Monday, May 3, 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street easily tops box office in 'the calm before the storm' weekend. Weekend box office review (05/02/10).

Apologies for the delay. Taking family to Disneyland > weekend box office report. Anyway, to surprise of no one, the heavily advertised and much-buzzed about A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted with $32.9 million to crush any and all weekend rivals. This is the second-biggest debut for a Freddy Kruger picture, behind the $36 million debut of Freddy Vs. Jason back in 2003. Counting only pure Elm Street pictures, this opening is nearly 2.5 times larger than the closest competitor, the $12.9 million debut of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. The picture outgrossed the entire domestic totals for Elm Street parts 1, 2, 5, and 7. Demographically speaking, the picture played to 40% 18-24 year-olds and 20% under 18. The gender split was about even. Debuting with a powerful $15.8 million Friday gross (the third biggest opening day for R-rated horror, behind Hannibal with $18 million and last year's Friday the 13th with $19 million), the picture fell victim to a massive front-loading, ending the weekend with a pathetic 2.08x weekend multiplier. That's the sixth-lowest weekend multipliers on record. Heck, it's actually lower than the 2.1x multiplier from Friday the 13th, which actually opened on Friday the 13th over Valentine's Day weekend 2009. Chalk it up to heavy audience curiosity leading to a mad dash to the theaters on Friday night, and the fact that the film is completely unsatisfying on nearly every level (short review - rent Wes Craven's New Nightmare and/or watch the Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" spoof from 1995 instead), and you have the recipe for a one-and-done picture.

Whether or not this starts a new Jackie Earle Haley as Fred Kruger franchise is debatable, as Platinum Dunes just killed a sequel to said Friday the 13th remake for reasons unknown. The Jason redo plunged an astonishing 80% in its second weekend. Expect this needless misfire to fare the same way as it faces off against the opening sprint of Iron Man 2.Still, at the end of the day, this under $30 million picture just opened with nearly $33 million over the first three days. The heavily-hyped classic-horror remake is a big business when costs are contained. Ironically, this is yet another success for Warner/New Line that arguably should have belonged to New Line Cinemas alone. While their post Lord of the Rings output was anemic at best (only Hairspray and the very over-budgeted Rush Hour 3 opened well between 2003 and 2007), the 'house the Freddy built' has had a pretty solid run since being swallowed whole by Warner Bros in early 2008. A Nightmare on Elm Street joins Journey to the Center of the Earth and Sex and the City: The Movie as the kind of hits that could have saved the company had they opened before The Golden Compass nailed the lid on the studio with its 'mere' $377 million worldwide gross (it was perceived as a costly flop as it only grossed $70 million stateside). Granted, New Line's problem was as much marketing related as anything, so perhaps credit should go to the Warner Bros. marketing might. Next up for New Line Cinemas is the surefire smash Sex and the City 2, which opens May 27th.

The only other wide release was the Brendan Fraser vs. the animals eco-fable, Furry Vengeance. With stunningly bad reviews (it's 1/50 at Rotten Tomatoes), the Summit Entertainment release grabbed just $6.6 million. Why the film didn't actually open over Earth Day weekend is a mystery, but this just proves what I've been saying since November 2008: Summit Entertainment either needs to take a crash course in marketing or they desperately need to get purchased/merged with a bigger studio, even a min-major like Lionsgate (must resist cheap joke about Madea showing up to teach Bella self-respect). They have absolutely zero ability to successfully market anything non-Twilight related, and I fear that Amanda Seyfried will be the next victim when her romantic drama Letters to Juliet opens on May 14th. Regardless, the failure of Furry Vengeance puts undue pressure on the Seyfried vehicle. Ironically, May 14th also is the opening day of Universal's Robin Hood, which puts the two studios with the absolute worst marketing teams head to head. As for Mr. Fraser, I'd advice him to demand an expanded role in the upcoming GI Joe sequel or find a new property to indulge in his patented aw-shucks action adventure heroism (perhaps a film adaptation of the acclaimed Uncharted video game series?). It's what he does best and is clearly what audience want to see him doing.

There were several limited-release debuts this weekend. The Michael Caine vigilante thriller Harry Brown debuted on nine screens for a $173,353 opening weekend. The Human Centipede made a splash on IFC On Demand, but it also debuted in a single theater, grossing (in both senses of the word) $12,424 on said screen. Please Give, Nicole Holofcener's follow-up to Friends With Money, grossed $118,123 on five screens. Magnolia's The Good Heart, a Brian Cox vehicle, grossed just $5,500 on five screens. In holdover land, How to Train Your Dragon pulled in $10.6 million in weekend six (-30%) for a new domestic total of $192.1 million. The leggy phenom will cross $200 million by next weekend's end, if not earlier. The Back Up Plan dropped 40% for a $7.2 million second-weekend and a $22.9 million new total. The Losers dropped only 37% for a $5.8 million second weekend and a new $18 million total. Clash of the Titans now sits at $154 million and Alice In Wonderland sits at $329 million. Me thinks that the small drops for the various PG and PG-13 pictures means that kids were buying tickets for said films and sneaking into the R-rated Nightmare On Elm Street. The R-rated Kick-Ass dropped another 51% in its third weekend, ending day 17 with $42 million domestic and $29 million overseas. Oceans was a one-weekend wonder and plunged 57% in weekend two. I guess kids knew they couldn't get away with plausibly buying tickets to a G-rated Disney nature documentary and sneaking into the Fredddy Kruger epic.

That's all for this weekend. Join us next weekend when summer begins and history may be made, as Iron Man 2 (review Tuesday night or Wednesday morning) makes a plausible run for The Dark Knight's three-day opening weekend record. Just so you know, as my weekends get busier, box office reports won't always be as 'right as the numbers are released' as I might like. Still, I hope that those who like this stuff can wait until Monday morning (PST). Heck, if I had my way I'd wait until Tuesday morning when the actual numbers have been released, but I know that's an impossibility in this 'instant-news' age. As summer kicks into gear, I can't promise the first box office report of the weekend, but (if you can spare a little patience) I can promise to give you the best one.

Scott Mendelson

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