Monday 6 June 2011

US Box Office - 11th - 13th December 2009

1. The Princess and the Frog - $25M - $27.9M
2. The Blind Side - $15.5M - $150.2M
3. Invictus - $9.1M - $9.1M
4. A Christmas Carol - $6.9M - $124.5M
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $8M - $267.4M
6. Brothers - $5M - $17.4M
7. Old Dogs -  $4.3M - $39.9M
8. 2012 - $4.4M - $155.3M
9. Armored - $3.5M - $11.7M
10. Ninja Assassin - $2.7M - $34.3M

This weekend really does represent the calm before the storm. Two fairly low key releases aimed at completely different demographics hit screens, with The Princess and the Frog expanded from its limited capacity last weekend and Clint Eastwood's Invictus making its debut. The Princess and the Frog is the first traditionally 2D animated Disney film since the disastrous Home on the Range. Based on a Brothers Grimm story of the same name, the film's expansion has been a little on the disappointing side but it's worth noting straight off the bat that in this day and age, the traditional look of the animation (i.e not bright and shiny) may have put off some youngsters raised on Pixar and Dreamworks flicks (which is a little sad).

The film opened at roughly the same point as Bolt did last year but again, it's worth noting that Bolt was a Disney 3D presentation which meant cinemas charged a premium to present the film in the 3D. This in turn means that while the Princess and the Frog took roughly the same amount of money, it actually sold more tickets. Avatar next weekend should hardly affect the film and may even work well as alternate programming. Frog cost Disney $105M to produce so there's a long way to go yet but more importantly, this is being seen in some quarters as a test of 2D animation in today's CGI-3D world. Potential Christmas takings will be essential to the film's success.

The Blind Side drops out of the top spot but still manages a strong fourth weekend on general release. The Sandra Bullock drama lost some ground to Invictus but that word of mouth just keeps on giving. The film is fast approaching The Proposal's $163M, a figure it stands a good chance of surpassing sometime over the Christmas holiday. $200M isn't out of the question but would require some stunning holds in the coming weeks against some big players such as Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. Even with the non-event that was All About Steve, Bullock has had a fantastic 2009 and has more than one executive asking "Reese Who?"

Next up, and hoping for Oscar success is Clint Eastwood's Invictus. Originally thought to be a Nelson Mandela biopic, Invictus instead focuses on one event that took place not long after Mandela became president of South Africa in 1995. Looking to unite a fractured country, Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) turns to Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), a rugby captain, to help bring unity to the nation by giving them a South African rugby team they could all support in the Rugby World Cup. The film reviewed well above average but appears to have struggled to find a market interested in seeing the film - it's not a fully-fledged biopic nor does it cover an event that many Americans would have even heard of. It's interesting that Warner Bros chose to open the film wide rather than build up word of mouth from a limited release - which this type of film would probably have excelled at doing. Invictus is out at just over 2,100 locations but is unlikely to expand based on that weekend total, and would probably be long gone from theatres should it score big during awards season. One final note - this is the 79 year old Eastwood's ninth film in ten years - some directors don't amass nine films in their entire career.

New Moon has already begun to shed its location count (down by 489 this weekend) but that's simply because it has little left to achieve. Everyone who wanted to see the film more than once has already done so, its approaching $600M in worldwide takings and its sequel is almost guaranteed to see similar figures in the summer of 2010. New Moon can sit back and wait for the inevitable record breaking DVD sales around March. Of course, if Summit wanted to give the film a boost they could always screen an exclusive Eclipse trailer at the locations in which the film is still showing...

A Christmas Carol is now frantically grabbing any money it can before the 18th December when Avatar will take over the vast majority of its 3D and Imax screens. What sort of drop in locations that will result in remains to be seen but there's a strong chance that the little money Christmas Carol is making is coming from those enhanced screens, though it must be noted that its low percentage drops these last few weeks are exactly what the film has needed. The good news for Disney is that the film is performing better on the international market (this is the first week figures have been up on Box Office Mojo) having taken $135M so far.

A bit of a surprise last weekend, Brothers has had to make way for the new releases and saw a weekend drop of around 47%, which isn't too bad given the general apathy to war-based movies this past year. The limited number of releases should give it another week or so in the top ten and Brothers should top out somewhere in the mid-twenties.

The rest of our top ten is made up of hangers on and at least one disaster. Old Dogs, as the only comedy in the top ten is attracting a small amount of business and should recoup its low production budget before leaving the top ten. Roland Emmerich's 2012 on the other hand, has recouped its production, prints and advertising budget with its suitably epic world wide total of over $675M. In those terms, only four other films have taken more money this year. Having made little of an entrance last weekend, Armoured drops hard a week later and will be gone altogether by next Friday. Similar applies to Ninja Assassin but thanks to its small boost during Thanksgiving, things aren't looking quite as bad. The $40M budgetted flick should cover costs once it reaches the international market.

Elsewhere the George Clooney film Up In The Air expanded to 72 locations and saw a return of $2.4M. The well received film expands wide on Christmas Day. Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, at just 3 locations made $116K and also sees expansion on the 25th December, and goes wide on January 15th 2010. Finally, The Road managed $498K from its 135 locations.

Next weekend will be an interesting one. With so much hype behind the 3D technology utilised by Avatar its expected the majority of people will try to seek the film out at similarly enabled theatres, reducing its potential takings. The film opens at 3,300 but figures aren't available at this moment as to how many of those theatres are 3D/Imax. Be sure to tune in next weekend for one of the last box office reports of 2009 and the return of the mighty James Cameron

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