Sunday 18 September 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 16th - 18th September 2011

1. The Lion King 3D - $29.3M - $29.3M
2. Contagion - $ 14.4M - $44.1M
3. Drive - $10.8M - $10.8M
4. The Help - $6.4M - $147.3M
5. Straw Dogs - $5M - $5M
6. I Don't Know How She Does It - $4.5M - $4.5M
7. The Debt - $2.9M - $26.5M
8. Warrior - $2.7M - $9.9M
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $2.6M - $171.6M
10. Colombiana - $2.3M - $33.3M

Another four news films this weekend - a doctored re-release, a remake, and two book adaptations. Contagion opened well last frame but would quickly face dramatic competition while The Help continued to be a law unto itself. Going into the weekend, the no.1 spot was open to anyone, but most figured Contagion would hold firm....

Our number one film, and our first new release this weekend is actually nothing of the sort, having been released seventeen years ago. The Lion King is the tale of Simba the lion cub and the spiritual (and physical) journey he takes after the death of his father. The film was a smash hit for Disney, not only being their most successful animated release (until 2003's Finding Nemo) and winning two Academy Awards, but spawning a huge Broadway show, video games, a TV show and at least two straight to video sequels/prequels. The Lion King 3D is Disney testing the water - will the public show up if you take a much-loved classic and put a 3D spin on it? Those who saw the film as children may well have children of their own - and unlike films like Mars Needs Moms, they know The Lion King has pedigree, and may be worth that 3D surcharge.

As we've seen a number of times, a film's theatrical release is often seen as a costly advert for its eventual home debut, and that is no more truer than here, the Lion King will be in theatres for just two weeks before heading, for the first time, onto Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D in November. Interestingly, this is actually the second big Disney 3D conversion of an earlier classic - from 2nd to the 15th September 2011, Beauty & The Beast 3D played at one US location (The El Capitain in L.A) - and will debut on Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D a month before The Lion King.

It goes without saying that the film reviewed very well but some predicted it would have a limited appeal (due one assumes, to the film being available to the home market for a number of years, not to mention that 3D surcharge) but that changed earlier in the week when the online ticket agent Fandango revealed that ticket sales for The Lion King made up for more than 53% of all tickets sold this week. The film opened strong on Friday, securing the top spot there and then with $8.8M, almost $4M more than Contagion. As Friday moved into Saturday the film scored well on the matinee front and continued to dominate over the remainder of the frame, finishing up Sunday night just shy of $30M. The original version opened to $40M back in July of 1994 but obviously can't work as a comparison thanks to the time that has passed, inflation and the 3D surcharge, but it can't be denied that that is a great start (the best ever September opener only made $35M). The only question remaining is whether this now sets a dangerous precedent for all future Blu-Ray releases of Disney classics?

Having debuted to $22M last weekend, Contagion founds itself down 42% on a Friday to Friday basis, which translated to a strong 35% for the weekend as a whole. Word of mouth is solid, but not spectacular and it may have lost a number of potential patrons to Drive this frame, but one can't argue with that hold. The star-studded virus epidemic flick was made for $60M and that's a figure the film should be able to recoup domestically. With such a big name cast, Contagion should do well on the international market and see the film become Soderbergh's biggest hit since the 'Ocean' series of films.

Drive is the new film from Nicholas Refn and stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. The film is based on a book written by James Sallis, which was optioned for the screen not long after being published in 2005. Originally Neil Marshall was set to direct Hugh Jackman in the lead role, that of a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, sometime in 2008. Everything was in place but both director and star would ultimately leave the project. Producer Marc E. Platt then contacted Ryan Gosling to take on the lead role, and he agreed, suggesting Nicholas Refn as director. The 'Bronson' director agreed and work began on filling out the remainder of the cast. Mulligan was amongst the first to sign on, with Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks joining shortly after. Rounding things out at the last minute was Ron Perlman, playing one of the main villains of the piece. As mentioned above, Drive sees Gosling as a nameless driver who pads out his stunt work by acting as a getaway driver for hire. When a heist goes wrong he finds a contract put out on his life and has to deal with the fallout that causes, not only to his own life but that of young mother, Irene, played by Carey Mulligan.

Shooting took place in Los Angeles and concluded November 2010, with the film ready for a Cannes Film Festival 'in competition' debut in May. Drive went down a storm, receiving near universal praise, a fifteen minute standing ovation and the Best Director plaudit for Refn. The film was set for a September 2011 debut, and reviews have continued to echo that early word out of Cannes - Drive currently sits on outstanding 92% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. But, with at least one thriller opening alongside it, not to mention a rom-com and The Lion King 3D, would the great reviews transfer into box office? Drive opened to $4M Friday, good enough for a third place finish, around $400K behind Contagion. Word of mouth spread through out the weekend as the film held steady, adding a further $6.8M to its total, for a $10.8M first frame finish. Given the competition and the fact that Drive might not have been an easy sell, this a good start for the film and should see it cover its production budget of $13M sometime Monday/Tuesday.

The Help saw its biggest frame to frame drop last weekend (40%) but a week on and the civil rights flick has stabilised again, dropping 28%. The flick was still the no.2 film until Friday and even then managed a higher finish than Straw Dogs and I Don't Know How She Does It. The Help stands every chance of being the type of film to attract an audience even once it has left the top ten. A finish above $170M is practically a given.

Straw Dogs is a remake of the controversial 1971 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name. In that version, a timid mathematician played Dustin Hoffman returns, along with his wife (played by Susan George) to her home town in Cornwall. What begins as taunts and harassment by locals turns very ugly when Hoffman's David Sumner refuses to stand up to the men. When his wife is brutally raped by a former boyfriend, David is pushed to breaking point and beyond. The original caused an outcry upon its release, and while the film did see a UK release, it would fall foul of the video recordings act of 1984 (along with many other films). The film was not submitted for reclassification (in an edited form) until 1999 when it was again refused a certificate. It was 2002 before Straw Dogs was granted an uncut home video/DVD release in the UK.

Word of a remake began a number of years ago and at one point Ed Norton was said to have been attached to take on the David Sumner role, but the project seemed to have disappeared off the radar. Sometime in late 2008/early 2009, Rod Laurie signed on to write and direct the remake, signing up James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as The Sumners. The plot remained largely the same - a college professor returns, along with wife, to her home town, where he finds himself intimidated by locals working on their house. The situation escalates, forcing David and Amy to retaliate. So far there seems to have been little of the same controversy that troubled the original, indeed the film was passed uncut in the UK. The first trailer appeared in May 2011, and appeared to show the entire film condensed into two minutes and forty seconds - going further than most by starting with scenes that are obviously from the last ten minute of the film, and then proceeding to show how all the characters got to that point. Reviews weren't great with a number quick to point out how powerful the original film was. It currently resides on a RT rating of 38%. Straw Dogs opened on the lower end of expectations with $1.9M on Friday as the public sided with Drive and Contagion for their dramatic fix. By Sunday it had made just $5M and will almost certainly crash hard next frame. The Straw Dogs remake was made for $25M and that's a figure the film might recoup when foreign receipts are counted.

I Don't Know How She Does It is the latest romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and is based on the novel of the same name by Allison Pearson. The film sees Parker as Kate Reddy, who works as a financial advisor and devoted mother to two children (and wife to an out-of-work architect, played by Greg Kinnear). Thanks to her friends, Kate just about manages to balance her work and life, but runs into problems when her husband finds a job, her assistant steps up her game and a promotion that'd take Kate around the country seems in the offing - not to mention a new business colleague getting flirty. Given the current and new releases, the studio figured there was space for some alternate programming. Parker has seen success with the Sex & The City movies (though took a critical kicking, especially with the second film) but struggled with some of her other choices, 2009's Did You Hear About The Morgans making just $29M domestically.

Reviews weren't positive for the comedy, with only 19% of critics finding something to like. Out the door on Friday, I Don't Know How She Does It made just $1.6M, not even finishing within the top five. Things didn't improve as the weekend wore on, leaving the rom-com with just $4.5M. This one cost $24M to bring to the screen and even at this point it's safe to say I Don't Know How She Does It is unlikely to see more than half of that figure during its theatrical run.

Like others, The Debt will have been affected by the newer dramas in the top ten. It's already recouped its production budget and should see some decent legs abroad too. Made for $20M, the Sam Worthington/Helen Mirren flick has so far made just over $26M.

Having been the best reviewed film of the week, Warrior could only manage lacklustre box office during its opening frame. Things haven't improved a week later, especially with two more dramas thrown into the mix. This weekend the film dipped 47%, adding just $2.7M to its box office total. The Tom Hardy MMA film cost $25M to produce is only likely to see just over half of that amount domestically.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes hit $170M domestically this weekend. Made for $93M, the Apes prequel/origin story should hit a global finish of around $400M. Colombiana falls some way short of recouping its $40M production budget as it prepares to exit the top ten. Released four weeks ago, the film has a running total of $33M. Next up for star Zoe Saldana is The Words, opposite Bradley Cooper.

Two notables from last weekend - horror film Creature had the dubious honour of becoming one of, if not the, poorest performing/widely released film in box office history, making just $327K from 1,507 locations - that works out to a per screen average of $217.

Meanwhile, concert movie Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain made an astounding $1.9M from just 98 locations - over $19K per screen. Expansion should be on the cards over the coming weeks.

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