Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shrek 4 three-peats and four new openers (Get Him to the Greek, Killers, Marmaduke, Splice) fail to break out. Weekend box office review (06/05/10).

Owing to lackluster competition, the complete failure of a film aimed at the same demographic, and the high ticket prices associated with 3D and IMAX theaters, Shrek Forever After once again took the top spot over the weekend. While the film opened far below expectations, the fourth picture in the Shrek saga has held off oblivion at least for the moment. With a $25.4 million grossing-third weekend, the film dropped 41% for a current seventeen-day total of $183.3 million. That's well behind the respective end-of-weekend three totals of Shrek the Third ($255 million) and Shrek 2 ($314 million). But both Shrek the Third and Shrek 2 dropped 47% on their third weekends, so the fourth chapter is displaying slightly superior legs. Whether this is do to the consistency and higher prices of the 3D and IMAX screens, or whether audiences just like this Shrek film better than the last, the franchise still seems to have some life left in it after all. It may have opened with 58% of the third film's $121 million opening weekend grosses, but Shrek: The Final Chapter is proving to be more resilient than many, including myself, predicted.

Putting the numbers into a wider perspective, the film is just $4 million behind the $187 million that Pixar's Up had grossed at the same juncture. Now Up fell just 30% in its third weekend and grossed $6 million more to boot, but I wouldn't call Shrek Forever After a flop or financial failure by any real stretch. In fact, I admit that I was wrong to predict gloom and doom after the comparatively disappointment opening weekend two weekends prior. Shrek: The Final Chapter won't reach the $290 million domestic total of Up, but it should easily surpass the eventual $215-220 million total of How to Train Your Dragon (current total - $213 million). For better or worse, Dreamworks can soon claim that all four of its highest-grossing animated films are Shrek pictures. Where it goes from there is a question of how badly it's brutalized on June 18th, when Toy Story 3 takes away the theoretically vital IMAX and 3D screens, as well as (possibly) the opening-weekend record for an animated film that Shrek the Third set back in 2007 (breaking the record set by Shrek 2 back in 2004, natch).

Second place went to Get Him to the Greek, which opened with $17.5 million. Positioned as a spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nick Stoller directed both and star Russell Brand plays the same character), this Judd Apatow-produced sex/drugs/rock n' roll comedy opened with a number quite similar to the $17.7 million earned by Forgetting Sarah Marshall back in April, 2008. Still, the premise isn't nearly as relatable as the prior film's 'What if your girlfriend dumped you and then you ran into her and her new boyfriend while on vacation?' premise, so the similar opening numbers in a crowded summer weekend is all-the-more impressive. The film received a 'B' from Cinema Score, with a 'B+' from males. The movie played 53% female and 55% under 30 years old. The Jason Segel/Mila Kunis/Kristen Bell from 2008 vehicle ended up with $63 million, so a similar total should be in store for the this well-reviewed picture as well.

Third place went Killers, which grossed $15.8 million in its debut weekend. Much alleged controversy surrounded Lionsgate's decision to not screen the picture for critics. Lionsgate rarely screens their movies for the press, so the dumb move on their part was to basically boast this fact, thus insuring the critics who paid to see the film on Friday morning would be itching to rip it apart. Compared to Katherine Heigl's prior openers (27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth which opened with $23 million and $27 million respectively) and Ashton Kutcher's prior romantic comedies (What Happens in Vegas and Guess Who, which each opened with $20 million), this has to be a mild disappointment. But this is a question of pure box office pull. Point being, Asthon Kutcher and Katherine Heigl can get a poorly-marketed, uninteresting studio picture to $16 million purely on their marquee appeal, which is the meaning of star-power. But the blame goes to Lionsgate, which spent an insane $70 million in an apparent attempt that they could make overly-expensive, apparently mediocre romantic comedies just as well as the bigger studios. Alas, the marketing campaign didn't really state whether the movie was more of a comedy or an action picture, and it made the film look cheap, especially compared to the similarly-themed upcoming Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle, Knight and Day. Lionsgate has proven yet again that they don't have the apparent marketing muscle or screen-acquisition might of the major studios (I'm betting Killers ended up on the smaller screens despite its status as an opener). Oh, and the current boycott of Lionsgate films by Carmine Cinemas probably didn't help either.

In the next two spots, we have the two big openers of Memorial Day weekend. Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time dropped 53%, for a second-weekend gross of $14 million and a current domestic total of $59.5 million. Fortunately, the $200 million-budgeted misfire has nearly tripled that number overseas, and its current worldwide total is already $216 million. Overseas numbers may save Disney from taking a financial bath, but this is not the start of a glorious new franchise. Sex and the City 2 dropped a brutal 60% in its second weekend, grossing just $12.3 million. For comparison, the first Sex and the City dropped a similarly hard 62%, but it was coming off a $57 million opening weekend. The first's films second weekend gross was $21 million, and it had reached $99 million by the end of its tenth day. Sex and the City 2, with an extra day and an alleged holiday-bump, has amassed just $73.1 million. Point being, the film may not even cross $100 million, as the audience is clearly responding to the poor word of mouth and are deciding to wait until DVD or avoid altogether. If there is going to be a Sex and the City 3, it will have to cost quite a bit less than the $100 million Warner Bros/New Line Cinema spent this time around. In one last nugget of holdover news before we get to the last two new releases, Iron Man 2 dropped 52%, for a $7.9 million fifth weekend and a current domestic total of $291.4 million. Comparatively, the first film dropped just 35% in its fifth weekend for a three-day gross of $13 million.While the film is quickly losing ground on the original domestically, overseas numbers have (again) saved the day. The sequel has already surpassed the $266 million that Iron Man earned overseas, and the current worldwide total of Iron Man 2 is within $6 million of Iron Man.

Fox's newest attempt to create an Alvin and the Chipmunks-type franchise fell on its face, as Marmaduke opened with just $11.5 million. It's not a ghastly number, but compared with similar talking-animal garbage, the opening was a loser. Forget the $30 million debuts of Beverly Hills Chihuahua or G-Force, Marmaduke even opened under the $13 million debuts of Racing Stripes and Good Boy!, two movies that no one on Earth now remembers just a few years later. Simple story: the movie looked terrible, kids don't know Marmaduke the comic strip, parents don't care about Marmaduke the comic strip, and families are still sampling Shrek IV. Alas, the best film of the weekend, and arguably the best wide-release of the summer, Splice, opened with just $7.3 million in its debut. Marred by an uninteresting trailer that misleadingly sold the movie as a generic creature-feature, the film failed to attract moviegoers and repelled the few that bothered to show up (the picture earned a 'D' from Cinema Score). I only sought it out because of the reviews, and my horror-junkie wife had to be bribed with ice cream to see it, the movie never stood a chance with the general public. Warner Bros is only on the hook for distribution, as this was a word-of-mouth Sundance pick-up. Marketing mistakes aside, good for Warner for giving this picture the wide-release it deserved. Shame on audiences for again proving that they don't want real horror films that actually disturb them, but rather harmless, but soulless remakes and reboots. For those who want the real thing, Splice is a gem.

In other holdover news, the weekend after a holiday is always rough, but one film got absolutely clobbered, although it was as much a victim of overcrowding as its poor box office. MacGruber lost 2,369 of its 2,546 theaters, which caused the film to tumble an astonishing 93% in its third weekend. Granted, it was already being relegated to one-or-two showtimes a day during its second week, but this is still a dramatic example of how crowded the marketplace is in this day and age. The film was no Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (a film I didn't even see until its third or fourth weekend back in May 1997), but it didn't deserve this. With just $99,000 in weekend three, the film won't even earn back its $10 million production budget. Robin Hood grossed $5.3 million (-48%) and has now amassed $94 million in domestic dollars (and $266 million in worldwide grosses). Letters to Juliet made $3 million this weekend (-48%), and the Amanda Seyfriend vehicle has grossed a very good-for Summit Entertainment $43 million. And Date Night continues to bleed screens, which will prevent it from reaching $100 million. Still, no one can deny that a $95.3 million domestic gross for the $55 million comedy is anything but a rock-solid hit, especially as it's the kind of thing that will play on TBS until the end of time.

That's all for this weekend, join us next weekend when 80s nostalgia hits overdrive, with the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team and the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan remake of The Karate Kid. For a look at what happened over this weekend in 2009, click accordingly. Until then, click, read, and comment. Take care.

Scott Mendelson

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