Friday, 11 February 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 28th - 30th December 2007

Again, a really detailed and well thought out report. I've no idea how long it took LC and Charles to write their reports but I'd like to thank them both again for giving up their time to keep them going while I was away. A great read!

1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $35.6M - $124M
2 Alvin and the Chipmunks $30M - $142.3M
3 I Am Legend $27.5M -  $194.5M
4 Charlie Wilson's War . $11.7M - $34.5M
5 Juno $10.3M - $25.6M
6 Alien Vs. Predator - Requiem $10M - $26.8M
7 The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep $9.2M - $16.8M
8 P.S. I Love You $9.1M - $23.3M
9 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street $8M - $26.7M
10 Enchanted $6.5M - $110. 6M
11 The Great Debaters  $6.3M -$13.5M
12 The Golden Compass NL $4,360,000 $58,869,000

This Weekend's Box Office may feel a little strange for a couple of reasons. Firstly is that a lot of the industry is still on holiday and so as I am sure many of you will have noticed news websites are being operated by a skeleton staff and so it is a quiet period for stats, box office figures and other information which might be interesting to go with the figures. Great for those people with homes and families to go to, bad if you are me and are trying to work out what has gone on this weekend...

Secondly is the fact that 4 wide opening films have foregoed opening with a wide weekend release and instead opted to open on Christmas Day. This was clearly a wise move by the studios because Tuesday though Thursday takings actually eclipsed last weekends takings. That’s impressive. What makes it even more impressive is that last weekends total was no slouch either – it was the 16th highest weekend of the year. Last weekend the cumulative total was $148m whilst from Tuesday to Thursday of this week the takings total was $152m.

When we get to the figures we’ll see that this strategy of releasing on the 25th December is not without merit. Just looking at some past releases sees that the general trend of lower box office results during the week is completely turned on its head during the Christmas season. The Golden Compass managed to post its best weekday results over the last few days. On Monday it managed $1m, on Tuesday this increased to $1.36m and on Wednesday this again increased to $1.76m. These results are better than it first week’s weekday results and Wednesday result is actually better that what it performed last Saturday. Of course this would be better news for the Golden Compass if its past results were anything to shout about to begin with. Beating its own previous weekday totals is much like the Scotland football team playing an Island with about 2000 people living there and managing to eke out a draw. Not a major success.

However using a more recent example and a movie that has always been a question mark in regards to expectations we can look at Charlie Wilson's War which arguably has the most star power of any movies around right now and opened up to decidedly average takings last weekend. Obviously an Oscar contender it’s hard to say for a political war film opening in Christmas if it should have done better but for a Tom Hanks movie alone you’d normally be looking at slightly better figures so trying to pin this movie down to either success or failure is troublesome. What I can show you is that again this movie improved on its last weekends takings during the Tuesday-Thursday period of last week. In its first weekend it took $9.33m, during the aforementioned period it took $11.6m. Certainly an impressive improvement and one that really only happens during the holiday season. It’s certainly an unusual scenario to be in and really has everything to do with the way the calendar dates fell this year putting Christmas right bang in the middle of the week so that millions of Americans then took the whole week off.

A surprising fact to me this that the largest box office day this week was Tuesday with takings of $58m on that day and the largest day so far this week. And if I recall from the dreary beer fuelled existance that has followed Christmas that last Tuesday was actually Christmas Day. Whilst from a British prospective this sounds strange from the couple of Christmas’s I’ve spent in the States Christmas Day is actually quite popular for events such as theme parks and I would presume this would also lead on to multiplexes being open for the day. Perhaps when it’s 30 C and sunny outside I would also be tempted outside on Christmas Day. Whether or not I would then proceed to sit in a dark theatre watching Aliens v Predator is another question.

But that is what presumably quite a lot of people did since Tuesday was the largest box office day this week and thus some people must have felt that AvP 2 was the perfect way to recover from the over indulgence. AvP 2 (Requiem) is leading the charge of movies opening on the 25th December and not more traditionally on a Friday. AVP: R is an R rated film moving to a new North America location for its setting putting humans directly in the cross fire this time around. Without any star power backing this movie up and written at a time where the lead writer was busy finding his hidden stash of sherbet (the film has garnered a slightly unhealthy 16% on Rotten tomatoes…) I suspect this movie will be incredibly front loaded akin to the recent Resident Evil releases. It’ll have maybe some geek appeal if the last film managed not to put every fan or the two named franchises off and also attract people looking for some good old fashioned violence to distract from the bright lights and rising divorces that the holiday season brings. Therefore expect this to have a strong opening (in comparison to the rest of its takings) and then quickly slip off the radar in the next few weeks.

Three other films opened wide on Christmas Day. First off is The Water Horse which is basically the classic tale of the Loch Ness monster retold which if it hits upon its audience has the potential to be a reasonable hit. It’s a secret friend movie in the sense of past family favourites such as ET (the poster directly compares it to ET…) and the Iron Giant so its pedigree certainly has mileage. Opening figures suggest it has not quite found an audience though. I suspect this one will struggle and then disappear without much of an impact. Generally films opening on Christmas day are either trying to counter program so that people sick of the festivities can go and see something as with AvP above or are Oscar promising films. The Water House is a family film and if the studio had had more confidence in it I suspect it would have either opened a few weekends before Christmas or waited till late January / February where it could have had a bit more spotlight. Certainly it looks like it should have performed better than it has done thus far. Has a 71% approval on Rotten Tomatoes as opposed to the Chipmunks none too inspiring 24%. But when have reviews ever affected a kids movie?

The Great Debators looks like it has promise if it’s already numerous Golden Globe nominations are any indication. Starring Denzel Washington and apparently based on a true story (never quite believe that tag line since I saw the Perfect Storm – the only true part of that film was that a ship went out into a storm and never came back. The one and a half hours of the ship in the storm I suspect therefore used some poetic license…) and mostly consists of a debate over the course its 1 and a half hours run time. It’s going to be a tough sell for most people and is one film which will be hoping for some serious Oscar attention to give it some back end cash come January. Having only started at 1500 venues its going to be quite a slow burn film if it sticks around long enough for Oscar attention to help and early results are not favourable but it could be grower.

Finally we’ve got Juno which aside from the preliminary sounding absurd Judd-like follow up of Knocked Up actually has me quite interested on a personal level. Basically we’ve got a kid who gets pregnant and instead of an abortion (Now there’s a way reduce Knocked Up’s run time….) the kid decides to interview prospective adoptive parents. An independent film which expanded to about 1000 venues on Christmas Day has already been making some serious noise prior to this in a more limited capacity. It also has some interesting star power behind it. Reuniting Micheal Cera and Jason Bateman for, I think, the first time since Arrested Development you’ve also got the fairly well known Jennifer Garner and the recently seen in X3 Ellen Page headlining the flick. Expect some Oscar attention on it and for it to have fairly good legs. Bateman has a strong cult following as does Cera who also has word of mouth since Superbad. Garner desperately needs a serious film to get her some serious acting after the later seasons of Alias were laughed at and the less said about Electra the better. However she will be considered along with Bateman one of the more veteran actors in this production since 12 going on 30 performed fairly well and whilst the quality is dubious both Daredevil and Electra were both widely marketed films. Cera currently is very popular amongst Arrested Development fans and Superbad will have opened him up to a very large audience. All in all you’ve got a strong ensemble here each bringing some fans to the mix and with Cera and Bateman usually bringing strong praise for their roles.

As I suspected Juno had the highest gross per theatre. It was in 998 screens and took an average of $10,320 per screen which is very impressive. However No.1 film National treasure from over 3000 screens also impressive with a taking of $9,208 per screen. AvP:R, Water Horse, Enchanted and Golden Compass all have the worst ratios of screens to revenue all with around $3000 per screen apart from GC which has just over $2000 per screen.

National Treasure looks to be another bona fide hit for Cage who whilst his choices of film sometimes surprise me (Ghost Rider?) he has a knack of picking films that perform well and has quite a lot of box office recognition among movie goers. Looking at the recent results for National Treasure I would anticipate it getting to around $200m or even based on this weekends result $250m. However this time of year can be very unpredictable. After everyone thought that the major films of last year had been release Night at The Museum snuck quietly in during this post Christmas period and proceeded to take enough to put it at No.7 top grossing films released in 2006. I remember this because the top ten grossing films of 2006 was a question at a pub quiz I attended and there was some debate about whether a film which made the bulk of its money in 2007 but was released in 2006 should be counted or not. As it happens I was the only person at the quiz that felt that this distinction was actually worth a recount of scores at the end… Still aside from my obviously entertaining story about a pub quiz its meant to demonstrate that this film could have much longer legs than expected and ride it out though January. I don’t think it will compare to Museum in the end but certainly it’s not to be written off too soon. This one will stick around for a while and we’re almost certainly guaranteed a sequel.

The Chipmunks continue to clean up in this Christmas landscape and poor reviews certainly don’t seem to be having any effect. From a $60m budget it’s already grossed nearly double that in America and looks like it will keep on going for a while yet. I’m also thinking around $200 for this release unless it bottoms out faster that expected.

I Am Legend continues to exceed all expectations and performs consistently well 3 weeks after its release and looks set compete with Smith’s previous best box office film Men in Black which took $250m. I suspect that I am Legend will easily beat that but Independence Day’s total of $300m will be harder to reach but is possible. Gut feeling says it won’t get their though. (Independence Day being more of an ensemble film than a Will Smith vehicle). This is even more impressive when you consider that MIB had Tommy Lee Jones who is significant star in his own right whereas I Am Legend it’s just Smith bringing in the crowds. I said it last time but for me Smith is just going from strength to strength lately and has shown he can headline a variety of film types and bring the crowds into watch him do so. Expect that Fresh Prince of Bel Air movie where Carlton is still trying to get his end away to appear any day now….

Impressive numbers from Charlie with its beating of last weekends total being particularly impressive. Couple this with its great mid week takings and we’ve got a film which is beating its own performance as time goes by. Precisely what you need if you’ve got a high production budget and a hard film to sell. Everyone thinks this could gun for Best Picture and if it does expect it to be around till late February. It should certainly reach its production budget before it leaves the charts if it can hang around in the middle of the chart for the next month or so. Interestingly enough its screen average of just over $4000 is a bit disappointing for a film with a low screen count to start with. Often as with Juno and Debaters you find small release films to perform well in the average per screen.

Also unlike blockbusters of the year which look outdated a few years later this is a DVD which like Hanks previous movie Forrest Gump will likely continue to sell in future years. If it picks up some awards and releases with a standard disc in the summer and then in time for the Oscar’s of 2009 (assuming it picks up some itself) it comes out with the deluxe version then it will make money in the long run. Ideally it will do a Crash, win Best Picture, stick around theatres a bit longer and then have a long shelf life as an Academy Best Picture DVD.

As a personal aside I’ve been looking at the marketing side of this film and have been a bit surprised that the fact it is written by West Wing creator Arron Sorkin has not been more widely publicised. Sorkin certainly has a devoted fan base that follows him from show to show and in my mind is quite comparable for Joss Whedon in that when I watch his work I actually recognise the writing and dialogue style from his past endeavours. I think the studio were in a bit a pickle when it came to promoting Sorkin as a writer because recently it has seemed he’s become quite marmite with the critics. Anyone who watched and followed Studio 60 will have noticed a very British phenomenon take place in regard to Sorkin. Studio 60 was widely publicised as the rescue to NBC’s fortunes and as a triumph return to television for Sorkin. When it turned out to just be a very good show and not a mind blowingly brilliant show I noticed very quickly many of the critics turned on Sorkin in a rather ‘look you failed’ type way.

Despite ratings that were not awful (and were actually better than a lot of shows that got renewed) it was savaged for falling audiences, for religious preachy-ness and for being un-American. And I suspect that this whole reaction to Sorkin has played a very large part in not doing more to publicise his involvement in the film. This is a writer who penned The West Wing which in its hey day attracted audiences figures in the low 20m’s and has written the extremely quotable A Few Good Men and The American President. He is a writer with pedigree and I believe a devoted fan base but I feel the studio deliberately went out of its way not to advertise that fact. In some ways this is strange because when you are writing a political film advertising the fact that it is done by the guy who wrote and created The West Wing could certainly help tick peoples boxes. But it would also be divisive in your intended audiences. The West Wing was frequently lampooned as the Left Wing, and rightly or wrongly Studio 60 was widely regarded as too focused on religious issues and anti Christians (personally having just watched it again I disagree with this but it was certainly a criticism levelled at it at the time). I wonder if despite his past achievements that recently the baggage that Sorkin brings with him to a project and the very public views and ideals he holds may actually backfire when trying to promote him to a mass audience?

Juno is however an unexpected success story which seems mostly down to great word of mouth. Still on less than half the screens of AvP: R its got over double the per screen takings and unlike AvP:R can look forward to sticking around for the next month and also for some Oscar attention. I think this might become the next Little Miss Sunshine, a slow earner but when you look at the final figures has actually done very well.

AvP:R in my opinion was flogging a dead horse before it even arrived but it does have an audience. $26m for AvP:R so far supports my initial hunch that this is a $50m film at best. I don’t expect this to stick around for long; R films tend to disappear quickly. 300 had good reviews and great word of mouth and was the exception to this rule. AvP:R has awful reviews and surely must only appeal to prior fans of each franchise who were not turned off by the none too impressive first instalment. I’d be surprised if it manages much more than $50m during its cinema life but will perform well on DVD and with little to no star power or high profile directors then it will have been produced on the cheap.

The Water Horse looks to be struggling. It really needs to be making its money in the Chirstmas early January season because it doesn’t have a great screen ratio and I suspect like AvP:R will see its screen count slashed for next weekend. If it can get to $40m I’d be surprised, I suspect around $30m will be it for this one. However it does have good reviews and word of mouth could help as opposed to AvP:R which I suspect has nothing gunning for it after its initial peak.

P.S I Love You is another of Warner’s complete critical and commercial flops this year with many of the studio’s insiders renaming it P.S I Hate You. When the studio makes fun of its own film you know there is not a lot of hope and with a muted ad campaign it seems this is one film that when it receives its Dear John letter will not have anything as loving P.Sed at the end. A surprise to no one involved in this debacle, this film was dumped here probably to fulfil a contractual obligation that it should get a cinema release at some point. At the moment it’s got a good screen count but poor screen average, expect both to be slashed by this time next week and be gone completely soon after.

Sweeney Todd will I suspect at some point make a profit. At $50m production budget I suspect it make $50m of that back whilst in circulation in theatres and then it will perform well on DVD so the studio is not sweating too much. It’s an R rated flick at Christmas time. They call it counter programming because it is counter to what most people want to see but its found an audience and has performed probably in line with expectations. The good thing about films with small budgets is that no one expects much of them and with DVD sales, the international market and TV licensing they are all likely to hit profit at some point. Arguably the bigger the budget the more attention is lavished on you if your numbers are not as strong as they need to be and then the films name so dragged thought he mud. Superman returns and says hello at this point. This film will do fine in the long run and R rated films always do better on DVD than in the Cinema. It has decent screen takings of $6000 so should stick around for a bit longer anyway.

Another great weekend for Enchanted which is a film that will just not slip away. It’s certainly got some charms working for it when its fellow Christmas movies are long gone and it was released well before The Golden Compass. However I can’t see this one lasting past the festive season and wouldn’t be surprised if this if its last Hurrah. Still, whatever happens it is a major success for a small budgeted film which opened up to low expectations but dug in and refused to budge. Expect to see a strong DVD release at Easter, a re-release at Christmas and then a sequel in a couple of years.

Even though it didn’t break into the top ten I think the Great Debaters has done well and has a good screen average which should avoid it losing any more screens. I expect this one to creep into the top 10 next week and then everything will depend on what attention it is lavished with when the Oscar nominations are announced. Still $16m for a film of this type if a good start and I think it could have legs if it can stick around for a few more weekends. I suspect that if the film reaches $30-40m the studio will be very pleased.

Sadly this is probably the last time we’ll mention the Golden Compass here and I suspect it might just make it $60m before spluttering out and dying. A colossal disappoint and an embarrassment to New Line but one I’ve already mentioned might have had unexpectedly good results for people waiting on news for the Hobbit. I think if we must take anything lesson from this film is that Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman should never ever be paired up in anything ever again. Their first collaboration was the Invasion which had to have the production team from V for Vendetta brought in and had a majority of its footage re-shot before it was eventuality released to die quietly in September. The Golden Compass was not even allowed to die quietly and has done nothing to help Kidman’s already heavily publicised slump in box office performance. Craig on the other hand has little worry about, despite star billing in the Golden Compass he was little more than a cameo and he has got Bond 22 coming up which if it can match Casino Royale will soon make him forget about these lapses in judgement. He might actually find out that he, like Brosnan before him, can whilst making Bond films focus on smaller, higher quality films in-between Bonds.

From a production budget of $180m this looks to be alongside Evan Almighty the costliest flop of the year. This figure does not include advertising or print costs which would be major on a tent pole release such as this. Also interesting this that any revenue that might have been saved by it’s slightly better performance overseas is not going to help since New Line sold off these rights to a separate distribution company to help finance the film. No information is available about how much they sold the overseas rights for; it could be considering that everyone thought this would do respectable business that this was one deal that New Line got right. Regardless, this film is out of the top 10 and though it tried to limp home it has sadly been shot before it got there. I mention all this because it relates to some recent news we have had on The Hobbit. New Line has finally agreed to pay Jackson the money he felt he was entitled to and have started work with him producing two new Hobbit films. I wonder if the Golden Compass had been the success and franchise starter they had hoped if they would have been quite as keen to play make up with Jackson and get things moving forward on what should become two more Christmas releases that New Line hope to have in the bag.

And that is it. If you have made it this far then congratulations. If not then I don’t blame you! Fear not Goose is back next weekend with I believe a wrap up of 2007 and so normal service will be resumed then. Hope everyone has a Happy New Year and 2008 is already shaping up to be very interesting in terms of cinema releases.

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