Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend Box Office (01-27-13): Hansel and Gretel slightly overperforms while Parker and Movie 43 underwhelm.

This weekend's lesson is "all the marketing prowess in the world doesn't matter if you don't have the movie". Paramount has been batting 1.000 in terms of launching major fantasy-skewed franchise pictures.  From at least summer 2007 with Transformers, they have been the most consistent performers in terms of grabbing those blockbuster debuts, launching not-quite sure things like Iron Man, Star Trek, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and Thor to blockbuster numbers while also turning a glorified home movie (Paranormal Activity) into a massive horror franchise in their spare time.  They were a little off their game in 2012, with several high profile delays into 2013 (Star Trek Into Darkness, GI Joe: Retaliation) and with the few films Paramount did release in 2012 somewhat under-performing (Jack Reacher, Katy Perry: Part of Me, The Dictator, Rise of the Guardians).  But I would argue the fact that Paramount got what looked to be an utter shit-storm like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to nearly $20 million, or $19 million in this case, is a sign of their sheer marketing will.  They hit all the sweet spots (in theater infomercials, an unexpected R-rating, IMAX engagements, an exclusive sneak peak at a future Paramount movie, saturated coverage in various demographics, etc.) but the movie is the movie.

The picture played 55% male, 57% over-25, and 55% 3D (11% IMAX).  The film was also delayed from 2012 and converted to 3D, a sure sign of trouble that also befell G.I. Joe: Retaliation which Paramount has only now started countering (the film had a four-minute sneak preview attached to this weekend's 3D and IMAX prints). Despite the media's best efforts to convince us otherwise, Jeremy Renner is not a star and few could pick Gemma Arteton out of a lineup.  The good news is that the film only cost $50 million and is already doing pretty well in Europe, so Paramount could very well break even in the end if the delay didn't cost them too much.  It has $54 million worldwide thus far. Also of note is that the film had a shockingly high 3.1x weekend multiplier, meaning that the film's word of mouth may be decent and/or it was the pick of casual moviegoers throughout the weekend.  Of course, the film represents the pinnacle of just the sort of lazy thinking that makes people write "cinema is dead!" essays, so the fact that Paramount and co-financier MGM might get away with this isn't exactly encouraging.

The second major debut was yet another flop from Jason Statham.  No matter if the film is mediocre (The Mechanic) or superb (Safe), Statham can't bust out of his glass ceiling.  Of course, that he keeps making movies for smaller studios probably doesn't help, as CBS Films, Film District, and Lionsgate still generally don't have the marketing muscle of a Warner Bros. or a 20th Century Fox (compare the performance of Fox's Transporter 2 with Lionsgate's Transporter 3).  But nonetheless, Parker opened with $7 million, which is pretty much par the course for a lower-end Statham debut.  Jason Statham will continue to be allowed to make these movies for as long as they are cheap and continue to rent well.  And yes, even though I may not have time to catch this in theaters, I do look forward to renting the DVD.  I would argue that Statham needs to find a superhero franchise to co-star and/or play a villain in, but he seems quite content to be the proverbial king of his own little niche.  Speaking of niches, this is the second low opening in a row for an R-rated B-movie action film, which bodes poorly for Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head next weekend.  Jennifer Lopez obviously didn't contribute much to the box office and it's unlikely Statham will play this character in any additional adaptations of the many Donald Westlake novels.

The third major debut was Comedy 43, an 85-minute sketch comedy that was shrouded in mystery right up until opening day.  The film is a result of four years of efforts from producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly (who directed at least one of the segments too) to snag as many famous people as they could to embarrass themselves onscreen for about 3-4 minutes.  The film has thirty major stars, 18 writers, and 12 directors (Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, and Brett Ratner).  The film, which actually has different framing devices here and abroad, was destroyed by critics.  And while the film looks terrible and everybody involved seem to be hiding from the press, it's still something unique and different so I can't quite celebrate its mere $5 million debut. Still, the picture cost just $6 million and has already made $8.5 million in Russia so Relativity and whomever financed this and/or distributed it overseas could very well make a profit, especially if the all-star cast (Johnny Knoxville, Emma Stone, Gerard Butler, Kristen Bell, Chloe Moretz, Seann William Scott, Josh Duhamel, Hugh Jackman, Elizabeth Banks, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Richard Gere Aasif Mandvi, Jack McBrayer, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Pratt, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton, Kate Bosworth, Leslie Bibb, Kieran Culkin, Uma Thurman, Liev Schreiber, and Justin Long,) makes it an easy pick for a curiosity rental four months from now.

Not too much to report in holdover news.  Mama dropped an okay-for-a-horror film 55% for a $12.9 million weekend and a solid $48.6 million.  Les Miserables continues to perform, earning $3.9 million this weekend and ending the frame with $137 million over here and $312 million worldwide.  Among musicals, it now ranks fourth of all time, behind the soon-to-be-eclipsed Mama Mia! ($144 million), Chicago ($170 million), and the re-released 1,000 times Grease ($188 million).  Zero Dark Thirty and The Silver Linings Playbook are now neck-and-neck in terms of Oscar bait,with the year's controversial feel-bad contender doing battle with the year's feel-good crowdpleaser.  They earned $9.8 million and $10 million respectively this weekend and both are at around $69 million.  That both films will eventually cross $100 million domestic is a massive achievement and should be celebrated.  Also of note is that Rise of the Guardians finally crossed $100 million this weekend.  If it can make it to $300 million worldwide (it's at $292 million now) it probably will be a long-term break-even for Dreamworks.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has $293 million over here and $925 million worldwide.  Expect the film to surpass both respective box office milestones next month.

Jack Reacher now has $78 million domestic, Flight has $93 million while The Guilt Trip has a not-terrible $36 million. With a decent second-run system, Flight surely would have crossed $100 million domestic. In quiet but impressive achievements, Parental Guidance has $70 million domestic while Judd Apatow's This Is Forty has $66 million off a $12 million opening weekend. In another grand achievement, Life of Pi crossed $500 million worldwide this weekend, proving the astonishing foreign marketing muscle of 20th Century Fox.  Speaking of massive achievements, Django Unchained continues to hold off the R-rated competition.  It now has $146 million and $111 million overseas at the end of this weekend.  Among westerns, it now ranks behind only True Grit ($171 million) and Dances With Wolves ($184 million). In other R-rated genre news, Broken City now has just $15 million while The Gangster Squad now has $39 million.  And The Last Stand earned just $2.1 million in its second weekend, putting it just over $10 million and assuring that it probably won't top $15 million.  Anyone else think Fox is starting to regret letting A Good Day to Die Hard go out with an R-rating this time?

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next time for Stallone's Bullet to the Head and the zombie-romantic comedy Warm Bodies, plus the semi-wide release of the Al Pacino/Chris Walken/Alan Arkin mob comedy Stand Up Guys.  Until then, feel free to share your thoughts below.  If you saw any of this weekend's releases, let me know what you thought.

Scott Mendelson

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