Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Box Office (05/13/12): Dark Shadows no match for The Avengers as the Marvel pic earns $103m in weekend two.

I've long said that, generally speaking, any would-be blockbusters slotted for the second major weekend of summer are doomed to somewhat under-perform, unable to break out of the spotlight hogged by whatever film kicks off the summer.  Since 1996 (when Warner Bros. officially kicked off summer with Twister in the first weekend in May), only two times has a film debuting on this very weekend actually topped the box office, and both times were due to a Hugh Jackman franchise film so disappointing audiences that moviegoers were more-than-ready to lap up whatever came next.  In 2004, Troy opened with $44 million against the second weekend of Van Helsing while Star Trek rode a wave of good publicity to $79 million against the crash-and-burn second weekend of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Other than that, the second weekend of summer is littered with either smaller films that didn't need to reach blockbuster status (The Horse WhispererDaddy Daycare, Monster-In-Law, Bridesmaids, etc) or would-be blockbusters that crashed hard on opening weekend (Dragonheart, Battleship EarthPoseidon, Speed Racer, etc).  Falling into the 'close-but-no cigar' category would be Robin Hood from 2010 (which opened with a solid $37 million but still needed massive overseas dollars to recoup its $200 million budget) and this weekend's Dark Shadows.

A $29 million debut for a campy horror comedy based on a cult television soap opera from the 1970s isn't too bad all things considered. It's actually the fifth-biggest horror comedy debut of all-time, with the other three being Scary Movie 1 ($42 million), 3 ($49 million), and 4 ($42 million) followed by the $29 million debut of Ghostbusters II (which actually set a new opening weekend record back in June 1989, one weekend before Tim Burton's Batman stole it away with $40 million).  But with an alleged budget of $150 million (how???), this Tim Burton/Johnny Depp confection was the sort of cult oddity that kinda needed to behave like a blockbuster due to excess spending.  Its budget aside, Dark Shadows is actually one of the higher debuts for vampire movie not related to the Twilight Saga.  Give or take the odd Van Helsing ($54 million), Interview With the Vampire ($36 million), Blade II ($30 million), and Bram Stoker's Dracula ($30 million), vampire movies aren't generally huge openers.  And as far as Burton/Depp films go, this is one was closer in commercial appeal to Sweeney Todd than Charlie And the Chocolate Factory. It also had the unfortunate luck to have to share the biggest screens with The Avengers, as theaters did their best to keep their prime real estate for their biggest performer, and even the film's IMAX screens had to be split with the Marvel blockbuster.  The film played 57% female and 73% over 25-years old.

With mediocre reviews (justifiably), a marketing campaign that intrigued without really revealing what kind of film it would be, and that dreaded release date, Warner Bros. was merely hoping for the best without any real plausible reason to expect it, especially as their core demo (women) went just as gaga for The Avengers last weekend as men did.  With $65 million worldwide, the film has a chance to break even over the long run, but this is a rare commercial 'miss' for Tim Burton, although it won't qualify as a genuine flop, something he hasn't had since Mars Attacks! back in 1996.  And who else but Burton and Depp could have gotten Warner Bros to spend this kind of money for (like Mars Attacks!) was arguably a giant in-joke.  This arguably qualifies as a 'one for me' project, which makes its mediocrity all that more unfortunate.  He's got Disney's Frankenweenie (a stop-motion remake of his short film from 1982) in October, and it appears that his heart and soul is more invested in animation than live-action films, which makes sense given his Disney animator background.  Anyway, the popularity of The Avengers plus a deluge of major would-be blockbusters targeted all demos make legs for this one iffy.

As expected, The Avengers once again topped this box office this weekend, and it did so with a vengeance. The film dropped just 50%, a stunning hold for any kind of mega-opening, let alone one that so clobbered the record books (it fell less in its second weekend than any prior film opening with above $120 million).  As such, with $103 million, it became the biggest non-opening weekend in history by a good $28 million (Spider-Man, Shrek 2, The Dark Knight, and Avatar all scored between $71 million and $75 million in their second weekends).  It also of course became the first film in history to gross over $100 million on a non-opening weekend.  Next weekend will see if it can surpass Avatar's $68 million record for a third-weekend gross, but it seems frighteningly plausible.  The Avengers has amassed $1 billion worldwide in just 19 days, with a #4 worldwide ranking (past the $1.1 billion gross of Transformers: Dark of the Moon) just a few days away at this point.

Domestically, the film set all sorts of land-speed records, earning $300 million in nine days (although day eight ended with $299 million - that's gotta hurt) and $350 million in ten days.  With $373 million, it's already the fourth-biggest comic book movie ever, behind Spider-Man 2 ($373 million), Spider-Man ($403 million), and The Dark Knight ($533 million).Obviously two of those will get surpassed by Sunday if not Friday, and displacing Nolan's blockbuster sequel seems inevitable unless Battleship or Men In Black 3 prove inexplicably popular.  At this point, it seems unlikely that even The Dark Knight Rises can match these numbers, although I imagine that A) Nolan doesn't care and B) we won't care either as long as the third Batman movie is at least as good as Batman Begins.  With numbers these huge and a film this popular, there is little point in speculating.  Better to just sit back and wait to see how high it will go.

By tomorrow or Tuesday, The Avengers will surpass The Hunger Games's current $386 million cume. That franchise-starter, by the way, is holding up remarkably well, dropping just 21% this weekend and making an honest try at $400 million domestic).  Also holding up well is Think Like a Man, which dropped 22% in weekend four for an $81 million cume.  The $12 million romantic comedy is making a play for $100 million, and I sincerely hope it gets there.  The big limited release news (other than a bunch of newbies like Hick and God Bless America that tanked in very small releases) is the strong expansion of last weekend's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Going from 27 theaters to 178, the all-star (Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy) travelogue comedy earned a terrific $14,880 per-screen for a $3.7 million domestic cume.  The film has already earned $75 million overseas, but Focus Features is still attempting to position this as the break-out indie of summer 2012, ala (500) Days of Summer or Midnight In Paris.  So far, so good.  Lionsgate opened the Eva Mendes drama Girl In Progress on just 322 screens, in yet another of their odd 'bury a commercial project' openings along the lines of Buried, Everything Must Go, and Casa De Mi Padre.  Among wide-release holdovers, Cabin In the Woods has $39 million while The Lucky Ones has $53 million.  And Safe may be among Jason Statham's best films, but at $15 million, it's his second-lowest wide-release lead role behind Crank: High Voltage.

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next time when we get three major summer releases.  On Wednesday, Paramount unleashes the Sasha-Baron Cohen satire The Dictator, while Friday sees a battle between Lionsgate's What to Expect When You're Expecting and Universal's Battleship.  Expect them all to get sunk by Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

Liam_Ho said...

I echo your sentiments of Dark Shadows budget of $150 million. Talk about excess spending. It seems the modest amount they spent on marketing compared to most major movies nowadays was pointless since the huge budget more than made up for it.


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