Sunday, 31 July 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 29th - 31st July 2011

1. The Smurfs - $36.2M - $36.2M
1. Cowboys & Aliens - $36.2M - $36.2M
3. Captain America: The First Avenger - $24.9M - $116.8M
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II - $21.9M - $318.5M
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love. - $19.2M - $19.2M
6. Friends With Benefits - $9.3M - $38.2M
7. Horrible Bosses - $7.1M - $96.2M
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $5.9M - $337.8M
9. Zookeeper - $4.2M - $68.7M
10. Cars 2 - $2.3M - $182M

[In a near unprecedented case of events, both Sony and Universal issued the exact same figure for their new releases, Cowboys & Aliens and The Smurfs. The actual winner will now be decided Monday evening when the 'actuals' are issued. Apologies if this report seems more a mess than usual, it's gone through a vast number of re-writes.]

And so we come to the end of July and the studios are once again playing mix and match, offering three new films and hoping there'll be something for everyone. We've got the second frame for Captain America, which toppled the mighty Harry Potter last frame, and you can bet the boy wizard will be hoping to make up that lost ground this weekend. But the best laid plans....

The Smurfs (in 3D) is aimed squarely at the family market. Having first appeared way back in 1958, The Smurfs was a creation of cartoonist Peyo. Appearing first in comic book form, the characters would go on to be a global phenomenon, appearing across a wide range of media over the years, including a TV show in the early 80s and two films, one back in 1965 and another in 1976 entitled The Smurfs and The Magic Flute. Work on a modern version began in 1997 when producer Jordan Kerner wrote to The Smurfs licensing agent Lafig Belgium in an effort to obtain the rights to produce a film. It would take five years before the rights were granted, and only after the Peyo estate had witnessed and been impressed by Kerner's work on Charlotte's Web. The original idea was to create a completely CGI film but when the right were acquired from Paramount/Nickelodeon by Sony, the idea of a Live action and CGI film (a la Alvin & The Chipmunks) was put on the table. With a budget of $110M, principal photography kicked off in March of 2010, with Hank Azaria taking on the role of the Smurfs nemesis Gargamel, and Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays as a couple with whom the Smurfs take refuge. As is standard these days with CGI films, the film would be a 3D presentation.

Trailers weren't promising and reviews were equally poor, with the film currently sitting on a 19% approval rating. But then something happened that analysts hadn't predicted - The Smurfs opened Friday with a higher take than the sure to be no.1 Cowboys & Aliens (more in a moment). With little competition from Winnie The Pooh and Cars 2, The Smurfs all but had the family market to itself. When you add in the higher priced 3D tickets and the fact that Cowboys & Aliens would be sparring with Captain America (each cutting into the other's market) it starts to explain how the film got an early break on the new release. As the weekend wore on the two main new releases struggled back and forth resulting in both of them claiming the no.1 spot, something that hasn't really happened since 2002's Lilo & Stitch Vs Minority Report. The $36.2M opening puts The Smurfs in line with Hop and Rio earlier in the year, and with little competition in the coming weeks (excluding Spy Kids 4, and that's aimed more at the 8-12 market), the film has a good chance of having decent legs. Whichever way things go, the film has a solid start towards that $110M budget.

Jon Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. The story first came to light in 1997 when Scott Mitchell Rosenberg pitched a concept whose film rights were purchased by Universal/Dreamworks. The studios hired Steve Oedekerk to write and direct the project but by 1998 he had left to work on the [to be] aborted Jim Carrey film, The Incredible Mr Limpet. The rights were then purchased by Columbia who would team up with Universal/Dreamworks to bring the concept to the screen. Robert Downey Jnr bought the project to the attention of Jon Favreau while the two were working on Iron Man 2. The director jumped aboard and things moved forward, but lost Downey Jnr in the process due to the star's commitments to a Sherlock Holmes sequel. Daniel Craig signed on shortly after, followed by Harrison Ford in April 2010 and Olivia Wilde, taking on the role of female lead. With a project so long in development it was inevitable that a number of screenwriters would have contributed to various versions of the screenplay and indeed, the final film is credited to five different writers, including Lost's Damon Lindelof, with at least a further three uncredited.

The film itself is set in Arizona, circa 1873, and sees a cowboy (Craig) awaken with no memories of how he got were he is, the mystery further deepened by him having a strange device strapped to his wrist. Upon returning to a local town he discovers he's a wanted man, with Ford's Colonel Dolarhyde ready to take him in. But before anything can be done about the situation, the place is attacked by of alien crafts and a number of townspeople are abducted, leaving Craig's Jake Lonergan and Dolarhyde to put their differences aside and figure out what's going on. Initial trailers caught many off guard with their dark tone, more so to those who were expecting an action comedy. Hype built through the summer and a few weeks back Favreau announced the film would actually debut at Comic-Con, a week before its nationwide roll out. Reviews weren't great, leaving the film with a 42% approval rating at RottenTomatoes. Favreau is coming off the back of two hugely successful Iron Man films while Craig is somewhat unproven outside of James Bond. Ford meanwhile, has struggled in the last few years, and apart from the fourth Indiana Jones film, hasn't had a film gross above $50M since 2000's What Lies Beneath.

Going into the weekend there was little to stop Cowboy & Aliens taking the top spot but the word to look out for there is 'little'. Friday saw the film score just under $13M, losing narrowly to The Smurfs. On paper that doesn't seem much of an issue but almost straight away it meant Cowboys & Aliens looked to be heading for a lower end of expectations kind of weekend. With a budget rumoured to be around $160M, this wasn't what the studios wanted to hear. Things kept steady over the remainder of the weekend resulting in a tie for the no.1 position. While this isn't bad news for the Smurfs, it is for Cowboys & Aliens which was not only expected to win the frame comfortably but do so with $45M+. As Box Office Guru mentioned on Twitter, the no.1 spot in this case is simply PR, the fact of the matter is that Cowboys & Aliens underperformed and The Smurfs was stronger than expected. We look now to Monday night, but going into the next frame Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens needs a strong hold to avoid being a disaster.

Having knocked Harry Potter off the top spot last weekend, Captain America had to face off against Cowboys & Aliens and found itself down a high 61% on its opening frame. The film had opened well, narrowly losing out to Thor as the best performing super hero flick of 2011 once actuals were issued last Monday - and by Thursday Captain America had pulled ahead of X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and the aforementioned Thor's grosses in the same time frame, by over $5M. The film made $100M sometime early Saturday but finishes its second weekend just behind Thor's total at the same point in its release, with that takings drop being a potential cause for concern. With a better hold next frame the film should be within grasping distance of its $140M production budget and still has the vast majority of worldwide locations in which to open. Captain America marks Paramount's sixth $100M+ grossing film in a row, something that has never before been achieved by any studio in cinematic history.

With a huge 72% overall drop last frame, not to mention losing the top spot, things didn't seem all that rosy for Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows pt.2. Indeed, it really did seem as though all the fans had shown up that first weekend, leaving the film somewhat decimated seven days later. A week on things look a fair bit healthier. By Thursday, only the film's fourteenth day on general release, it had become the third biggest Harry Potter film in the series history, surpassing the $295M finish of Hallows Pt.1. Friday saw the film hit $300M domestically, with a further $626M from the overseas market. By Sunday, Deathly Hallows Pt.2 had become the biggest film in the entire franchise, domestically, finally besting the long standing $317M made by Philosopher's Stone, the first film. Figures aren't yet available but there's a strong chance the film also crossed the $1 billion mark in total global ticket sales. At this point Transformers: Dark of the Moon is still the biggest film of 2011 but that's now in its fifth week on general release and is unlikely to see much more than $350M, giving Potter a chance at further glory. It's now only a matter of time before the film becomes only the ninth film to ever cross the $1 billion mark in total global ticket sales.

Our final new entry is the romantic drama Crazy, Stupid, Love, starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Julianne Moore. The film sees Cal Weaver's (Carell) perfect life unravel when his wife (Moore) confesses that she has had an affair. With divorce on the cards, he has to once again venture into the murky world of dating. Fortunately he meets ladies man, Jacob Palmer (Gosling) who helps him regain his confidence. Trouble comes knocking though, when Palmer falls for Emma Stone's Hannah, and Cal starts to wonder if he should try and make things work with his wife or move forward with new girl Kate, played by Marisa Tomei.

Of the new release this weekend, Crazy, Stupid, Love easily reviewed the best but found itself in an awkward selling position. Should it promote Carell's everyman to the older market or try for a younger crowd with Gosling and Stone? Essentially it would need to span both, but with Friends With Benefits having sewn up the later market, would the film have enough demographic left to break out? Friday the film managed a decent $6.6M, good enough for fifth place. Over the remainder of the frame it performed fairly consistently, finishing up Sunday with $19.2M, out-performing Friends With Benefits' opening weekend. A film like this tends to see good weekday business too, as couples who don't need to rush out on Friday night see it as a mid week date movie. A solid start for the romantic drama.

Facing competition from Crazy, Stupid, Love saw Friends with Benefits off 50% in its second frame. The Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake comedy got off to a pretty good start last frame and that, along with decent weekday takes helped the film recoup its $35M production budget by late Saturday/early Sunday. With six films due over the next two weekends, it's unlikely to see much more top ten time and that may ultimately stop it from besting No String's Attached $70M finish. Next up for TImberlake is the Logan's Run style thriller In Time, while Kunis will appear with Jason Segel's in The Muppets in November.

Horrible Bosses sheds around 600 locations this frame, but edges desperately close to $100M. This frame the R-rated comedy added a further $7.1M to bring its running total to a healthy $96.2M - and all from a budget of just $35M. Even with it potentially dropping out of the top ten in the next fortnight, Horrible Bosses should see a $120M. Jason Bateman returns next weekend in The Change-Up. After getting hit with Captain America last weekend, Transformers: Dark of the Moon faced off against Cowboys & Aliens this frame. At this point the Michael Bay flick has pretty much run its course and should finish up just north of $350M. In total global ticket sales the film is now the best performing of the trilogy and like Deathly Hallows Pt.2, stands a good chance of grossing over $1 billion.

Zookeeper adds a further $4.2M to its total this weekend but the Kevin James comedy is all but done. Having disappointed during its opening frame the film never really got chance to get back up and while it won't lose Sony any money in the long term, one assumes they'd hoped the film would have had a bit more staying power.

Rounding us out is Pixar's Cars 2, hitting $180M this weekend. A $195M finish is on the cards, narrowly surpassing Toy Story's original theatrical run. Good news for the film comes from its international take, $173M and counting, with a number of foreign locales still awaiting the film's release.

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