Reprinted with kind permission of The Awards Circuit…
In box office prognostication, sometimes the only thing ever for sure…is that nothing is ever for sure. No one anticipated that DreamWorks’ “Puss In Boots” would not only win the weekend over the much hyped action comedy “Tower Heist”, but would also set a record for the smallest drop ever for a fall movie release (non-holiday). The precocious little swashbuckling cat banked another $33.1 million, raising its 10-day totals to $75.5 million domestic/$114.5 million worldwide and finishing a substantial distance in front of the #2 movie of the weekend. Well on its way to making back its $130 million budget, “Puss In Boots” looks to rule the family movie roost for one more weekend until a suffocating avalanche of family films arrive with “Happy Feet Two” releasing on November 18 and “Arthur Christmas”, “Hugo”, and “The Muppets” all opening on November 23 in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. For those bemoaning a lack of family friendly titles at the box office, your cup is about to runneth over for certain.
So what led to the disappointing start for “Tower Heist” and did audiences warmly receive a third “Harold and Kumar” film? Did any Oscar hopefuls and independent titles make any news? Details and more after the cut!
Expected to win the weekend, the Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy-led “Tower Heist” started strong on Friday, but saw business taper off through the weekend and conclude with $24.0 million in overall weekend figures. What’s most confounding about the film’s muted start is that critics surprisingly came on board for the film, including yours truly. The buzz and word-of-mouth was as good as ever for a Brett Ratner-directed film, as well as for a tour de force performance from Eddie Murphy, who was almost unanimously cited as the best element to the rich ensemble Ratner assembled for the film.
While some cited the subplot of a billionaire Bernie Madoff-type, played by Alan Alda, who carelessly loses an entire staff’s pensions and retirement accounts as being too raw and too soon for the times we live in, the signs seem to point to people liking the film less than the critics did. Universal executives earmarked the film as naturally taking the weekend and grossing around $35 million for its opening frame. Late Friday night or early Saturday, that number was then tempered down to $30 million and lower as the weekend estimates came in. Then, with “Puss In Boots” seeing sellout business on Saturday and Sunday, Universal started to realize that they were way, way off with their initial projections and tracking research.
Budgeted at $75 million, “Tower Heist” will likely fall a bit short of that domestically, which will be viewed as a massive disappointment, when considering the names involved – Ratner, Stiller, Eddie Murphy. The film will turn a profit with overseas totals factored in, but even in those countries and territories that have received the film, the figures were equally disappointing and much smaller than anticipated.
For Brett Ratner, this is his smallest start since the poorly received “After The Sunset” banked $11.1 million to start in November 2004. In films receiving a wide release, Ben Stiller has not seen returns this small since “The Heartbreak Kid” started with $14.0 million in October 2007. On the other hand, for Eddie Murphy, this provides a nice boost to his attempts at generating an A-list comeback. Not only does the praise earned for his performance here start a narrative that Murphy is indeed back, but as he transitions towards hosting the 84th Annual Academy Awards in February 2012, “Tower Heist” delivers his largest opening weekend (non-animated) since “Norbit” defied all critics and reviewers everywhere with a $34.2 million start in February 2007.
A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3-D CHRISTMAS
Coming in on the lower side of expectations was the curious Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas movie, the third entry in the go-for-broke adult comedy franchise that helped usher in a new wave of stoner comedies several years back, along with a handful of ill-advised copycats as well. Notably, the franchise is credited with the rebirth and relaunch of Neil Patrick Harris’ career, helping him land his classic television role as Barney on the sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”. As much associated with the franchise as the titular leading men, Harris was front and center in the marketing of this film, standing alongside John Cho’s Harold and Kal Penn’s Kumar in virtually all the promotion for the film. With a $12.95 million beginning, Warner Bros. and New Line were disappointed that with higher ticket prices, this film could not deliver a stronger start. The $19 million production will make back its money and studio executives were spinning the totals in all the expected ways – it’s a film with a built in audience, guaranteed repeat business, it’s a Christmas film that people will be looking for throughout the whole holiday season, etc. etc. etc.
The truth is that Harold and Kumar films have generated their appeal largely from home video sales and repeated exposure on cable. The initial film in the franchise, 2004’s “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”, grossed just $18.3 million and were it not for the cult following it generated, a sequel was not initially in the plans. With the satirical and political bend of “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay”, audiences came out to see the film initially, but quickly moved on to other things. The film concluded its 2008 run with $38.1 million and as a result, a third entry was given the greenlight. Each film has been profitable and “…Christmas” will continue that trend, but with a projected final domestic tally landing in the range of $30-$35 million, one has to wonder if we have seen the last adventures of our lovable misfit stoner boys on the big screen.
THE SON OF NO ONE
After a tepid response arrived with its closing of the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, “The Son Of No One” was opened small by Anchor Bay Entertainment to an even smaller modicum of interest. Starring Channing Tatum and Al Pacino, the film is billed as a gritty cop thriller where police officer Tatum struggles to be a family man while looking to suppress a past catching up with him. Placing the film in just 10 locations, “The Son Of No One” only grossed $18,015, good for 63rd place for the weekend. There are no reports on whether Anchor Bay will look to expand the film into more cities or if this is essentially the best it gets for the Dito Montiel- directed film.
The Weinstein Company looked to reintroduce their acclaimed drama “Sarah’s Key” into the minds of moviegoers and Oscar voters as well, when they saw what they felt was a soft weekend to bring their summer drama back into theaters. Featuring a performance by Kristin Scott Thomas that is being worked hard for a hopeful Best Actress nomination from the Academy this year, “Sarah’s Key” tells a World War II story in flashback, and was based on the bestselling French novel by Tatiana de Rosney. For the tireless folks at The Weinstein Company the re-release delivered good news and frankly, bad news as well. The good news? The film’s expansion turned business around a staggering 1,813.9% and added $269,285 to the box office totals. The bad news? The per screen average of $847 was one of the smallest of the weekend and clearly the film failed to find that foothold in the marketplace it may have needed to stay in the conversation. What’s next? A home video release on November 22, and a push to get the film into the hands of potential voters.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY HAPPENINGS
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” continued its impressive performance, banking $455,772 on just 98 screens, and raising its platformed 17-day release totals to $1.02 million. The film’s strong reception from critics and audiences has kept Elizabeth Olsen and writer/director Sean Durkin in the conversation for the imminent awards season. If this film sees Independent Spirit Award nominations in a few weeks time, as expected, as well as precursor attention from the New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review, Martha, Marcy May, and Marlene may be names we are talking about a lot over the next few months.
“Like Crazy” surged 116.2% as it moved outside of New York and Los Angeles, and played at 16 locations, grossing $266,514. A robust per screen average of more than $16,600 makes this film something to pay attention to, as Paramount Vantage are strategically placing the film in selected markets. As the rollout continues, the film looks to have its widest exposure by the end of the month, with the hopes that awards attention falls on lead actress Felicity Jones, lead actor Anton Yelchin, and writer/director Drake Doremus. The film has its rabid supporters as well as some rabid detractors, but people are going. And Paramount Vantage could not be more pleased with where things sit right now for their small scale film.
Audiences continue to seek out “Margin Call”, which is becoming a nice little breakout for Roadside Attractions. The $3.5 million production is likely already profitable from its earlier VOD grosses, but for the second consecutive weekend the film has added theaters and seen next to no decline in business. Sliding 1.5% and grossing $718,321 this past weekend, people are seeking out the film and word-of-mouth is significant. Roadside Attractions may be pushing forward with an Oscar campaign for some of the film’s supporting players, while a screenplay nod might be in play for the film as well.
Controversial Shakespearean thriller “Anonymous” gained theaters and 20.7% in overall ticket sales, banking $1.23 million and clearing $2.68 million in 10 days. The $30 million production is lumbering along and it is unclear if Sony Pictures Classics are biding their time to go wide with the film, or whether they are content to just let this film earn at the pace it seems to be going.
14 films grossed more than $1 million this weekend, same as last weekend and the Top 12 films total grosses gained 10.8% over the previous weekend. The steepest decline amongst the Million Dollar Club members this weekend was “Paranormal Activity 3”, which lost 54.1% of its second weekend audience. The $5 million production has grossed $95 million domestically and may still become the highest grossing entry in the series to date.
Rather impressively, “Footloose” is drawing significant repeat business as the film dipped just 18.8% in its 4th weekend. The $24 million production has grossed $44.7 million, matching its projected final domestic box office totals. “Courageous” continues to draw audiences, as it nears $30 million in total receipts and “Moneyball” (-25.2$) and “The Ides Of March” (-30.9%) continue to draw sizable adult crowds. Defying recent history to a large degree, “In Time”, the Justin Timberlake/Amanda Seyfried sci-fi actioner, dropped just 37.9% in its second weekend, a figure some projected would be as high as 50%.
With its arrival on home video this Friday, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II” added more than 60 locations and added another $119,755 to its box office totals. The biggest grossing film of 2011 thus far, “Potter” will conclude its theatrical run with domestic totals of $380.9 million and worldwide receipts totaling $1.327 billion.
Family film “Dolphin Tale” just received its announcement for a home video release on December 20, 2011, just in time for the holidays, and the film continues to earn millions per week at the box office. Adding another $1.02 million this weekend, the film raises its haul to $68.6 million with the weekend numbers counted.
#1 Movie Of The Weekend: “PUSS IN BOOTS” (Paramount/DreamWorks), earned $33.1 million in its second weekend, a decline of a mere 3%, for a total gross of $75.5 million.
Largest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “PUSS IN BOOTS” (Paramount/DreamWorks), $8,341 at 3,963 locations for a total gross of $33.1 million.
Smallest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “KILLER ELITE” (Open Roads Films), $357 at 119 locations for a weekend take of $43k. Total gross stands at $25.0 million in 45 days of release.
Largest % Increase (50+ Sites): “SARAH’S KEY” (The Weinstein Company), Increased 1,813.9% with an increase in theaters from 29 theaters to 318.
Largest % Decrease (50+ Sites): “RA.ONE” (Eros Entertainment), Decreased 76.7% with no reduction in theaters.
Now Profitable – Domestic v. Production Budget: N/A
THE TOP 40 MOST ATTENDED FILMS (11/4 – 11/6/2011)
Numbers are representative of millions…
Bold denotes films increased in business this week versus last.
||Puss In Boots||33.1||75.5||-3.0||10|
|3||…Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas||13.0||13.0||NEW||3|
|4||Paranormal Activity 3||8.3||95.1||-54.1||17|
|8||The Rum Diary||2.9||10.4||-43.1||10|
|9||The Ides Of March||1.9||36.7||-30.9||31|
|11||The Three Musketeers||1.7||18.0||-51.6||17|
|17||Johnny English Reborn||.676||7.7||-60.1||17|
|18||Martha Marcy May Marlene||.456||1.0||+83.6||17|
|22||The Skin I Live In||.328||1.3||+81.7||24|
|28||The Lion King 3D||.212||93.4||+4.2||52|
|31||Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes||.178||176.1||-1.9||94|
|34||Crazy, Stupid, Love.||.130||84.1||-15.4||101|
|35||Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows- Pt. 2||.120||380.9||+7.7||115|
|36||The Big Year||.101||7.0||-55.6||24|
|37||The Mighty Macs||.94||1.7||-58.6||17|
|38||Born To Be Wild IMAX||.90||14.0||+11.8||213|
|40||Midnight In Paris||.69||55.5||+13.0||171|