Monday, January 18, 2010

Avatar remains unstoppable, crossing $500 million, while The Book of Eli impresses. Weekend box office review for 01/18/10.

Wow, this is my 1000th post on Mendelson's Memos. Yay for me. Anyway, I've written a bit about Avatar's unstoppable run elsewhere, so I won't repeat myself too much here. For the record, the James Cameron Golden-Globe winner dropped just 15% in weekend five, for a $42.8 million three-day take and a $54.6 million four-day take. The previous record for a fifth weekend was Titanic's $30 million take. Each of Avatar's three January weekends ($68 million, $50 million, and now $41 million) have scored the top three January weekends of all time. The next biggest is Cloverfield's $40 million opening from 2008. Its new total is $505 million. The film has topped the $500 million mark in just 32 days, twelve days less than The Dark Knight's milestone. At this rate, it will sail past Titanic's $600 million domestic gross by either the end of January or beginning of February. At well over $1.6 billion in worldwide grosses, it is less than $200 million away from Titanic's unfathomable $1.8 billion total. Frankly, there are only so many different ways to say "holy f&^!ing sh$&!", so let's move on.

While it had to settle for number two, Denzel Washington's The Book of Eli was no slouch by any standard. It opened with $32.7 million over three days and $38 million over four days. Despite my misgivings about the somewhat goofy trailers, this was sold as a hard R-rated action flick that showcased Washington killing people in all kinds of merry ways, and that was exactly the right sell. This was Washington's second-biggest three-day debut of all time, behind American Gangster's $43.5 million take in November 2007. Still, you could argue that the latter was helped by costar Russell Crowe, so we can certainly count this as Washington's biggest opening for a stand-alone star vehicle. Regardless, this Hughes brothers picture (their first since From Hell in 2001) marks a strong commercial comeback as the rest of their pictures combined have grossed just over the $8o million that this picture cost to produce. With likely strong overseas numbers in store, this is likely a solid profit maker for Warner Bros and all else involved.

Next up is the at-long-last wide-release of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Delayed at the last minute from its intended December 12th release date, it has instead languished in a month-long, three-screen limited run where it has amassed just $444,000. Still, the subject matter and the popularity of the original novel was enough to get the critically-slammed fantasy to a $17 million three-day and $20.5 million four-day opening weekend. Paramount has quietly resold this movie as a teen-girl friendly drama about an obsessed father avenging his murdered daughter. Like Mel Gibson's upcoming Edge of Darkness, the marketing for The Lovely Bones was retooled to fit into the Taken mold. For now, the resale seems to have worked. Still, the picture cost $100 million so it still has some work to do. It will be interesting to see how fans of the original book react to this relatively unfaithful adaptation. None the less, my personal dislike of the film aside, Peter Jackson has more than earned a mulligan and I just hope that Stanley Tucci gets his much deserved Oscar nomination.

Next up are the three 'victims of Avatar'. While Alvin and the Chipmunks 2, Sherlock Holmes, and It's Complicated have performed superbly since their Christmas weekend release, they have been completely overshadowed by the stunning success of you-know-what. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel has now amassed $196 million, Sherlock Holmes has delivered $180 million, and It's Complicated has grossed $88 million. The Robert Downey Jr vehicle (no, he didn't deserve a Golden Globe but he gave a lovely speech) and the Chipmunk epic will both end up in the top-five list for 'biggest grossing movies never to be number one for a weekend' (Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 both temporarily knocked Avatar off the perch on their respective opening days). Expect sequels for both within the next two years or so. It's Complicated will likely cross $100 million just as the Oscar nominations are announced It's hoping for a screenplay nod and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Alec Baldwin.

Positioned in between the bigger Christmas releases and It's Complicated was the Jackie Chan family comedy, The Spy Next Door. Despite looking like a film that was made specifically to hurt longtime fans of the aging action star, this Pacifier rip-off opened with a $9.6 million three-day and $13 million four-day start. Come what may, low-intensity kid-friendly adventures may be the place where Jackie Chan plays out his career, and even his Karate Kid remake is getting something resembling good buzz. Amy Adams's Leap Year has now grossed $17 million on a $19 million budget. The Blind Side added another $6.5 million over four days, bringing up its domestic total to $227 million. Sandra Bullock's (deserved) Golden Globe win will only increase the film's cachet, as will Bullock's inevitable Oscar nomination (where she's neck and neck with Meryl Streep) and the film's possible Best Picture nomination. The other big Oscar bait movie that could, George Clooney's Up in the Air, brought its domestic cum to $64 million. That means that this film is now officially Clooney's fifth sixth-highest grosser and his biggest movie not involving Batman, all-star Vegas heists, or CGI waves.

There is not much else to report. Daybreakers plummeted 67% in its second three-day weekend, ending its eleventh day with $25 million (on a budget of $20 million). The Princess and the Frog is one or two weekends away from the $100 million mark, so let's make it happen people. A Single Man expanded to over 200 screens and crossed the $3 million mark. Any additional heat will depend on Colin Firth's likely Best Actor nomination. Golden Globe winner Jeff Bridges's Crazy Heart had a modest expansion to 74 screens and crossed $2.2 million in the bargain. Expect a slow and steady upswing as the beloved Bridges is now the popular favorite to finally win an Oscar this February. Finally, the last of the Oscar bait films went into limited release this weekend, as the Christopher Plummer/Helen Mirren biopic The Last Station opened on 3 screens and grossed $98,700 over four days.

Join us next Sunday for a relatively active weekend. The wide openers are Extraordinary Measures, the medical mystery/true-life drama with Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford, the supernatural horror pic Legion (about an angel who defends humanity against a wrathful God), and Dwayne the Rock Johnson debuts his latest family friendly vehicle, The Tooth Fairy (also starring Billy Crystal and Ashley Judd). Opening in limited release are The Paranoids and To Save A Life, two films I know absolutely nothing about.

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...

Next week, Harrison Ford "works around the clock" to find a way to beat Avatar...

...sorry, had to


JohnH said...

as the beloved Bridges is now the popular favorite to finally win an Oscar this February

Haven't watched the Academy Awards since Ian McKellen lost for Gods and Monsters (also the moment a perfectly good bottle of wine almost -- almost -- collided from across the room with a perfectly good television) but I'll watch this year just to watch Bridges' acceptance speech. It's about time; he ought to have 2 or 3 of them on his shelf already!

Claudius said...

Just crunchin' some numbers: even if Avatar starts falling at -40% every week from now (biggest falls so far: -27% on weekends, -34% on full weeks) and has a week/weekend multiplier of 1.35 (lowest multiplier so far: 1.39), it catches on Titanic on the last weekend of February. That is, week 11... if we switch the numbers to something more in line with what we've seen so far (-35%, 1.40), it probably reaches all-time n.1 on St. Valentine's day (week 8). Oh, and without considering the now-too-obvious oscar nominations galore impact... And with a ( conservative guess) domestic total of 630-640M, it will only need an extra 60M in foreign B.O. (from now) to be n.1 worldwide. I think that all bets are already off.

Scott Mendelson said...

Claudius, consider me impressed. I might have to borrow you to write a weekend wrap-up if I ever get caught without a computer on a Sunday and Monday.


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