Box Office Report: October 14-16, 2011

Delivering a Sunday night knockout punch to the spirited dancing of its competition, “Real Steel” held off the vibrant remake “Footloose” to retain its Box Office Championship for a second consecutive weekend, grossing $16.3 million over the October 14-16 weekend. Reports initially indicated that “Footloose” was hot on the heels of “Real Steel” and would possibly win the weekend. However, once all the ticket sales were tallied, “Footloose”‘s attendance was significantly overestimated and “Real Steel” had a comfortable victory in hand.

Overseas, “Real Steel” is doing fantastic business, as expected, and has generated more than $56 million in grosses from 16 different countries. Worldwide “Real Steel” has banked more than $108 million and with a rumored budget of $110-$120 million, Buena Vista and DreamWorks’ collaboration will pay off in the long run. And yet, with that said, domestic numbers were supposed to be higher for the film and some within the camps of the two major studios are disappointed with the reception the film has received. Regardless, its the winner this weekend and in enduring a 40.4% slide, better than anticipated, there is not a whole lot to complain about.

So how did those dancing shoes fit a second time around? Did a prequel to a nearly 30-year old horror film find an audience? Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson are box office gold, right? And iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar sees a massive opening for his eagerly anticipated Oscar hopeful, “The Skin I Live In”. All this and more analysis after the cut!

FOOTLOOSE

Much maligned in the lead up to its arrival in theaters, “Footloose” withstood considerable criticism and mocking to deliver a good but not great $15.6 million opening. Replacing Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, and John Lithgow in the 1984 original with professional dancers Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough, and Dennis Quaid as Hough’s preacher father, “Footloose” was marketed heavily in many different formats and across all demographics. While the film stayed competitive for the top spot through much of the weekend, “Footloose” tailed off on Sunday and came to rest as the runner-up. Tearing through the layers of the Paramount reboot reveals good and bad news for the project.

To begin with, opening night CinemaScore polling showed exuberant praise for the film, with averages totaling to a solid “A” grade. Critics were surprisingly on board with the film, directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), and even some of the reviews addressed how surprising the film turned out to be. Brewer brought the film home for a modest $24 million budget, ensuring domestic profitability before it arrives for its second weekend in release. Hough and Wormald received a lot of acclaim for their performances in the film, perhaps delivering two fresh faces for future film projects. Hoping for a healthy female response to the film, Paramount saw their opening weekend audiences consist of females outnumbering males by a 3:1 margin.

But then the bad. Paramount saw their opening weekend audiences consist of females outnumbering males by a 3:1 margin. Films which slant that decidedly one way often flame out and don’t have sustainable “legs”, if you will. With a fair amount of males remembering “Footloose” from their youth, and younger males seeing a more sexually charged Hough and Wormald together in the trailer, Paramount were hoping more males would attend. They went down the hall to “Real Steel” it would appear. Plus, “Footloose” landed behind some poorly received and forgettable dance films, in terms of successful starts for the dance/musical franchise.

“Footloose” failed to conquer 2001′s “Save The Last Dance” or 2007′s “Stomp The Yard”, the two biggest openings ever for a dance genre film. Also, all three “Step Up” films bested the “Footloose” debut as well. When analyzing the first “Footloose”, the film grossed $80.0 million domestic in 1984, or $165.7 million in 2011 inflation dollars. “Footloose” 2011 looks like it will be lucky to earn $50 million domestically – profitable but hardly reaching the fervor and excitement the 1984 predecessor generated.

THE THING

Grossing slightly more than half of “Footloose”, the other 1980′s reboot to arrive this weekend, “The Thing” served as a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter horror film; which was, in turn, a remake of the original 1951 horror film, “The Thing From Another World”. Serving as the feature film debut for the awesomely-named Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., “The Thing” was a bitter disappointment, totaling $8.5 million for an opening that Universal execs felt would land in the low teens. Critics largely bailed on the film to the tune of a 33% TomatoMeter and opening night audiences graded the film a disappointing “B-”. Additionally, it paled in comparison to other recently panned and disparaged horror remakes.

Opening its first weekend with slightly less than the late-Summer disappointment, “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark”, “The Thing” (2011) tracks toward a final tally of just $20-$22 million. Those totals will rank it behind some rather terrible horror movie remakes as we continue with this feeding frenzy of regenerating (or is that regurgitating…) old horror films and international horror remakes. Remakes such as “One Missed Call”, “Shutter”, “The Hitcher”, “The Stepfather”, “The Fog”, “The Uninvited” all will likely outperform “The Thing” and what seemed like a promising project for young stars on the rise, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom), looks to be frozen and dead in the water.

THE BIG YEAR

As disappointing as “Footloose” missing #1 might be for Paramount and “The Thing” proving not all that interesting to horror and sci-fi fans, “The Big Year” was a massive bomb. No one cared and no one went to see the three comedic stalwarts (Martin, Wilson, and Black) muse about middle age and old(er) age, while in the throes of a birdwatching tournament. The first and likely last film about competitive birdwatching limped to the finish line with just $3.3 million and a shocking $1,513 per screen average. For very wide released films (defined as films opening on more than 2,000+ screens nationwide), that start was one of the 30 worst openings of all time and the worst opening of this young decade.

20th Century Fox certainly take the blame for this in a number of ways. Not only did they greenlight the project and let the budget swell to $41 million (?!?!), but they barely marketed the film until a couple of weeks ahead of time. This was not so much a hiding of a film as much as an outright burial. Curiously, critics, while certainly not enamored with the film (40% TomatoMeter), were hardly hostile towards it, and the film just seemed like a boring and bad idea from the very beginning.

“The Big Year” is on pace to gross just $7-$8 million total in domestic totals and this opening delivered Steve Martin’s worst wide release opening since 1994′s reviled ensemble comedy “Mixed Nuts”. Owen Wilson, riding a huge career resurgence with his terrific work in Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” earlier this year, has not had a film open this poorly ever on a wide scale. Even the forgotten 2004 action/comedy “The Big Bounce” started slightly better. For Jack Black, who has seen a fairly recent opening of this scope attract minimal attention – 2006′s “Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny” ($3.2 million beginning). However, if you discount that as a niche film, then this is also Black’s worst wide-scale release ever as well.

THE SKIN I LIVE IN

One of the few breakout stories of the weekend was the reception levied upon Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In”, which delivered the second-biggest opening weekend per-screen average of 2011. Banking $223k on just 6 screens!, Antonio Banderas’ first film with Almodóvar in 21 years, the director who gave him his start as an actor, “The Skin I Live In” was a breakout arthouse smash for Sony Pictures Classics. Pushing the film with an Oscar campaign, and looking to expand the film into more and more locations, Almodóvar received a healthy 80% TomatoMeter from critics and delivered his biggest North American opening of all time.

While the film was noted to be rather bloody and pack a love-it-or-hate-it twist in the final moments, the film is unmistakably the vision of Pedro Almodóvar and Banderas received huge praise for his performance, reconnecting and appearing reinvigorated in working with his first supporter. Sony Pictures Classics have a ton on their plate this fall, as they do each and every fall, but “The Skin I Live In” could emerge as a nice breakout for all involved by the time the year is wrapped up.

OTHER INDIES

Oscar screeners landed on the doorsteps of voters as “Take Shelter” expanded and received more universal praise and acclaim from critics across the country. Expanding out to 24 locations, “Take Shelter”, also handled by Sony Pictures Classics, saw business surge 123.6% and deliver one of the largest per screen averages of the weekend. Jeff Nichols’ second feature, following 2007′s “Shotgun Stories”, has a 93% TomatoMeter and will be rolling out to more and more locations in the coming weeks. Oscar buzz continued to swirl around Michael Shannon as a Lead Actor contender, with talk also turning towards the Nichols screenplay and questions about whether Jessica Chastain can see a nomination for this film – one of six films she has out in 2011. Stay tuned on this one…

“The Way” saw its business increase significantly as well, perhaps an even more impressive feat for the Emilio Estevez-directed inspirational drama. Strong word-of-mouth and media attention helped Producers Distribution Agency push the film into 102 locations and ticket sales were bolstered by 127.1%, even if the per screen average of $2,758 was a little smaller than you would normally be happy with. With a 10-day haul of $409k, there are signs that people are looking for this and a recent endorsement by former President Bill Clinton may have a significant impact in the coming weekend(s).

“Texas Killing Fields” was DOA with a tepid reaction in a platform release strategy by Anchor Bay Entertainment. One of the Chastain 6, “Texas Killing Fields” failed to garner much interest in this mystery of unsolved murders in a small Texas town, where the serial killer turns his sights on the detectives hunting him down. The debut film of famed director Michael Mann’s daughter, Ami Canaan Mann, “Texas Killing Fields” banked just $8,772 in its 3-screen debut.

Millennium Entertainment saw their fledgling company buy in on the discarded and heretofore forgotten Nicole Kidman/Nicolas Cage film “Trespass” and saw dismal returns. A film many thought would head straight-to-video, if it ever even saw a release in North America, “Trespass” played in a mishmash of big cities in 10 locations and took in all of $16,816. Directed by Joel Schumacher for $35 million, “Trespass” was riddled with production issues, including Cage (in)famously trying to switch characters while the film was in pre-production, proving that you can’t stop crazy – you can only hope to contain it. “Trespass” will arrive on home video November 1, 2011.

“Labios Rojos” gets a mention here only because it stands as another horrible performer in the Lionsgate/Televisa initiative to bring engaging North American films to the Latino community. Not one of these films have performed well for anyone involved and this erectile dysfunction-laden romantic comedy (sigh) had a flaccid beginning (I had to…) grossing just $73k at 67 locations. Apparently, North American Latino audiences are not looking for an erectile dysfunction film. What a shocker…but I mean, you know…is anyone?

ELSEWHERE…

The weekend’s best holdover within the Top 10 was (drumroll please…) Summit’s “50/50″ which slid just 24.6% and has a nice 17-day total of $24.3 million. Those numbers may not seem impressive, but the film has pulled itself up a bit from its disappointing opening weekend and has held strong in consecutive weekends. At this point, the film has earned a gross where Summit projected the film would come to rest with. An Oscar campaign is in the works reportedly.

Virtually all of the films held well in the Top 10, with nothing in the top tier sliding more than 41%. #1 film “Real Steel” had the largest dip, but still outperformed the standards of its genre and as indicated above, held impressively.

THE MILLION DOLLAR CLUB

17 films grossed more than $1 million this weekend, an increase from 14 films last weekend. The steepest decline amongst them was “What’s Your Number?”. The Anna Faris-romantic comedy plummeted 63.4% to amass a 17-day total of just $13.0 million. Faris hosted Saturday Night Live over the weekend and not one mention was made of the film. Telling…

Despite FilmDistrict trying to cut bait and slash theaters and availability, “Drive” is still garnering notable audiences. Losing nearly half of its theaters again this weekend, “Drive” only lost 39.4% of its business and has moved north of $32 million, doubling its $15 million production budget. The more “Drive” hangs around, the more the buzz settles in for Supporting Actor hopeful Albert Brooks and Best Actor hopeful Ryan Gosling, although as reported on the site, Gosling seems like a longshot at this point.

MILESTONES

“Spy Kids: All The Time In The World” saw an increase, but a lackluster one, with its move to second-run distribution. No word on whether those 4-D cards are still being issued with the film at this point. The home video arrives on November 22, 2011.

THE WEEKEND BREAKDOWN

#1 Movie Of The Weekend: “REAL STEEL” (Buena Vista), earned $16.3 million in its second weekend and has a 10-day total of $51.7 million.

Largest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “REAL STEEL” (Buena Vista), $4,736 at 3,440 locations for a total gross of $16.3 million.

Smallest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT” (The Weinstein Company), $319 at 107 locations for a weekend take of $34k. Total gross stands at $9.6 million in 31 days time.

Largest % Increase (50+ Sites): “THE WAY” (Arc/Producers Distribution Agency), Increased 127.1% with an increase in theaters from 33 theaters to 102.

Largest % Decrease (50+ Sites): “I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT” (The Weinstein Company), Decreased 65.6% with a reduction in theaters from 240 to 107.

Now Profitable – Domestic v. Production Budget:

  • “Zookeeper” ($80.3 million / $80 million budget)