Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Angels & Demons and Star Trek end up neck and neck: The Mendelson's Memos weekend box office in review (05/17/09).

Apologies for the delay, real life got in the way.

The finals are out, and per usual, I'm glad I waited as there was enough of a difference to have necessitated a rewrite had I just gone with the estimates on Sunday. The shocking news is that while Angels & Demons did a solid $46 million over the weekend (no one was expecting anything approaching The Da Vinci Code's $77 million opening), it actually came in second place to Star Trek on Saturday and Sunday. According to Box Office Mojo, the official budget for Angels & Demons was $150 million (I'm suspicious as the number just went up and I couldn't find budget info anywhere until today). If that is a truthful figure, then Sony should have a solid longterm profit on their hands. Surely the picture will come close to or slightly improve upon this number over the long Memorial Day weekend, so a $100 million+ gross in eleven days is a lock. After that, it only has one more weekend as the 'adult choice' before getting hammered by another Sony film, The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3. Again, I'm not sure what Sony was thinking opening two mainstream adult thrillers so close together as, had Sony waited on the Denzel Washington/John Travolta caper, then Angels & Demons would have had the adult market to itself for over a month, until Public Enemies on July 1st. But I've digressed. So far, the international numbers ($102 million) for the Dan Brown adaptation seem to be vastly overpowering the US debut, as did The Da Vinci Code (which is what Sony was counting on). Even if Angels & Demons does only 2/3 of the business of its forebearer, that's still $145 million in the US and $360 million overseas, leading to a half-billion dollars for this alleged 'underperformer'. This may not be a mega-sequel, but it's not Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life or Prince Capsian. For what it's worth, the Angels & Demons opening bested National Treasure: Book of Secrets by $2 million, with both fending off the second weekend of a $75 million+ opener.

Speaking of second weekends for a $75 million opener, the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot 'stunned' analysists by only dropping 42% in its second weekend (it's a 46% drop when compared to the full 3.5 day $79 million opening). This is the best hold for a mega opener that I've seen since... The Incredibles in November 2004? That Pixar masterpiece opened to $70 million, then dropped a mere 28% in weekend two for $50 million, which is still I believe the smallest drop for a film opening over $50 million. Has any movie opened so large and dropped so little in history? Either way, this is a remarkable hold for this day and age, owing both to a lack of a monster opener, a weekend without direct competition, and yes, word of mouth and a week of positive press attention.

The film is expanding far outside the niche Star Trek fanbase (apparently it has a solid repeat-viewing female fanbase that's already writing slash-fiction). It has amassed $148 million in 10.5 days and will probably pass $200 million and become the year's highest grosser by Memorial Day. FYI - djusted for inflation, the top grossing Star Trek picture is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, whose 1979 gross of $81 million translates into $235.3 million today. And if Terminator: Salvation is a one-weekend story, then Star Trek has only the sci-fi comedy Land of the Lost to contend with for a full month (Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen comes out June 24th). If that happens, then $250 million is not out of the question. Regardless of my feelings on the picture, this is a major break out performance and a true box office accomplishment. Everyone in Paramount marketing should be getting giant raises right now.

Moreover, perhaps due to the lack of a monster performer at the top slot, every holdover film experienced relatively modest drops. The big beneficiaries were family films. Monsters Vs. Aliens fell a mere 2.4%, ending the weekend with $191 million (if only we still had a second-run market, thinks Dreamworks). 17 Again dropped 20% despite losing almost 400 theaters as it eclipsed the $57 million final gross of 13 Going On 30. The Hannah Montana Movie crossed the $75 million mark with a mere 26% drop in weekend 6 (again, despite losing nearly 700 theaters). Most everything else of note dropped in the high 30s or low 40s. Even the putrid X-Men Origins: Wolverine stemmed the bleeding somewhat, with a 44% drop in weekend three. The reviled X-Men prequel has crossed the $150 million mark and probably won't make it to $180 million. While the international total will soon pass $300 million and the film will be profitable, this puts a serious damper on Fox's prospects for the X-Men franchise. I'm very curious to see what path Fox chooses for this theoretically endless franchise. It should be interesting either way. Oh, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past fell 35% in weekend three, putting it just shy of the $40 million mark. It didn't open all that well, but it's proved an effective counter-programmer and should end with a profitible $60 million finish (it's almost surpassed the $47 million total of Made of Honor last year).

That's all that's fit to print for the moment. Tune in next weekend for the biggest showdown of the summer, as Terminator: Salvation squares off against Night at the Museum: Battle For The Smithsonian. Conventional wisdom says that the robots will defeat the statues, but Night At the Musuem was an insanely successful franchise starter (at $250 million, it outgrossed every X-Men, Terminator, Superman, James Bond, Bourne, or Star Trek picture to date). It should be interesting.

Scott Mendelson

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