rise of the Planet of the Apes Fox 2.6 (1,110) -34% 2340 171.6
Colombiana Sony 2.3 (1,200) -41% 1933 33.4
Shark Night Relativity 1.8 (870) -47% 2082 17.3
Crazy, Stupid, Love WB 1.6 (1,370) -31% 1145 80.7
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World Weinstein Co, 1.5 (910) -40% 1650 36
Our Idiot Brother Weinstein Co, 1.2 (710) -53% 1747 23.6
Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain Code Black 1.2 (5,170) -38% 230 3.6
The Smurfs Sony 1.2 (830) -34% 1419 137.5
Apollo 18 Weinstein Co, 1.1 (600) -62% 1795 16.9
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Film District 1.0 (780) -52% 1334 22.7
Harry Potter & the Deadly Hollows, Part 2 WB .66 (1,100) -34% 601 378.1
Captain America: The First Avenger Par .55 (1,020) -35% 540 174.3
Cowboys & Aliens Uni .54 (880) -35% 614 98.8
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Par .41 (1,340) 136% 306 351.3
The Guard Sony Classics .38 (1,860) -8% 203 3.8
Buck Larson: Born to Be a Star Sony .36 (240) -64% 1500 2.3
Midnight in Paris Sony Classics .35 (1,160) -16% 301 54.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $93.55
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) 24%
Also debuting/expanding
Sarah’s Key Weinstein/A-Z .25 (910) -39% 277 6.6
Higher Ground Sony Classics .19 (2,380) 59% 81 0.54
Seasons of Gray Watermark 21,300 (21,300) 1 0.02
My Afternoons with Margueritte Cohen Media 20,700 (10,350) 2 0.02
Restless Sony Classics 16,900 (2,820) 6 0.02
Connected Paladin 14,100 (4,700) 3 0.01
Mill and the Cross Lorber 10,800 (10,800) 1 0.01
3 Strand 9,700 (2,420) 4 0.01
Happy, Happy Magnolia 7,300 (1,820) 4 0.01
Jane’s Journey First Run 6,800 (6,800) 1 0.01
Silent Souls Shadow 3,300 (3,300) 1 0.01

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Leonard Klady's Friday Estimates
Friday Screens % Chg Cume
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 39.5 4151 NEW 56.4
Big Hero 6 4.5 3650 -44% 120.1
Dumb and Dumber To 4.3 3188 -70% 48
Interstellar 4.2 3415 -49% 109.8
Gone Girl 0.8 1609 -41% 154.8
Beyond the Lights 0.8 1766 -66% 8.3
St. Vincent 0.65 1707 -43% 34.9
Fury 0.55 1720 -52% 77.8
Birdman 0.5 862 -27% 13.1
The Theory of Everything 0.4 140 86% 1.7
Also Debuting
Happy Ending 62,300 126
Rowdy Fellow 7,900 44
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 7,350 2
Food Chains 7,000 14
Monk with a Camera 4,000 1
Happy Valley 1,650 3
Me 1,600 1
Little White Lie 1,450 1
Heartbeat 1,150 1
3-Day Estimates Weekend % Chg Cume
No Good Dead 24.4 (11,230) NEW 24.4
Dolphin Tale 2 16.6 (4,540) NEW 16.6
Guardians of the Galaxy 7.9 (2,550) -23% 305.8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4.8 (1,630) -26% 181.1
The Drop 4.4 (5,480) NEW 4.4
Let's Be Cops 4.3 (1,570) -22% 73
If I Stay 4.0 (1,320) -28% 44.9
The November Man 2.8 (1,030) -36% 22.5
The Giver 2.5 (1,120) -26% 41.2
The Hundred-Foot Journey 2.5 (1,270) -21% 49.4