Box Office Archive for April, 2011

Weekend Estimates by Screaming Rio Klady

The top 3 openings of 2011 are animated films. Why? Because that’s what the studios have offered so far.

Sony has had the best non-animated showing, owning opening slots #4 – #6 with Battle: LA, which they did a nice job opening with little box office star power in front of or behind the camera (and which won’t do 3x opening), the resurrected Green Hornet (which may even break even… and could spawn a cheaper sequel, now that they know the formula for a $200m+ worldwide), and Sandler.

After that, only WB has really shown any big ambitions for the pre-summer season, even if failing to launch Sucker Punch, Arthur, or the virtual Taken sequel, Unknown. (Don’t feel too bad on that last one. Pierre Morel”s actual next film after Taken, From Paris With Love, opened even worse, even with Travolta as a wild baddie.)

Disney’s only non-animated release was the first DreamWorks release via Disney, I Am Number Four, which may have wanted to be a Shia LeBeouff movie, but didn’t have any remotely familiar movie name to help it get out there.

Universal has taken fiver shots, aside from their animated Hop. The Dilemma felt like it leaked out, defeated spiritually by the “so gay” controversy. The Adjustment Bureau did okay, considering how hard they had to work to not make it look like what it was… a long Twilight Zone episode. Paul is a mixed bag. It’s easily the best opening and best gross from the Pegg/Frost pairing. But it was also the most expensive. Mostly, however, it was not the launching pad to big things that the core of fans keeps anticipating. Sanctum was a throwaway. Your Highness, like Paul, seems to be an effort to turn a small niche into a mainstream comedy base. It seems we have gone from The Apatow Comedy School making $100m movies to $60m movies and the spin-offs doing half of that or less.

Paramount kept a somewhat low profile. The threw that Bieber concoction into the marketplace and did well, considering. But not a muscular effort for the studio. They released the spawn of Up In The Air, the Montecito film, No Strings Attached, which did a decent, if not thrilling number. And there is the #2 animated opening of the year, Rango. But only Rango was really shooting for the stars.

Fox threw two sequels into the market. Wimpy Kid 2 did almost exactly what it was expected to do on paper. And Big Mommas didn’t revive the franchise. (Should have paid for that Tyler Perry cameo as Madea.) Their only really ambitious push out was, again, the animated film, Rio.

Looks to me like Q1 has been the grand old dumping ground that it always was. (Did the studios meet and agree to tank the quarter to make the excuse for “having” to launch Premium VOD? Hmmm…) Kudos to WB for at least trying to steal the market, in terms of anyone over 12.

Scream 4 is a tricky argument. You can’t say it’s a happy number, as it is well off of both sequels. On the other hand, like Big Momma 3, is there really any nostalgia out there for this group of actors or the series at this point? If they reinvented the idea, great… but that’s not what was sold to the public. Really, not a lot was sold to the public, as TWC didn’t spend a ton on marketing. I feel like the return of Scream kinda needed a return of horror/slasher films to prominence for at least a moment before satire on the genre was needed. All that is left right now is a 15 year old franchise that beat us to death with the first 2 sequels and a lonely ghostface, who has no slashed pals in the market. Had they somehow converted it all into a commentary on horror porn, maybe it would have worked better. But that’s played out as a genre too.

Right now, 2011 is a milder extension of December 2010… the only thing to really cheer about is the strength of the middle class… though right now, that means “$40m – $60m domestic,” in December it meant closer to $100m domestic, and what is missing now as it was then are the couple of blockbusters that make the numbers go up each year. Forget just comparing this year to the Avatar/Alice year… just a single $200m grosser would make everyone clam down a lot.

Note: How many $100 million domestic grossers were there before summer two years ago? Answer: Three. Watchmen, Fast & Furious, Monsters Vs. Aliens.
The year before that? Answer: One. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Before that? Three. Ghost Rider, Wild Hogs, 300.
This year? Two so far. Hop, Rio and Fast Five likely to come. I believe that will be the best ever in that category.

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Friday Estimates by Rio de JaKlady

Well, the Rio opening is a little scary. I’m still not ready to jump on the idiot train of screaming, ‘Slump” every time I start a box office story. (Maybe I just did. Yipes!)

This is a perfect example of how studios get in their own way and use it as an excuse for terrible, potentially destructive ideas like Premium VOD.

2010: First Wide Animated Release – 3/26 – How To Train Your Dragon
Second Wide Animated Release – 5/21 – Shrek Forever After

After that, there was a typical summer pile up. But even then, it was four weeks until Toy Story 3 and 5 weeks after that until Despicable Me.

2011: First Wide Animated Release – 2/11 – Gnomeo & Juliet
Second Wide Animated Release – 3/4 – Rango
Third Wide Animated Release – 3/11 – Mars Needs Moms
Fourth Wide Animated Release – 4/1 – Hop
Fifth Wide Animated Release – 4/15 – Rio
Sixth Wide Animated Release – 4/29 – Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil

And then, we get a full month’s break until Kung Fu Panda 2 for Memorial Day.

Last year, alone in the category for months on either side, Dragon opened to $44 million. This year, in a pile-up of five titles. so far, none of the films has opened to as much as $40 million… none of them have been as leggy as Dragon… and only Mars Needs Moms has opened to less than $25 million.

In the end, the first five animated movies of 2011 will gross, domestically, $425m – $450m, about double what Dragon did last year. So is that encouraging or discouraging? Is anything more really possible when you shoehorn five movies from the same niche into the market space of one quality film from that niche the year before? And does anyone actually question whether a single animated franchise title, whether by itself or in the midst of the animation chaos of this first five months, would blow all the others out of the water and do the business we expect of it (ice Age 4, for example)?

Box office is math. But it is also much more complicated than just the math. For instance, even though Chris Meledandri isn’t working with Blue Sky anymore, isn’t opening two Chris Meledandri movies in three weeks kinda stupid? Cause you can’t really think that the Easter Bunny and comedy birds, live-action involved or not, isn’t all blending in about now. It’s almost worse than opening two movies starring the same actor in the same 3 weeks (which almost never happens, as the big actors have it prohibited in their contracts… for a reason).

I submit to you that if any 2 of the Rio, Hop, and Rango films were the only 2 widely released animated films released between Jan – May, each would have opened closer to $50 million and either hit $200m domestic or come close. But that was not an option because the market was flooded with reasonably high quality product and a market that expanded, but was never going to expand to 5x previous years.

(Add 12:16p)
The Scream 4 opening is another “we thought maybe it would be big” moment for this spring. Seriously, kids, who is coming out to see Courtney Cox and David Arquette and Neve Campbell unless they are having a 3-way and even then, it would be on the web soon enough. And how do they pad the celebrity level? A bunch of kids who are seen more often on the red carpet than doing movies or even much television that anyone cares to remember for more than a day or two.

The idea for the Scream series is what drove the Scream series. Drew Barrymore was a boost the first time around. But in a franchise that is about mocking the gag, how many times can you repeat the gag?

The DVD will rent well. But getting people to rush to a theater to see this… in 2009 or 2010 or 2011… not so much. So hopefully the budget is as low as they claim and the movie will do slightly better overseas. But wait… Scream has never done better overseas than here. Oh well.

Insidious and Source Code are the “happy at $40m domestic” movies of the season.

A couple of million for Ayn Rand… non-story… but we’ll be hearing about it… endlessly… the movie won’t ever crack $10m.

Arthur is well on its way to covering 70% of its domestic marketing costs. Your Highness, not so lucky.

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Weekend Estimates by Soul Klady

And this is why weekend-to-weekend looks so crappy. Last year on “this” weekend, there were $27m in openers. This weekend, $46m. But the weekend is still well behind last year because Sucker Punch was WB’s entry, not Clash of the Titans, and there was no DWA film (last year, it was a leggy Dragon) doing $25m in a third weekend while Hop, which is a success story (but a mild one), did $21m in Weekend Two. Those two holdovers and one $25m opener (Date Night) overpower nearly $20m in more opening firepower this year than last.

If you simply flipped last year’s WB entry for this year’s, “this year’s weekend” would be ahead of “last year’s weekend” by over $15 million. And if wishes were fishes… But you get the point, no? It’s about the movies, not the market. Until there is a much longer lasting set of data that involves a more muscular set of movies being off by similar amounts, I’m not taking any “slump” seriously. Of course, if you want to believe that somehow Clash of the Titans would have done half the business it did if it opened this year or that Sucker Punch would have done more than double what it’s doing opening last year, please, feel free to make the argument.

One genre that may be nearing its end in this cycle as an industry cash cow is the stoned comedy. Since the Superbad/Knocked Up back-to-back smashes, Team Apatow has racked up just one $100m movie (Step Brothers) in 8 attempts. And while Apatow had nothing to do with the two movies gently opening this weekend (Arthur/Your Highness), they are both bastard children of his camp. Like many niche genres in Hollywood, no reason that this one can’t go on. But costs have to be contained and then these are the kinds of legged-out doubles that studios can use to keep the balance sheet positive build library, an occasionally get a surprise big hit. But right now, they are a little expensive and aren’t delivering on the expectations that the studios have when greenlighting them. (Expectations from tracking come long after the horse is out of the barn.)

Hanna is a really nice opening for Focus. They picked up the film in most of the world (Sony has some territories), extending their relationship with Joe Wright, and this opening is better than any two weekends of Atonement domestic grosses combined. Given some strong word-of-mouth (and a soft market for good movies), it could even end up passing Atonement‘s $50m gross.

Bob Berney is back in business. Soul Surfer is a Sony release, but Film District marketed it for Sony, and the results are strong for what could well have been a much smaller feel-good film. And Insidious had a 26% hold, which is almost unheard of for any film in this front-loaded market, much less a horror film. This is one of this year’s real success stories already, likely heading to more than $50m domestic.

Source Code didn’t hold quite as well, but it does seem that we are in the first stretch of commercial movies this year that anyone is happy to recommend.

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Friday Estimates by Klady

Seek and you shall receive.

In this week, this refers to four majors (one, a division of a major) splitting up the audience into four niches and getting four films opening within an estimated $800k of one another. And while there are distinct segments one could argue each fits into, it is interesting that there is a lot of estrogen being crammed into one weekend and having its potential robbed, on some level.

Hanna and Soul Surfer may be the Angel/Devil combo, but young actresses front both and while one may be betting on the Christian audience to turn up and the other may be expecting arthouse urbanites to show up at the multiplex, they both should be appealing to the teen girl segment that has delivered a lot of $50m+ domestic hits in recent years. Meanwhile, for all the ass ogling of the geek boys, re: Your Highness, the toughest person in the film seems to be Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who should also draw those grrrrls.

Arthur is really the wanna-be 4 quadrant film, though three strong women surround Katy Perry’s Dream Date. But they have bit of a problem there, as the only one whose character is really accessible has been pushed into the background – fairly, the least known name, though with a lot of upside, I believe – Helen Mirren isn’t funny enough, and Jen Garner is playing a parody of herself, mostly seen in ads in her lingerie. (Honestly, I don’t blame WB marketing on this. They have done all they can do with what they have here. The weakness in the marketing storytelling is a better version of the murkiness of the film.)

One could also see 3 of the 4 newcomers as boy movies. Brand, a killing machine, and a stoner comedy. And that’s there too. But those guys who are going to these movies for those elements are going anyway. They aren’t the challenge. And there aren’t enough of them to generate the bigger numbers.

Much of a mess as this weekend seems, the two best regarded films are the two hardest sells (dead-eyed girl killer and one-armed surfer), and the other two are high anticipation films that seem to have disappointed a lot of people already. So maybe the weekend of lost movies is no surprise at all.

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Weekend Estimates by Source Klady (Analysis by Poland)

So… it was a hoppy start for Hop or another 2011 disappointing start, depending on your perspective.

First off, this movie was, it seems, a live action/animation combination. I say, “it seems,” because I don’t have any recall of this movie being sold as a live action/animation combination. There is a faint notion of James Marsden’s head showing up. But my experience with the marketing was very Despicable Me… all chicks and bunny. Mea culpa.

Second perspective, as I wrote with Rango when it came out, $38 million to open an original idea for families outside of the two big brand names, is a good number.

Third perspective, if the film is actually has an $80m price tag, as a reader indicated yesterday, this will be a solid commercial winner for Universal. $250m seems like a solid low number for a worldwide gross – who knows what international might turn into? – and it could be recurring character, in spite of the reviews.

Fourth perspective, for four the last five years, we had $40m+ opening animated films in March. The one year that the opening wasn’t $40m was Robots year… and that was seen as coming up short. This year we have two $35m+ openers in March and the cusp of April. It’s probably a good idea for box office followers to start recalibrating to this as the new reality. Yes, there will still be breakout numbers now and again. But solid doubles that make a profit are what the studios are aiming for. And we can’t be getting our panties in a bunch over the studios not making overly expensive films AND complain when they don’t and don’t deliver mega-numbers.

This is an adjustment. And that may be the lesson of this first four months of 2011. For me, too. But The Green Hornet, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, No Strings Attached, Unknown, Gnomeo & Juliet, Just Go With It, The Adjustment Bureau, Battle: Los Angeles, Rango, Wimpy Kid 2, and Limitless have all been success stories, if not all at the bottom line, then vs expectations. And now, Hop and Source Code.

We’ve also seen some unmitigated flops. But we always do. I guess my point is that the Alice in Wonderlands and The Passion Of the Christs are lovely anomalies that we, as media, tend to think then are the norm. Hop & Rango together will gross as much as, if not more, than How to Train Your Dragon, at around the same cost. Is that really a problem?

The film that seems to be the most analogous to Sucker Punch is Year One, which also opened on over 3000 screens and also dropped 69% in its second weekend, and also involved extreme costumes that showed off a lot of flesh but got a PG-13. You could roll out Wolverine, Hulk, and The Wolfman as analogies, but all three started with significantly more than Sucker.

And the reason that this is news is that WB is handing Superman to a guy whose last 3 films for the studio look to have a total gross of less than $400m worldwide combined. And this is not The Wachowskis or Bryan Singer, changing speeds from drama to big action. This is a director who has gone for it and tried to deliver massive hits… and one must admit, failed three times in a row. Will there be an announcement about John Malkovich or Zach Galifianakis playing Lex Luthor this afternoon? Who knows?

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Box Office

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“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier

“My first objective relationship in life was with the camera. I didn’t understand anything but then I realized the camera is my friend. It doesn’t lie to me. It doesn’t manipulate me. It only reports what I’m doing. And therefore, for me to work with a camera and the camera to be directed by an artist, a craftsman, someone who knows what he or she wants, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
~ Elliot Gould