Sunday 9 October 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 7th - 9th October 2011

1. Real Steel - $27.3M - $27.3M
2. The Ides of March - $10.4M - $10.4M
3. Dolphin Tale - $9.1M - $49M
4. Moneyball - $7.5M - $49.2M
5. 50/50 - $5.5M - $17.3M
6. Courageous - $4.6M - $15.8M
7. The Lion King - $4.5M - $85.9M
8. Dream House - $4.5M - $14.4M
9. What's Your Number? - $3M - $10.3M
10. Abduction - $2.9M - $23.3M

Dolphin Tale surprised many last weekend by moving up to the top spot, leaving Moneyball in second place for the second weekend in a row. The new releases didn't amount to much, with only one of them making over $9M. That film was Courageous, the faith based drama that was out to only 1,100 or so locations and already in profit by Friday night. The film actually finished fifth last frame but moved up a spot when actual weekend figures were issued on Monday evening (the Sunday boost is being accredited to churchgoers attending screenings of the film post-Sunday worship). This week things quieten down a little after the glut of new films in the past month. Hugh Jackman returns to the big screen in his first starring role since 2009's Wolverine with the family action drama Real Steel while George Clooney directs and stars in the political drama, The Ides of March.

Real Steel began life as a Richard Matheson's short story entitled Steel, set in a future in which human boxing has been outlawed in favour of huge sparring robots. As well as this new adaptation the story was also the basis for a Twilight Zone episode screened in 1963. The screenplay was purchased by Dreamworks back in 2005 for $850K and was one of seventeen properties taken by the studio when they split from Paramount in 2008. Later that year Peter Berg expressed an interest in directing the film but would end up passing on the project, leaving Shawn Levy to take the director's chair in September 2009 (Levy having had experience with large scale effects on both Night at the Museum flicks). Hugh Jackman joined the project and the film shot in Michigan from June until October 2010, accompanied by an extensive post-production period (the robots are a mix of animatronics and motion capture). For Jackman, this is another shot at success outside of the X-Men franchise - apart from Van Helsing, the star as struggled somewhat, at least domestically to see another major hit (Australia made just $49M but would make a further $161M internationally).

The story sees Jackman's Charlie Kenton as a former pro-boxer who misses out on a championship shot when the sport is outlawed, the human roles being replaced by robots. Left struggling to make ends meet as a fight promoter, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build/train a sparring robot, in hope that his boxing skills will give it the edge over other 'fighters'. The time together also helps Kenton reconnect with his son, while the robot begins to make name for itself. Alongside Hugh Jackman is Evangeline Lily, following up her turn in The Hurt Locker with a major starring role here. The first trailer for Real Steel appeared in December 2010, with a full trailer following in May of 2011 - the latter playing up the father-son angle alongside the showier robot bouts. The film was originally scheduled to open in November but the studio bought the film forward to avoid Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Reviews were just above average, leaving it with a 57% approval rating. Competition would come mainly from Dolphin Tale, now in its third weekend.

With an estimated budget of $110M, Real Steel needed to get off to a good start over its opening weekend and the studio have been pushing the film (and Jackman) as hard as possible. The film won Friday with $8.5M, which was probably at the lower end of expectations (one assumes Disney would have been hoping for a Friday figure above $10M and closer to $12M). The family market helped the film gain some ground on Saturday however, and by Sunday Real Steel was sitting on a three day figure of $27.5M. Again, while not a failure, the studio would have been looking for a $30M+ finish and leaves it with plenty of work still to do. The film won't face any direct competition next frame but needs a solid hold to avoid becoming a domestic disappointment, and risk jeopardising a sequel, which is already in the writing stage.

Our second major release this weekend is the political drama The Ides of March, starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, who also co-wrote the script and directed the project. The film began life as the play Farragut North and is loosely based on the 2004 primary campaign of Democratic candidate Howard Dean (the original title comes from a Metro station in Washington D.C located in the centre of the lobbyist's district). Clooney plays Democrat Mike Morris, on the presidential campaign trail, with Gosling as Stephen Meyers, his fresh-faced campaign mastermind. The remainder of the cast are made up by Paul Giamatti as a rival campaign manager, Evan Rachel Wood as an intern working on the Morris campaign, Marisa Tomei as a New York Times reporter and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Morris' campaign manager and Meyer's mentor. The story follows Gosling's idealistic staffer who finds his eyes opened to the dirty world of politics while working on the campaign trail.

The film marks Ryan Gosling's third film in fourth months (Crazy, Stupid, Love in July and Drive in late September), while being Clooney's fourth stint as director, following Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night, and Good Luck and Leatherheads. Work began shortly after the film's announcement in October 2010, with filming taking place during February and March of this year. The Ides of March received its premiere in August as the opener at the Venice Film festival and was scheduled for a limited release in December, expanding wide in January, but Sony chose instead to skip the limited release and bring the film forward to October. Reviews were strong, with at least 82% of critics finding something they liked. The Ides of March was out at 2200 locations but given its subject matter and the general feeling towards politics and politicians, the flick was to face an uphill struggle to appeal to the mainstream audience. A $3.5M Friday haul was pretty much in line with expectations and that set the film on the path towards its $10.5M three day finish. Word of mouth might help the film do ok during the coming week but it will face flashier competition next frame. Fortunately the budget for the film was only around $12M meaning The Ides of March should end up seeing a decent return and help continue to build up Clooney's reputation as an actor and film maker.

With Real Steel taking the top spot, Dolphin Tale had to settle for a third place finish. The family drama, about an injured dolphin and the people who come together to help create a prosthetic tale for the creature, has now recouped its production budget and found itself down 34% on its last frame. The word of mouth on the film continues to remain strong and there's every chance the film could finish up with around $80M in takings come the end of its theatrical run.

The Ides of March had the adult drama demographic covered this weekend, leaving Moneyball down 38%. The $50M Brad Pitt starrer, about a baseball team manager who, with a colleague, attempts to reinvent the way players are chosen, has so far made $49M. It won't face any major direct competition next frame but as has been mentioned before, the film's appeal outside the U.S may be limited, meaning Moneyball needs to make as much as it can from its domestic release. While there have been a number of baseball related films of the years, only one has ever broken through the $100M barrier (League of Our Own - $107M finish), with the 2002 release The Rookie placing second with a $75M finish. At the time of writing, Moneyball is currently ninth on the baseball film chart, with 1989's Major League firmly in its sights.

While it may have been one of the best reviewed films currently on general release, 50/50's Cancer based subject matter appears to have been a difficult sell to the general public. The film finished fourth last weekend (dropping to fifth once actuals were issued) and found itself off 36% this frame, holding firm at fifth position. Even with the good word of mouth, the film is going to struggle to take much more money so one imagines Summit Entertainment are pleased this one only cost them $8M to bring to screens.

Having started off well last frame, the faith based drama Courageous found itself down 50% on its opening frame. This weekend the film added a further $4.6M to its $9.1M start.It's worth noting that the film ultimately bested all of last frame's new releases, which were all out to at least 2,400 locations. Made for between $1-2M, the film is yet another success for Sherwood Pictures, who did well with Facing The Giants (2006) and Fireproof (2009). While Sherwood opted to release Courageous through Tristar, as opposed to Samuel Goldwyn Pictures who distributed the aforementioned flicks, it still primarily promoted the film through church groups and channels. Fireproof made $33M during its theatrical run and while Courageous won't rise as a high as that, it'll still be comfortably profitable for all concerned.

As the nostalgia wears off and it hits Blu-Ray3D, The Lion King 3D found itself down a further 57%, in no part thanks to Real Steel and the still dangerous Dolphin Tale. This is all largely academic given how much the film made during its original run back in 1994 and that this 3D release is more a 'testing of the water' than a quest to make millions (though one imagines Disney aren't about to complain at how well the film has done). The studio opted to keep the film in theatres beyond its original two week period and at the time of writing have yet to announce how much longer the film will stay out there. What they have announced however, are four further 3D conversions to receive theatrical releases, starting with Beauty & The Beast (which already had a very limited release in September) in January 2012, Finding Nemo in September 2012, Monster Inc in January 2013 and The Little Mermaid in September 2013.

Dream House managed to score $8.1M on the strength of its stars, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, as the studio opted not to screen the film for critics. A week on and the thriller drops 45%, not half as bad as it could have been. Those still undecided as to whether to see the film this weekend may well have been put off by the reviews that have subsequently appeared, the majority of whch pour scorn on it. This is going to be a costly mistake for Universal (and production company Morgan Creek) thanks to a production budget of $50M, a figure Dream House will be lucky to see even half of during its run.

After a dismal opening last weekend (just $5.4M), What's Your Number? managed to cling onto a top ten place for one more week. The Anna Farris/Chris Evans rom-com has now made just $10.3M against a budget of $20M.

Finally, it doesn't appear that Abduction will be the film to launch Taylor Lautner's career outside of the Twilight Franchise. With terrible reviews (worse even than Dream House), the film managed to get off to an ok start two weekends ago, thanks one assumes to Lautner's Twilight fan base, but now looks likely to leave the top ten with less than $25M in takings, from a budget of $35M. While the film won't lose any money (it's already over $20M in overseas ticket sales) it may be some time before a studio allow the young star to lead another film.

Opening at just 18 locations is the now infamous Human Centipede 2 - Full Sequence. The Tom Six horror flick has gained notoriety in recent months, especially after its outright ban in the UK (which has now been rescinded), and that reputation helped it earn $54K from its limited location count. It's unknown whether the film will expand further as its due to debut on Video on Demand shortly.

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