Monday 6 June 2011

US Box Office - 9th - 11 th October 2009

1. Couples Retreat - $35.3M - $35.3M
2. Zombieland - $15M - $47.8M
3. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - $12M - $96.2M
4. Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3-D - $7.6M - $22.6M
5. Paranormal Activity - $7.2M - $8.2M
6. Surrogates - $4.1M - $32.5M
7. The Invention of Lying - $3.3M - $12.3M
8. Whip It - $2.8M - $8.7M
9. Capitalism: A Love Story - $2.7M - $9M
10. Fame - $2.5M - $20M

After the large number of new releases in the last frame we've got just Couples Retreat in this one. Some analysts have put that down to other studios wanting to avoid putting up a new release against the star-studded PG-13 comedy. This also gave a little breathing room to last weekend's releases, and films like Whip It and The Invention of Lying will be glad of that. Couples Retreat features Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman, alongside Kristen Bell and Kristen Davis, heading out on a tropical vacation, only to realise the marriage rebuilding exercises one couple have signed up for are mandatory for the entire group. While there's no shortage of names in the cast, along with a pleasing locale, Universal didn't step up the hype until quite recently (just one full trailer and clips) and one wonders if they were trying to steer clear of over saturation before the film was released.

Universal needed a solid hit from this one, they're seriously lagging behind the major studios this summer and have seen sure-fire hit after hit become little more than a footnote (Drag Me to Hell, Funny People, Land of the Lost, Duplicity and Public Enemies all under performed with costs ranging from $20-100M). First signs are good, with Couples Retreat seeing $35M from its first three days on general release. That's probably around studio expectations given the talent and lack of competition, especially when you consider that Vaughn opened 2004's Dodgeball to $30M and The Break-Up to $39M. Reviews for Couples Retreat were horrifically bad but for a film such as this they rarely matter - people will have been sold on the trailer and cast long before reviews started to filter through. Retreat now needs to hang in there and rack up some decent weekend to weekend drops to recoup its $50M+ budget. Universal are breathing a sigh of relief but not counting their chickens just yet.

Surprise hit Zombieland dropped a slightly higher than expected 49% from Friday to Friday but recovered somewhat to finish the weekend down a very respectable 40%. For a horror movie that hold would have been practically unheard with 60%+ being the norm. Once you factor in the huge comedy element it evens out very well and shows that Zombieland really did get that balance just about right. The advantage Zombieland has over other releases is that it recouped its production budget last weekend, and with its weekday and second weekend take factored in, the film should be well into actual profit.

Having lost its 3D advantage to Toy Story last weekend, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs didn't collapse as quickly as some had predicted. In its fourth weekend on general release the film has managed to pretty much recoup its production budget and still has the vast majority of the international market awaiting its release. It'll take another hit next weekend up against the long-await Where The Wild Things Are... but Meatballs at this stage has little to be concerned about - especially given how it recovered after that slow opening weekend ($30M). Sony could be looking at a $250M film once all the ticket sales, both domestic and international, are counted.

The Toy Story double bill marketing gimmick (wink) opened well last week but could have seen more had the films been released separately, the extended running time playing a major factor for young families. As we discussed last weekend, this isn't an opportunity to make money but rather a test of the 3D technology that Pixar will be using on next year's Toy Story 3, and if reviews are anything to go by, it's been a resounding success. Toy Story leaves theatres on Thursday with its reputation not only in tact but enhanced a great deal too.

Arguably bigger news than Couples Retreat opening at no.1 is Paranormal Activity breaking in at no.5. The Blair Witch style horror movie is at just 159 locations (compare that to the 3000 of the no.1 film) and managed an astonished screen to take average of $45K, which may actually be a record. After languishing on the studio shelves for a couple of years (the film was shot in 2007) Paranormal Activity was receiving some great word of mouth thanks to its festival showings. After a long haul, the film opened at just 12 locations with the director launching an internet campaign to raise awareness to get the film in more locations. Last weekend it expanded to a still very limited 33 locations and this weekend the campaign managed to secure another 126 locations.

Word of mouth emerging from these screenings is nothing short of stunning and its success this weekend will surely guarantee a much wider roll out next weekend and perhaps an even higher finish. Bearing in mind that the film cost $15,000 to produce and probably another $250K to bring to the screen, we could well be looking at Blair Witch Style box office success. A big budget remake has already been put on ice. Paramount must tread with caution - leaving word of mouth too long without expanding the film may do it more damage in the long run than if it quickly expands. As we have seen before, people will only wait so long for a movie to appear in their local theatre before giving up and waiting for the DVD release.

Surrogates is all but done now, only a lack of new releases this weekend has stopped it falling further and harder. The Bruce Willis sci-fi thriller has just begun to expand overseas where Willis is still something of a big draw but it's facing a hell of an uphill struggle towards profitability.

The Invention of Lying stumbled somewhat last weekend and Couples Retreat in this frame has hurt it even more. Again, thanks to a lack of new releases it has probably seen a bit more money than it would have this weekend but it's still not much to shout about. This really did seems like a movie with the wrong release date and as a result is unlikely to see even $20M. Practically everything in the previous two sentences could be levelled at Whip It. The difference here is that Whip It reviewed very well while Invention of Lying was just above average. Chances are Whip It will be a casualty next weekend against the three new releases, while Lying should last another weekend.

Capitalism, the Michael Moore recession/banking documentary, failed to catch the public's attention like some of his previous work did. In fact, unless it enjoys a prolonged run at a limited location count, this'll be Moore's lowest grossing film since The Big One in 1998. Fame has recouped its $18M budget but that'll be little comfort to MGM who were hoping for big things from this remake. It'll now look to DVD in a hope of making some serious money.

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