Monday 6 June 2011

US Box Office - 6th - 8th November 2009

1. A Christmas Carol - $31M - $31M
2. This Is It - $14M - $57.9M
3. The Men Who Stare At Goats - $13.3M - $13.3M
4. The Fourth Kind - $12.5M - $12.5M
5. Paranormal Activity - $8.6M - $97.4M
6. The Box - $7.9M - $7.9M
7. Couples Retreat - $6.4M - $95.9M
8. Law Abiding Citizen - $6.1M - $60.8M
9. Where the Wild Things Are - $4.2M - $69.2M
10. Astroboy - $2.5M - $15M

Two years after Beowulf hit screens, Robert Zemekis returns with A Christmas Carol, another movie utilising the revolutionary motion capture method he pioneered on The Polar Express. This time going for a more traditional story, Jim Carrey stars as Marley and the three visiting ghosts of past, present and future, with Gary Oldman and Bob Hoskins, amongst others rounding out the cast. Traditionally festive movies open around Thanksgiving but Disney have wisely moved the film up a few weeks in part to miss Twilight: New Moon's release and to score as many 3D enabled screens for as long as possible before James Cameron's Avatar opens on December 18th.

The film has opened better than both of Zemekis' previous motion capture movies but is still on the low side of expectations (especially given the rumoured $200M budget and early weekend predictions of $50M) but A Christmas Carol was never going to be strictly about opening weekend - it's in for the long haul and with the exception of a few upcoming films, should have the family market to itself. It should also find itself the film of choice for a Thanksgiving family cinema visit. A Christmas Carol had a wide release, over 3600 locations, but with not all of them 3D enabled there's a strong chance that some people will wait it out to catch the film in 3D, similar to how they did with Beowulf. The long haul in the case of A Christmas Carol won't just be this year either - like A Nightmare Before Christmas and The Polar Express, expect the film to be rolled out around the end of November for a few years to come. Next weekend's drop will give us a clearer picture on what kind of figure we can expect A Christmas Carol to achieve but for now it has won the weekend.

This Is It tumbled 48% from Friday to Friday which for a front loaded concert movie isn't actually too bad (the Jonas Brothers Concert Movie would have killed for this weekend's figure, let alone the opening frame figure), especially with the film performing well on the international market. Sony has pretty much recouped the price the movie footage cost it to purchase and has made headway into the marketing and printing costs too. When all is said and done (album of the movie, extended DVD release, extended cinematic run) this will become a very profitable venture for Sony. One wouldn't rule out a straight to DVD sequel either given that over 100 hours of rehearsal footage was edited down to create This Is It's 2 hour cinematic release.

The Men Who Star at Goats began the weekend in fourth place but picked up somewhat over Saturday and Sunday to end up where it did. It's hard to say if this was because the film began to break out via word of mouth or whether A Fourth Kind saw a decline in the same time frame. The George Clooney comedy was a difficult one to market, starting with the title and moving on to the subject - a military division that intends to use psychic powers as a weapon against the enemy (based on Jon Ronson's true story of the same name). Trailers played up the comedy and the co-stars, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges seemingly channelling The Dude, and Ewan McGregor, playing what one assumes is the Ronson role, but reviews didn't push the film to the unsure and word of mouth is bordering on average. Budget details weren't available at the time of writing but one assumes this cost around $50M, leaving Goats with some work to do. Thankfully Clooney is picking up a strong international following which should see the film in profit.

Turning up about six weeks too late, The Fourth Kind's style echoes, in a number of ways, that of Paranormal Activity. Starring Milla Jovovich, The Fourth Kind is a dramatisation of true Dr/Patient interviews with a group of people who all claim to have been abducted by aliens. Reviews weren't kind but the film did manage to rope in some of Activity's audience who may have been hoping for a similar scare. The film opened quite strong on Friday given its lack of hype and major star on which to hang the film but word got round quickly and the film tumbled on Saturday and Sunday, ending up in fourth place for the weekend. Chances are The Fourth Kind cost little more than $15M to produce so a half decent drop next weekend should see the film having recouped both its production and marketing budget.

After being the box office darling for a number of weeks, Paranormal Activity sees the biggest fall of its release, but even that isn't much of a drop. The film teeters close to $100M now, and should achieve the figure some time during the coming week (it may actually have crossed $100M this weekend were it not for the increased competition from The Fourth Kind and The Box). As if that wasn't amazing enough, the film has still yet to see any kind of international release were it could easily be looking at another $100M.

Richard Kelly's The Box has been delayed for almost as long as Where The Wild Things Are. The film began shooting some time during the summer of 2007 but was continually bounced around the release schedule, being pushed back almost a year at one point. Cameron Diaz stars as one half of a couple who are one day visited by a mysterious man with a box - he tells them that he'll give them $1M dollars if they'll press the button on top of the box - the catch is that someone they have never met will die as result. Based on a short story by Richard Matheson (which had been filmed once before for a Twilight Zone episode), The Box got off to a low but better than expected start on Friday but got stung mainly by the new releases and the existing Paranormal Activity. Furthermore, while the film was screened for critics, it appears that Warner Bros didn't really want them to know it was available to review (only 62 critics have so far given there opinion according to Rotten Tomatoes), which is odd given than it isn't a total critical disaster. It's unlikely The Box will still be in the top ten in a fortnight's time and will need to rely on any kind of international release to help shore things up. Another disappointment for Richard Kelly whose previous film Southland Tales took just as long to complete & release but performed much worse.

Couples Retreat also sits close to the edge of $100M as it furthers its expansion into major foreign locations. All told this should end up being a $200M release for Universal who are thanking their lucky stars for Vince Vaughn and Co. Faced with four new releases Law Abiding Citizen takes a decent drop down the charts but should manage another weekend in the top ten. From its $50M budget the film has so far made $60M and should top out with around $70M.

Sadly Where the Wild Things Are hasn't done any better this weekend and continues its free-fall. The Spike Jonze drama may just about manage $85M before exiting theatres, leaving Warner Bros to look elsewhere to make up the rest of the production and marketing budget. It's worth noting that $100M is the production buget on Wild Things but it is unclear whether this figure takes into account the extensive re-shoots that are rumoured to have taken place. Astroboy is still a long way from recouping its budget and this will have been its last weekend at a number of locations to such a thing. Just outside the top ten and as predicted last weekend, Saw VI left the top ten having made less than Saw III did during its opening weekend but Lionsgate already have Saw VII in 3D booked in for 22nd October next year.

One other film of note is Precious, a very limited release that is causing some potentially major ripples. At just 18 locations the film has managed a very strong $1.8M, giving it a record breaking $100k per screen average, and narrowly missing breaking into the top ten. Precious: Based on the book 'Push' by Sapphire (its full title) was executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry and stars Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique. It's also the film scoring Mariah Carey some impressive notices for her performance as a high school social worker.

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