Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Box Office: Oz tops twice, The Call tops Burt Wonderstone, and Spring Breakers explodes in limited release.

There is an amusing phenomenon, going back at least as long as I can remember, to underestimate the box office potential of films featuring actors of color.  We don't see it coming, we're shocked when it happens, and then studios don't actually factor this new information into their production slate.  Anyway, The Call was the top new release of the weekend, earning $17.2 million.  Yes the film played strongly among African Americans, at least partially because the movie bothered to feature a few (Halle Berry and Morris Chestnut among many others) in more than just token roles.  Tracking this debut compared to Berry's previous efforts is tough because she has had co-starring roles in stuff like Die Another Day ($47 million debut), The Flintstones ($29 million), and the X-Men trilogy ($54m, $85m, and $102m).  In terms of starring vehicles, this is bigger than the likes of Catwoman ($16 million), and A Perfect Stranger ($11 million), but below Gothica ($19 million).  The marketing smartly highlighted that it was a film about one woman rescuing another woman from peril, with no clear male lead.  It played 61% female and 53% over-30.  The picture cost just WWE just $13 million before selling the rights to Sony and earned a B+ from Cinemascore, so it may just have legs.  Even if its appeal is about "black audiences have nothing for them right now", Warner Bros' Jackie Robinson biopic 42 doesn't open until April 12th.

The big bomb of new releases was the stunningly poor showing of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  It's a terrible picture, but it had decent marketing and the kind of comedy stars (Steve Carell and Jim Carrey) that usually guarantee a certain amount of interest.  But with $10.3 million, it's a disaster even at a mere $32 million production cost.  This is Carryey's fourth-lowest debut ever in a major role (although he is very much in supporting mode here), behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ($8.7 million), Man on the Moon ($7.5 million), The Majestic ($4.9 million), all technically dramas. For Steve Carell, this is basically his lowest debut for any kind of wide release ever, ahead of only films like Seeking a Friend For the End of the World ($3.7 million on 1,625 screens) and pre-stardom appearances in Curly Sue and Sleepover (both around $4 million).  The film is cheap enough that a slow crawl to $25 million with similar results overseas will mean an eventual break-even point after it's played on TBS a few dozen times.  Still, this is the fifth straight whiff for Warner Bros. this year. This doesn't mean much for Carrey, as he's realized his Liar Liar/Bruce Almighty glory days are behind him and has made a real effort over the last decade to mix smaller more interesting pictures with big-studio work.  Steve Carell has been doing that trick for awhile, so this won't hurt too much as long as the budgets stay low.  This truly terrible film will be more of a blow to their egos than any kind of financial disaster.

The big limited release story of the weekend was the $90,000 per-screen average for the three-screen debut of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers.  The film, technically about four college girls who get into trouble on spring break, got all kinds of free press due to the casting of James Franco (who's having a very good year) and tween favorites Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens.  The audience was made up from a mix of serious-minded scholars of art house cinema, young women who are fans of the female stars (I wonder if James Franco turns out to be "A" this Tuesday?), and dirty old(er) men wanting to see former Disney Channel stars running around in bikinis while engaging in R-rated behavior.  We'll see how heavy the last two demos are when the film expands to 600 screens next weekend (I'll try to catch it then, as I figured I could wait a week instead of trekking to the Arclight), but it will be interesting to see if this is a (relative) Black Swan situation, where a very arty picture earns mainstream success due to its tawdrier elements.

Oz: The Great and Powerful topped the box office again with a solid $42.2 million weekend.  It was down 46%, or the same amount as Alice In Wonderland.  Obviously it's trailing the overall gross of Alice In Wonderland, but its ten-day total of $145 million puts it on a probable path for $200 million.  Overseas is less predictable, but $600-$800 million looks to be in the cards. I was neglectful of holdover news last weekend, so I'll try to make up for it this time.  Snitch dropped just 31% this weekend, and it's turning into a genuinely leggy hit.  With $37 million thus far, it's actually going to flirt with $50 million total.  Jack the Giant Slayer is still struggling, with $54 million domestic and a worldwide cume still under $100 million.  At this rate, it's going to get out-  grossed by Escape From Planet Earth, which has $52 million thus far and is holding a little stronger. Identity Thief now has $123 million, making it one of the bigger R-rated comedies of the last several years.  21 and Over has now reached $21 million but won't go much higher than that.  Dead Man Down joins the list of DOA R-rated actioners this year, with $9 million after ten days.

The one relative non-flop R-rated action picture is of course A Good Day to Die Hard, which has $65 million.  But, that's terrible for a Die Hard movie and it just got topped by Safe Haven ($66 million).  AGDTDH has crossed $200 million overseas, meaning it would be a pretty big smash had it not collapsed in America.  Still, costing just $92 million, it will make money.  Warm Bodies has $64 million domestic and will soon cross $100 million worldwide.  So if you liked Warm Bodies, go check out 50/50!In older movie news, Jack Reacher finally crossed $80 million this weekend, although its $216 million worldwide take probably won't bring about a sequel (it only cost $60 million, so it'll make money).  Mama has $71 million while Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has $54 million domestic and $200 million worldwide.  The Impossible made just $18 million in America, but its $150 million overseas total makes it a smash hit.  Also clobbering its domestic take, The Life of Pi crossed $600 million last week, having made just $121 million of that (no small shakes, natch) in America.  Les Miserables and Django Unchained are both over $400 million worldwide, while Stoker expanded this weekend to 94 screens but a mere $2,400 per screen.  The $12 million erotic thriller has $647,000 here and $3 million worldwide.  

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next time for Olympus Has Fallen, and The Croods.

Scott Mendelson



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