Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Box Office (03/20/11): Adult genre fare cannibalize each other as Limitless, Lincoln Lawyer and Paul all open 'okay'.

I often complain about the lack of big-studio adult genre pictures while pointing out that the few such entries generally do well due to the paucity of such things in the marketplace. Alas, this weekend was a comparative embarrassment of riches, with three genre pictures, all starring adults, two rated R, and none costing more than $40 million. Ironically, all three films did moderately well, but at least two of them would likely have done even better without direct demo competition. The number one film of the weekend was Limitless. The Bradley Cooper/Robert De Niro thriller grossed $19 million, and proving a major win for the struggling Relatively. This was a real test of Bradley Cooper's star power and he delivered. The film benefited from an easily-explained high-concept (a pill that makes you the smartest man on Earth). The film played 52% female and 60% over-25. Since the relatively-well reviewed picture cost just $27 million, this is an easy win for everyone involved.

In regular holdover land, the big winner was once again Rango (review). The best film of 2011 had an even better hold in its third weekend, as it dropped 32% for a $15.3 million second-weekend for a second-place finish. The film now sits at $92 million and will likely pass $100 million within the next ten days. How much farther it gets will depend on how well it can hold onto screens (a challenge, since 3D attractions often get preferential treatment) and how well it fends against the upcoming onslaught of family fare (Hop, African Cats, Hoodwinked Too, etc).Battle: Los Angeles (review) dropped 59% in its second-weekend, as the critically-savaged sci-fi film grossed $14.6 million in its second weekend for a third place finish and a decent $60 million ten-day total. Sony wants this one over $100 million purely for bragging rights, but it's going to take some magic to make it happen.

The next opener was The Lincoln Lawyer (review), which is frankly exactly 'the kind of film that they just don't make anymore'. The R-rated legal thriller opened with $13.4 million, which is pretty decent for the $40 million Lionsgate release. It's a double-edged sword: we want more old-fashioned thrillers in theaters, but it's tough to market it in a way that A) doesn't give away the main plot twists and B) doesn't resemble the sorts of weekly thrillers available on television. The Matthew McConaughey vehicle was actually had a tie-in with Groupon, which offered $6 tickets and sold about 100,000 of them (40,000 of which were redeemed). Some have complained that Lionsgate counted those discounts at full-price, but that's no different than a studio selling a DVD with a 'free' movie ticket inside (besides, the gimmick at-best inflated the weekend gross by about $100,000). The film played 63% female and a whopping 85% over-25. Translation: older people like to go to the movies too, so it doesn't hurt if you give them something to see (especially as they tell their younger friends that the movie is pretty good, so the kids check it out on the second and third weekends). Anyway, this should have a solid theatrical run as the adult movie of choice for the next few weeks.

The last major opener was Universal's Paul, which opened with a surprisingly solid $13.1 million. The $40 million R-rated peon to geek culture pretty much played to its base, but considering how risky playing to the geek culture can be (see - Scott Pilgrim Vs the World), this counts as a win. For star Simon Pegg, this is more than double the $5 million opening for The Hot Fuzz and over 4x the $3 million opening for Shaun of the Dead. Considering how niche-ish Pegg's star vehicles can be, this is a solid upswing and a sign that his fanbase is growing. The film played 56% male and 58% over-25. I have no idea if this one will have legs. It's pretty slight entertainment, and I wonder how the hidden atheism subplot will play in regards to word of mouth.

In arthouse land, Jane Eyre scored another $18,000 per screen as it expanded to 26 theaters. With $731,000 so far, the acclaimed adaptation should cross the $1 million mark next weekend. Kill the Irishman dropped 1% while expanding to 21 screens, which meant its per-screen average dropped to $6,857. Cedar Rapids continued to expand and succeed accordingly. The darn-terrific Ed Helms/Anne Heche/John C. Reilly comedy has grossed $5.4 million on under 500 screens. Once again, the fact that this completely mainstream comedy was not a wide release is a scary thing for our multiplexes. But the big new release winner was the appropriately titled Win Win. The Paul Giamatti vehicle scored a terrific $30,000 per-screen in five theaters. The Fox Searchlight film will expand next weekend accordingly.

Red Riding Hood
(review) dropped a harsh 48%, unusually high as there was no real demo competition, and disheartening since its going to get smacked down by Sucker Punch next weekend (why did Warner Bros release two fem-skewing pictures in two weeks?). Mars Needs Moms dropped just 23%, which would have been great had last weekend's opening not been a complete disaster. Anyway, the $150 million Disney cartoon has grossed $15 million. The only other major news came from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. With $70.2 million, the concert documentary has surpassed the $70 million take of Michael Jackson: This Is It (review) as the biggest-grossing concert film in US history.

That's it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the much-debated Zach Snyder fantasy Sucker Punch, which fends off against Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Take care until then.

Scott Mendelson

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