Sunday 30 October 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 28th - 30th October 2011

1. Puss in Boots - $34M - $34M
2. Paranormal Activity 3 - $18.5M - $81.3M
3. In Time - $12M - $12M
4. Footloose - $5.4M - $38.4M
5. The Rum Diary - $5M - $5M
6. Real Steel - $ 4.7M - $73.8M
7. The Three Musketeers - $3.5M - $14.8M
8. The Ides of March - $2.7M - $33.4M
9. Moneyball - $2.4M - $67.4M
10. Courageous - $1.8M - $27.6M
(14). Anonymous - $1M - $$1M

As we get ready to enter November, Hollywood once again starts to fire up the big guns. With the exception of the first weekend in December, we'll see at least one major, potential blockbuster every week from now until the end of the year. While we've had a vast number of releases in the last month or so, only a couple of them have had the potential to break out. After Puss in Boots this frame we'll have Immortals and Jack & Jill. A week later and we have the fourth Twilight film and Happy Feet 2, followed closely by Arthur Christmas, The Muppets and Hugo. And that's just November. December holds almost as many potential big hitters with Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible 4, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and War Horse being just four of them. Last weekend brought us the record breaking Paranormal Activity 3, alongside poor performers The Three Musketeers and Johnny English Reborn. With four new films out this weekend, three of them opening wide, how would they shape up against the horror film over Halloween?

The character of Puss In Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas, first appeared in the second Shrek film back in 2004 and proved popular amongst fans of the series. The idea for a Puss In Boots spin off was bandied about once the Shrek sequel had hit DVD. The original idea had been for a straight to DVD movie but by 2006 the decision was made to put the film into theatres. With the third and then fourth Shrek films hitting theatres, the spin off took a back seat so as not to overlap their respective stories, with work finally commencing on Puss early 2010. The decision to make the film a prequel was taken early on so as not to infringe on Shrek Forever After's plot but also to avoid, one assumes, paying the high costs involved in getting back Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz to portray their characters. The prequel sees Puss In Boots setting out to stop the murderous Jack and Jill from unleashing a power that could destroy the world. Joining Puss on his quest is his old cohort Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and the mysterious Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek, marking her sixth gig with Banderas). While the Shrek franchise has been on the decline domestically, the third and fourth films were incredibly successful overseas.

Puss In Boots was directed by Chris Miller, who co-directed Shrek The Third, and the film found an interesting executive producer in the guise of Guillermo Del Toro, who joined the production late 2010. It was originally set to debut next weekend but Dreamworks pulled the film forward to Halloween, perhaps to give it a jump on Happy Feet Two and to also avoid any potential confusion with Adam Sandler's Jack & Jill. The film is the widest opening of the new releases this weekend, out to over 3,800 locations, a good percentage of which are 3D. Reviews were mainly positive (80% at Rotten Tomatoes) and while not as strong as How To Train Your Dragon, they eclipsed the last two Shrek movies. Puss was easily the strongest release of the weekend and won Friday with $9.5M - a decent figure and comparable to Rio's $10.3M back in April and Rango's $9.6M in March. Things improved Saturday thanks to family matinees but by Sunday night the Dreamworks spin-off had made $34M - some way down on Rio ($39M) and Kung Fu Panda 2 ($47M), more in line with April's Hop ($37M opening). Considering the film didn't have Shrek and Co as a selling point, this is an alright start, but probably on the lower side of the studio's hopes. Its second frame will be more telling as to where the film is heading. With a price tag of $130M, the studio will be hoping for a decent hold but knows it may need to rely on the film's potential success overseas. Fortunately it'll face no direct competition for at least two weeks.

Having set the October opening record last weekend, Paranormal Activity 3 was showing signs of front-loading as early as Monday - dropping much quicker than the second film. This weekend, up against the three major releases, the film dropped a very high 75% on a Friday to Friday basis (65% for the weekend as a whole). In comparison to the other films in the series, this is a little high, but the blame on this can be laid partly on the aforementioned major front-loading the film witnessed - not to mention many Halloween partys taking place on Saturday night. By and large though, this is all academic as the film had already doubled its production budget just from midnight sneak peaks. The first film scared up $107M domestically, with the sequel seeing $84M - this third film should top the lot, with equally decent figures from overseas (where the film has a running total of $26M - excluding figures for this frame).

In Time marks Andrew Niccol's return to the science fiction genre. The director began his career with Gattaca, a film set in a near future in which a person's genes dictated their lot in life. He would follow this up with S1m0ne in 2002 and Lords of War in 2005. For his next directorial effort Niccol's returned again to a near future earth, where time has become the ultimate commodity. Bearing a passing resemblance to Logan's Run, In Time sees a human race who have conquered death - to a degree. Everyone lives until they're 25 years old, at which point they'll never again age - but they're also given just one more year of 'time' to live (displayed on a digital clock stamped to one's forearm). The rich can purchase further time, while the rest have to do their best to earn it in order to extend their life after that initial year - no easy task when even a simple cup of coffee can cost you minutes off your remaining time. Into this world comes Will Salas, played by Justin Timberlake, who finds himself accused of murder and on the run when he inherits a chunk of time from a 100 year old man (who obviously still looks 25) just prior to his death. Pursued by Timekeepers (a future style FBI, which count's Cillian Murphy's Leon amongst its members) and the mob-like Minute Men, he joins up with a reluctant Amanda Seyfried as they rush to figure out what happened. This novel twist on ageing also allows Oliva Wilde to portray Salas' mother, despite looking very similar in age.

Seyfried was actually first to join the cast in early July 2010, followed shortly after by Timberlake and Murphy a few weeks later. Production began in October and Fox quickly set the film for release just over a year later. During post-production the film changed title from I'm.mortal to avoid confusion with the sci-fi themed I Am Number Four. At one point it was thought the movie would be delayed due to a plagiarism suit launched by author Harlan Ellison who found a number of parallels in the story and his work "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman.' and while the suit is still on going, it was not enough to halt the release. A four minute promo reel showed up in July of this year followed shortly by a standard trailer. Reviews for the sci-fi flick started showing up earlier in the week and weren't overly enthusiastic. By the time of the film's release it could muster only 37% approval (with some critics admiring the idea but not its execution), leaving it the poorest reviewed of this weekend's major openers (including the barely released Anonymous). Performing similar to The Thing and The Three Musketeers, In Time opened to $4.3M on Friday but found ready competition in the guise of Paranormal Activity 3 (not to mention the World Series). The film managed a further $7.7M, leaving the $40M flick with a three day opening of $12M, slightly better than the aforementioned films. There'll be competition for the demographic next frame from both Tower Heist and Harold & Kumar 3 meaning In Time's days are already numbered unless the film can spread some decent word of mouth.

Footloose, like its sparring partner Real Steel, drops a spot this weekend. The well received remake opened quite well three weeks ago and has since managed to keep its falls to a manageable level. With production costs ($24M) now covered, eyes turn to the international roll out which has so far seen the film score $6M. Footloose will end up being a decent money maker for Paramount and may leave Zac Ephron, who was set to star, wondering why he passed on the film.

The Rum Diary marks Johnny Depp's second dalliance with Hunter S Thompson's work. The star portrayed the cult writer in 1998's Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and this time around he's playing Paul Kemp, in the film adaptation of the writer's 1998 book of the same name ( loosely based on the author's exploits spending time in Puerto Rico). The book was actually completed in 1961 but after a number of rejections, Thompson shelved it, and would not revisit it until late in the 1990s. Production on the film had been a long time coming, with the rights secured in 2000 and Depp set to executive produce and star, along with Nick Nolte. The project ultimately fell apart, to be quickly picked up in 2002 with Josh Harnett and Benicio Del Toro attached. This second adaptation also failed to move forward and The Rum Diary sat unproduced until 2007 when the rights were acquired by producer Graham King. Depp once again joined the project and produced through his Infinitum Nihil company. Directing duties fell to Bruce Robinson, who won acclaim with Withnail & I. The film marks Robinson's return to directing after an 18 year gap (after the failure of Jennifer 8, the director practically shunned Hollywood and returned to writing). Once aboard the project he re-wrote the script and shooting began in March of 2009. After a protracted post production period, the film was finally set for release on October 29th.

As previously mentioned, Depp plays Paul Kemp, a journalist who travels to Puerto Rico to write for the San Juan Star newspaper. Once there, he takes to drinking rum and becomes obsessed with a girl called Chenault, played by Amber Heard, who just happens to be the fiancée of a shady businessman called Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). While not as outrageous as Fear & Loathing, The Rum Diary still has its hallucinatory moments. Reviews began strong but as more critics weighed in, its approval rating began to fall, leaving the film on a disappointing 51% going into the weekend. The movie was an interesting sell for the studio - Depp's known around the world as Capt. Jack Sparrow these days so an alcohol/drug filled flick might not be what his 'current' fans were hoping to see him in - but Film District were hoping they'd still show up in some regard - especially with a $45M budget attached. Sadly their faith appears to have been misplaced as The Rum Diary opened to just $1.8M, only good enough for fourth place. Things barely improved over the remainder of the frame, leaving the film firmly in flop territory with $5M. To find a similar figure for a wide opening film in which Depp was the lead we need to go all the way back to 1999's The Astronaut's Wife (2,200 locations, $4M opening figure). The Rum Diary won't stick around for long, leaving the studio hoping for a better showing overseas (which helped turn The Tourist into a $210M hit after tanking to just $67M domestically - though Depp was aided by Angelina Jolie)

Knocked back a few places, Real Steel crosses $70M this frame. The Hugh Jackman film will have lost sales this weekend to Puss in Boots, but has fortunately had a few good weekend to weekend drops to get it out of trouble. It still has some way to go to get close to that $110M budget but the film is going down a storm internationally and should have crossed $100M in that market this weekend. A $90M finish should be on the cards domestically, with potentially $150M abroad, if not more.

The Three Musketeers didn't have much impact on cinema-goers during its opening frame, making just $8.6M - barely stronger than The Thing's opening the week before. A week later and things haven't improved for Paul W.S Anderson's re-imaginging. On Friday the film added $1M and by Sunday night that figure had become just $3.5M - a drop of 60%. Thankfully for Summit, the film continues to perform well internationally, where it has already taken over $64M. With a budget estimated at between $75-100M, the flick should eventually break even but will be no Resident Evil style money maker.

The political drama The Ides of March finds itself off 44% this frame, taking $2.7M and crossing $30M in the process. The film has now become director George Clooney's most successful film, surpassing Good Night and Good Luck's $31.5M finish.

Moneyball adds a further $2.4M this frame to bring its running total to $67M. The film has yet to expand overseas, where its appeal may be limited due to the film's subject matter.

Rounding out the top ten is the Christian drama Courageous, which managed to see off 50/50 for the final top ten placing. Made for around $2M, the Christian drama has so far made $27.6M, and will surely become the most successful release so far for Sherwood Pictures.

Our final release this weekend is Anonymous, Roland Emmerich's Shakespeare conspiracy flick which entertains the idea that the Bard was simply a front man for the Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere. De Vere, portrayed by Rhys Ifans, is shown to be a childhood prodigy who wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream when just eight years old. Further muddying the water is the idea that not only was De Vere the illegitimate son of Elizabeth the first (fathered when she was just 15) but that much later in her life, so enamoured was she with De Vere, she began an incestuous affair with him. De Vere's plays are censored by court bureaucrats and forbidden from being performed and it is not until many years later, towards the end of Elizabeth's reign that he finds a way to stage them, using a drunken bit player (and some time killer) by the name of William Shakespeare as the 'real' author of the works. The idea for the film began back in the 1990s but was shelved after the success of Shakespeare in Love in 1998. By 2005 the script had become The Soul Of The Age but it would be a further four years before funding was in place. Emmerich, known more for his disaster flicks, claims to have been working on the film for more than eight years and that he had to put off directing it a number of times. Production finally began in March 2010 with shooting commencing in Germany, where a number of sets were constructed including a full sized replica of The Rose theatre. London's Elizabethan skyline was created with CGI in post-production. Controversy and debate has surrounded the film and a number of Shakespearian scholars have been quick to debunk its ideas and theories, not to mention the liberties the film takes with certain people, times and events.

Trailers played up the thriller/conspiracy angle, shying away from any of the darker aspects of the story. A wide, global release was set for late October 2011 but Sony then took a very unusual step - they completely scrapped the wide release plan with less than two weeks to go. This was due to the film's tracking data - including public awareness of the movie and how likely it was they'd see it - which found a general disinterest from the public and would leave the film in the potentially embarrassing position of a 3,000 location roll out and a very soft (below $5M) opening. To avoid this Sony chose to open the film in the very limited capacity of 265 or so location in hope of building word of mouth, with further expansion to follow if results were positive. This idea, while seemingly sound, may well have done the film more harm than good - especially coming so late in the day. While critics were more than happy to praise Ifans' performance, along with Vanessa Redgraves portrayal of Elizabeth, they found little else to enjoy, leaving it with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 44%. With that limited location count Anonymous was unlikely to break out and managed just $315K on Friday. By Sunday the film was up to $1M, lower than the studio were hoping for, one can be sure. Whether this will be enough to expand the $30M movie remains to be seen, but Sony might well be wondering if it would have been worth chancing that wide release after all.

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