Sunday 20 November 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 18th - 20th November 2011

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 - $139.5M - $139.5M
2. Happy Feet 2 - $22M - $22M
3. Immortals - $12.2M - $52.9M
4. Jack and Jill - $12M - $41M
5. Puss in Boots - $10.7M - $122.3M
6. Tower Heist - $6.9M - $53.3M
7. J. Edgar - $5.9M - $20.6M
8. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas - $2.9M - $28.3M
9. In Time - $1.6M - $33.4M
10. The Descendants - $1.25M - $1.25M

Just two wide new releases this frame but one is destined to be amongst the biggest of 2011. Twilight: Breaking Dawn is joined by the Happy Feet sequel and, opening in limited release, Alexander Payne's new flick, The Descendants. After a solid showing last frame, would the Immortals be a one weekend wonder?

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of books had been incredibly popular, even before Summit won the rights to bring them to the big screen. While often met with derision, the films proved incredibly successful and allowed the studio to move up in to the big leagues (though it has to be said, Summit have struggled to produce hits outside of the series). The first film, Twilight, was produced in 2008 for $37M and would go on to make $192M domestically, with a further $199M overseas. New Moon, based on the second book, was released just a year later and would become an even bigger success - from a $50M budget the film made $296M in North America with a further $413M from foreign territories. Not only were fans of the books turning out in droves but the films managed to bring in a whole new group of followers, especially overseas if the figures for New Moon were anything to go by. With such success, Summit opted to the release the third film, Eclipse, in the summer of 2010, risking a much busier market than the traditional November release frame - for hopefully a bigger return. Increasing the budget to a still modest $68M, Eclipse opened on a Wednesday to $68.5M and by the end of the first frame was sitting on a $176M haul. Come the fourth weekend the film was up to $279M but would take another twelve weeks to hit $300M (its final figure - with another $397M overseas). Like Harry Potter, Twilight movies tend to be heavily front-loaded with the majority of fans turning out for the first screening on the first day. Subsequent weekends would see high drops as a consequence but thanks to that budget and the huge figures overseas, Summit remained largely unconcerned as to how the film performed outside of that first month. Their only concern now was that Breaking Dawn was the final book in the series....

Discussions on the fourth film began once Summit had greenlit the second and third adaptations, with Meyer herself claiming the fourth book was possibly un-filmable due to the honeymoon sex and the infamous 'birth' scene, not to mention the complications in shooting with a baby who must appear self-aware. Undeterred Summit moved ahead and decided to pull out all the stops. Like Warner Bros. with Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, the studio opted to split the final film into two. By March 2010 Summit were looking for an Oscar nominated director to shoot both films and after seeing Gus Van Sant and Sophia Coppola, chose Dreamgirls' Bill Condon for the job. With the plan to shoot the films as one large project, the studio quickly announced a November 2010 start date, with November 2011 and 2012 set for the release of part 1 and part 2 respectively. All the principle cast would return, and that may have had something to do with the hugely increased budget (The three leads are rumoured to have been paid $25M each). Even with shooting such a large, effects-laden project, eyes were raised when the studio announced a shooting budget of $200M. Perhaps due to the fast post production period required for the first part, the budget increased further to $263M. But like Deathly Hallows, there was every chance the first film's potential take would cover the total production budget of both films - leaving Part 2 in profit before a frame of it had even hit screens.

Breaking Dawn follows Edward and Bella as they get married and take their honeymoon in Rio. Shortly after Bella finds herself pregnant but a near fatal childbirth has long reaching consequences for all concerned, including their new daughter, Renesmee. Having been originally thought to be too graphic for a PG-13 rating, Condon found a way to shoot the more intimate sequences without running foul of the censor (avoiding an R-rating which would have alienated a large portion of the the fan base). The first teaser trailer appeared in June 2010 followed quickly by the full trailer in September. Hoping to gain as many first weekend records as possible, Summit put Breaking Dawn into 4,000 locations - more than the original film and sequel but less than Eclipse, which had a count of 4,468. While the films are practically critic-proof, those that did weigh in found the film a disappointment. New Moon had a first day of $72.7M, while Eclipse scored $68.5M, both figures since surpassed by Deathly Hallows 2 (Which also holds the weekend record). The series has at various times held the midnight screening record but that too fell recently, again to Deathly Hallows pt.2 ($43.5M) - and indeed, Harry Potter hangs onto the midnight record a while longer as Breaking Dawn pt.1 scored $30M from Thursday midnight screenings (which often includes any showing from 10pm onwards). That's on track with what Eclipse did in the same time period. Friday as a whole, the film scored $72M, a sliver behind New Moon's opening day. The flick held steady as we entered the weekend proper and by Sunday night the fourth film in the series had made $139.5M - again, not enough to shatter Deathly Hallow's weekend record ($172M) but enough to prove that the series was alive and well. That figure puts it in between the opening grosses of the second and third films as New Moon opened to $142M, while Eclipse, which opened on a Wednesday, managed $64M for the weekend ($120M for the first three days, $157M for the Wed-Sun period). Rumours are that the film was equally lucrative overseas (early estimates peg it at $180M), meaning that Summit won't be too bothered about Breaking Dawn not opening bigger. With Thanksgiving taking place next week, can Breaking Dawn avoid a high second frame fall?

The original Happy Feet opened in 2006 and caused James Bond and Casino Royale a bit of a headache, beating the rebooted spy thriller by a $1M and grabbing a bag load of headlines to boot. The story followed the adventures of a penguin called Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) and his quest to find a mate, but he's somewhat hampered by his inability to sing (the way in which Emperor Penguins find their soul mate) - fortunately Mumble can dance up a storm and that ultimately leads him into fellow penguin Gloria's heart. The film opened to $41M back in November of 2006 and would go on to make $198M domestically, with a further $186M overseas. It was also a hit with critics and come award season found itself the recipient of a Best Animated Feature Oscar and BAFTA, along with a Golden Globe for best song and numerous other animated plaudits. A sequel was put into production sometime in 2009 with George Miller once again on directorial duties. The story would this time focus on Mumble's son, Erik, whose reluctance to dance sees him falling in with a puffin called The Might Sven, whom Erik thinks can fly. Further complicating Mumble's life is a global incident which causes him to bring together all the world's penguin nations in an effort to put things right. Wood returns to voice Mumble and he's joined again by Robin Williams as Ramon, while singer Pink replaces Brittany Murphy as Gloria. Curiously, the voice of Erik is provided by Elizabeth Daily, who had voiced the young Mumble in the first film. Acting as counter programming, Warner Bros. opted to open Happy Feet 2 against Breaking Dawn, similar to how the original film opened opposite Casino Royale. With only Puss in Boots as direct competition (now in its fourth weekend of release), would Happy Feet 2 surpass the first film's opening frame?

While the original film reviewed well, the sequel scored distinctly average with the critics, 45% at Rotten Tomatoes. And that wasn't the only bad news in store for Happy Feet 2. Out the gate on Friday the film managed just $6M, roughly half of what the original did in the same time frame. By Sunday evening the movie had made $22M, again, that figure is about half of what the original film opened to. Even with Breaking Dawn taking up so many screens, Happy Feet 2 was still out at 3,606 locations, which could easily translate to 5-6,000 screens - and it's doubtful one fan base hindered the other. While Puss in Boots obviously had some effect, it is now four weeks old and many of the people who wanted to see it will have already done so, which leads one to believe the general public just weren't that bothered about this sequel. The film needs an exceptional second frame hold/Thanksgiving boost (no easy task given the family friendly nature of all three of next week's releases - which all open on Wednesday) and a decent start overseas otherwise the $135M budgeted production will be in serious trouble.

Having taken the top spot last weekend with $32M, Immortals fell a pretty shocking 74% on Friday, a slightly better 61% for the weekend as a whole. A drop of that size is worrying, especially this early on in the film's release and risks seriously kneecapping Tarsem's sword & sandals epic. Similar to In Time a few weeks ago, box office analysts couldn't decide on whether that opening frame figure was a success or failure - some claimed it should have hit closer to $38M while others were impressed the film has made over $20M (which is what studio Relativity Media were hoping for). With overseas sales added to the mix, Immortals is out of the danger zone but needs a really good Thanksgiving to avoid finishing with barely more than double of what it made during its opening frame.

Something of a surprise, Jack and Jill managed to defy critics and analysts by taking $26M during its opening weekend. The critically mauled film cost $79M to produce but a second frame drop of 52% has all but doomed it to a domestic finish of around $65M. As with most of his films, Jack and Jill will turn a profit for Sony but it may need to rely quite heavily on international figures to do so. Next up for Sandler is I Hate You, Dad, due out June 2012, and voice work on the animated Hotel Transylvania (September 2012).

Puss In Boots hit $100M last frame as the Shrek spin off continued to defy its opening frame disappointment. After a 3% drop, followed last weekend by a 23% drop, Puss clashed with new kid on the block Happy Feet 2, finding itself down 57%, taking a further $10.7M in the process. Having thought $100M would be struggle just a few short weeks ago, it's looking likely that Puss in Boots will finish up with around $160M domestically. Overseas the film crossed $50M this past week but still has a large number of foreign locations in which to open, though it'll need to go some way to surpass Kung Fu Panda 2's stunning $497M international finish.

The Eddie Murphy comeback looks to have to remain on hold, as Tower Heist begins to shed locations in only its third weekend on general release (more likely to make way for Twilight than the studio cutting its losses). The $75M production has a running total of $53.3M domestically and $20.6MM overseas. With any luck it should see one more weekend in the top ten and finish up with around $70M by the end of its theatrical run.

Clint Eastwood's J.Edgar opened to $11.3M after debuting on the Wednesday. Starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Judi Dench, the film wasn't the hit with critics that many were expecting it to be. The drama added a further 37 locations this frame and saw a second frame take of $5.9M, that's down 47% on last weekend's total - and almost certainly higher than Warner Bros. were hoping for. It's unlikely to see any further expansion (at least not on any major level) and its critical reception means it'll be largely ignored come award season. The good news is Warner Bros. kept the budget relatively low despite the cast, producing the film for $35M, and that's a figure J.Edgar might just about recoup domestically, with potentially stronger figures overseas.

At this stage there's still a very slim chance that A Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas will out-gross the second film in the series. Escape from Guantanamo Bay finished up with $38M back in April 2008 but with a take of $2.9M this frame, 'Christmas' still has some work to do - made all the harder by losing over 1,000 locations this weekend.

Another film preparing to leave the top ten is In Time, which sheds over 1,200 locations this weekend. The Justin Timberlake sci-fi thriller adds another $1.6M to its total, leaving it with just $1.4M to amass before it'll have recouped its production budget. Overseas In Time has made over $55M.

Alexander Payne returns to theatres this weekend after a break of over seven years. His last directorial effort was the very well received Sideways, back in 2004. In the interim he's turned his hand to producing and also put considerable time into Downsizing, a film he wrote which failed to enter production due to budgetary concerns. This weekend sees the release of The Descendants, a comedy-drama starring George Clooney. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings and sees Clooney's Matt King as the trustee of his family's ancestral land in Hawaii, attempting to reconnect with his two daughter after his wife is comatose following a boating accident. Further trouble raises its head when he come under pressure to sell the land, and discovers a disturbing secret about his wife. The film was shot early 2010, with post-production running to February of the following year. Reviews for the film were very strong, with 90% of critics finding something to enjoy. Opening limited at 29 locations, The Descendants scored an impressive $319K, setting it up for a potential top ten finish. The film continues to play to packed houses throughout the remainder of the frame and finished up Sunday with a staggering $1.25M - said to be the best ever figure from such a limited location count. Expansion (and awards) are all but assured at this point.

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