Sunday 19 June 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 17th - 19th June 2011

1. Green Lantern - $52.7M - $52.7M
2. Super 8 - $21.3M - $72.8M
3. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $18.2M - $18.2M
4. X-Men: First Class - $11.5M - $119.9M
5. The Hangover Part II - $9.6M - $232.6M
6. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $8.7M - $143.3M
7. Bridesmaids - $7.4M - $136.8M
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $6.2M - $220M
9. Midnight In Paris - $5.2M - $21.7M
10. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer - $2.2M - $11.1M

This weekend we have something of an unknown quantity in the guise of Warner Bros. Green Lantern. The film is based on a DC Comics character whose origins stretch back to 1940 when he debuted in an issue of All-American Comics. The character and story were devised by Bill Finger (writer) and Martin Nodell (artist) and is set in a universe policed by Green Lanterns - beings who each possess a ring enabling the user great power over the physical world, providing they have the willpower to wield it. Alan Scott was the first Green Lantern featured but would find himself replaced by Hal Jordan when the comic was revived in 1959. While there have been other Green Lantern related characters since, Jordan has remained a firm favourite well into the 2000s.

An idea for a film version has been bandied around since at least 1997 when Warner Bros asked Kevin Smith to write a script. Smith declined and Warners would later move to retool the story as a comedy. By 2004 a script was in place and Jack Black had been assigned to the lead role but this idea was subsequently scrapped after widespread fan outrage. WB then hired Greg Berlanti to direct and co-write the story, focusing on the 1970/80s Green Lantern characterisation, but he would leave the project in December 2008, paving the way for Martin Campbell to join the film as director in February of 2009. The casting of Hal Jordan saw a number of actors suggested including Bradley Cooper and Justin Timberlake but the role would ultimately go to Ryan Reynolds, who it was said, had to choose between Green Lantern or an X-Men: Deadpool spin off (Reynolds had portrayed the popular character in the X-Men: Wolverine film). Reynolds chose Lantern and the rest of the cast were quickly populated by Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard.

After some delays and test footage shooting, filming began in March of 2010. With the amount of post production work required the release date of December 2010 was quickly dismissed for a June 2011 date. Even then, Warner Bros had to invest a further $9M to get all of the film's special effects shots completed in time. The initial trailer disappointed many and resulted in the studio's worldwide head of marketing issuing a statement blaming the lack of finished effects on some of the more epic shots as to the reason why the trailer lacked the 'Wow' factor. Subsequent trailers and footage met with a much more positive reaction but the studio were still faced with the task of selling the story to the general public - no easy feat given the complex make up of the story (part of which is set on another planet). There was also no getting away from the fact that the Green Lantern wasn't a mainstream comic book character like a Spider-man or Batman. To combat this the studio threw a rumoured $100M at promoting the film (bringing the total production cost to $300M).

While trailers had got progressively better, reviews weren't anywhere near as favourable, leaving Green Lantern with a current 'rotten' rating of just 23%. The film got off to a decent start on Friday, taking in $21.6M (slightly better than X-Men: First Class' first Friday haul of $21.3M but behind Thor's $25.4M - a film which Green Lantern has much in common). Come Sunday the film had a three day take of $52.7M, which given the nature of the project, isn't that bad but is even lower than WB's already downsized expectations. The gross, had the film not had the 3D ticket surcharge, isn't worth thinking about. More worrying for the studio is the fact that the film lost business from Friday to Saturday (down a high 22%) which could be a sign that negative word of mouth is already taking hold - the fans and the curious obviously turning out Friday. The film needs a really good hold next frame otherwise it risks a sub-$120M finish, and that would be nothing short of disastrous.

Our other major release this weekend sees Jim Carrey returning to comedy, family comedy in fact, as Mr Popper in Mr Popper's Penguins. The film is a modern reworking of the childhood classic (still used in schools in the US today) and sees Carrey as a divorced businessman who learns a number of life lessons when he inherits six penguins. Ben Stiller was originally set for the lead role, and both Owen Wilson and Jack Black (along with Jim Carrey) were also in the running at one point. Carrey has struggled a little in recent years with his last major hits being 2005's Fun with Dick & Jane and 2008's Yes Man. In the interim he appeared in the critically acclaimed (but barely released in the US) I Love You, Philip Morris, and Robert Zemekis disappointing Christmas Carol. Mr Popper's Penguins thrusts him right back into the family market where he's seen previous success with Lemony Snicket, Horton Hears a Who and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The budget for the production clocked in at $65M and the film shot through late 2010 and into early 2011. For a family film, marketing has been fairly low key (at least in comparison to other family orientated flicks) with the first trailer appearing in late March. Reviews were distinctly average with the film currently sitting on a 45% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Competition exists in the guise of the four week old Kung Fu Panda 2, but at this point its impact on the penguins would be limited. The film opened Friday to a very soft $6.4M, but things did improve over Saturday and into Sunday, though not as well as hoped for (low Saturday matinee numbers apparently to blame for that). $18.2M is an ok start providing the film can build on that figure well next frame, but with Cars 2 opening Friday Mr Popper's Penguins may not get that chance.

After a solid start last weekend, Super 8 found itself down 50% on a Friday to Friday basis (39% overall). The well received J.J Abrams film did good weekday business, hitting $4.2M on Tuesday and by Thursday it had crossed the $50M mark - the same figure as the film cost to produce. Green Lantern will have impacted the film in its second frame but that fall isn't bad at all and seems to prove that word of mouth on the film is strong. It won't face direct competition next weekend (Bad Teacher and Cars 2) but the week after comes the behemoth that is Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Internationally the film has barely scratched the surface, having taken $8.6M from a handful of locations. To save money on the release it appears that Paramount have chosen to stagger the film's worldwide release (The UK for example, won't see Super 8's release until August) in a hope to utilise the prints currently in use in US cinemas - a potentially risky move given the nature of film piracy these days. All things said, this will be a solid hit for the studio who took something of a chance on the secretive, no-star, project.

Facing off against Green Lantern saw X-men: First Class drop 52% this frame. The Matthew Vaughn film is unlikely to see $150M domestically but internationally things look a bit better with the film already coming close to the aforementioned figure. At this point the film is a cert to finish as the lowest grossing of the X-men series but for what is essentially a complete reboot, it will not embarrass itself. Whether Fox agree and push forward with the 'first' sequel remains to be seen.

The Hangover Part 2 hits $232M this weekend, an impressive figure but still some way behind the $277M finish of the first film [The $225M finishing figure quoted last weekend was incorrect.]. The film still has a few top ten weeks in it yet but will face R-rated competition in the guise of Bad Teacher next weekend. At the time of writing the international tally for the comedy sequel is slightly trailing the domestic one, and sits at around $220M.

The other R-rated comedy in the top ten, Bridesmaids, sheds around 465 locations this weekend but still manages a $7.4M take. That figure is down 26% from last weekend and doesn't rule out the film finishing with well over $150M in the bank. When the film opens up internationally expect a similarly strong showing. Like the original Hangover flick back in 2009, Bridesmaids has seen some of the best word of mouth of any film this year.

As mentioned earlier, Kung Fu Panda 2 will have been competition for Mr Popper's Penguins this frame but how much of an impact it had will have been limited. The Jack Black voiced film just can't seem to get a break and finds itself down another 47% in this, its fourth frame on release. While the film should recoup its production budget in the coming days, Pixar's Cars 2 will all but finish it off in the next frame. On Stranger Tides sheds a further 691 screens (some of which will be 3D ones, to make way for Green Lantern) this weekend as it prepares to leave the top ten shortly. The pirate adventure has now made over $220M but will be seen by many as a domestic disappointment. Internationally the film crossed $700M in the last week and a total global finish of over $1 billion is on the cards.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris drops a place thanks to the new releases this weekend. The comedy managed to add another $5M from what is a still a limited location count (1038) and looks like being the third biggest film of Allen's career, behind Annie Hall ($38) and Hannah And Her Sisters ($40M). Having had a lacklustre start last weekend, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer drops 63% this week. It will leave the top ten still some way short of its $20M production budget.

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