Monday 6 June 2011

US Box Office - 14th - 16th August 2009

1. District 9 - $37M - $37M
2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - $22.5M - $98.8M
3. The Time Traveler's Wife - $19.2M - $19.2M
4. Julie and Julia - $12.4M - $43.7M
5. G-Force - $6.9M - $99M
6. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard - $5.4M - $5.4M
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $5.1M - $283.8M
8. The Ugly Truth - $4.5M - $77.5M
9. Ponyo - $3.5M - $3.5M
10. (500) Days of Summer - $3M - $17.9M

After spending two years developing a Halo movie, the plug was pulled close to pre-production. Not a great start to your Hollywood career but for director Neil Blomkamp it was all the excuse he needed to push forward with his low budget sci-fi extravangza District 9. Blomkamp, a special effects expert and short movie director teamed up with producer Peter Jackson to produce the R-rated flick pretty much off the radar, and with no stars he was able to do so pretty much undeterred. Costing just $30M, District 9 favoured viral marketing over traditional methods and early word of mouth began to build after 20 minutes were screened at Showest in March. Since then the film has slowly crept into cinema goer's consciousness and with practically all the summer blockbusters out of the way, it was time for District 9 to strike and strike hard.

District 9 was an unknown quantity before release - while it looked good it also had no stars to hang the film off, it was R-rated and it had a solid sci-fi grounding. All things that could have buried it once the fan boys had been fed. A strong Friday (preceded by some stunning reviews) helped the film achieve a solid $14M and build up from there, recouping its production after just three days on general release in one part of the world. Using our standard method of estimating, District 9 only needs to see $60M, in one territory, before it starts making a real profit - a task it should manage with ease just from its US take. The film and Blomkamp were already stars by Friday night so where the film goes from here is of little consequence. It's got some competition in the guise of Inglourious Basterds next weekend but expect District 9 to have a solid hold (and maybe even retain the top spot). Will Microsoft live to regret pulling the plug on Blomkamp's Halo? Come Monday, he probably won't need to even take their call. District 9 is our number one film this weekend.

G.I Joe got off to a much stronger start than many had predicted (analysts, critics, hell even the studio pegged it in the low $40Ms) even when the actual figures were issued on Monday (Joe ended up with $52M). How would it favour against the demographically similar District 9? Quite poorly is the answer, with a nasty 68% Friday to Friday drop (which is no great surprise given the frontloading involved here). The film debuted at a number of foreign locations last weekend too and is currently seeing similar numbers to its domestic tally. If it's not hit $100M when actuals are issued on Monday, it should see it by late Monday night. For Joe, it needed a decent second frame for while there's not much in the way of big names in the film, its huge effects numbers pushed the budget up to $175M. Factoring in prints and advertising (and Joe has been everywhere for the last three weeks at least) means this one probably did cost another $175M to market. While a sequel has already been put into development, the jury is still out on whether GI Joe's final take will be anywhere near the $350M it needs to see.

Our second new release is the adaptation of the acclaim novel The Time Traveller's Wife. Its path to the screen has not been a smooth one, with delays and reshoots plaguing the production. Marketing the film, Warner Bros were keen to shy away from the darker elements of the story, but perhaps a step too far with many fans wondering whether this was the film of the book they loved or an attempt to make The Notebook 2. Reviews for this one weren't kind (though not as bad as The Ugly Truth) and its had to face off against the popular Julie & Julia, and to a lesser degree, The Ugly Truth. Thankfully for the Time Traveller's Wife, the fans of the book did decide to take a chance on the flick, helping it score $19.2M in the process. Next weekend it won't see any increased competition but will need to rely heavier on the word of mouth from the non-fans to keep it in the top five and not leapfrogging Julie & Julia down the charts.

Thanks to a clever bit of alternate programming, Julie & Julia got off to a strong start, ending last weekend with an impressive $20M. This weekend it takes a knock from The Time Traveller's Wife but still managed an ok Friday to Friday drop of around 44%. This one reviewed better than a number of films currently in the top ten and was able to rope in some of the older female demographic that films like The Ugly Truth were probably unable to entice. Expect this one to hang around for a while.

G-Force is still the number one family choice this weekend (Ponyo managed a small but impressive 800 location count) as it edges closer to the $100M mark. When you factor in its potential around the rest of the world there's a strong chance we're looking at a $200M finisher here.

Jerry Piven toplines The Goods, an R-rated comedy that wasn't on anyone's radar a month ago. As one analyst put it, it's like someone forgot the film had even been made until they suddenly found it in their store rooms, finished and awaiting release. While the hype machine rolled into action it didn't quite have enough time to translate to a decent opening, especially up against the similarly R-rated District 9. It'll get another weekend in the top ten before becoming something of a cult on DVD.

The Ugly Truth will surpass the takings of Katherine Heigl's previous film, 28 Dresses, some time on Monday and end up with around $90M by the time it leaves theatres. The Grey's Anatomy star already has two more films in various states of production. The sixth Harry Potter movie is now the fourth most successful of the series and only needs to add another $12M to slot into second place, a figure it should achieve over the next few weeks. In terms of overall global box office, the film currently sits on $822M and only Up and Transformers: RotF have taken more money.

With John Lasseter now firmly in place at the head of both Pixar and Disney, he in the position to push the latest Miyazaki release into over 900 locations, the widest ever release in the US for one of his films. Reviews for the film have been pretty much stellar (as expected) and that's also helped the film break into the mainstream and the top ten. Having already taken $185M throughout the rest of the world, it's got nothing to prove in terms of box office but goes someway to show that traditional animation is far from dead in the age of CGI. Hopefully the film will expand further in the coming weeks. When you compare it to Bandslam, a Summit release starring High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens that's in over 2,100 locations and didn't break into the top ten, you start to see just how successful Ponyo has been.

Rom-Com [500] Days of Summer rounds us out this weekend and with three other romantic films in the top ten, all of which are in far more locations, it's doing well (especially when you consider we've had five new releases this weekend). The indie production has so far made over $17M.

Outside the top ten, the aforementioned Bandslam fell flat on its face with a no.13 chart position and just $2.3M. Even tagging the film with the new trailer for Twilight: New Moon couldn't get people in to see it. (or fans snuck in to see the trailer having paid for their Time Traveller's Wife/Julie & Julia ticket). One other film of note is Funny People - it debuted at number one just two weeks ago and in its third weekend of release has already left the top ten, having made just $45M.

[Please excuse any errors, I'm literally out the door]

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