Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Box Office (10/09/11): Real Steel wins over the kids and wins the weekend with $27 million, while Ides of March does the 'Clooney average'.

There were two major releases this weekend, and both of them more-or-less did what was expected of them.  Disney/Dreamworks unleashed the robot-boxing/father-son drama Real Steel, which easily topped the weekend.  Of course, as always, ranking is irrelevant except for their use in second-week ads, so the real question is whether or not its $27.3 million debut is a good number.  First of all, the film scored a solid A from Cinemascore, with an A+ from audiences under 25 (which again, only means something if it opens well in the first place).  Second of all, the film indeed did play like a family film, with an $8.5 million Friday giving way to a solid 3.2x weekend multiplier (family films generally see a boost on Saturday as the kids flood the matinees). The weekend multiplier and audience polling could mean that the Hugh Jackman film will have decent legs as the family film of choice until Puss In Boots opens on October 28th (yes, by moving the film one week up, Dreamworks Animation/Paramount has potentially hurt Dreamworks/Disney).  As for whether or not the film is a hit at this point (check out the movie that it seems to oddly resemble HERE), that depends on who you ask about the film's budget.

The official word from director Shawn Levy is a bit over $80 million, while others (possibly rival studio-executives) are screaming anywhere from $110 million to $140 million.  The film certainly may be on the cheaper end as the only special effects elements appear to be the CGI robots, which represent a relatively self-contained special effect (think the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, where only the actual CGI critters pump up the budget).  Anyway, if the film ends up with legs (hard to predict in this front-loaded age) and/or does its killing overseas (it's done $49 million worldwide thus far), then this budget talk will be irrelevant.  The film had surprisingly decent reviews but had to deal with the fact that the premise itself (Rock Em Sock Em Robots: The Movie!) was so patently goofy that it became a classic example of a 'No wait, it's really good!' movie.  By that I mean, it was a movie that had the disadvantage of being presumed terrible by all but the core young-boy audience for one reason or another before it was even screened.

More important (in my opinion) is what this opening weekend means for the relatively new relationships that Disney has formed.  While it is admirable that Disney would try to launch a franchise picture of this nature in October, this doesn't even enter the top-ten of all-time October opening weekends.  And when it comes to pure-genre fare, this is the third relatively underwhelming opening weekend (after I Am Number Four's $19 million debut last February and Fright Night's $7.7 million opening in August) for the Dreamworks/Disney combo this year.  Both Dreamworks and Marvel Studios used to have their films primarily distributed via Paramount and, as I've written before (HERE), the strength of Paramount's marketing may be more important to the success of the likes of Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda then is generally credited.  If I were Marvel Studios, with The Avengers and Iron Man 3 on-tap, I'd be a little worried about the seeming inability of Disney to launch any new action franchises over the last few years (among the DOA - I Am Number Four, Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, probably Tron).  Is the marketing might of Paramount a key factor, or will The Avengers sell itself to the non-geeks?  

The only other wide release was the George Clooney drama, The Ides of March.  The political tale, which also stars Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marissa Tomei, grossed $10.5 million over the weekend.  There's not much to say here.  The film scored a B+ from Cinemascore and opened just below the normal $11-13 million range that 90% of all George Clooney 'passion projects' find themselves with (I've been discussing this for two years).  Like most of his personal films, this one cost just $12 million, so even if it doesn't have the usual strong legs of the likes of Michael Clayton ($10.4 million opening, $49 million finish) or Syriana ($12 million opening, $50 million finish), it will still be a solid moneymaker for Sony.  Still, this proves the limited bank-ability of 'flavor of the month' Ryan Gosling and gives folly to those who blamed the under-performance of Green Lantern on Ryan Reynolds (IE - a more respected actor wouldn't have opened it any better).  As for the movie, which I haven't had time to review, it's a solid B-movie, that suffers from a presumption of importance (it isn't saying anything that Primary Colors didn't say in 1998), a serious case of the 'tell-not-shows' (we're constantly told that Gosling is a master political operative, yet we never see him in action except when he's screwing up), and a second half that goes from serious and realistic political drama to 'uh oh, the pretty young girl is gonna get everyone in trouble!' soap opera.

Alas, Sony opened this adult-skewing drama just two weeks after Moneyball, which arguably hurt both films.  The crowd-pleasing baseball drama (also co-starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman) dropped a decent 37%, which means it theoretically would have had an even stronger hold without the direct demo competition.  Regardless, the film now has $49 million.  It's still neck-and-neck with Dolphin Tale, which took a similar hit (-34%) against Real Steel.  But films had fine third-weekend drops, but the demographic competition may have hurt all four respective films this weekend.  Point being, there's just too much product for everyone to get their piece of the pie.

Also suffering from demo competition was The Lion King 3D, which dropped 57% in its fourth weekend.  Of course, the fact that the film came out on 3D/2D Blu Ray this week probably didn't help either.  No matter, with $414 million domestic, it's just a day or two away from passing Toy Story 3 as the second-biggest grossing cartoon in America.  And with $889 million worldwide, it has just surpassed Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs to become the third-biggest grossing animated film worldwide.  Mission accomplished (read HERE for a rundown of what Disney is doing next).

Most of the holdovers had solid holds, with 50/50 dropping 36% (the $8 million film now has $17 million), Dream House dropping 45% (which isn't bad considering the small legs of horror and the lousy opening last weekend), and What's Your Number dropping 43% (same thing, strong hold for such a seemingly-ignored movie).  On the overall plus side, Contagion now has $68 million, which means, 16 years of inflation aside, it has out-grossed Outbreak.  In limited release news, the only major release was The Human Centipede II (review).  Tom Six's Malick-esque period romance opened with just $3,000 per screen on nine screens.  However, that's slightly more impressive when you realize that many of those screens were allegedly only screening the film at midnight.

That's it for this weekend.  Next time is another stupidly crowded rush, with the surprisingly well-reviewed remake of Footloose leading the pack alongside the not-yet screened prequel to John Carpetenter's 1982 remake of The Thing (entitled... uh... The Thing).  There are several limited release as well, but the one to watch will be Antonio Bandaras's reunion with Pedro Almodovar in The Skin I Live In.  Until then, take care.

Scott Mendelson


Tom Clift said...

Would be interested to see review REAL STEEL Scott, given your comments about the EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE trailer re: the impact of a dead movie father vs. a dead movie mother. I'm not convined the kid in the film looked even remotely upset about his mothers' passing

Tom Clift said...

that should read "would be interested to see *you* review REAL STEEL"

Leila said...

I share your views with regard to Reynolds and Green Lantern. Actually, if we consider an actor a star depending on his/her ability to ‘lure’ moviegoers irrespective of the quality of the film, then (1) noting that the most hyped movie of the year was ‘Drive’, a crafty little film hailed by critics as a rare pearl, the best movie of the decade, grossed at his opening weekend 11M; (2) that ‘Real Steel’, with Jackman, made on its opening weekend 27M; (3) that ‘The Ides of March’, which deploys an impressive array of Academy Award winners and Wonderboy Gosling (“go and see this movie, keep Ryan Gosling working”), grossed 10.5M, can we say that having Green Lantern - preceded by a strong negative buzz, torn to pieces by critics and fanboys – grossed 53M on opening weekend, we can now legitimately consider Ryan Reynolds none other than the magic piedpiper himself?

BlindBocephus said...

I was wanting to post this in a review for Real Steel, but I don't think you did one. Anyway, this is from another site that I read on a daily basis, This is a review of Real Steel, done from the perspective of robot scientists, not movie or boxing buffs. Very cool.

BlindBocephus said...

Agreed. Here is a review of Real Steel from Robotics nerds, not movie nerds. Cool.


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