Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend box office (09/26/10): Wall Street 2 is number 01, while Legend of the Guardians cost too much.

The funny thing about long-delayed sequels is that it's generally pretty easy for them to top the opening weekends of their predecessors purely due to inflation. So while Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps is a genuine mainstream hit with $19 million on 3,565 screens ($5,330 per screen) over its debut weekend, it's basically just double the figures as the original Wall Street posted back in 1987, despite opening with 5x the dollar amount. The original film opened with $4.3 million in 730 theaters ($5,622 per screen). Adjusted for relative inflation, that would give the original Oliver Stone cautionary tale around $10 million in 2010 dollars. But outside of its context from the 23-year old original film, this sequel performed well on its own accord.

It is Michael Douglas's first number 01 opening since Don't Say A Word's $17 million debut almost nine years ago to the weekend, and it's his second-biggest opening weekend ever, behind the $21 million opening of You, Me, and Dupree. For Shia LeBeouf, this almost qualifies as a relative comedown, as this is his lowest live-action opening weekend since Holes ($16 million) made him a recognizable name back in 2003. But when you work with Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, a $19 million opening for an Oliver Stone drama almost feels like a letdown. This is actually Oliver Stone's biggest Fri-Sun gross of his career, although final figures may put it below the $18.7 million debut of World Trade Center. Point being, while Oliver Stone may be known as a director who alternates between controversial battering rams and hard-leftist documentaries, when he makes a mainstream picture, audiences generally show up. The film pulled a 2.7x weekend multiplier, which actually counts as solid in these front-loaded days. The film apparently cost $60 million, so it will have to do decent worldwide coin as well to really make money for Fox, but the picture debuted with $9 million in overseas grosses as well, giving the film a solid $28 million worldwide gross in the first three days. Where it goes from here is an open question. Usually I'd say that a picture like this would be a second choice for general audiences for awhile, but Ben Affleck's The Town seems to be filling that slot at the moment (more on that one later).

Coming in second place was the Zack Snyder animated action fable, Legends of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (no, I don't know how to pronounce that either). While the film's $16.3 million opening weekend isn't too bad, especially for a Warner Bros cartoon (aside from Happy Feet, the WB feature animation department is a study in tragedy), this film allegedly cost an absurd $150 million. Credit Warner Bros. for again giving Zack Snyder a blank check and complete creative freedom, but this one is going to cost them a lot more than Watchmen did. If Sucker Punch doesn't deliver financially in March, then Snyder is probably going to have to take a couple work-for-hire gigs (I hear Chris Nolan is looking for someone to direct Superman?). The other wide opener was a the ensemble comedy, You Again. The horribly-reviewed 'high school returns to torment you in adulthood' comedy, which starred Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kristin Chenoweth, Bette White, and Victor Garber, grossed just $8.3 million. To those who thought that Betty White was going to be some kind of magic ingredient, I must have forgotten about Lake Placid and its $40 million opening in July 1999 (for the record, it also opened with $10 million, and it's a vastly underrated horror comedy).

In limited release news, the educational system-in-crisis documentary Waiting For "Superman" had a smashing four-screen debut, opening with $141,000 for a $35,250 per screen average. Lionsgate inexplicably debuted Buried on 11 screens, and was rewarded with just $111,000. I have no idea what Lionsgate was thinking. As it is, arthouse audiences don’t generally see horror/suspense films at their local art house, unless they are foreign/uber-acclaimed. If you’re going to see something in limited release this weekend, it’ll probably be Waiting For "Superman", Never Let Me Go ($442,000 in ten days), or some other would-be awards-bait. Buried is set to go wide on October 8th, where it will face off against Wes Craven's My Soul to Take (a film so awesome that it underwent a quick 3D conversion and sent Craven scurrying back to the Scream franchise). Sony put The Virginity Hit on 700 screens, apparently as a favor to producer Will Ferrell, and they got $300,000 for their troubles. Finally, Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger opened on six screens and grossed a solid $27,167 per screen.

In holdover news, all four wide debuts from last week had good-to-okay holds. Ben Affleck's The Town is quickly becoming a water-cooler success story, with general audiences finding the film a cut above the usual mainstream entertainment. While I can only shake my head and implore them to rent Gone Baby Gone, I have no ill will toward the many talented people who have a success on their hands. The film dropped just 32% in weekend two, grossing $16 million and ending day ten with $49 million. The well-liked high-school comedy Easy A dropped an equally reasonable 39%, ending its second weekend with $32 million. Mean Girls dropped 44% and Clueless dropped 33% in their respective second weekends, so the Emma Stone vehicle is in some high good company.

The M. Night Shyamalan-produced spook story Devil dropped 47%, which isn't too bad for a cheap horror flick (new ten-day total: $21 million). As glad as I am so see that it didn’t completely implode, it should have opened closer to Halloween. Frankly, it could have done wonders as the PG-13 alternative to the bevy of R-rated horror product (Let Me In, My Soul To Take, Paranormal Activity 2, Saw VII) over Halloween weekend (especially with kids buying tickets to Devil and sneaking into the other R-rated films). Finally, Lionsgate lost 48% in weekend two with its cartoon Alpha and Omega, with the cheapie pulling in $15 million in ten days.

In other holdover news, Resident Evil: Afterlife has grossed $52 million, making it the highest-grossing entry in the long-running franchise. Worldwide, the $60 million video game sequel has grossed a massive $155 million and counting. So yeah, coming in September 2013 will be Resident Evil: Resurrection. Inception has crossed $755 million worldwide. Of note is that the film is just $500,000 away from surpassing The Dark Knight in overseas grosses. At $287 million in domestic grosses, it is the fifth-biggest grossing live-action film not based on anything pre-established in literature or history, behind only Avatar ($760 million), ET ($435 million), Independence Day ($306 million), and The Sixth Sense ($293 million).

That's it for this weekend. Join us next time when Overture returns from a seven month hiatus with the wide release (Jack Goes Boating went out limited last weekend) of the dynamite horror remake Let Me In. Sony unleashes David Fincher's much-raved-about 'founding-of-Facebook' drama The Social Network. And Paramount finally releases the years-delayed Renee Zellwigger horror picture Case 39. The most important release of the weekend will likely be the semi-wide release through AMC of the unrated horror film Hatchet II. It's been decades since we had a wide release of a quasi-mainstream unrated picture, and its success could open the floodgates for this kind of thing.

Scott Mendelson

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