Sunday, 7 August 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 5th - 7th August 2011

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $54M - $54M
2. The Smurfs - $21M - $76.2M
3. Cowboys & Aliens - $15.7M - $67.3M
4. The Change-Up - $13.5M - $13.5M
5. Captain America: The First Avenger - $13M - $143.1M
6. Crazy, Stupid, Love - $12.1M - $42.1M
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 - $12.1M - $342.8M
8. Horrible Bosses - $4.6M - $105.1M
9. Friends With Benefits - $4.7M - $48.5M
10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $2.8M - $344.1M

We're still a few weeks from the dumping ground that is late August, when studios release films that either don't fit anywhere else or that they're just glad to be rid of. Two new release vie for attention this frame, to be joined by a further four next weekend. We've also got the second frame of the duelling duo The Smurfs and Cowboy & Aliens.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is something of a prequel to the long running series which first began in 1968 with Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston. The film itself was based on a novel published in 1963 (La Plan├Ęte des singes), and would go on to spawn a number of sequels, a TV series, an animated TV show and a re-imagining by Tim Burton in 2002. Rise isn't a direct prequel to Planet of the Apes but does reference elements of the story and incidents that take place in the sequels (especially the revolutionary aspects of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) - the director Rupert Wyatt likened the story to that of Batman Begins. The film is set in the modern day and sees a scientist, played by James Franco, frantically struggling to find a cure for Alzheimer's (the condition his father is suffering from) by using apes as test subjects for a new serum. Caesar (portrayed by a motion captured Andy Serkis) reacts very well to the potential cure, with the side effect granting the ape with human-like intelligence. When the authorities discover what has happened to Caesar they order him to be locked away, little realising just how smart he has become and what might happen should he regain his freedom.

The film went through at least one title change during production, originally being known as Caesar: Rise of the Apes. Fox opted to add 'Planet Of' perhaps to highlight the film's connection with the series in the public's eye, dropping the 'Caesar' in the process. Its release day too, was moved from summer to winter 2011, before being pulled back again to late summer. The first trailer displayed some impressive effects work, especially the motion-capture of Andy Serkis/Caesar. Subsequent trailers built up the story further, perhaps a little too much, with at least one of them seemingly condensing the entire film down to two minutes and forty seconds. The flick would be facing Cowboys & Aliens, along with the third weekend for Captain America and has become something of a dark horse, somewhat forgotten during the main blockbuster period, with a studio unsure of how the public would take to the film (perhaps explaining the show-all trailer). But the tide began to change closer to the release, more so when initial word was shown to be very good. Reviews were strong, with the film currently sitting on an 81% rating at RottenTomatoes, putting it amongst the higher scoring blockbusters of 2011.

Friday saw the film score a somewhat surprising $19.5M, a much higher figure than the $10-14M some were estimating for opening day. The good news carried on through the weekend as the excellent word of mouth began to spread (Serkis' attention grabbing performance in the trailers can't be underestimated either). By Sunday morning a $50M+ opening was being predicted, which proved to be accurate when weekend estimates were issued a few hours later, giving the film a $54M weekend - all against a budget of $93M. Not bad for a film that some predicted would be the biggest bomb of the summer. The only comparison is 2001's Planet of the Apes, which did perform better but but also had a big name director (Tim Burton), a number of stars and a lot more marketing and hype behind it. This is a very respectable start for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the strong word on the film should see it avoid a high drop next frame. We might even be looking at the last $100M release of the summer.

After their clash last weekend, Cowboys & Aliens ended up besting The Smurfs once actuals were issued Monday. Ultimately it was a hollow victory for Aliens as the film had been expected to perform far stronger. The Smurfs meanwhile, was more than happy to accept a second placing as it had only been expected to make around $20M. With little competition The Smurfs managed to break out amongst the younger family market. This weekend the $110M production fell 41% on last weekend's $35M finish, which is a great hold for the blue peril and again is in part thanks to the lack of competition - Cars 2 is at just 926 locations, while Zookeeper has struggled to rope in the younger viewers. $100M is all but assured. With only Spy Kids 4 offering any other family entertainment in August, The Smurfs could run and run.

As mentioned above, Cowboys & Aliens did go on to win last weekend, with a total that must have been on the very low end of expectations. This frame saw the film dip 64% on last Friday's haul (57% as the overall weekend to weekend drop), a higher figure than what the film needed after that start. This wasn't a cheap film to produce and even though Sony partnered up with Paramount/Dreamworks, one imagines all concerned are sorely disappointed with its performance. Given the stars involved, the film should have decent legs overseas but domestically it's unlikely to get anywhere near $100M and will join Green Lantern as one of the poorer performers of summer 2011.

Our other new release this frame is the R-rated comedy, The Change Up, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman. Reynolds plays Mitch Planko, a guy living a bachelor life and all that entails. Bateman meanwhile is Dave Lockwood, an overworked husband and father of three. The two are old friends who have gone their separate ways but during a night out drinking, they both discuss how envious they are of the other's lives, and after a few more drinks and a drunken stunt, they awake next day in each other's bodies. Is the grass always greener? Summer 2011 really has become the season of the R-rated comedy. Starting way back with Bridesmaids in May, we had the Hangover sequel, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses (also starring Jason Bateman), Friends With Benefits and now The Change-Up. Would a raunchy, foul-mouthed apathy have overcome the public?

Reviews for the film weren't great, with its 21% rating putting as the poorest reviewed of this summer's R-rated comedies (Bridesmaids is still champion, with a 90% approval rating). Similarly, the trailers weren't as strong as some of those aforementioned films and it would also be facing Friend With Benefits and to a lesser degree, Horrible Bosses. Friday the film had to settle for a fourth place finish with just $4.7M and things didn't improve over the rest of the weekend, giving The Change-Up a disappointing weekend total of $13.5M, well below the first weekends of the other R-rated comedies of the summer (Bridesmaid $26M, Bad Teacher $31M, Horrible Bosses $28M). This isn't too bad for Bateman, who is coming off the back of the $100M earning Horrible Bosses but Reynolds is still stinging from the flop that was June's Green Lantern. Word of mouth won't save it either and after just one weekend, The Change-Up looks like it's heading for a sub-$40M finish.

After a great start, Captain America faltered during its second frame, down a much higher than expected 60% - partly due to Cowboy & Aliens one assumes. A week on and things have stabilised a little, with the film now trailing Thor by about $2M. Whether the film will be as big as Thor is hard to say at this point, but three weeks in and it's recouped its production budget. The Marvel production has already crossed the $200M mark in total ticket sales too, with $75M coming from the overseas market, a place in which the studio was unsure how Captain America would play.

Having got off to a solid start last frame, Crazy, Stupid, Love found itself down 37% on its opening frame - a solid figure given the competition from the new and existing releases, and the best hold of the three films released last weekend. Made for $50M, the film should recoup its budget by the end of next weekend and seems to be working on some strong word of mouth (it's one of the better reviewed films out at the moment). Its main issue is the sheer amount of new releases due over the coming weeks (14 more in August alone), meaning it'll be pushed out of the top ten a lot quicker than it would have done had it been something like a January release.

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt.2 became the biggest release of the series last weekend, crossing $1 billion dollars in total ticket sales too. This week it starts it journey out of cinemas, shedding 970 locations to the new films. The only thing that was left for the boy wizard to achieve is to become the biggest film of 2011 - something it should manage during the coming week, when it will overtake Transformers: Dark of the Moon. There's every chance Deathly Hallows Pt.2 will remain the biggest of 2011, with only a slim chance of Twilight: Breaking Dawn besting that figure in November. In terms of global ticket sales, only five other films have made more money than Deathly Hallows Pt.2 - Toy Story 3, Dead Man's Chest, Return of the King, Titanic and Avatar.

Unfortunately, the competition looks set to stop Friends With Benefits finishing anywhere near the $70M total of No Strings Attached. The Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake comedy cost $35M to produce and while it won't lose any money, it'll be amongst the lower performing of the R-rated comedies of the summer. On the flip side of Friends with Benefits, Horrible Bosses hit $100M on Thursday, its 28th day on general release. Made for $35M (a figure that seems to be the going rate for this summer's comedies with the exception of the $80M Hangover sequel), this has been a great release for Warner Bros and the film is only just getting started overseas.

Seeing one more weekend in the top ten is Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Like Harry Potter, the film hit more than a $1 billion in total ticket sales during the last week, and narrowly holds on to its biggest film 2011 badge. At least for now.

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