Tuesday, 15 February 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 1st - 3rd May 2009

1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - $87M - $87M
2. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - $15.3M - $15.3M
3. Obsessed - $12.2M - $47M
4. 17 Again - $6.3M - $48.4M
5. Monsters vs. Aliens - $5.8M - $182.4M
6. The Soloist - $5.6M - $18.1M
7. Earth - $4.1M - $21.8M
8. Fighting - $4.1M - $17.5M
9. Hannah Montana: The Movie - $4M - $70.8M
10. State of Play - $3.6M - $30M

Summer Blockbuster season is upon us! From now until mid-August the studios will be throwing all their weight behind what they hope will be big money makers. There's going to be successes, failures, sleeper hits and more than a few "what was that all about?"

Straight out the door like a rocket is Wolverine, with Hugh Jackman returning to play the character that made him famous for a fourth time. Wolverine and X-men in general have had a difficult path since Bryan Singer left the franchise after directing X2. Brett Ratner took over for X3 and pretty much buried the franchise (though made a tonne of cash in the process). Even before X3 there was talk of character spin off movies, with Wolverine being the one that would be first out the gate, though at times it looked like it'd be beaten by a Magneto movie. And what should have been a no-brainer, creating a Wolverine spin off, turned into a headache for all associated with the project. Trouble on set, disagreements between director Gavin Hood and the studio, and (possibly) extensive re-shoots didn't fill fans with confidence.

A first trailer with ropey effects further cemented worries and when a month ago an advanced workprint was leaked on to the internet it appeared Wolverine was dead before it even had chance to see a cinema screen. Denials from Fox didn't help the situation, with studio head Tom Rothman claiming the running times of the finished product and the work print were different and that the workprint didn't contain the aforementioned re-shoots (both things apparently untrue with the workprint being identical, save for effects work, to the finished product - and a production assistant taking the rap for Rothman's comments).

By the time Wolverine made it to cinema screens it was already limping into place. Jackman had worked the chat show circuits around the world tirelessly, trying to convince people to give the film a chance, and a large portion of the success of the film's opening weekend must be down to him. Friday the film opened well, with $35M in ticket sales, though even that started to take a knock when it was revealed that $5M was from midnight screenings. As the weekend progressed a few analysts altered their $92-95M opening figures to better reflect the number we see above. Given its bumpy ride to our screens, Wolverine has done well to score that $87M and it's proof on some level that a large number of ticket buyers didn't hear or didn't care about troubles on set or leaked versions of the film, though no doubt if Fox's own people had the film pegged for a higher opening weekend, the blame for the lacking numbers will be placed firmly at the feet of the pirates. All things said, Fox will probably be more than happy that the film didn't collapse upon release and while it's no X3 or Iron Man in terms of box office, it should easily see $100M well before next weekend, with little doubt it'll perform equally well if not better, on the international market.

As is normal in these situations, now the film is on general release and the opening numbers done and dusted, we look forward to its second frame performance - it'll be up against the Star Trek reboot next week, and there will surely be a lot of crossover fans for both films - Wolverine's legs depend on its drop next Friday. Anything above 60% would be a issue and see the film finishing with around $130M. If it can weather Star Trek out, who knows were it'll end? Wolverine's one advantage is that Star Trek, unlike a number of films this year, opens on a Friday not a Wednesday, giving Jackman's baby an extra two days without major competition.

Against a major genre film it's a good bet for a rival studio to throw in a romantic comedy - while dad and the kids go see Wolverine, mom can go see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Generally this strategy pays off, though there's probably a lot more women going to see Wolverine for Hugh Jackman than there would be for any other type of genre flick. Matthew McConaughey can make these movies in his sleep, and just looking back over his career these last years he's been more than happy to turn them out and provide a quick, decent profit for the studios in the process. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Fool's Gold and Failure to Launch have all performed well, more often than not, as alternative programming against bigger showier films.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a rift on the Christmas Carol story, co-stars Jennifer Garner and sees McConaughey being visited the night before his brother's wedding by the ghosts of three ex-girlfriends who try and show him how he became the womanising bachelor idiot that's in danger of talking his brother out of getting married. Can they make him see the error of his ways and find true love in the process? This one opened lower than his recent romantic comedies but that could be in part to the Jackman crossover competition. Next weekend it should perform alright, under the radar of Star Trek and could easily end up with around $40-50M by the end of play. After Sahara flopped, McConaughey is probably more than happy to stay clear of lead roles in blockbusters and just keep on turning a tidy profit and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past should be no different.

Obsessed dropped 74% from last Friday but the Beyonce/Ali Larter flick was never even expected to score $12M from it's opening weekend, let alone its second one. By the end of this weekend the thriller will already have doubled its production budget and proved without a doubt that Beyonce can open a film. Expect this one to finish around $65M. Zac Efron's 17 Again, now up against the big boys, takes a bit of a knock but still manages a respectable fourth place. As Efron's first lead, non-musical role, he's done well to see $48M (with another $27M internationally) and it shows he can, for now at least, score a decent return from an average product. But even he knows that he's flavour of the month and he'll need to follow up 17 Again with something else, and fast, unless he wants to be doing High School Musical 4...

Monsters Vs Aliens has finally recouped its production budget, leaving it's impressive international take to provide some much needed profit. A film such as this, with costs easily equalling or excelling those of a live action production, has to rely far more on international numbers and merchandising to shore up those costs. With Hanna Montana not fairing as well, M Vs A is the main choice for a family cinema visit at the moment, and it's got that title all to itself until Pixar's UP is released toward the end of May - its main issue being that most families have already seen the film. The Soloist actually holds a little better than expected in its second weekend on release, leading one to wonder if it would have had a stronger opening had it not been buried at the end of April. Unfortunately for the film, its production budget is estimated to be $50M, so it'll need every lucky break and positive word of mouth it can get its hands on.

Earth doesn't seem to have had the breakout appeal of March of the Penguins. Obviously released to coincide with Earth Day, one can't help think that like The Soloist, had it been released at a quieter time it may have seen some longer box office legs. Fighting meanwhile tumbles from one end of the chart to the other. Considering star Channing Tatum is up next in the Johnny Depp/Christian Bale movie Public Enemy and the action romp G.I Joe (not to mention rumoured for a third Twilight flick), it's doubtful he'll have sleepless nights about Fighting's box office performance. That said, a flick like this probably cost less than $15M to produce so everyone should be a winner.

As mentioned, Hannah Montana, while being another family friendly film, has a lot more of a limited appeal compared to M vs A. It's probably doubled, or even tripled its production costs so Buena Vista won't be too concerned on that front - more whether they could expect as much from a follow up. Even with a decent cast and some good notices, State of Play is almost certainly seeing its last weekend in the charts. The thriller has so far made $30M and will probably end its box office run with around $38-40M.

Animated flick Battle for Terra failed to impact the top ten, making just $1.6M.

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