Sunday, 26 June 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 24th - 26th June 2011

1. Cars 2 - $68M - $68M
2. Bad Teacher - $31M - $31M
3. Green Lantern - $18.4M - $89.3M
4. Super 8 - $12.1M - $95.2M
5. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $10.3M - $39.4M
6. X-Men: First Class - $6.6M - $132.8M
7. The Hangover Part II - $5.8M - $243.9M
8. Bridesmaids - $5.3M - $146.6M
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $4.7M - $229M
10. Midnight In Paris - $4.4M - $28.5M

We're about half way through blockbuster season now, with around a months worth of major releases still to come before we hit the choppy waters of August, noted as being something of a studio dumping ground. Next week marks the return of the Transformers, closely followed by the final part in the Harry Potter series. The rest of July brings us Cowboys & Aliens, Captain America and just inside August, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Back to this weekend and we have Pixar's Cars sequel sitting alongside the foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher, plus the second frame for Green Lantern, a film whose opening take was hotly debated well into the week.

Of all the Pixar films which are crying out for a sequel, Cars must rank as one of the more unlikely. The original film was the first critical disappointment for the studio but would still go on to make over $240M domestically (at the time of release, the lowest grossing Pixar film save for Toy Story and A Bug's Life, which were released 11 years and 8 years prior to 2006). Amongst the studio's adult fans, it often ranks the poorest of its releases yet is a firm favourite for the under 7s. It's that under seven market that created a reason for the sequel. The original film may have done fine at the box office but the accompanying (and subsequent) merchandising have made it one of Pixar's biggest ever money spinners, far out-grossing any other production, including the Toy Story series (Cars 2 is on track to generate some $10 billion in merchandise sales, where as Toy Story 3 scored around $2.8 billion). At the time of writing the original film has generated over $5 billion dollars in related merchandise sales. The studio may have been disappointed with the critical performance of the film but they can't argue with those figures.

So, outside of the film angle, a sequel to Cars makes perfect sense. Cars 2 was announced in 2008, along with a number of upcoming Pixar films (Up, the first to be released, The Brave due in 2012 and the aborted Newt). This is the point where things get a little mixed up - the film was set for release in 2010 but then pushed back to summer 2011 amid rumours of story problems. Pixar and Disney stated no release date was ever set so the film was not pushed back and in fact, Wikipedia still lists Cars 2's original release date as 2012 and that the film was in fact brought forward. What doesn't appear to be disputed are issues during the film's production with director Brad Lewis running into problems during 2010 that required John Lasseter to step in as co-director. Lasseter wasn't set to receive a credit for his work but ultimately wound up as director while Lewis was awarded co-director status.

The idea for the sequel came to Lasseter while he was on the worldwide promotional tour for the first film, leading him to wonder how the character 'Mater' would react to road rules and vehicles in other countries. Consequently this time around Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen takes a back seat to Mater, who finds himself mistaken for a secret agent while in Tokyo with McQueen for a Grand Prix. The action also takes place in Paris, Italy and London and sees the team joined by Michael Caine's Finn McMissile and Emily Mortimer's Holley Shiftwell, amongst many others. The look of the early trailers impressed but the story looked again to disappoint the older fans, with Mater's promotion to lead being a sticking issue with some.

With the exception of Cars, no Pixar film has had a lower approval rating than 96% (Cars hobbled to 74%). This week saw Cars 2 score the studio the lowest rating of its career at Rotten Tomatoes and its first ever film to be certified 'rotten' with a rating of just 34%. But would reviews really have that much effect on the film? Cars 2 is out at over 4,100 locations making it the widest release in the studio's history and it's up against next to no competition - Kung Fu Panda 2 struggled with no animated competition so was unlikely to cause a problem. As expected, reviews be damned - the Pixar sequel opened Friday to a strong $25.7M, that's $6M higher than what the original film opened with in June 2006 (and the studio's second best opening day behind Toy Story 3). Saturday's take was equally strong, thanks in part to morning matinees, and by Sunday it had a three day total of $68M. That puts the film well over Cars first weekend of $60.1M and in the same league as Up ($68M) and The Incredibles ($70M). Even if word of mouth is poor (and signs are pointing to the reviews being overly harsh) it's unlikely to affect the film to the same degree as it would a standard flick. By this time next weekend there's every chance Cars 2 will be sitting on a total of well over $110M.

After an underwhelming/expected/fine/flop-like start (delete depending on your own thoughts), Green Lantern was off a nasty 72% on a Friday to Friday basis (a slightly improved but still poor 65% for the weekend as a whole.) This second frame haul pretty much kills the film's chances of seeing even $130M in total domestic ticket sales. For WB, who pumped something in the region of $400M into bringing Hal Jordan to the big screen, this news is little short of disastrous. Transformers: Dark of the Moon will all but finish the film off next Wednesday. Internationally the film isn't fairing any better but does still have to open in a number of overseas locations - though word of mouth might kill the film before it even gets there.

Challenging Bridesmaids for the R-rated crowd this weekend is Bad Teacher, directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal and Justin Timberlake. Diaz plays the titular heroine, Elizabeth Halsey, who spends her days sleeping, drinking, getting high - basically anything but teach. When she's dumped by her wealthy fiancée she sets her sights on the new (and also rich) substitute teacher played by Justin Timberlake. Needing to raise money for a boob job which she hopes will impress the new sub, Halsey will go to any lengths which include bullying her class to do well on a test so she can win the best class exam results bonus.

The film's red band trailer actually debuted before the standard one and the studio appeared to be playing up the film's raunchier angle. Reviews were just below average with the film currently on a 46% approval rating. Bad Teacher debuted at just over 3,000 locations for a Friday haul of $12.1M (compared to Bridesmaids $7.8M). The aforementioned Bridesmaids is still a force to be reckoned with but by Sunday night the Diaz flick was sitting on an impressive total of $31M. All the better when you consider the film cost just $19M to produce. Bad Teacher should bypass competition next frame but will face another R-rated comedy in a fortnight in the guise of Horrible Bosses, though by that point, with a decent second frame hold, the film should have cleared more than double what it cost to produce.

Super 8 sees another decent hold this weekend as it edges towards $100M. The film's second frame drop was a decent 40%, followed this week by a 43% drop. Like Green Lantern, it's going to take a hit from Transformers 3 on Wednesday but that hardly matters at this point given the film cost just $50M to produce. Foreign receipts show the film has already made another $30M+ from around a third of overseas territories, meaning an international total over $100M is quite achievable.

To a lesser degree than Green Lantern, Mr Popper's Penguins also underperformed last weekend, though Fox were quick to point out that their own estimates were actually around $12M for the Jim Carry comedy (It ended up making $18M for the frame). A week later and with Cars 2 as direct family market competition the film found itself down a not bad 43% on its previous Friday (44% overall for the weekend). Mr Popper's Penguins should recoup its $55M production budget within a few weeks but probably won't see much more. Carrey has yet to announce his next project but recently commented that sequels to Bruce Almighty and Dumb and Dumber may be in the works.

X-Men: First Class crosses the $300M mark this weekend in total global ticket sales but is still being seen as something of a disappointment. With a US take of $132M, the mutant origin story looks likely to top out at around $148-150M - still some way short of the original film, which up until First Class was the lowest grossing of the series. This won't lose Fox any money (production costs are around $160M) but it also leaves the X-Men's future uncertain.

Shedding around 400 locations this frame is The Hangover Part 2. The hugely successful sequel adds another $5.8M this weekend but faced increased competition from Bad Teacher and the still popular Bridesmaids. While the film is unlikely to top the finishing figure of the first film domestically, it's already proving to be a bigger film overseas, where it has a running total of $256M (The overseas finish for the first film was $190M). Expect a $260M finished in North America.

It was inevitable with the release of Bad Teacher that Bridesmaids would see a higher drop than on previous weekends but even with that added competition the comedy finds itself down just 24% in this, its seventh weekend on general release. Shedding a further 552 locations this weekend, Bridesmaids looks to be heading for a stunning $160M finish. As an aside,the film still hasn't witnessed a frame to frame drop above 30%, an almost unheard of achievement in this day and age.

Almost certainly seeing its last weekend in the top ten is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. As in previous weeks, the domestic take isn't the story here but its performance on the international market (Current total at the time of writing : $742M). This week saw the film surpass the third biggest international film of all time (Return of the King) and now only Titanic and Avatar have amassed more money in that market place.

Rounding out the top ten is Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. The comedy added another $4.4M this weekend from a still limited location count to become the fourth biggest film of Allen's career.

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