Another great RLLMUK poster/regular, Charles took over from Lord Cookie for the second week of my holidays. A brilliant report and reading it made me glad that Charles didn't do the report each week as I'd quickly have been forgotten!
1. I Am Legend - $76.5M - $77.4M
2. Alvin And The Chipmunks - $45M - $45M
3. The Golden Compass - $9M - $40.5M
4. Enchanted - $6M - $91.7M
5. No Country For Old Men - $3M - $33.3M
6. The Perfect Holiday - $2.9M - $46M
7. Fred Claus - $2.3M - $68.7M
8. This Christmas - $2.3M - $2.8M
9. Atonement - $1.8M - $2.9M
10. August Rush - $1.7M - $28M
We start off this weekend with Hollywood crucially needing a top draw hit. Last weekends Golden Compass which was positioning itself as the Christmas movie of 2007 failed to set the charts alight and according to Rotten Tomatoes it’s failed critically as well. Studio main man Bob Shaye seems to be placing the blame at anyone but himself with the flicks director Chris Weitz taking the main flack but also a couple of pot shots at New Line’s own President of Production Toby Emmerich. And you can see why. This was New Line’s big hope for the year and for a studio which has had as many misses recently as New Line has, to see the Golden Compass fail so solidly must be the deal breaker. Expect some changes in New Line staff in the New Year.
This must be the death knell for the franchise that the Golden Compass was expected to start. Whether it was down to the promotion of the film, the direction of the film or just the fact that they overestimated the appeal of the books the fact remains that this film was meant to be the next Lord of the Rings for New Line and it’s failed to materialise. If (and it’s a big if at this stage) we do see a sequel to the film one day, expect a major retooling of the cast and behind the scenes talent and an attempt to distance the film from The Golden Compass. A good showing on DVD could stand to help the film and positive international performance certainly is helping but as things stand The Golden Compass is one of the main disappointments of 2007.
However having started off with an analysis of the big hitter that has failed this month we’re able to move onto a film which was never a certainty in how it would perform. The extremely positive performance of I am Legend not only will end 2007 at the Box Office on a bright note but is another notch in Will Smith’s now formidable career as one of Hollywood’s most consistent draws. Not only will the performance of I Am Legend pull smiles from all involved but it will help Hollywood recover from a December slump that was feared could continue until the big hitters in January. Last weekend, for only the second time all year only 2 movies grossed over $5 Million dollars.
We’ve seen some major results for December releases in years gone by with LOTR, Narnia and Potter all showing a big success in December can be achieved. However since Narnia we’ve seen very prominently LOTR styled Eragon fail to achieve big success and now with The Golden Compass quickly sliding off to box office footnotes and with the major success of I am Legend I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Hollywood moguls scratching their head wondering exactly what the cinema audience wants to see two weeks before Christmas in December. Certainly a few months ago I am Legend was never expected to rise above The Golden Compass, rather be an addendum for the cinema audience who wanted something a little more serious and feisty in their film choice. We’ve seen that fantasy can do big bucks in December but I Am Legend’s opening also signals that Sci Fi can sell as well.
It may just be down to a few factors that went its way – the poor performance of GC, the lack of big movies since Beowolf aimed at an older audience and the general lack of Sci Fi spectacle at the recent box office but the one factor that cannot be dismissed is the presence of the big man himself – Will Smith. Let’s face facts, this film has no big name co-stars, no big name director and is based on a book which is so unknown that the majority of cinema going audiences probably think it’s an original story. A film set in the future with the population of Earth wiped out should have been a tough sell at Christmas but Will Smith has proved yet again that he is the major player. I Am Legend is Will Smiths 7th consecutive number 1 opening film. And at a time when major players like Clooney fail to draw in the big audiences, where hot talent like Daniel Craig fails to help piggyback the GC and where past talent like Nicole Kidman continues to be poison for her films Smiths track record is hugely impressive. Look at the past history of his films, there are some big films to be sure but also some smaller films like Hitch and In Pursuit Of Happyness but whatever genre he tackles they all shoot straight to the top of the charts. This shows that not only can Smith lend himself to anything but that he is versatile, dynamic and in demand by the public. Looking at the stats for a bit Smith is a star who tracks consistently well among Blacks, Hispanics and Whites and has proven with past hits to be a good draw among men and women. That’s pretty much all your bases covered right there.
The Friday stats from I Am Legends opening confirm this with the lowest group of women age 49+ giving it a 49% approval rating. All other groups were above this figure and it is performing well across the bored. Other trivia about this release is that there were no preview screenings of the film since it was delivered so late but Warner Bros must have had confidence because they have given the film a generous marketing spend that had from last week assured its place at the top of the chart. The surprise this week is by how much is would have delivered, and the answer is a lot. Optimistic projections put this film in the $50-60 million bracket for the weekend. A $76.6m is a lot bigger than anyone dared hopeful and I think the GC failing helped it pull in that number. It performed strongly throughout the weekend with Friday on $30.2m, Saturday on $29m and estimates for Sunday picking up the rest. Audiences were hungry for a big event film and where GC failed to capitalise last weekend, I Am Legend seems to have found its market at just the right time. If we had seen the kind of opening expected for GC and the kind of continuing success it would have wanted there is no way I Am Legend would be up this high. Whether it was even a No.1 film was a possibility as long ago as last week. The GC upset which is bad news for New Line has proved an unexpected coup for Warner Bros and baring the releases next week this film should continue to have the December season wrapped up and might be able to stick around January as well. Based on these figures I think Warner Bros will be secretly hoping for a final total of at least $200M in the US and if luck goes their way $250m. The film’s got great reviews, positive word of mouth and with GC gone the Christmas blockbuster season all to itself. Whether or not this will generate a sequel because not having seen the film yet I have no idea if it leaves itself open to such a possibility. If it does though bet your wife on a bigger sequel down the line.
A few footnotes on Legend. Discounting Peter Jackson releases (only Hollywood would discount the releases of Peter Jackson in trying to heap praise on a film!) this is the biggest December opening ever. So actually the 5th biggest then. It also has the Dark Knight trailer attached at Imax screenings which when the results come in might account for a larger than normal showing on those screens. Also Smith achieved a No.1 last year in the same weekend with Pursuit of Happyness which also beat out another Christmas blockbuster hopeful – Eragon. Expect to see this man head a family centred Christmas blockbuster very soon…
Smashing into second place Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks which beats the $20m expected and gets almost double that with $44m. The remake has proved successful with family audiences bored of Enchanted and not old enough yet for Golden Compass / Legend. The family friendly film opened wide with just under 3,500 screens and was extensively targeted at kids – Fox knew little success lied at the feet of teen and young adults so hoped that kids could use pester power to bring parents and grandparents out with them to see the movie and its worked very well. What was expected as a $15-20 million weekend which then had the possibility to follow Charlottes Web pattern last year which was based on a similar low profile property that opened low at $13m and went onto gross $80m has now set the bar for a run which could easily exceed over $125 and possibly get to a $150m gross. With the subject matter appealing to kids, I’d expect to see this film hold on over the holidays and then slide away quickly in January. Given the original expectations if this gets over $100m Fox will be giddy, if it goes further than that you’ll have Fox executives checked for substance abuse because they’ll be so happy. With a production budget of 60m this film has almost remade that based on this weekend alone so this is a pretty big hit for Fox based on the numbers they would have anticipated.
I’ve mentioned Gold Compass extensively already so I won’t add to it too much. This films US release is a big disappointment. However looking internationally, from the 27 markets it’s opened in its grossed $50m with the UK contributing to $17m of that total. This was an expensive film and I think worldwide by the end of its run it could see $150M. It cost at least $180m to make (so probably over $200m if the studio is admitting to $180m) and with an advertising spend that would mirror that as well as print costs, if DVD sales are anything less than great I suspect New Line may be writing some of that off. Whilst 2007 will always be seen for the Titanic shaped mis-hap that was Evan Almighty, GC might not be far behind all things considered. Certainly Craig will be happy that according to rumours he’s just signed a new deal to play Bond for a further 5 times with a $40m cheque swinging its way to him as a thank you.....
Enchanted, buoyed by its recent double Golden Globe, nominations racks up a couple more million in tickets and leaves Disney with an almighty grin. Great reviews and a popular leading man in the form of Mc Dreamy from Grey’s Anatomy has helped this movie be a hit with families and women and edges closer to $100m. It’ll cling on a couple more weekends and looking at these figures I think a finish of $115m is achievable and something which will delight everyone involved.
No Country For Old Men continues to stick around and is not a lot down from last weekend. At the moment it resides on $33.3m which is not ideal but then this movie was never expected to do mega bucks and if it can continue to sit in the charts, eking out a few more weekends of +$3m then it should be able to reach $40m before it’s done. If it can hang in even longer I think Miramax would feel that a cume of $50m is pretty good going for a movie like this in the Christmas market and concerning its subject matter which doesn’t appeal to everyone.
We now come to 3 Christmas films, none of which have proved to be breakout hits but two of which have done quite well and 1 which looks to be a big disappointment. This Christmas and Fred Claus both stick around in the bottom half of the chart, waiting for their final hooray next weekend and new comer The Perfect Holiday languished behind both of them in several estimates but at the moment Box Office Mojo has it down as being just ahead. All 3 films are separated by less than a million dollars so any of them could swap place for tomorrow final numbers. For a film (PH) which was expected to break into the top 5 to be in a position where its numbers are interchangeable with the competition which have been out several week is clearly the final big Christmas disappointment of the year.
The Perfect Holiday is this weekend’s final new release and one which was expected to do better than it has. With a cast that will predominantly appeal to African American audiences we may have found that due to the unexpected strength of Legend that some of the audience have gone to see Smith instead. Or it may just be that so shortly after This Christmas yet another family Christmas movie based around the wholly unoriginal premise of ghosts was just not interesting enough to get people out of the house to the movie theatre. The poor reviews will certainly have not helped and with a late opening don’t expect any miracles to happen for this film. If it’s not gone by January I’d be surprised. With this and Fred Claus and This Christmas all having the Christmas theme all should do well next weekend but then sink quickly which will benefit the Chipmunks by leaving them in a very cosy position for families wanting to see movies in the lull between Christmas and New Year. Whatever happens this is a huge flop and is particularly embarrassing to see it charted with two other Christmas films which are both on their last legs. This is a film which could have dearly benefited from having a few more weekends left before Christmas but its late opening confirms that this is one Holiday its execs might like to forget.
Fred Claus along This Christmas sticks in the chart and should see results of over $75m by the time it exits which given the other 2 Christmas movies will please all concerned. Neither This Christmas and Fred Claus have done too badly but any exec hoping for a breakout hit such as Elf or The Grinch will be a bit disappointed.
For a film made on the cheap - $13m - Sony will be very pleased that This Christmas has nearly gotten to $50m and that its continuing to give new rival The Perfect Holiday a run for its money which many pundits had anticipated opening bigger than it has and occupying a position in the top 5 of the chart. It also still got another weekend of life left in it before it bottoms out so expect to see it easily clear $50m by next weekend and you might even see a big boost considering you’ve got the whole weekend next week right before Christmas where it has the chance to clean up. Assuming it capitalises on its chances next weekend it should leave the charts with around $60m.
Atonement continues some impressive numbers off something like a 150 screens with nearly a $2m weekend. Released I suspect to gain contention for an Emmy nomination this film has good word of mouth and will continue to have good legs until its wider release in January.
August Rush sees us off in what is only note worthy that Beowolf is not here instead. It had been widely anticipated that Beowolf would see its last weekend of the chart but it’s gone and with a total of $79m I suspect Paramount will be fairly pleased with and will see strong sales on DVD. Beowolf in at No.12 with a weekend total of $1.3m.
August Rush and Atonement and the Christmas movies and Old Men may swap places when final numbers are released. Frankly positions 5-10 are only separated by $1.25m so are fairly interchangeable whichever way you look at it