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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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas