MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

The Weekend Report: Float Like a Butterfly … Sting Like a Bee

The debut of Underworld: Awakening led weekend ticket sales with an estimated $25.2 million. Two other films bowed nationally and a fourth platformed after four weeks in Oscar-qualifying exclusives. The saga of the Second World War Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails, ranked second with $19.1 million and the take no prisoners actioner Haywire kicked out with $8.9 million. Wedged in-between was the expansion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close in position four with $10.4 million.

Despite patches of inclement weather box office was generally spritely and considerably more potent than last year’s weak outset.

A trio of Oscar foreign-language submissions opened strategically but, ironically, none made the short list announced last week. Of the three only Mexico’s Miss Bala showed promise with an $8,070 average from four screens. Conversely China’s The Flowers of War was un-blooming with $51,400 at 30 venues. Also of note were the non-fiction Crazy Horse with $8,700 from a single screen and the modern-day adaptation of Coriolanus that grossed $62,500 from nine engagements.

Overall box office generated roughly $135 million that was flat with last weekend’s three-day portion of the MLK holiday. However, it was 31% improved from 2011 when the debut of No Strings Attached led with $19.6 million and Green Hornet’s sophomore weekend added $17.7 million.

The fourth installment of the Underworld franchise was expected to top weekend charts and managed to exceed the previous edition’s $20.8 million bow. It played largely to loyal fans with exit polls indicating an audience composed 55% of males and 60% of viewers aged 25-years and older.

For many the weekend surprise was Red Tails, the chronicle of the African American flying aces that George Lucas financed when all the majors took a pass. Pundits predicted opening day interest followed by steep drops. But Friday to Saturday posted a sizeable 44% boost. Exit demos showed a crowd composed 51% male and 66% aged 25 years and older but ethnic breakdowns were unavailable. Fingers are crossed that the picture will skew younger in the coming weeks.

With the Oscar slate announcement just days away Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close launched nationally in hopes of capitalizing on Academy attention. So far the yarn hasn’t been a significant award’s contender but Oscar favor is particular difficult to predict this year. The film drew a not unexpected 59% female audience and a whopping 82% aged 25 plus.

Haywire tilted 55% male with 64% of the audience 35 years old and younger. Notwithstanding its results, the movie going crowd is definitely aging and the majors are both mulling a shift toward more mature content and pictures that will ease the erosion of that younger demographic that had dominated ticket sales for decades.

Weekend Estimates

Title Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Underworld: Awakening 25.2 (8,190) NEW 3078 25.2
Red Tails 19.1 (7,620) NEW 2512 19.1
Contraband 12.2 (4,250) -50% 2870 46.1
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close 10.4 (3,960) 11350% 2630 11.1
Haywire 8.9 (3,640) NEW 2439 8.9
Beauty and the Beast 8.6 (3,290) -51% 2625 33.4
Joyful Noise 6.0 (2,200) -46% 2735 21.9
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol 5.5 (2,190) -53% 2519 197.3
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 4.7 (1,880) -46% 2485 178.5
The Iron Lady 3.7 (3,470) -31% 1076 12
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 3.7 (1,930) -45% 1907 94.7
War Horse 3.0 (1,200) -49% 2525 72.2
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked 2.9 (1,410) -50% 2070 124.5
We Bought a Zoo 2.7 (1,320) -51% 2065 69.5
The Devil Inside 2.5 (1,140) -69% 2207 51.1
The Artist 2.4 (3,590) 99% 662 12.1
The Descendants 2.4 (4,340) 16% 560 51.3
The Adventures of Tintin 2.2 (1,630) -46% 1340 72.3
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 1.8 (2,420) -45% 730 18.3
Hugo .90 (1,380) -14% 650 55.8
Happy Feet Two .42 (1,270) -13% 331 62.6
A Dangerous Method .41 (3,890) -18% 105 3.4
Puss in Boots .34 (1,160) -18% 292 147.7
My Week with Marilyn .32 (1,430) -32% 225 12.1
Carnage .31 (1,250) -55% 248 2
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn .30 (820) -61% 370 280.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $128.80
% Change (Last Year) 31%
% Change (Last Week) 0%
Also debuting/expanding
Shame .23 (2,440) 61% 95 3
A Separation .18 (13,650) 147% 13 0.55
We Need to Talk About Kevin 72,800 (10,400) 72% 7 0.18
Pariah 63,200 (3,010) -37% 21 0.49
Coriolanus 62,500 (6,940) 9 0.06
The Viral Factor 61,700 (2,800) 22 0.06
Fullmetal Alchemist 59,600 (1,320) 45 0.06
The Flowers of War 51,400 (1,710) 30 0.05
Miss Bala 32,300 (8,070) 4 0.03
16-Love 10,200 (780) 13 0.01
Crazy Horse 8,700 (8,700) 1 0.01
The Front Line 6,800 (1,130) 6 0.01
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life 5,100 (2,550) 2 0.01
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth 4,400 (4,400) 1 0.01
The City Dark 2,900 (2,900) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share:  January 1 – 19, 2012

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (8) 157.8 30.90%
Warner Bros. (9) 78.8 15.40%
20th Century Fox (4) 68.1 13.30%
Buena Vista (5) 63.4 12.40%
Sony (6) 43.7 8.50%
Universal (2) 34.9 6.80%
Weinstein Co. (3) 17 3.30%
Summit (2) 14.3 2.80%
Focus (2) 13.3 2.60%
Fox Searchlight (3) 11.2 2.20%
Sony Classics (5) 2.8 0.60%
Other * (22) 6.1 1.20%
511.4 100.00%

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

Z Weekend Report