Sunday 21 August 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 19th - 21st August 2011

1. The Help - $20.4M - $71.8M
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $16.3M - $133.8M
3. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World - $12M - $12M
4. Conan the Barbarian - $10M - $10M
5. The Smurfs - $9.8M - $117.7M
6. Fright Night - $8.3M - $8.3M
7. Final Destination 5 - $7.7M - $32.2M
8. 30 Minutes or Less - $6.3M - $25.7M
9. One Day - $5.1M - $5.1M
10. Crazy, Stupid, Love - $4.9M - $64.4M

August continues to bring us an odd collection of releases. This weekend a further four join the fray, a long-time-coming sequel, two remakes and a book adaptation. We've also got the second frame of The Help, a film which surprised last weekend and continued to perform better than expected during the week. With no clear front runner amongst the new releases there was also the very slim chance that Rise of the Planet of the Apes could see a third weekend at the top spot. As it turned out, it would not be a great week for the newcomers....

Last weekend Rise of the Planet of the Apes just about won the frame but found The Help was nipping at its heels. During the week the roles became reversed, with The Help besting the Apes at every turn - especially on Thursday when it dominated by over a million dollars. Going into the weekend The Help had nothing to lose, it had already recouped its production budget during opening weekend and wasn't directly threatened by any of the new releases. Come Friday morning the film was sitting on $51M and already showing signs of being the new 'Blind Side' (the little hyped Sandra Bullock drama from 2009 that went on to make $255M). By Friday night the flick had bested all of the new releases by at least a million and half dollars, setting itself up to take the top spot that had eluded it over the first frame. By Sunday, The Help had added $20M to its $51M total, giving it a twelve day running total of $71.8M. Word of mouth is still strong, though the film does seem to be strongly divided into absolutely love/absolutely hate. Either way, no one can argue with those figures and given the releases next frame, may even snatch another no.1 spot.

Meanwhile, Rise of the Planet of the Apes drops 41% in this, its third weekend on general release. The word of mouth is still helping sell the film both domestically and overseas and its performance this weekend against the four openers is testament to that. $150M is almost a forgone conclusion for the film, with a similar or even better figure abroad. Expect a sequel to be greenlit in the coming weeks.

The Spy Kids franchise kicked off way back in 2001 and saw two young kids becoming spies in order to rescue their parents (also spies). The film was written, directed and produced by Robert Rodriguez (who also took on a number of other jobs on the production) and became a March hit, making $116M from a budget of $35M, at that point the highest budget for Rodriguez, who had shot to fame with his $7,000 budgeted hit, El Mariachi. After that great start, a sequel was inevitable and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams debuted in August of 2002 to $16M, on its way to an $85M finish. Just under a year later the third film, Spy Kids 3: Game Over roped in Sylvester Stallone and opened to $33M, closing 28 weeks later with $111M. Unlike the first two films, and perhaps thanks to Stallone's overseas appeal, the third Spy Kid added a further $85M from the foreign market (Spy Kids made $35M while part 2 could only muster $33M overseas). But, living up to its Game Ove title, that appeared to be the end of the franchise. Rodriguez continued to alternate family fare with the more adult orientated films in the subsequent years (Sharkyboy & Lava Girl opened the same year as Sin City while Shorts opened between 2007's Planet Terror and 2010's Machete).

The idea for a fourth film, subtitled All The Time In The World, came to Rodriguez while he was filming the aforementioned Machete with Jessica Alba, wondering how a spy mum would fit into the Spy Kids universe. Alba plays the stepmother to twins Rebecca and Cecil, who aren't too happy with their father's new girlfriend. But when the world is threatened by Jeremy Piven's Timekeeper she's called out of retirement and finds herself having to team up the twins, who in turn might just need the help of the original Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni. Not only is this a 3D presentation but the director has chosen to resurrect the old Scratch N Sniff cards (Now renamed Aromascope). Production kicked off in October 2010 with the first trailer debuting with Kung Fu Panda 2 in May. The original film reviewed incredibly strong, but by the third flick was down to a 44% approval rating. This new film saw the approval rating slip to just 22%.

As we already know, none of the new releases broke out but Spy Kids 4 performed the best of them. Opening in third place on Friday, the film took $3.9M, well down on the other films in the series. Furthermore, Spy Kids 4 remained steady throughout the remainder of the frame, not seeing the Saturday morning matinee boost that other family films see. By Sunday it had made $12M, not even as much as Spy Kids 3: Game Over made on its opening day. That figure may well be down to the cost of 3D tickets yet again, with many families either opting for a 2D presentation (if they can find one) or skipping the film altogether. It's also worth noting to a lesser degree that fans of the original film are now teenagers, meaning the film would need to rope in a new generation of kids. Like two of the new releases this frame, Spy Kids 4: All The Time in the World was a fairly low budget production, coming in at $27M, and while it won't end up losing money, the studio are unlikely to move forward with any further films.

Our first remake is Conan The Barbarian. The character first appeared in Weird Tales Magazine in 1932 and was a creation of Robert E. Howard. He would go on to write a number of Conan stories for Weird Tales and by the time of his death in 1936 had seventeen complete stories along with an 8,000 word essay detailing Conan's world and all it entails. While the original stories would eventually go out of print, with copyrights changing hands a number of times, there were further Conan tales by other writers. The first film appeared in 1982 and was directed by John Milius, who shared screenplay credit with Oliver Stone and is generally acknowledged as being Arnold Schwarzenegger's break-through movie. A sequel arrived two years later (Conan the Destroyer) but a third film, Conan the Conqueror stalled due to Schwarzenegger's commitment to Predator and the fact that his three picture deal with Dino De Laurentiis had been fulfilled (therefore requiring a new and costly contract). Negotiations began again in the late 90s, to see Schwarzenegger's return for King Conan: Crown of Iron, but this too failed due the star's political aspirations.

Jump forward a few years, Warner Bros. attempt to bring the character back to the big screen, with The Wachowski Brothers, John Milius, and Robert Rodriguez all being involved at various points but all ultimately leaving the project. At this point the current rights reverted back to Paradox Entertainment who were frustrated that the studio had failed to make progress in seven years of trying and decided to auction them off with the clause that the rights would cost a $1M to own for a year, and a further million for every subsequent year. Millennium won the rights and partnered with Nu Image and Lionsgate to provide funding for the $90M project. It would take until June 2009 before a director (Marcus Nispel) moved into pre-production, with the announcement that Jason Momoa would play Conan coming in January 2010. Filming finally began in March 2010 in Bulgaria, with the first trailers appearing a year later, and an August release date set.

Reviews for the film began poorly and barely picked up as Friday approached, leaving it with a 24% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes (Similar to One Day - see below). Conan The Barbarian opened in line with two of the other major releases this frame and while that wasn't too bad for those films given their low budget, a $3.7M Friday and a $10M weekend total has doomed the flick to failure, even at this early point. Next frame the film would require one of the best weekend drops in history to even stand a chance of seeing $30M domestically. Given the way costs were split, each studio's hit will be limited but that will be of little comfort, and bad word of mouth/performance coming out of North America may damage the film's overseas chances.

The Smurfs found itself down 42% this frame, with only minimal interference from the Spy Kids. The film crossed $250M in total global ticket sales on Friday and looks set to top out domestically at around $130-140M.

The original Fright Night debuted in 1985 and became the second biggest horror flick of that year (bested only by Elm St 2). The plot saw horror fan Charley Brewster suspect that his new neighbour (played by Chris Sarandon) was a vampire. When no one believes him he's forced to turn to TV Horror show has-been Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowell) for help. After becoming a surprise hit a sequel was put into production but barely released, making just $2M in its entire theatrical run. A remake had been mentioned a number of times in the past few years and finally got the green light early 2010, with shooting commencing in June, in 3D. The plot follows the original closely, even down to the character names remaining largely unaltered. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) suspects his new neighbour (played by Colin Farrell) may be a vampire. When a number of people disappear from his school he decides to investigate further, ultimately leading him to rope in Peter Vincent (this time played by David Tennent, channelling a Kriss Angel style Vegas magician and self confessed vampire expert). Toni Collette plays Charley's mother and Christopher Mintze-Plasse play his best friend, Ed Thomspson.

Reviews for the remake were very strong, easily marking it as the best reviewed film amongst the wide opening releases this weekend. Sadly that didn't translate to great box office. Fright Night opened Friday to $3M, around half a million less than Conan and only good enough for fifth place. By Sunday the film was still sparring with Jason Momoa's Barbarian but would ultimately lose the battle despite the good word of mouth surrounding the horror flick. Fright Night cost $30M to produce but given that disappointing start it's going to struggle to see more than two thirds of that figure domestically, a shame given the solid reviews. The film will now need to look to the home market and overseas to cover the remaining costs involved. It's now increasingly looking like 3D has crossed the tipping point, and instead of aiding a film with its higher ticket prices, it's now costing the film in lost sales.

Meanwhile, Final Destination 5 dropped a nasty 67% on a Friday to Friday basis (57% overall) - perhaps in part to Fright Night having a very similar demographic. The film will recoup its $40M production budget but will need to rely heavily on the overseas market for any profits. Whether this performance has now doomed the rumoured back to back shooting of parts six and seven remains to be seen.

The new R-rated competition from Conan and Fright Night caused 30 Minutes Or Less to drop 53% this frame. The Jesse Eisenberg film had already gotten off to a somewhat disappointing start last weekend and is set to leave the top ten with less than $30M. Fortunately for the film, its production budget was just $28M, but its unlikely to see much more than that figure.

Our final new release this weekend is the romantic drama, One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and based on the best selling book by David Nicholls. The story begins in 1988 and sees Hathaway's Emma spending a night with Jim Sturgess's Dexter after their graduation. The story then focuses on the couple's lives on that same day, July 20th, over the next 20 years, offering snapshots of their time together and apart - but only as friends. As time passes and they begin separate relationships they start to realise that the person they are looking for has been there the whole time. Hathaway was something of a controversial choice amongst fans as the character in the book is English, yet director Lone Scherfig specifically sought out an American actress for the role. Having been a disaster during the initial meeting, the actress won the role by sending Scherfig a list of songs which she hoped would better explain how she planned to portray Emma on screen. The move worked and production began in July 2010.

As mentioned above, reviews for the film weren't kind but on the film's side were fans of the book, combined with the rarely served female demographic of 25-40 year olds - but those factors don't appear to have been enough. Opening somewhat limited at 1,719 locations meant its potential take would also be limited (though smaller releases have still made big money). One Day opened Friday to $1.8M, and could only add a further $3.3M over the rest of the frame, meaning it barely held in the top ten. Obviously The Help was the dramatic choice for this weekend and One Day's limited release combined with the poor reviews were more than enough to stop it earning more. Finishing so far down the charts almost certainly means the film will be out of the top ten next weekend and long forgotten a week later.

Finally, Crazy, Stupid, Love looks upon its last weekend in the top ten. Made for $50M, the film has a currently total of $64M and is yet to open in any overseas locations.

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