Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekend box office in review (04/04/10)

Everyone won during a crowded Easter weekend, as three major new releases faced off against several strong holdovers for a whopping $177 million total. As expected by all, Clash of the Titans opened relatively large, with $61.2 million over the Fri-Sun period. Including Thursday-night sneak showings, the Warner Bros. remake has grossed $63.8 million. It shattered the old Easter record (Scary Movie 4's $42 million debut) by about $20 million and came within $10 million of breaking the April opening weekend record (last year's Fast & Furious with $71 million). The picture benefited from terrific trailers, an impressively dynamic poster gallery, and its last-minute conversion to 3D for about 1,800 of its 3,770 theaters. Most of the critics came out of last week's press screenings complaining about the low quality of said 3D effects, but the film did 52% of its business in the 28% of the screens that were in higher-priced 3D. Let's be honest, this film would have been pretty huge no matter what format it was offered in. It looked exciting and was fantastically marketed from all corners. Appealing mainstream film + great trailers + cool posters = big opening nearly every time.

Great news right? Well, as is often the case with these very expensive films opening to big but not astronomical numbers, it all depends about how well it holds up. The film cost $125 million, so a somewhat decent hold as well as strong international business (it pulled in $44 million this weekend overseas) is needed to actually make this a profitable venture. At a glance, the long-term prospects do not look anymore than 'OK'. The picture opened with $26 million on Friday, which gives the film a relatively weak 2.3x multiplier. Of course, Sunday was Easter weekend, so we won't know until next weekend whether word of mouth was as scornful as the reviews. Take away the 3D bump in ticket prices, and this film had a pretty identical opening to Watchmen ($55 million last year). To be fair, the current film will likely play better overseas and the PG-13, 106-minute action spectacle is certainly more apt for casual viewing after opening weekend than a 2.75-hour R-rated comic book deconstruction, so a similar decline is not necessarily in the cards. It would seem that Warner Bros. rushed to cheaply and quickly apply 3D effects to a film that they were not all that confident in (it's not a very good movie), which may come back to bite them for future conversions. As often the case with big movies such as this, the tale will be told next weekend. If the movie were better and/or cheaper, and if so many weren't complaining about the 3D work, I'd be more optimistic about the future beyond simply breaking even.

Coming in at second place was Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? Since Warner only pushed Clash of the Titans to April 2nd at the last minute (so its 3D would not directly duel with Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon), Lionsgate surely expected to dominate Easter weekend up until a month or so ago. Still, weep not for Mr. Perry, the sequel scored $29.29 million, giving him his third-biggest opening ever (behind Madea Goes to Jail's $41 million debut last year and Madea's Family Reunion back in Winter 2006), and by far his biggest opening for a picture not involving Madea. The original Why Did I Get Married? opened at number 01 to $21.3 million back in October 2007. This big opening outside his proverbial comfort zone (his third $30 million+ since 2006) proves that Perry is arguably the most consistently bankable director working today, as long as the budgets are in line with expectations (his films usually cost $15-20 million). Of course, having Janet Jackson appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to give her first interview after her brother's death to promote said movie probably didn't hurt either. Perry movies usually don't last very long, so expect a quick rush to around $70 million.

Third place went to How to Train Your Dragon, which pulled in $11 million on Friday before crumbling due to Easter weekend to finish with $29 million second weekend. Still, it was just a 33% decline and its ten-day total of $92.1 million puts it $13 million behind the ten-day total of Monsters Vs. Aliens, which opened to $16 million more. Point being, it does seem to appear that people are finding this surprisingly good movie (my parents saw it over the weekend and loved it too), so all hope is not lost following a slightly underwhelming $43 million debut. Also helping is that there will be no new 3D films being released until the May 21st debut of Shrek Forever After, so it will keep its IMAX screens and its 3D screens for the long haul. If you actually take me seriously as a critic, you really ought to check it out on the biggest screen you can afford.

Fourth place went to the Miley Cyrus vehicle, The Last Song. The Nicolas Sparks adaptation opened with $16 million over the three-day weekend, which gives it a rock-solid $25.3 million since its Wednesday debut. Similar to The Hannah Montana Movie, big-time front-loading was expected and was delivered. The picture pulled in $7 million on Friday, so its three-day multiplier was just 2.2x. If you recall, The Hannah Montana Movie opened with $17.4 million on Good Friday last year before ending up with a $32.3 million opening weekend, giving it the worst opening weekend multiplier (1.8x) in history. Regardless, the current weepie (I do wonder who dies at the end?) cost just $20 million, so this is already a big money maker for Disney. Speaking of moneymakers for Disney, Alice in Wonderland was in fifth place, dropping 53% after losing many of its 3D screens to Clash of the Titans. Oh well, the Tim Burton spectacle will have to settle for having crossed the $300 million mark on Thursday, becoming the eighth non-summer release in history to do that. The picture is now Disney's fourth-biggest grosser ever at $309.7 million and has amassed $722 million worldwide. And if you think that this picture wouldn't have made at least 90% of that without the 3D, well, you're an idiot. Sometimes, it's just the movie.

Not much news in the holdovers department. Hot Tub Time Machine dropped 42% and stands at $27.9 million. The Bounty Hunter is at $48.8 million and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is at $46 million. The kinda-terrific Disney documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty dropped 55% on its five screens, which probably means that the theatrical release was just an advertisement for the DVD release this fall. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has held up strongly in limited release, slowly adding screens and nearing $1.5 million after three weekends of limited play (it's on 87 screens). Finally Chloe lost 11 screens and 35% of its box office take in weekend two, meaning the erotic thriller will struggle to cross $5 million (it sits at $1.8 million).

That's all this weekend. Join us next weekend when there is but one new release (which ought to make next weekend's column super short). Tina Fey and Steve Carell team up for Date Night, which should be yet another example of how small-screen comedy is often much funnier than big-screen comedies. Oh, and The Runaways expands to 200 screens, having been battered in limited release (current total - $1.9 million) by the fact that it's pretty lousy. Of course, the loss of about $10 million in promised publicity, after the first mediocre weekend, didn't help either. Until then, take care.

Scott Mendelson

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