Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office (10/16/11): Real Steel tops Footloose remake, Thing prequel.

 In a somewhat surprising turn, Real Steel (review) repeated at the top of the box office, defeating a Footloose remake and a prequel to The Thing.  As always, it's not about the ranking but about the numbers themselves.  So it appears that audiences do want SOME originality in their mainstream film-making, even if its merely choosing a shameless rip-off of other movies over a pure remake.  Anyway, Real Steel cashed in on its solid audience word-of-mouth and its kid-appeal to earn $16.2 million in its second weekend.  That's a drop of just 40%, which in this day-and-age qualifies as leggy for a major genre entry. The film, which allegedly cost either $80 million or $140 million (I believe the former), has now grossed $51 million.  It's not going to be an uber-smash without a few more holds like this weekend, but it now has an outside chance at reaching $100 million domestic, with similar-or-better results to follow overseas.  Point being, it's actually a decent movie, putting its admittedly generic but effective father/son drama before robot-fighting spectacle, which at least partially explains the strong hold this weekend.

Coming in at a very close second was Craig Brewer's remake of Footloose, which opened with $15.5 million.  The film earned relatively solid reviews, but audiences didn't see an overt need to see a remake for a film that is still timely and holds up pretty well thirty years later.  On the plus side, the film cost only $24 million, so it will still be profitable in the end.  This is a case of a remake appealing not to the kids of today, but mostly to the adults who have fond memories of the original.  It played 75% female and 46% over 35 years old, although 27% did come from kids under 18.  The film scored an A from Cinemascore, but that only matters when you get the opening you wanted.  Ironically, if this weren't a remake, it would be a solid example of the kind of movies we claim we want: a small-scale, character-driven drama with a strong moral point of view and a somewhat challenging subtext.  The original Footloose opened with $8.5 million, which would be around $20 million today.  Still, this result should be a warning to Lionsgate about spending too much on that proposed Dirty Dancing remake (essay).  When the original still holds up and is still culturally relevant, there is that much less of a reason for a remake.

The next major opener was Morgan Creek/Universal's prequel of The Thing.  This is an odd duck as it's a prequel to a 1982 horror film that was actually a remake of a 1951 horror film.  Reviews were generally lousy and word that it was more of a remake with different characters than a truly different story about the title monster didn't help either.  The long-delayed $38 million horror picture opened with just $8.4 million and earned a B- from Cinemascore.  So this one may be out on DVD by the end of the year, where my horror-junkie wife and I will enjoy it for what pleasures it happens to offer.  The other opener was a rather unusual dump, as Fox basically abandoned The Big Year, a bird-watching comedy with Steve Martin, Jack Black, and  Owen Wilson.  The film earned $3.2 million, which makes sense as I'm guessing most moviegoers didn't even know it was opening this weekend.  While a film like this was never going to be a blockbuster, it could have theoretically clicked with older moviegoers had the time/effort/money been spent.  The ad campaign was quiet and the results were as expected, so at least the film only cost $28 million.

In limited release land, the big debut was Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In.  The reunion between Almodavar and Antonio Bandaras earned a scorching $37,184 per-screen average on six screens, giving it the fourth-best per-screen number for the year.  Almodavar's films are generally not massive hits in America, but there is always the hope that this one could approach the $12 million that Volver grossed in 2006.  In holdover land, The Ides of March had a meager 32% second-weekend decline, which is actually the smallest second-weekend drop for one of George Clooney's small-budgeted dramas.  The $12 million political drama pulled in $7.1 million and has now grossed $21.7 million.  Moneyball and Dolphin Tale are both around $58 million, Contagion sits with $71 million, while The Lion King 3D now has $90 million, giving the film a full domestic total of $418 million (past Toy Story 3's $415 million and just shy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's $423 million).  and a worldwide total of $902 million.  Further down the chart, Cars 2 has crossed $190 million while Rise of the Planet of the Apes now has $175 million.

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next week when Paranormal Activity 3 tries to replicate either the first film's $109 million domestic total and/or the sequel's $40 million opening weekend.  Meanwhile, two films that opened in Europe weeks ago, Johnny English Reborn and The Three Musketeers 3D, square off.

Scott Mendelson

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