Sunday 4 September 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 2nd - 4th September 2011

1. The Help - $14.2M - $118.6M
2. Apollo 18 - $8.7M - $8.7M
3. Shark Night 3D - $8.6M - $8.6M
4. The Debt - $9.7M - $11.6M
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes $7.8M - $160M
6. Colombiana - $7.4M - $21.9M
7. Our Idiot Brother - $5.1M - $15.4M
8. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - $4.9M - $16.3M
9. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World - $4.6M - $29M
10. The Smurfs - $4M - $131.9M

It's Labour Day Weekend in North America meaning the Sunday takes should closer emulate a Saturday, giving some lucky movies a much needed boost. We've got three new films this frame, along with sneak-peaks for the Tom Hardy starrer Warrior and the limited release of A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. Once again, The Help cannot be underestimated.....

The Help hit $100M on Tuesday, only its 21st day on general release. While that pales compared to many blockbusters, The Help is a low budget drama that was barely hyped prior to release - not only that but its subject matter, that of race relations in 1960s Mississippi, is generally not the thing of $100M earners. Four weekends in and the film is still going strong, down a staggering 2% on last weekend (which itself saw a great hold from the previous frame). The film managed to once again see off all the new releases and retain the top spot for the third weekend running (something that hasn't happened since Inception in 2010). It dominated Friday with $3.6M, and saw a weekend total of $14.2M, bringing its running haul so far to $118.6M. The Help is more than a solid hit for Dreamworks who could easily see the film achieve $160M in North American sales. Next weekend it'll face dramatic competition in the guise of Contagion and the expanding Warrior.

The Debt has had something of a chequered release history. It was completed back in 2010 and screened at the Toronto Film Festival in September of the same year. Miramax announced a release date of late December, putting it squarely in line for Oscar contention. But when Miramax was broken up and the film sold off to Colony Capital, it caused the film to be delayed until September 2011 (same as last weekend's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which was also part of the sale). The film itself is a remake of the 2007 Israeli film HaHov, HaChov and stars Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson. The story follows three Mossad agents in the 1960s who hunt, capture and exterminate a notorious death camp doctor hiding in East Berlin. Celebrated for their work over the years, trouble rears its head in the late 1990s when news emerges about one of the team - and the possibility that the doctor wasn't actually killed. Worthington, Marton Csokas and Jessica Chastain portray the young Mossad agents while Ciarian Hinds, Tom Wilkinson and Helen Mirren play the modern day version of the characters as the story flashes back and forward. The film was directed by John Madden and co-written by Peter Straughan, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

The movie reviewed well, the best of the week's releases with an approval rating of 77%. Releasing through Focus Features, The Debt opened at a somewhat limited location count of 1700 on Wednesday, hoping to gain some ground before the showier releases arrive at the weekend (The Help did a similar thing a month ago). Wednesday the film finished second with a haul of $970K while Thursday saw an ever so slight dip to $930K. Friday the drama managed a further $2.6M, good enough for a fourth place finish and managed to show up the other two releases too (both Shark Night and Apollo 18 are out to at least 1000-1500 more locations) by overtaking them on Saturday. In all, a further $7.1M was added over the remainder of the weekend giving the film a five day finish of $11.6M. The question one must ask now is whether the film would have had a shot at the top spot had it been out at 2,500+ locations? Chances are it would have usurped The Help and gained itself a bag load of extra press for doing so. As it stands, the film will face competition next weekend and the jury is still out as to whether The Debt will expand further.

Apollo 18 runs with the idea that NASA didn't actually cancel another moon landing but rather continued with the project in secret. The film uses the "found footage" concept and follows two astronauts as they return to the moon and discover they may not be alone up there. A broken helmet, Russian lunar lander and dead cosmonaut further add to their fears...The Weinstein Bros, the one time masters of hype, did their best to fuel rumours that the footage was genuine and didn't utilise actors. In actual fact the film was shot in Vancouver in 2010 and features Lloyd Owen and Warren Christie (but NASA still had to issue an official statement on Friday to confirm that the film was NOT a documentary) The film's release schedule was even more erratic than The Debt, moving six times, from March to April, then to July, before being pushed back January 2012, then return to August, and finally settling on September.

Adding to the films haphazard release shifting is the fact that the Weinstein's refused to screen the film for critics or it seems, hold any other kind of preview. When critics did finally get to see the film they generally disliked it, giving it a similar approval rating to that of Shark Night 3D. On Apollo 18's side was the fact that the film cost just $5M to produce so consequently would only need one good weekend to break even. The film opened to $2.84M on Friday, just about good enough for second place. By Saturday Apollo 18 had pretty much recouped its production budget but would not be taking the top spot as many had predicted. Come Sunday the film finished up with $8.7M, a fairly poor showing for the horror film, especially given its 3200+ location count. Apollo 18 won't be around for long and is likely to tumble hard next frame. While it's already recouped its production costs, you can't help but feel the studio were expecting a $10M+ finish.

David R Ellis began life as a stuntman before moving on to second unit directing. He got his shot at directing his own film with Homeward Bound: Lost in San Francisco in 1996, before moving on to direct Final Destination 2, Cellular and the ultra high concept Snakes on a Plane, whose wide spread internet hype sadly didn't translate into box office. He returns this weekend with another high concept project in the guise of Shark Night 3D. The film sees seven holidaymakers taking a trip to a lake house located in the Louisiana Gulf, but what should be a week of fun turns into a nightmare when they become the victims of frenzied shark attacks. The budget for the flick went mainly on the location and effects as a group of largely unknown actors made up the cast. Made for $28M, the film looked set to cash in on the minor success scored by Piranha 3D last August. Unfortunately, in an attempt to appeal to a larger crowd, the studio opted to go with a PG-13 rating and almost certainly alienated the horror fans in the process.

A film such as Shark Night is arguably review proof but those who did throw in their hat disliked the film to a large degree, leaving it with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 24% - with a number of critics mentioning that the aforementioned PG-13 rating killed any potential the film might have had. The film clashed with Apollo 18 throughout the frame, starting off on Friday with both of them seeing $2.8M in takings. As the weekend wore on though, the space horror would just about pull ahead leaving Shark Night 3D with a final take of $8.4M. That figure might have been higher but like we saw with films such as Drive Angry, the public won't buy the higher priced 3D tickets for what is an essentially a B-movie, and a knee-capped one at that. The film cost $28M to produce and will probably end up seeing little more than half that figure theatrically.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes crossed $150M on Tuesday and drops 11% this weekend, its fifth on general release. It was barely affected by Apollo 13 and Shark Night this weekend but has little to prove at this point anyway. The film is already hugely profitable for Fox and it's also carrying that 83% approval rating to boot. Expect a sequel in 2013.

After a $10M start last frame, Colombiana found itself down 46% on a Friday to Friday basis (a very respectable 29% for the weekend overall). The film cost around $40M to produce but will leave the top ten a little way short of that figure. With an overseas take of around $6M, the Luc Besson produced flick will need to look to DVD/Blu-Ray to cover any theatrical shortcomings.

Like Colombiana, Our Idiot Brother got off to an ok kind of start last frame, thanks in part to its low production costs, which are some where between $5-10M. A week later and the Paul Rudd comedy-drama drops 26% - better than its release partners Colombiana and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Word of mouth looks to be helping the film and had it been released at a more quieter time of the year, could well have already added another eight or so million to its running total. Our Idiot Brother should manage at least one more weekend in the top ten.

Down 42% on its opening frame is the horror Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The film got off to a poor start last frame and faced with the two horror themed releases this frame, could only manage $4.9M. Even at this early stage, the public seem done with the film and it'll leave the top ten some way short of its $28M production budget.

Crazy as it sound, Spy Kids 4 has yet to make more money than Spy Kids 3 made in its first three days ($33M). The Robert Rodriguez film has managed to recoup its production costs but it's simply biding its time now, waiting to be pushed out of the top ten and begin its journey to the home market. A disappointment for what was once a popular and profitable franchise.

The Smurfs crossed $250M in overseas takings this weekend as it heads towards a $400M global total. Being the only film aimed at the younger family market has really helped the film ride out the August storm. A $140M domestic finish is on the cards.

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