Thursday, 16 June 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 20th - 22nd May 2011

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides -  $90.1M - $90.1M
2. Bridesmaids - $21M - $59.5M
3. Thor - $15.5M - $145.4M
4. Fast Five - $10.6M - $186.2M
5. Rio -  $4.7M - $131.6M
6. Priest - $4.6M - $23.8M
7. Jumping the Broom - $3.4M - $31.3M
8. Something Borrowed - $3.4M - $31.4M
9. Water for Elephants - $2.1M - $52.4M
10. Madea's Big Happy Family - $990K - $51.7M

While this weekend might seem a quiet one given there's just one new release, that release is amongst the biggest of 2011. No other studio wants to put a major title up against the return of Captain Jack Sparrow. Furthermore, Disney seemed intent on getting the film out to as many locations (4,100+), in as many formats as possible (Normal release, Imax, 3D and variations of the three).

On paper, the original Pirates of the Caribbean looked a bit of a joke. A swashbuckling romp based on a Disney theme park ride starring Johnny Depp, a man perhaps better known for his collaborations with Tim Burton and other quirky roles than mainstream blockbuster fare. Disney furnished the Jerry Bruckheimer project with a $140M budget (something of a risky move given the nature of the project) and hoped for the best, especially with Disney exec's being completely baffled by Depp's playing of Jack Sparrow, apparently drunk and/or channelling Keith Richards. They needn't have worried as the film soared, ultimately taking in over $600 million dollars in total ticket sales - with another chunk of money in related merchandise - and thrusting Depp firmly into the public eye. Disney opted to move forward with not one but two sequels, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. With hype running at fever pitch for the now established crew, Dead Man's Chest had a huge opening frame and would go on to make over $1 billion dollars in total ticket sales. But, while the sequel had made more money, it had left many disappointed. Critically, things didn't improve with the third film, which was arguably even more convoluted than the second, but box office wise, it was another scorcher for the studio, making $963M. Again, these figures exclude home version sales or any related merchandise, which could have added a further $500M to both film's bottom lines.

Which brings us 2011 and the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. For this fourth film, Disney opted to take a book and adapt it to fit into the Pirate's universe, sending Jack Sparrow on a quest for the fountain of youth. Being the biggest draw, Depp's decision to return almost certainly greenlit the production. Gore Verbinski, Director of the first three films, would not return, Rob Marshall taking his place. Also absent, but on the other side of the camera, were Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, whose storyline had seemingly concluded with the third film (it's debatable whether the pair would have returned for a fourth film, but both chose to rule themselves out before the studio potentially had the chance to do so). New blood came in the guise of Ian Mcshane's Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz, as an old flame of Jack Sparrow's. The budget for the film is pegged at around $250M, cheaper than the the estimated $525M combined budget of the previous two films, which were shot back to back.

Reviews for On Stranger Tides were mixed, with the film's Rotten Tomatoes rating at 35%, being the lowest of the series so far (Pearl was 78%, Dead Man's Chest 54% and At World's End 44%). As mentioned earlier, Disney opted to put the film out at as many locations as possible, while simultaneously opening the film around the world (some places saw the film debut Wednesday, others on Friday). Opening day the film did $35M, trailing the $55M and the $42M made by the second and third films, but still the biggest single day take this year. As the weekend wore on the film stepped things up, finishing with $90M. Again, in terms of performance that puts the film in third place, ahead of Curse of The Black Pearl, but was probably at the lower end of Disney's expectations.

Nothing really went wrong but it seems that cinema-goers recalled the disappointment of the previous two films, combined with the high price of tickets (especially in Imax and 3D), and didn't attend in as high a number. While some will see this as a sign that the series should have been let go, it's still a mightily impressive figure. Internationally the film exploded, taking a huge $250M over the last five days. Next weekend the film will face off against two new major releases, neither of which will directly affect the film but at the same time, can't be discounted to have some kind of impact. On Stranger Tides second frame will be telling as to how high (or low) the film may ultimately go.

So how did the rest of the top ten shape up?

After surprising many by opening to $22M last weekend (which in turn ended up being over $26M when actuals were issued), Bridesmaids drops a stunning 20% a week later. Word of mouth on the Kristen Wiig/Rose Byrne comedy is white hot and with such a strong second frame it seems the film continues to break out of its Female 18-30 demographic. Made for $32M, Bridesmaids recouped that figure last Tuesday and crossed $50M some time on its second Saturday. While On Stranger Tides impacted it a little this frame, The Hangover 2 next weekend will surely affect the film. All things being equal, it's quite rare for a film to see such a small second frame drop, especially a comedy.

After an acceptable second frame drop (amongst the stronger for a Superhero flick), Thor drops a further 55%. Of the films in the top ten, it was most likely to have been affected by Jack Sparrow's return but one can't rule out Fast Five, which is still doing decent business. The Marvel comic book adaptation should cross the $150M mark by the middle of this week, hitting $250M on the global market sooner. Unfortunately, it looks a lot like Thor won't see $200M domestically, especially with the upcoming competition (chances are it'll hit single figure takes next weekend) but it has already surpassed the final totals of both Hulk films. Box Office Mojo have this one costing $150M to produce so Paramount should do ok out of the film, better if they've retained international distribution rights.

Fast Five, now in its fourth weekend on general release, still manages a double digit finish. With the film having crossed the $185M barrier this frame, $200M is looking increasingly like a sure thing, though perhaps not for another fortnight. Like Thor, internationally the film is still going up a storm, $320M and counting - making Fast Five a simply stunning half a billion dollar concern.

Rio's grip on the family market comes to an end next weekend with the release of Kung Fu Panda 2. The South American based CGI comedy had a solid start and continued to do well thanks to next to no competition, crossing $100M by its third weekend. Internationally the film crossed $300M in the last few days, giving it a global ticket sale total of around $430M.

After a lacklustre start last weekend, Priest tumbled a pretty shocking 75% on a Friday to Friday basis (68% for the weekend overall). The Paul Bettany futuristic vampire flick cost at least $60M to bring to the screen and it will only see another weekend in the top ten thanks to there being just two new releases next frame. Internationally the film is performing fractionally better but there's little chance Priest will make money theatrically.

Something Borrowed and Jumping The Broom continue to stick together like glue, swapping chart positions throughout the week. Borrowed has pulled slightly ahead but has still yet to recoup its production budget. Jumping The Broom saw its budget come and go within its first frame, leaving studio Tristar more than happy with any further money it has taken.

Rounding us out is drama Water For Elephants and Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. Elephants crossed $50M during this frame and will top out at around $60M by the end of its theatrical run. Internationally it's so far hauled in $36M. Big Happy Family also crossed the $50M threshold this weekend and while it has doubled its production budget, it'll go down as one of the lower grossing Tyler Perry flicks.

Just outside the top ten is Midnight in Paris, the latest directorial effort from Woody Allen. The film saw a very strong $578k from just six locations - good enough for a twelve place finish.

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