Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's $72 million for Fast & Furious - Mendelson's Memos weekend box office rundown (04/05/09)

The List

Fast & Furious has apparently grossed $72.5 million over the three day portion. That's a 70% uptick on the previous April opening weekend record holder, Anger Management. It's the 27th biggest opening of all time and it just out grossed the entire run of Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift by $10 million in just three days. Plus, for what it's worth, it's the third biggest opening for a 'part IV' in history, behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- both of which opened to about $101 million. Although I'm sure, adjusted for inflation, that Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace and, um, Thunderball sold more tickets. I severely doubt that Terminator: Salvation can top this opening over this Memorial Day weekend (it would also have to improve by about 70% over Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), so this pointless novelty record will stand until Spider-Man 4 opens in May 2011 (at which point we'll likely see a new 'king of the part IVs').

In fact, this may stand as the year's biggest opening for quite some time. A year ago, The Hannah Montana movie would have likely exploded accordingly, but the brand seems to have peaked. Even before the online leak, $70 million for Wolverine was close to the best case scenario. Now, coupled with continuing bad buzz, it'll be probably be lucky to hit $60 million (on the plus side, it's now the most talked about film of the summer by a mile). Star Trek is another major question mark. It's arguably the film I'm most excited about this summer, but it's still a mystery as to whether it can break out past the loyal fan base (why Paramount hasn't already started screening it is beyond me). Angels & Demons won't open nearly as large as The Da Vinci Code ($77 million three-day), since it won't have the reams of free press due to alleged controversy, plus it's the classic 'sequel to a bad hit film that no one wanted a sequel to' (of course, it if performs like the comparable Prince Caspian, then that will be super as it didn't cost $200 million). Terminator: Salvation is likely out for reasons stated above, and no one expects Pixar's Up to open as well as Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. So, if Wolverine takes a hit due to bad buzz or piracy, and Star Trek doesn't play to the cheap seats, it may be late June before Transformers 2 takes this record away.

As I mentioned yesterday, Universal smartly sold Fast & Furious as a class reunion of sorts and also as a 'true sequel' to the 2001 original. Unlike the last two sequels, which had few if any original cast members taking part, this one provided a solid paycheck and a hot meal to the four original stars, all of whom have floundered over the last eight years. None of the would-be break out stars from the first picture, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster, have truly found success outside the series that spawned them.

Vin Diesel has tried desperately to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although XXX opened to a solid $46 million and ended with about $90, his only success since then has been the PG family comedy The Pacifier, which actually grossed $113 million. Unlike Dwayne Johnson, who has embraced his family-friendly typecasting, Vin Diesel still seems determined to be cinema's preeminent bad ass. We'll see how he uses this new found capital (free advice - take scene stealing supporting roles instead of bland lead roles). Paul Walker has actually made a couple good movies - the terrific Joyride (arguably second only to Duel in the genre of 'terror on the open road' movies), and the flawed but ambitious Running Scared. But his only non F&F hit was the Disney snow dog adventure film, Eight Below ($81 million domestic), which could have starred anybody and been just as successful.

Michelle Rodriguez was first noticed in the indie boxing drama, Girlfight. The Fast and the Furious was her 'mainstream break out' picture, but her career has sputtered since. She had a supporting role in the solid police action film S.W.A.T. ($117 million), and she had a notoriously short lived supporting gig on the second season of Lost (where she was saddled with playing an unsympathetic character that you were supposed to adore), but most of her post F&F work has been in the video game voice over arena. Ironically, while she is the actress arguably least likely to return for a would-be fifth film, she's also the one who probably won't need it. This Christmas, she has the lead role in some low-budget indie called Avatar, directed by that hotshot Sundance sensation Jimmy Cameron. If that hits, she rides the wave. If it flops, than Mr. 'King of the World' takes the blame.

Finally, Jordanna Brewster has suffered the fate of many a 'hot newcomer' who is primarily known for being really pretty (think Shannon Elizabeth). She has suffered through one 'insert babe here' role after another, with her best shot at true stardom squashed when her pilot for the TV series version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith didn't get picked up. She is currently in a recurring gig on Chuck. Ironically, she was actually quite good in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which I have always maintained is the very best 'Texas Chainsaw' movie ever made (yes, it's scarier, better acted, and contains richer characters than even the 1974 original). Since it's apparent that her role in this sequel is the same 'hot girlfriend' role that she had in the first, I doubt she'll get much traction. Did anyone out there see the Mr. and Mrs. Smith pilot? I'd love to hear about it as it seemed to actually be the rare hit movie that would have made sense as a TV show.

So, since the film had an expectedly low 2.37x multiplier, we can only assume that this will likely be a 'quick kill blockbuster'. Still, even using the catastrophic collapses that we've seen this winter (Watchmen, Friday the 13th, and Jonas Brothers 3D), a pathetic 50% weekend-to-total multiplier (w2t) would give this one $144 million, or about what the original grossed. Part 1 had a 3.6x w2t, part 2 had a 2.54x w2t, and part 3 had a 2.6x w2t. So, if this one performs like part 2 (likely), it'll still end up with $185 million. So, if this has anything resembling staying power, even for one weekend, it'll cross $200 million. But, it'll still likely join the big November 3 - Madagascar 2, Quantum Of Solace, and Twilight - as movies that opened to well over $60 million but still failed to cross $200 million. Still, this one only cost $85 million, so it'll be in the black by weekend three. This is a huge, huge win for Universal.

The only other opener was Greg Mottala's Adventureland, a charming and low-key dramady set in the 1980s at an amusement park. Alas, this passion project only made $6 million. The reviews were relatively solid, but it just didn't break out. And, because the ad campaign made the film seem far goofier and broadly comic that it is, I expect word of mouth to be pretty lousy. Hopefully it'll get a second chance on DVD (next time, Mottala, get your pal Apatow to offer an executive producer credit, just for the ads).

In the holdover section, things went as expected. Monsters Vs. Aliens used its 3D and IMAX screens as a buffer but still dropped 43.5%, ending day ten with $105 million. $200 million probably won't happen now, as it's currently around $11 million behind the ten-day totals of Ice Age 2, Madagascar 2, or Kung Fu Panda (of those, only Kung Fu Panda crossed $200 million). On the plus side, despite opening within $5 million of each other, Monsters Vs Aliens has now grossed in ten days what took Watchmen five weeks to achieve. The Haunting In Connecticut dropped 58%, but its boffo opening made a big drop inevitable. Knowing is just shy of $59 million, dropping 45% in weekend three. I Love You Man is now at $49 million, barely out-distancing Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Role Models at identical points in the run. It will likely barely surpass them and end up with a terrific $70 million total.

That's about all the news that's fit to print. Next weekend is a big question mark, as the Hannah Montana Movie faces off against Observe and Report (a dark, R-rated comedy variation on Taxi Driver with Seth Rogan playing a mall cop... any similarities to Paul Blart are strictly accidental). Six months ago, I would have said that the Hannah Montana movie had a chance at pulling $75 million (which would have theoretically broken the 2009 opening weekend record three weekends in a row), but the underwhelming opening weekends (comparative to my probably inflated expectations) of High School Musical 3 and The Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience makes this one a BIG question mark. $40 million is probably the target here, but we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

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