Sunday 2 October 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 30th September - 2nd October 2011

1. Dolphin Tale - $14.2M - $37.5M
2. Moneyball - $12.5M - $38.4M
3. The Lion King (in 3D) - $11M - $79.6M
4. 50/50 - $8.9M - $8.9M
5. Courageous - $8.8M - $8.8M
6. Dream House - $8.2M - $8.2M
7. What's Your Number - $5.6M - $5.6M
8. Abduction - $5.6M - $19.1M
9. Contagion - $5M - $64.7M
10. Killer Elite - $4.8M - $17.4M

With the announcement last Sunday that The Lion King 3D would not be pulled from theatres after two weeks on release, as had originally been planned, four new films join the current releases in an attempt to usurp the Disney classic from the top spot. Last weekend's Moneyball and Dolphin Tale both performed well, while Abduction and Killer Elite disappointed. This frame brings us a comedy drama, a psychological thriller and a romantic comedy. There's also Courageous, a faith based drama from the makers of 2008's Fireproof.

Dolphin Tale gave Moneyball a good run for its money last weekend, finishing up just behind with a $19.1M total. A week on and the family film managed a very solid hold, down just 26%, and finished ahead of not only the Brad Pitt flick but everything else out there as well. The true-life tale made another $14.2M this frame, giving it a running total of over $37M. Word of mouth on the family film is very strong and that helped it move up the charts (and recoup its budget of $35M) this weekend. With only The Lion King as direct competition, Dolphin Tale should see a few more decent frames, with the excellent word of mouth helping out in that respect.

Having opened just north of $20M last frame, Moneyball has to settle for not too shoddy 36% drop and $12.5M weekend haul. The film managed to hold its own against the new releases and beat Dolphin Tale's tally during the weekdays, but couldn't take on the weekend family crowd. The true life baseball drama cost $50M to produce and while the film is well on the way to recouping that figure, its appeal may none the less be limited, even with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman taking major roles - though a number of people have been quick to point out that an interest in baseball isn't required to appreciate the film.

Lion King 3D drops 50% this weekend and adds a further $11M to its coffers. Furthermore, when we combine what the original release of the film made during its theatrical run with this new 3D release, The Lion King had crossed $400M in total lifetime ticket sales. With Disney deciding to keep the film in theatres beyond its original two week run, there's every chance the film could end up adding a further $20-30M to the above figure.

Based loosely on the life of screenwriter Will Reiser, 50/50 stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen, as a man diagnosed with cancer and the friend who helps him come to terms with it. The film started production with the working title of I'm With Cancer, before becoming Live With It, then finally 50/50. James McAvoy was originally cast in the role of Adam, the character Levitt now plays, but had to leave the production due to personal reasons (Levitt actually took over with just a few days to go before shooting commenced). As mentioned, 50/50 sees Adam diagnosed with cancer, and follows his treatment along with how those around him deal with the news, including Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam's girlfriend, Angelica Houston as his mother and Anna Kendrick as his hospital assigned therapist. In the director's chair is Jonathan Levine, who won acclaim with The Wackness in 2008 (and a minor cult hit with All The Boys Love Mandy Lane in 2006). Joseph Gordon Levitt has continued to choose interesting projects since the end of Third Rock From The Sun while Rogen has generally done well with comedies but struggled somewhat outside of that frame (Funny People flopped badly while The Green Hornet didn't become the franchise launcher the studio had hoped - but also wasn't the failure many had predicted either).

Trailers balanced the serious subject of cancer and its effects while injecting real life humour into proceedings. Most critics enjoyed the film and that's helped 50/50 score an approval rating of 92%. But cancer isn't an easy subject to make light of and hits very close to home for many people. With that it mind, 50/50 opened Friday to $2.8M, only good enough for a fifth place finish. While the film continued to receive good reviews and word of mouth over the remainder of the weekend, it wasn't enough to push it north of $10M, leaving 50/50 with a $8.9M start. The film cost around $8M to produce so no one will lose money here and there's every chance it'll hold well next frame.

Our next release is Courageous, a Christian drama following four policemen as they deal with life, and fatherhood in particular. Produced by Sherwood Pictures, the makers of Fireproof, (the $500k budgeted/$33M grossing faith based drama of 2009) Courageous' cast and crew is made up of roughly 50% Church members and 50% professional actors. Given its limited appeal, Sherwood opted once again to promote the film within church groups and such like rather than opt for the usual Hollywood channels. The flick was produced for just $1M (the biggest ever budget for a Sherwood Film) and given the success of its earlier releases, was money well invested. While Courageous was only out to 1100 or so locations, like Fireproof, it had the potential to break out, especially when it was revealed midweek that the film was the no.1 purchase on the online ticket site, Fandango. Reviews weren't anything special but given its promotional path and target audience, they'd have been of little influence anyway.

Given its somewhat limited location count, Courageous was able to eclipse all the new releases on Friday with a $3.1M take, quite an achievement. The film did well to keep up the momentum over the remainder of the frame, finishing up with a fifth place finish and a $8.8M total. Again, a very strong figure for such a small release and the best ticket/location average of any film in the top ten. Like Fireproof, this one can run and run within its target audience, and it's already well into profit (and probably recouped prints and ads costs too).

Dream House certainly has pedigree - it's directed by Jim Sheridan and stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts. It follows the Atenton family (Parents and two children) as they move into their new house, only to discover it was the site for a vicious murder of a mother and her two children. While investigating the history, the couple meet their neighbour Anne (Watts), one of the few people to know the murdered family and become to realise the horror of what happened there may well pale compared to what is to come. The film began shooting in February of 2010 and witnessed on-locations clashes between Jim Sheridan and Morgan Creek's Jim Robinson over the script and general production issues. These problems continued and indeed escalated during Dream House's post production culminating in Morgan Creek taking Sheridan off the film and re-cutting it themselves. The director and leads disliked this new cut (and one assumes the production company's behaviour) so much that they have refused to promote the film in any way. The film did not screen for critics, something usually reserved for horror films or those films that a studio already know is bad but hope to have made some money back from before the public realise. Furthermore the initial trailer for the film appeared to show not only a condensed version of the entire thing, but to also what appears to be a major twist.

Given that the film wasn't screened for critics, Dream House managed just a 6% approval rating, with those that did manage to see the film generally hating it. But the public didn't appear to concerned, with the flick seeing practically the same Friday figure as the well received 50/50. By Sunday the two films were still sparring, with Dream House ultimately being the loser of the two with $8.2M (but given its history and reviews, it could have been much worse). Expect the film to tumble hard next frame and be gone a week later.

This week's entry for alternate programming goes to What's Your Number?, a romantic comedy starring Anna Farris and Chris Evans and based on the book 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak. The film follows Farris' Ally Darling as she attempts to track down all the men she's had relationships with, hoping to discover whether one of them was her true love. Assisting in this journey is her new neighbour Colin (Evans). Farris can play this kind of character in her sleep while Evans is coming off the summer smash Captain America (and has drama Punctured in limited release). The trailer treaded familiar ground, revealing some of the well known actors playing Ally's exes. Unfortunately, reviews for the film weren't great, barely a step above the recent Sarah Jessica Parker flop, I Don't Know How She Does It. On Friday What's Your Number? managed just $2M. As the weekend wore on the film failed to attract much in the way of the female demographic or the date night crowd and ended up with just $5.6M for the weekend. Even with a budget of only $20M, the film is going to struggle to see a return and like Dream House, will be a distant memory in a fortnight's time.

Abduction didn't open much stronger than Killer Elite (around $11M) last weekend and actually faired worse as the week began, dropping down to seventh place on Monday. The good news is that the Taylor Lautner flick cost around $35M to produce and should make around three quarters of that figure domestically. This weekend it managed a further $5.6M and suffered a 48% drop, which was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Abroad the film has made $6.5M but is just getting started.

Contagion looks upon its last weekend in the top ten. The star studded film has made $64M so far, from a budget estimated at $60M. A similar figure overseas is all but guaranteed with that cast.

With a $66M production budget, Killer Elite needed a better start than the $9M it made during its opening three days. A week later and the film sees a 48% drop, a $4.8M figure and a fall to tenth place. The film, which shot in Australia, (and was in part funded with Australian money) will now need to look elsewhere to recoup those high production costs, relying on the global appeal of stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro.

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