Sunday 11 September 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 9th - 11th September 2011

1. Contagion - $23.1M - $23.1M
2. The Help - $8.6M - $137M
3. Warrior - $5.6M - $5.6M
4. The Debt - $4.9M - $22M
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $3.8M - 167.8M
6. Colombiana - $4M - $29.7M
7. Shark Night 3D - $3.5M - $14.7M
8. Apollo 18 - $2.9M - $15M
9. Our Idiot Brother - $2.7M - $21.4M
10. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World - $2.5M - $34.2M
(14). Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star - $1.4M - $1.4M
(15). Creature - $331K - $331K

This weekend sees the first signs that we're emerging from the August dumping ground with two new releases with excellent pedigree, Contagion and Warrior. They're joined by the little hyped comedy, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star and horror flick, Creature. Of late, the new releases seem to have barely made a dent, but with such dramatic competition, could The Help hang on to the top spot for the fourth consecutive weekend - something that hasn't happened since Avatar in 2010. Sunday box office may be slightly lower due to 9/11 tenth anniversary.

Given that Steven Soderbergh is rumoured to be retiring within the next year or so, the director is showing no signs of slowing down. He's currently shooting the Channing Tatum male stripper flick, Magic Mike, while prepping the big screen adaptation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E and a Liberace biopic. On top of that he's also got the action film, Haywire, finished and ready for release in January 2012. Yet before all that we have Contagion, a film he began working on in February 2010 that shot from September until January of this year. The story sees a deadly airborne virus rapidly spreading around the globe and follows those seeking a cure, those trying to quell fears and the individuals affected by the virus itself, as society begins to crumble. While the idea may seem run of the mill, the stunning cast list is anything but. Joining Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow (playing a husband and wife) are Marion Cotlliard, Jude Law, Kate Winstlet, Lawrence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston and Elliot Gould. The studio (Warner Bros) have been quick to point out that this is no 28 Days Later style flick, but rather a potentially real life horror story - Soderbergh had cooperation from the Centre for Disease Control along with a group of medical advisor to keep things authentic.

With that cast, the studio did well to keep the budget at $60M, and that may be in part to the big names cutting their salaries to work with Soderbergh (and each other), along with no one cast member seemingly being 'the lead' (though trailers led one to believe that Damon's Thomas Emhoff plot strand was the main one). WB kept the hype fairly low key until quite recently and the film received its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Reviews were strong, with Contagion currently earning an 82% approval rating. A weekend win was on the cards come Friday night, after Contagion opened to a not bad $8M. Word of mouth built up over the remainder of the frame allowing the film to add a further $15M - giving it a weekend total of $23.1M - a solid start for the dramatic thriller. Next frame it'll face Straw Dogs and Drive in the dramatic stakes so will need to build on its start through out the remainder of the week.

Having spent three weekends in the top spot, The Help was finally de-throned by Contagion. Still, the race relations flick is only down 40% this weekend and is fast approaching $140M. The Help has now recouped its production budget at least four times over. Given its subject matter it's hard to predict how it will perform internationally but the good performance and solid word of mouth should at least get it noticed.

Warrior is Tom Hardy's new film. The young actor shot to global stardom last year with his role in Christopher Nolan's Inception. Prior to that Hardy had earned great notices from his work on Bronson, amongst a number of smaller films (his profile is set to rise higher still in 2012 thanks to his role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises). In Warrior, Hardy is joined by Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, the former playing his older brother, the later their father. Nolte is a former boxer (and alcoholic) whose family were torn apart by his addictions, while Hardy is a now retired marine returning home. When Nolte begins training Hardy to compete in a mixed martial arts tournament, it places him on a collision course with his older son, now a physics teacher but also an ex-MMA fighter. Both the leads trained extensively and found themselves up against actual mixed martial arts fighters during the shooting of the film. Director Gavin O'Connor's quest for authenticity seems to have paid off too as a number of MMA websites have praised the film's fight scenes.

Having had a number of sneak peaks last weekend, Warrior opened at a fairly limited number of locations - around 1800. Being the best reviewed film of the week helped raise its profile somewhat. Unfortunately, that didn't quite translate to a great start at this weekend's box office. Friday, Warrior could only manage $1.8M and while the word of mouth appeared strong, it struggled to reach $5.6M by Sunday. There's a chance this will be a slow burner but the fight sequences may have put off those looking for drama and consequently, those looking for an MMA fight flick might also have skipped the film expecting they'd see more drama than action. Next weekend will reveal better where Warrior is going and whether the studio will expand the film.

After getting off to a better start than the other openers last frame, The Debt finds itself down 51% a week later. The film would have done better on a normal weekend but with the twin-drama threat of Contagion and Warrior it has had to settle for a fourth place finish. Its somewhat limited release probably didn't help the film either. With only a $20M budget The Debt has already recouped production costs and should go on to perform well internationally, especially with the cast (Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren & Tom Wilkinson).

It's amazing that after six weekends on general release, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is still within the top six. The film is up to $350M in total global ticket sales and is one of the major success stories of 2011 - especially given the pre-release doom and gloom that appeared to be descending around the film (There was also word that James Franco was distancing himself from the project too). A well deserved success.

Colombiana finds itself down another 46% this week. The Luc Besson written/produced thriller will likely end up just short of its production budget ($40M) but should clean up fine on DVD. Next up for Besson is The Lady, a biopic based on the life of the activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Meanwhile, Colombiana director Olivier Megaton will move on to the Taken sequel.

Shark Night 3D was expected to perform a little better than it did over its opening frame. Its second frame drop wasn't as bad as Apollo 18 but was still very high (58%). With a $3.5M take this frame, Shark Night 3D has taken roughly half of what it cost to bring to the screen. Chances are it won't see another weekend in the top and will need to make up any shortcomings with the inevitable 'Unrated' DVD release.

Having been expected to win last weekend at one point, Apollo 18 had to ultimately settle for a third place finish. A week on and the 'found footage' horror has collapsed completely - down 70% on its opening day take. A $2.9M weekend total is all it could muster and the Weinstein's must be thankful that the film only cost $5M to produce.

Our Idiot Brother drops 49% this weekend as it struggles to find an audience amongst the bigger, showier releases. Made for $5M, the film should top out at around $26-$30M. If nothing else, the film has scored Paul Rudd another batch of great reviews for his performance as the lovable, but gullible Idiot Brother.

Rounding us out is Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World. The film has finally surpassed the total made by the third film during its opening weekend. Fortunately this fourth entry only cost around $25M to produce but will have surely destroyed any chance for further films in the series.

Two films opened at 1500 or so locations but neither had much impact on the top ten. The first is the Adam Sandler produced (and co-written) comedy, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star. The film stars Nick Swardson, known for his stand up comedy and work on the Reno 911! TV show, as the titular dimwitted hero who discovers his parents were adult film stars during the 1970s. Seeing this as destiny calling, Bucky heads for the bright lights of Hollywood in hope of becoming the biggest porn star in the world. The film also stars Christina Ricci, Stephen Dorff and Don Johnson as Miles Deep, Bucky's agent/manager. One has to wonder how confident the studio felt with the film given that it's out to only 1,500 locations, a very low count for a comedy. Trailers weren't great and the reviews were scathing, with the film currently having a 0% approval rating. Friday the film barely made a dent, taking just $540K. By Sunday the film had made just $1.4M but that was still not good enough for a top ten finish (it actually placed 14th). Expect a swift DVD release.

The other limited release is the horror flick, Creature. The film sees a group of people on a road trip to New Orleans and stopping off at a roadside diner run by Chopper (played by horror film stalwart Sid Haig.) He tells them of Lockjaw, a fabled half man/half alligator that haunts the local area. Ignoring the story as just a local myth, they set up camp for the night but soon realise that not only is Lockjaw real but that the local towns folks might have something to do with its existence. The film was barely hyped and it's quite rare for such a project to see a theatrical release, especially with Haig being the only 'name' in the cast, even then a cult one. The film appears to have done even worse than Bucky Larson as figures for Friday weren't even issued. By Sunday night the film had made just $331K. One assumes it won't be out to 1500 locations next weekend.

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