Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekend Box Office: Rise of the Guardians stumbles as most everything else (Life of Pi, Red Dawn, etc.) flies.

As I wrote yesterday, this weekend was a perfect example of the issue with reporting cumulative box office as if it means anything.  Yes it was the biggest Thanksgiving weekend on record ($295 million total over the five days), but such a thing tends to happen when you have three strong holdovers and three relatively strong new releases in one frame.  As always, it's the movies.  More importantly, total weekend box office success is only important if your film is among the ones doing well.  

Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians basically flopped.  There's really no nice way to say it.  In five days, the $145 million animated film earned $32.6 million while earning just $24 million over Fri-Sun.  As I mentioned yesterday, this is the lowest opening weekend, by a very large margin, for Dreamworks Animation since Flushed Away back in Fall 2006 ($18 million).  Even the film's five-day total ($32.6 million) puts it as the lowest comparative three-day opening weekend since 2006 and their 17th lowest total out of 25 films.  The reasoning for this actually pretty simple.  The film didn't look very visually appealing, the marketing didn't promise anything beyond a painfully generic story (both sadly true about the film itself), and the campaign was based upon the idea that having three holiday icons that everyone knew (Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny) and two that were far less well-known in pop culture (Jack Frost and the Sand Man) engaging in a riff on the first X-Men picture was automatically appealing. It wasn't, and with Lincoln and Skyfall winning out as consensus choices for large families, and with Life of Pi  coming out far stronger than expected as a family film choice, plus the still-strong Wreck It Ralph ($149 million thus far, making a go at Tarzan's $171 million finish), Rise of the Guardians just couldn't muscle out of the pack.

The film played 35% 3D, 57% female, and 53% under 25. Translation: most of its business was from mothers who took their young kids to 2D showings.  It's not the end of the world at Dreamworks, and heck, it could still do $300-$400 million overseas regardless of whether it makes it to $100 million domestic (it opened in a few overseas markets and pulled in $13.5 million).  It's not a good ending for what has been a strong relationship at Paramount (they distribute through 20th Century Fox from here on out), but life goes on.  Coming on shockingly well was 20th Century Fox's $120 million gamble Life Of Pi.  The 3D Ang Lee drama pulled in a frankly stunning $30 million over its first five days $22 million of that in the Fri-Sun portion, basically doubling the $14.5 million debut of Hugo this time last year.  It's Ang Lee's biggest opening weekend behind the $62 million debut of Hulk.  Befitting its would-be family film status, the film played 38% under the age of 25 and is now basically a surefire lock for a Best Picture nomination.  Where it goes from here is frankly a guess, but Fox now has a shot in hell of matching its production budget without waiting on sure-to-be-huge overseas numbers.

Equally shocking, to me at least, was the strong $22 million five-day take of the long-delayed Red Dawn remake.  Shot back in 2009 but delayed due to MGM's legal problems, the Film District pick-up overcame predictably terrible reviews and a holiday that isn't always kind of new genre films (see Assassin, Ninja) to post Film District's biggest Fri-Sun opening ever with $14.5 million.  I hate to say it, but the PG-13 probably helped a lot here, allowing the film to be the choice for a number of action-hungry families who already saw Skyfall.  It played 62% male and 52% over-25 with an unsurprisingly strong showing in southern states, especially Texas and its bordering states.  The film cost $65 million, but I doubt Film District is on the hook for most of that, so this is a solid win for a film that I frankly wrote off months ago.  Long term business is probably grim, but it has the 'I already saw Skyfall!' action field to itself until Jack Reacher on December 21.  This also means, quite frankly that Chris Hemsworth may be an actual 'open a movie' movie star.  Fox Searchlight debuted Hitchcock on 17 screens and earned $300,799 for their troubles.  That's a fine $17,694 per-screen average, but it tells us nothing in regards to how well the star-studded (Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johanson, Jessica Beil, etc.) but heavily-fictionalized 'making of Psycho' film will perform when/if it expands further.  To its favor it's filled with major movie stars.  To its disadvantage it's one of the worst films of the year.

For the third Thanksgiving in four years, a Twilight sequel dominated the frame in its second weekend.   The Twilight Saga is so bloody consistent that I could arguably just copy and paste what I wrote last year and in 2009 and merely change the respective title.  Breaking Dawn 2 earned $43 million (-68%) over the Fri-Sun period ($64 million over five days), or just a bit higher than what Breaking Dawn 1 ($41.6 million -69%) and New Moon ($42.6 million -70%) scored in their respective second weekends.  With $226.9 million in the bag, it's right smack dab in between the ten-day totals of Breaking Dawn 1 ($220 million) and New Moon ($230 million). The series finale seems to be heading for a final domestic cume between $281 million (Breaking Dawn 1) and $296 million (New Moon).  Despite the lack of any kind of finale bump, I'm still impressed by the sheer consistency for this entire series. The only way Summit/Lionsgate was going to boost their box office for this final installment was to convert it to 3D, and I think we should all acknowledge that they chose not, putting art over commerce.  Overseas is a different story as the film already has $577 million worldwide.

Skyfall was the runner up, as the 007 series often plays in these Thanksgiving frames (1995, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2008 in fourth place, natch).  Aside from 2008, when the sharp drops for Quantum of Solace put the film in fourth place in its third weekend, the 007 franchise of the modern (post-Dalton) era has generally placed second at the Thanksgiving day box office, be it behind a Toy Story film (1995, 1999), a Harry Potter film (2002), or something involving dancing penguins (Happy Feet in 2006). Skyfall held strong in its third weekend with a $36 million Fri-Sun number ($51 million in five days), which is a larger third weekend than any prior 007 film's second weekend other than Skyfall.  With $221 million in the domestic cume, it's far-and-away the biggest 007 film in history and it's racing towards $1 billion worldwide.  Without adjusting for inflation, it sits on the verge of passing The Bourne Ultimatum's $227 million domestic cume and becoming the top spy film ever.  In terms of inflation, it needs to surpass $262 million to unseat The Bourne Ultimatum and $277 million to unseat True Lies on the top spy-films list (both highly likely).  It's tougher going after that, with Mission: Impossible ($325 million) at the top spot.  But its strong domestic performance means it may actually surpass the last Twilight film, and that it may have a shot at becoming the third-biggest 007 film ever even adjusted for inflation (You Only Live Twice with $285 million) after Goldfinger ($526 million) and Thunderball ($593 million).  The fourth film on that list, Moonraker ($222 million) will be toast on Monday.

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln continued to pack houses in its second weekend of wide release, actually earning 19% more over this Fri-Sun portion ($25 million) than it did in its proverbial 'opening weekend' last frame ($21 million).  With $34 million over five days and a stunning $62 million cume, it's not just making a play at $100 million but attempting to become this year's The Blind Side.  Next weekend will tell the tale on that one, as a strong hold could allow it to also 'finally' top the box office in its third weekend (Killing Them Softly and The Collection aren't going to set the box office on fire) although the sleeper mega-smash's $255 million cume is arguably a pipe dream.  But regardless of whether it stalls at $120 million or soars ever higher thanks to legs and Oscar love, this is a massive win for Spielberg.  Not adjusted for inflation, it's going to become his second-biggest 'serious' picture outside of Saving Private Ryan ($230 million, which *seems* to be insurmountable).  In terms of Oscars, it's already shaping up to be a three-way battle with Lincoln vs. Argo vs. Les Miserables (which screened this weekend to rapturous reaction... I've been told I'll be invited to the next round of screenings).  Anna Karenina, which widened to 66 screens and pulled in another $832,000.  The Keira Knightly period pic will live or die by its awards glory, frankly.

Expanding to 367 screens was the Weinsteins' would-be Oscar contender The Silver Linings Playbook.  Over its Fri-Sun weekend, the film earned $4.62 million for a robust $12,597+ per-screen average and a $6.1 million cume.  The release pattern of this one is beyond strange, as the film was set to open wide this weekend before ending up platforming last weekend on 16 screens and then merely expanding this weekend rather than going full-tilt boogie.  It's a strong number for what's allegedly a genuine crowd-pleaser.  I hope that the Weinsteins can hold off going wide until December 7th (where it will only face Playing For Keeps) as their rather terrific Brad Pitt crime drama Killing Them Softly is opening wide next weekend (review Monday I hope).  Still the Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence dramedy needs a little space between it and the December 21 debut of Judd Apatow's This Is Forty. In other 'good news for adult films', Flight sits with $74.8 million.  It if can hold screens (possible with three weeks of 1-2 new releases each), $100 million is actually possible.  Speaking of which, Argo just missed this weekend, ending the holiday with $98 million.  Oh well, give it a couple days and then pop the confetti.  Also of note is the would-be Oscar bait The Sessions.  It's been chugging along in limited release for the last month, earning $3.5 million after expanding from four screens to 20 to 69 to 128 and now 516.  That is arguably how platform play is supposed to work.

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next time for the first of three rather small frames, as the very good Brad Pitt drama Killing Them Softly squares off against The Collection, a sequel to a cult horror film (The Collector) from 2009.

Scott Mendelson

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