Sunday 25 September 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 23rd - 25th September 2011

1. The Lion King 3D $22.1M - $22.1M
2. Moneyball - $20.6M - $20.6M
3. Dolphin Tale - $20.2M - $20.2M
4. Abduction $11.2M - $11.2M
5. Killer Elite - $9.5M - 49.5M
6. Contagion $8.6M - $57.1M
7. Drive - $5.7M - $21.5M
8. The Help - $4.4M - $154.4M
9. Straw Dogs - $2.1M - $8.8M
10. I Don't Know How She Does It - $2M - $8M

One week after The Lion King 3D performed above and beyond expectations, four new films enter the arena to challenge the Disney re-release, one of which is also in 3D. These four new films will again be joined by four more next frame. This weekend sees the third frame for Contagion, and the follow up weekend for the well-reviewed Drive. The new releases this weekend see two action flicks joining two real life dramas.

If the Lion King 3D taking the top spot surprised many last weekend, imagine how they feel a week later, when once again the film has outperformed all of the new comers to hold onto that no.1 placing. The film made $6M Friday, and while it wasn't the biggest film of the day (Moneyball was), thanks to Saturday matinees and the 3D ticket surcharge, Simba and Co. were able to move back into the hot seat. The Lion King 3D found itself down just 26% with the new releases barely having an effect. This release is less about recouping any costs (The Lion King made over $350M during its original theatrical run and this 3D version is only out to theatres for two weeks) but rather Disney's future re-release plans. If The Lion King 3D is anything to go by, we can expect a short theatrical release for most upcoming Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D presentations the studio has planned. The Lion King 3D should see one more week on general release before leaving theatres and preparing for its November home release.

Moneyball, the latest Brad Pitt film, had something of a chequered history on its way to the screen. The script was based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and adapted by Stan Chervin, with David Frankel set to direct. He was replaced by Steven Soderbergh who cast Pitt and began pre-production of May/June 2009. With only days before filming was set to commence, the production was shut down and the film put into limited turnaround, which would allow another studio to take over the production. The main reasons cited where the vast differences between the original script and the latest draft turned in by Soderbergh and Steve Zaillian. Soderbergh would ultimately leave the project and began developing Contagion, while Zaillian's script was reworked by Aaron Sorkin (who shares the on screen credit with Zaillian) and Capote director Bennett Miller stepped in to take the reigns.

The film follows Billy Beane, an ex-major league baseball player who becomes the general manager of the Oakland Atheltics Baseball team. Faced with a dwindling player budget, Beane is forced to try new methods in which to assemble a team at the fraction of the costs - clashing with all and sundry in the process. In large part responsible for this new method was Paul DePodesta, portrayed by Jonah Hill as Peter Brand (the name change being a legal issue). Hill actually won the role when Soderbergh's version of the film was halted and Demetri Martin, who was originally set to play Brand, either left the project or was let go by the new production team. Filming began in July 2010 and the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. Of the new releases, Moneyball is currently the freshest, residing on a 94% approval rating.

Originally expected to win the weekend, Moneyball had to settle for a second place finish. It actually won Friday with $6.8M but couldn't best the Lion King as the weekend began proper. By Sunday night the film had amassed $20.6M, narrowly beating Dolphin Tale and a good start for the $50M budgeted sports flick. It's worth noting that outside of Brad Pitt and the great reviews, Moneyball is a film that had limited appeal, skewing hard towards men who are twenty and older (and sports fans). It'll be interesting to see how the film performs in the coming weeks and especially overseas, where Pitt has appeal but baseball not so much.

Dolphin Tale 3D is the true life story of a bottle nosed dolphin called Winter who loses his tale in a crab trap. Rescued off the coast of Florida, Winter is nursed back to health by a young boy called Sawyer Nelson, who convinces those around him to help create a prothetic tale for the dolphin, allowing him to be returned to the ocean. What might sound like a TV movie of the week has managed to attract a solid cast in the guise of Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jnr, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman, the latter playing a prosthetic limb designer. Curiously, given the cast, Warner Bros. don't appear to have been pushing the film too hard, and their decision to make the film a 3D presentation could have cost them potential sales. Dolphin Tale found itself in an odd position - it's not a film for the younger family members, consequently those old enough to appreciate the story may well have opted for Abduction this frame. But one should never underestimate a good old story of inspiration....

On Friday the film managed $5M, a decent showing and good enough for third place. As the weekend wore on, it was Moneyball that would be Dolphin Tale's challenger, rather than the Lion King 3D (Which was already too far ahead to be challenged). More impressive was the film's Saturday haul, up 70% on the Friday take, which is practically unheard of. By Sunday night the film had managed a solid opening take of $20.2M, thanks in part to reviews, word of mouth and that 3D ticket surcharge (early figures suggest that the film's ticket sales were split 50/50 between 2D/3D). There's even a slim chance that the film will swap places with Moneyball once actuals are issued. The budget for Dolphin Tale was $37M, and that's a figure the film should have little problem recouping in the coming weeks.

Like Dolphin Tale, Abduction is a film with quite cast - Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina, Maria Bello and Michael Nyqvist all join Taylor Lautner in his first lead performance, hoping one assumes, to launch a career away from the Twilight universe. Lautner plays Nathan Price, a young man who finds things in his life are not what they seem when he discovers a baby photo of himself on a missing persons website. Before he gets chance to confront his (surrogate) parents he finds himself targeted by a hit squad and forced to go on the run with his neighbour Karen, played by Lily Collins. He sets about discovering the identity of his biological father before realising that his only chance for survival is to take the fight to those seeking to kill him. The script for Abduction caused a fierce bidding war back in February 2010, eventually being purchased by Lionsgate for $1M. They chose John Singleton to direct the flick and quickly put the film into production to avoid Lautner's Twilight: Breaking Dawn commitments. With a further $40M invested in bringing Abduction to the screen, Lionsgate hoped that the young star's name would be enough to snare some of that huge Twilight audience, while throwing in plenty of action for the young male audience.

Unfortunately even the impressive cast couldn't save the film from critics, who despised the film, leaving it with just a 3% approval rating. Abduction is out to 3,000+ locations, the second highest count of the weekend behind Dolphin Tale. Furthermore it seems Abduction isn't the film to launch Lautner out of the Twilight franchise. The film could only manage $3.8M on Friday, barely fighting off Killer Elite. By Sunday it was up to $11.2M but that word of mouth will pretty much kill any chances of a decent second frame. In fact, one assumes Lautner has his Twilight fans to thank for that start - who may well be thinking the same as the young star - 'Roll on Breaking Dawn Pt. One in November'.

Jason Statham has fast become the go-to action man for the 00s. Having started off in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrel's the ex-British diver quickly moved up the ranks of action star thanks to The Transporter Trilogy, The Crank films and appearances in The Italian Job, Snatch and The Expendables, amongst many others. This year alone has already seen Statham appear in the remake of The Mechanic, Blitz and as the voice of Tybalt in Gnomeo & Juliet. This weekend he returns opposite Clive Owen and Robert De Niro in Killer Elite. The film is based on the Ranulph Fiennes novel The Feather Men, which the author purports to be a true story. The book follows a group of S.A.S soldiers who are assassinated by a group known simply as 'The Clinic'. The title of the book refers to a group of special forces soldiers who take on 'The Clinic'. The initial trailer for Killer Elite, however, appeared to focus on different events - with Statham's Danny Bryce being lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor, played by Robert De Niro, who has been kidnapped by Spike (Clive Owen). Further trailers followed the original story closer, and indeed, a number of reviews have been quick to point that De Niro's role is little more than an extended cameo. Those same reviews were generally down on the film, leaving it somewhere between Revolver (16%) and Transporter 3 (37%) in terms of other Statham films.

With three other new releases, Killer Elite could only manage $3.5M (in line with Statham's January release The Mechanic) on Friday, finishing narrowly behind Abduction. By Sunday night the film had only added a further $6M, bringing its three day total to $9.5M. That's slightly lower than The Mechanic, which went on to finish with a domestic total of $29M (with a further $22M from the overseas market). Killer Elite might not reach even that figure given the glut of releases in the coming weeks. Given the supporting cast involved and its reported $66M production budget, this will go down as a major disappointment - and certainly a domestic flop. The appeal of Statham, Owen and De Niro abroad will need to work overtime to make Killer Elite into a profitable flick.

Faced with competition from Moneyball, Contagion found itself down 41% - not quite as good of a hold as last weekend but not too shoddy either. The star studded virus thriller is now within a stone's throw of its $60M production budget and still has the vast majority of worldwide locations awaiting its release. Chances are this one will round out with around $75-80M domestically, with at least that overseas.

Having been a hit with critics, Drive opened to a decent $11M last weekend. A week on and the good word of mouth doesn't seem to be stretching as far as it was hoped it would, leaving Drive with a $5.7M take this frame (down 49%). The good news is that the film has already recouped its $13M production budget and seems destined to be a good performer overseas, not to mention heading for cult status on DVD.

The Help managed to hit $150M some time on Friday. Made for just $25M, the film has defied all expectations, performing far better week in, week out, than a number of films with bigger budgets and more audience friendly subject matters.

Straw Dogs barely registered with cinema goers during its opening frame and a week on it was lucky to see another top ten placing. Made for $25M, the remake will be lucky to make half of that figure by the end of its theatrical run.

Having disappointed last frame, I Don't Know How She Does It tumbled 53%, taking just $2M this frame. Interestingly, while the film was originally billed as a starring vehicle for Sarah Jessica Parker, closer to the release date the co-stars found themselves sharing almost equal billing and screen time in the TV spots. Sadly even this didn't help the film and it'll leave the top ten with less than $12M in its coffers.

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