Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Box Office (11/13/11): Immortals surprises with strong #1 debut, Jack and Jill underperforms (for Adam Sandler), Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar opens well.

In what counts as a somewhat pleasant surprise, Reletivity's Immortals topped the box office this weekend with a solid $32 million debut.  Tarsam's highly stylized Greek hack-and-slash action film was sold as a glorified rip-off of 300, which opened with $70 million back in March 2007.  If it needs to be said (because others are indeed whining), expecting Immortals to open as well as the lightening-in-a-bottle 300 (or even Clash of the Titans) makes about as much sense as expecting Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief to open as well as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  The budget for this one was allegedly just $75 million, and much of that was apparently supplemented by foreign pre-sales.  The film also earned another $36 million overseas, giving it a near-$70 million worldwide debut.  Relativity took a major chance on the picture, fully financing it themselves and selling the heck out of it for at least the last six months.  Immortals received a B from Cinemascore and was heavily front-loaded, earning $15 million on Friday night alone for a pretty poor 2.1x weekend multiplier.  So while the domestic run may be brief, the new distributor Relativity needed to prove that they could open an expensive movie to quasi-blockbuster numbers (it's already their second-biggest grossing movie, behind the $79 million haul of Limitless).  On that scale, mission: accomplished.

Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill opened with $26 million, which is actually quite low for a mainstream Adam Sandler comedy.  On one hand, the film looked beyond atrocious, and according to the vast majority of the reviews it apparently was.  So Sandler powered an allegedly un-watchable mess to $26 million, which is arguably proof of his star power.  On the other hand, the film cost $80 million to make, and the modest defection of the loyal Sandler fan-base means that it's unlikely to achieve the strong legs that his films usually get (we usually see a big second weekend drop, followed by a month of much smaller drops).  While we can hem and haw about why this Happy Madison production opened so much lower than the usual $37-42 million norm spanning back twelve years, the fact remains that Adam Sandler fans have long shown their willingness to stay home if the film in question is in any way different from the comfort zone.  Little Nicky, opening on this same weekend in 2000, opened with a stunningly low (for Sandler) $16 million, the PG-rated family comedy Bedtime Stories opened with 'just' $27 million over Christmas 2008, and the R-rated 2.5 hour dramedy Funny People opened with $22 million in August 2009.  And that's not even counting Sandler's 'serious movies', such as Punch Drunk Love ($17 million total), Spanglish ($42 million total), and Reign Over Me ($19 million total).  All three of those count as relative successes in regards to expectation and budget, but the box office history of Mr. Sandler show a clear pattern, with the arguable exception of You Don't Mess With the Zohan (ironically his best film) of fans thinking twice when a given project looks just a bit off the beaten path.    

The only other wide opener was Clint Eastwood's biopic J. Edgar.  Starring would-be Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, the critically-mixed drama grossed $11.4 million.  That's actually the second-biggest wide release opening weekend in history for Eastwood-helmed films that Clint Eastwood doesn't star in, behind last year's $12 million debut for Hereafter. Considering the film was arguably the equivalent of a homework assignment (I don't have to see it if I don't want to see it... I don't have to see it if I don't want to see it...), it's a pretty decent opening.  The question is whether mixed reviews will prevent the film from getting year-end recognition, and how said awards attention helps the film in the long run.  The major limited release debut was Magnolia's 19-screen debut of Lars von Trier's buddy cop adventure Melancholia (review).  Despite being available on Video On Demand for the last month, the Kirsten Dunst mood poem earned $13,000 per screen.  Coupled with the successful run for the terrific Margin Call ($3.3 million thus far), this is the second major film to succeed at the box office while also scoring on said Video On Demand platforms.

In holdover news, the big story was once again the superb hold for Puss In Boots (review).  The film earned another $25.5 million in its third weekend, making it the 29th-biggest third weekend in history and third-biggest such weekend in Dreamworks history, behind only the first three Shrek films.  With $108 million after seventeen days, the film is slowly aligning itself with the upper-level of Dreamworks films after a comparatively soft opening weekend.  If it can withstand the onslaught of kid-friendly pictures starting next Friday with Happy Feet 2, it may end up awfully close to $200 million. Tower Heist (review) dropped 45% in its second weekend, ending its tenth day with $43 million.  It's not a great hold, but, regardless of this week's controversy, the film would be in better shape if it didn't cost $80 million (it's yet another case of a solid B-movie that had an A-budget).  Paranormal Activity 3 (review) ended the weekend right at $100 million, so it should surpass the $109 million total of the first film in the next few weeks.  Footloose is at $48 million and The Ides of March is at $38 million, while Real Steel (review) sits with $81 million domestic and $229 million worldwide.  In the limited release front, several films (Take Shelter, The Skin I Live In, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy) have passed $1 million and are slowly chugging towards the $2 million mark.

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next weekend when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I attempts to snag the year's second-biggest opening weekend with a likely $100 million+ opening haul.  Squaring against Team Bella/Edward/Jacob is Happy Feet 2, which will attempt to equal the first film's $41.5 million opening five years ago next weekend.  And the acclaimed Alexander Payne-helmed George Clooney vehicle The Descendants debuts in limited release on Wednesday  

Scott Mendelson

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