Sunday 27 November 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 25th - 27th November 2011

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 - $42M - $221.3M
2. The Muppets - $29.5M - $42M
3. Happy Feet Two - $13.4M - $43.7M
4. Arthur Christmas - $12.7M - $16.9M
5. Hugo - $11.4M - $15.4M
6. Jack and Jill - $10.3M - $57.4M
7. Immortals - $8.8M - $68.6M
8. Puss in Boots - $7.4M - $135.3M
9 . Tower Heist - $7.3M - $65.4M
10. The Descendants - $7.2M - $10.7M

This weekend's box office might seem almost anti-climatic but that's in part due to the three new films opening on Wednesday, in a hope of scoring some of that lucrative Thanksgiving market. That early opening led to slightly subdued weekend figures. In a real direct clash, three studios opted to open three family friendly films on the same day - and that's on top of Puss in Boots and Happy Feet 2. Having been starved of entertainment of late, the family market found themselves spoilt for choice. Good for the public, not so good for the losing studios. Add into the mix the Thanksgiving holiday and the second frame for Twilight: Breaking Dawn and we have ourselves one very busy box office.

After seeing the fifth biggest weekend in cinematic history, Twilight: Breaking Dawn comes back down to reality a week on, though the news isn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been. The fourth film in the series continued to perform well as the week began and a strong Wednesday ($12.5M) pointed to a weekend win as none of the new releases could touch Breaking Dawn during their first day out. On a Friday to Friday basis the film found itself down 75% (an expected high due to that front-loaded first Friday). Comparisons with Eclipse don't quite work as that film opened Wednesday - instead we need to go back to New Moon, a film whose performance Breaking Dawn is seemingly emulating - that film dropped 70% on its second Friday. With a further $42M this frame, Breaking Dawn Pt.1 is up to $221M (at this same point in its release, New Moon had taken $230M) and has the benefit of a quiet frame next weekend, with no major releases to clash with. Internationally the film is up to $268M, giving the vampire flick a global total of $489M. Box office sites are now viewing the production budget for both parts of Breaking Dawn as separate entities and peg this first movie at costing $110M. Even factoring in a potential $80M for prints and promotion, the film is going to be a money spinner for Summit, whose biggest hit outside of the Twilight series was 2010's Red, which finished domestically with $90M (as an aside, the combined domestic total of all of Summit's 2011 releases outside of Breaking Dawn is just $121M, thanks in part to the failure of Drive Angry and The Three Musketeers).

The Muppets marks the theatrical return of Jim Henson's creation, last seen on the big screen in 1996's Muppet's Treasure Island. The journey to their big screen return began back in 2008 when actor Jason Segal and director Nicholas Stoller (who had worked together on Forgetting Sarah Marshall) pitched the idea for a new Muppets film to Disney, who went on to offer them a deal to develop the idea into a script. An official announcement was made in March of 2008 and the duo turned in the first draft of the script around June of that year. Originally Stoller had been set to direct the film but in January 2010, news broke that James Bobin (known for co-creating Flight of the Concords and his work with Sacha Baron Cohen's characters Borat, Ali G and Bruno) would take on directing duties. Further script polish was then added with the assistance of Pixar and casting got underway. Segal took the lead role of Gary and by October 2010, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Rashida Jones had joined the film, alongside a huge list of cameo roles which included Billy Crystal, George Clooney, Milas Kunis, Ricky Gervais, Jack Black, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt amongst many others. As for the Muppets, all the favourites would return including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo, to be joined by some new creations, including Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan (and Gary's brother)

Once filming got underway the full plot was revealed and would see oil discovered under the Muppet Theatre. Chris Cooper's Tex Richman plans to buy the theatre and raze it to the ground in order to drill for oil. However, his plans are overheard by Walter, who tells Gary and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Adams). Along with Kermit the Frog, they decide to try to raise the money to save the theatre by holding a huge Muppets Telethon, but in order to do so they'll need to reunite the long since separated gang - Miss Piggy now works for Vogue Paris, Animal is in anger management and Fozzie Bear performs in a Reno Casino as part of a Muppets tribute act. With principle photography completed in February 2011, the hype machine kicked off in May when Kermit appeared at the premiere of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. A fake rom-com trailer accompanied the premiere and showed up online as Green With Envy. Further trailers followed, spoofing such films as The Hangover 2 (The Fuzzy Pack), The Girl with Dragon Tattoo (The Pig With The Froggy Tattoo) and Paranormal Activity (Abnormal Activity), accompanied by the more traditional trailers. A Christmas day release was set but this was pulled forward to mid-December, with Disney ultimately settling on a Thanksgiving date. Reviews were exceptionally strong and the film had the advantage over others by working on two levels - potential new young fans and older ones who remember The Muppets with fondness. Opening Wednesday to $6.6M, The Muppets looked set to be the champion amongst the new releases and while not strong enough to take the top spot, it didn't disappoint either. Thanksgiving saw a slight dip in takings, to $5.9M before getting back on track Friday with a solid $12.7M. By Sunday the film was sitting pretty on $42M ($29.5M for the Fri-Sun period), a figure just under what The Muppets cost to bring to screens. With the great word of mouth attached to the flick and no new competition next frame, there's a chance The Muppets could move up into the top spot.

Happy Feet 2 got off to an all but disastrous start last week, taking barely half of what the first film did in the same time frame. A week on, with three new family orientated releases to contend with, the penguin sequel held up well, witnessing a drop of just 12% on a Friday - Friday basis (37% for the weekend as a whole) - good enough to give Arthur Christmas and Hugo a run for their money. Whether this boost is simply Thanksgiving related will be more apparent next weekend. At this point George Miller's flick stands a very real chance of not even making $70M domestically, even with a better than expected second frame. Happy Feet 2 has barely started its release overseas but will need to work harder than ever if it is to recoup its $135M production budget.

Announced as Operation Rudolph back in 2007, Arthur Christmas marks the first co-production for Sony and Aardman Animation. The film follows the panic that ensues when it's discovered that Father Christmas has missed out delivering a little girl's present. His eldest son, Steve, who has modernised the way present are delivered, doesn't see one undelivered present as being an issue, a somewhat reluctantly Father Christmas agrees. His youngest son, Arthur, however, is horrified and sets about righting the wrong with the aid Grandsanta (and his aged sleigh) and Bryony, the elf who discovered the error. Pre-production began in 2007, with Aardman's team spending 18 months developing the story and character/scenery designs. Production began in April 2009 and the voice cast were announced shortly after, with James McAvoy playing Arthur, Hugh Laurie as Steve and Jim Broadbent as Father Christmas. The remainder of the cast were filled out by Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Joan Cusack and Robbie Coltrane.

The first trailer appeared in December 2010, with Sony setting a Thanksgiving 2011 release date for the film in the US. Arthur Christmas was set to open at roughly 3,300 locations, matching Disney's The Muppets. Reviews were strong and the film opened with a 93% approval rating. But sadly Arthur Christmas struggled to make itself seen - making only $2.4M Wednesday, leaving it chasing Happy Feet 2. Like The Muppets, the film dipped a little on Thursday before recovering slightly on Friday (taking $4.5M). The weekend proper saw the film continue to under-perform (competition certainly being the main factor) and come Sunday night, the flick had a running total of $16.9M ($12.7M for the Fri-Sat period) - not only that but Hugo, which Christmas looked set to best, was sitting right by its side. The joint production cost $100M to bring to screens and one imagines that Sony were hoping for a much better showing. Abroad the film should play better but it's too early to speculate as to whether Arthur Christmas can get anywhere near those production costs.

Hugo is quite a change of pace for director Martin Scorcese and marks his first foray into not only the family market but also the 3D one as well. Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick, and indeed for a short while, the film carried the same name. The story follows the titular Hugo Cabaret, an orphan who lives inside the walls of a Paris train station sometime in the 1930s. After finding a broken robot and encountering a strange girl, Hugo embarks on a fantastical adventure that includes a mystery involving his late father and a man who runs a toy shop. The rights to book were acquired in 2007 by GK Films, and Martin Scorcese begin pre-production work once Shutter Island was in the can (while also juggling his documentary features Living in a Material World, A Letter to Elia and Public Speaking) and it was announced to be his first time working with 3D in April 2010. John Logan (who scripted amongst others, Gladiator, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator and co-wrote the upcoming Bond film, Skyfall) was hired to adapt the film and Scorcese set about assembling a cast. Asa Butterfield (Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) was set to play Hugo, with Chloë Grace Moretz as the eccentric Isabelle and Ben Kingsley as the toy shop owner Georges Méliès. The remainder of the cast were made up by Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Sacha Baron Cohen as the station master in pursuit of Hugo, with shooting set tp take place in England and France.

Of the new releases this weekend, Hugo was the toughest sell to the public. Both Arthur Christmas and The Muppets practically sold themselves just on the strength of their titles (The Muppets especially with the built-in nostalgia factor) and because of this, Paramount chose to open Hugo in a somewhat limited capacity (1200 locations), with a view to expanding the film early December. If word of mouth was strong, this expansion would pay off, but should it not be, it would leave the studio with a major battle ahead as Hugo was a very expensive movie to bring to screens - an estimated $170M. Even the strong reviews that the film received might not save it either as both the other new releases scored highly with critics. Blame it on the selling angle, the competition or the limited screen count - but Hugo opened to just $1.6M on Wednesday, already throwing that proposed expansion into doubt. Curiously, unlike the two other releases, the film saw a boost on Thursday (adding $2.3M), followed by a $4.5M Friday. That extra push helped the film take on Arthur Christmas - witnessed by their final weekend totals being so close. After its first five days on release, Hugo had made $15.4M, which is certainly better than that Wednesday take was pointing to, but it still leaves the film with a lot of work to do. A decision on the potential expansion will be made early next week.

Jack and Jill looks like being one of Adam Sandler's poorer performers, at least for a widely released film (Reign Over Me made $19M from 1,700 locations back in 2007 while 2004's Spanglish made $40M from 2,500 locations). Despite a double figure weekend ($10.2M) the film has a disappointing running total of $57M, against a budget of $79M. At this point, it's heading for a sub-$75M finish domestically and is only just getting started overseas.

Tarsem's sword and sandals epic Immortals opened two weeks ago to $32M, but suffered a difficult second frame drop, taking $12M in the process. This time around the film dropped a better 29% and added $8.8M to its running total. Overseas things are slightly better, $65M and counting. Immortals cost Relativity around $75M to produce (quite a different figure to the $120M bandied about prior to the films production) and should turn a profit for the fledgling company, though one assumes they'd have been hoping for a much sturdier showing domestically.

Competition got to Puss in Boots this frame, causing the Dreamworks spin off a 31% drop and $7.4M haul. The film recouped its $130M production budget on Friday and still has at least one more frame in the top ten. At this point it's on track to outgross Shark Tale ($160M finish) and Over The Hedge ($155M finish) and stands an outside chance of beating this summer's Kung Fu Panda 2 gross of $165M.

The Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy, Tower Heist, crossed the $50M last weekend and received a minor lift this frame, to the tune of $7.2M. The film cost $85M to produce but gained a $10M tax incentive for shooting the entire production in New York City. It'll manage just one more frame in the top ten and end its theatrical run with around $75-80M. One wonders if the original plan, to put the film to Video on Demand in its third weekend on release, would have made Universal more money in the long run.

Alexander Payne's The Descendants managed to break into the top ten from just 29 locations last weekend, setting a location count record for a top ten entrant. With that performance in mind Fox Searchlight chose to expand the film into another 400 locations and were rewarded with a fantastic $7.2M haul - securing a second week in the top ten (and seeing off films with much larger screen counts). Further location expansion is a sure thing at this stage, with the film gaining such strong word of mouth that it could possibly move further up the chart in the coming weeks.

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