Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mendelson's Memos' Weekend Box Office Rundown (03/29/09)

Well, it's 3.55x for Monsters Vs. Aliens. The much hyped 3D toon from Dreamworks took in a best-of-2009 opening weekend of $59.3 million. This includes $16.8 million on Friday, $24.3 million on Saturday (an uptick of 45%), and a $18.2 million Sunday. So, yes, it played like a family film through and through. This is the biggest opening for any kind of 3D film, besting the $40 million that Chicken Little scored in November 2005. Of course, Chicken Little didn't have nearly as many 3D screens as Monsters Vs. Aliens. Plus, today's 3D screens for the Dreamworks feature are charging a $2-3 premium on tickets. For the record, 56% (about $32 million) of its weekend total came from the 28% of its screens with 3D capabilities and 9% of the gross (about $5.2 million) came from the 143 IMAX theaters. Whether the grosses of such 3D hits as Coraline, Monsters Vs. Aliens, and My Bloody Valentine deserve a Roger Maris astrix is open to debate. For now, until any major records are broken, we'll just let it be. But rest assured, as soon as a 3D movie breaks a major record like biggest opening weekend, you'll be sure to hear complaining from the studio of the prior record holder (unless of course, the new record holder is from the same studio as the prior record holder, in which case every other studio will carp).

As for legs, let's review similar films. Chicken Little had mediocre reviews and word of mouth, but it held on through 2005 anyway to gross $135 million (which was and still is Disney's highest grossing non-Pixar toon since Lilo and Stitch in summer 2002). The recent 3D toon Bolt opened with a softer $26 million (against the $69 million debut of Twilight), but it held its ground over the holidays and crossed $114 million. Two years ago this weekend, Disney's Meet The Robinsons debuted in 2D and 3D theaters to about $25 million. Alas, because you people are soulless monsters who don't deserve Meet The Robinsons, it petered out at $96 million (I'd turn you all into ducks, except I don't know how and I don't need a duck). So, like any other type of movie, there is no real pattern to discern. But, since the reviews are similar and the debut is probably similar in terms of tickets sold, I'll go with the Chicken Little multiplier. That one had a 3.4x weekend-to-total multiplier. So a similar final gross is $197.2 million. Let's toss in the holiday weeks coming up (various schools have Spring Break during the next month) and Dreamworks' bragging necessities, and we'll give it $210 million by closing time. However, if it performs like the quick-kill 2.8 multiplier Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa (which is much better than I expected, by the way), it'll end its run with $166 million.

Coming in second with a shockingly large debut is Lionsgate's The Haunting In Connecticut. That one had a decent for a horror film multiplier of 2.4x. So it ended the weekend with $23 million. It comes in just under the $23.9 million debut of Lionsgate's Fahrenheit 9/11 on the list of non-Saw/non Tyler Perry films from Lionsgate. In fact, this opening tops all of the various Screen Gems/Sony horror films that have been raking in over the last three years. That 'end of 2008 blitz' may have been a mixed blessing for Lionsgate, but 2009 has been one whammy after another (save the low-budget New In Town). My Bloody Valentine, Madea Goes To Jail and now The Haunting In Connecticut have all opened north of $20 million. And next month brings Crank 2, which should deliver a solid improvement on the much liked original. The 3D action cartoon Battle For Terra is a riskier gamble (in which mankind is the villain, invading the home of a race of peace loving aliens... subtle), but we'll see how it fares about X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The holdovers more or less held their own, with two notable exceptions. Disney's Race To Witch Mountain plunged 55% in weekend three, ending its 17th day with $54 million. They had to know that they would get pounded by Monsters Vs. Aliens, but this will single-handedly prevent the film from coming anywhere near $80 million. And Duplicity dropped a disturbing 46%, which is high for an adult comedy/drama. But, once again, had this thing cost $30 or $40 million, the current gross of $26 million would be just fine. But its apparent $80 million budget means that this one is going to hurt Universal badly. This has nothing to do with Julia Roberts' and Clive Owens' box office draw. They both opened the movie at a completely acceptable for its genre level. But the problem is with the budget, which is out of whack with logical box office expectations, and the movie itself. It's a very good, very entertaining movie, but it benefited not one iota from being seen in a theater. Plus, the nature of the film pretty much kills the potential for repeat business (in terms of rewatchability only... possible spoilers... the ending is closer to The Others than The Sixth Sense). It's a darn good movie that should be seen once, but it sure as heck should not have cost $80 million.

I Love You Man dropped a reasonable 28.9%, for a ten day total of $37 million. It's now $2 million ahead of Forgetting Sarah Marshall at the same point. Last week's box office champ Knowing avoided being a one-weekend wonder and dropped a surprisingly solid (for a genre picture) 40%. It's ten day total is $46 million. This is a great sales job from Summit, as the Nic Cage prophecy pic will be the 'second choice' for general moviegoers until the summer season heats up. That it's a better movie than I expected didn't hurt either.

In other news, the Fox dump 12 Rounds opened with $5.3 million. The sad part is that this is a Renny Harlin picture. Yep, the guy who made Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Cliffhanger has now released his second blink-and-you-miss it crap fest in three years (following The Covenant). And that's not counting the stuff that went straight to DVD, like the dumb but entertaining Mindhunters, and the star-studded Cleaner. Seriously, you make one mega-flop, studio-killing pirate-movie and your career is over like that. Yes, Cutthroat Island may have destroyed Carolco Pictures, but it wasn't all that bad (it was actually more entertaining than Waterworld).

Watchmen is now at $102 million, and Coraline lost 1,071 out of 1,431 of its screens (despite dropping just 21% the weekend before). Coraline dropped 85% this weekend and will now limp to $75 million. While this is a fine result, this wonderful film could have easily made it to $100 million if it hadn't been so abused by other 3D projects (Jonas Brothers, Monsters Vs. Aliens) during its run. If you look at its performance, it held its weekend drops well below 25% each weekend when it wasn't getting its 3D screens swiped out from under it. And both He's Just Not That Into You and Madea Goes To Jail are struggling like mad to get to $100 million. Neither of them will make it and both of them would have done so quite easily with a healthy second-run marketplace (for that matter, under such conditions Twilight would have crossed $200 million before its DVD debut).

Next week we get the class-reunion-ish Fast and Furious (why won't Universal embrace the madness and just title one of these 'Faster and Furiouser'?) and Greg Mottola's Adventureland.

Scott Mendelson

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