Sunday 6 November 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 3rd - 5th November 2011

1. Puss in Boots - $33M - $33M
2. Tower Heist - $25.1M - $25.1M
3. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas - $13M - $13M
4. Paranormal Activity 3 - $8.5M - $95.3M
5. In Time - $7.7M - $24.2M
6. Footloose - $1.4M - $41.7M
7. Real Steel - $3.4M - $78.7M
8. The Rum Diary - $2.9M - $10.4M
9. The Ides of March - $2M - $36.8M
10. Moneyball - $1.9M - $70.3M

Two wide releases join the fight for the top spot this weekend, and they'll be joined next weekend by Immortals and the Adam Sandler comedy Jack & Jill. Last weekend's Puss in Boots will be hoping for a decent hold after its $34M start. The other releases last frame disappointed to varying degrees - In Time made it above $10M but poor word of mouth might kneecap it a week on, while The Rum Diary was billed a failure by the end of its first night. But to this week, we have the ensemble comedy Tower Heist up against the third Harold & Kumar flick - Would Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy be enough to see off the Christmas themed stoners?

Puss in Boots got off to a solid, if a little underwhelming start last week. In fact, we need to go back to 2007's Bee Movie to find a similar start for a Dreamworks release ($38M opening). With no direct CGI competition the spin-off found itself down just 19% from last Friday and an even more impressive 3% for the weekend overall. Compared to almost any recent flick, animation or otherwise, that second frame drop is stunning and practically unheard of. Having been expected to give up the top spot for Tower Heist, the Shrek spin off dropped a place on Friday but recovered by Sunday to become champion for the second weekend in a row - thanks in a large part to the great word of mouth surrounding the flick, along with the family friendly angle. The studios know that the film will make its real money overseas, where their recent animated grosses have often doubled or even tripled domestic figures - the aforementioned Kung Fu Panda sequel closed to $165M domestically but ended up just shy of half a billion dollars overseas, but must be very pleased with that second frame figure. The spin-off has one more weekend before facing off against Happy Feet 2.

Eddie Murphy came up with the idea for Tower Heist back in 2006 as a vehicle for himself and an all black cast of comedian, including David Chappelle, Chris Tucker and Tracey Morgan. The idea centred on the team robbing Trump Plaza and their plans going disastrously wrong. With Brett Ratner attached to direct, the project moved forward and the script was re-written but as the story evolved to focus on just two central characters, Murphy exited the production. Ratner stuck with it and the story developed into an Ocean's 11 style caper (a film which Ratner had wanted to direct but commitments to Rush Hour 2 prevented his involvement). Comparisons to the Clooney/Pitt flick continued when Ratner hired the Ocean's remake writer Ted Griffin to rework the script. The director continued to champion the project, turning down such films as Horrible Bosses in the process. Griffin's work on the script would see a group of blue-collar workers planning to rob a successful stockbroker when they discover he has embezzled their pensions (something revealed when he is arrested for his participation in a series of fraudulent investments).

With the new script in place, Murphy rejoined the project and gained co-stars Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck. Alan Alda would play the disgraced broker, Arthur Shaw, with Tea Leoni as the agent in charge of the case. Murphy takes on the role of petty criminal Slide, recruited by Stiller's building worker Josh for his 'expertise' while Broderick would play the bankrupted businessman, Mr Fitzhugh. Production took place in New York during November 2010, concluding January with Universal setting the film for a November release. The first trailer arrived late July and appeared to show a potential return to form for Eddie Murphy. Controversy raised its head in early October when the studio announced that Tower Heist would be available on Video On Demand just three weekends after its theatrical debut, for a $59.99 premium. The idea was seen as a test case by the studio and would only take place in two areas - Portland and Atlanta but cinema chains were quick to voice their dismay. Furthermore, Cinemark Theatres (the third largest chain in the US) announced they would refuse to screen the film in their theatres if Universal followed through with their plan, and they were quickly joined by others in agreement. Only a week after their initial announcement, Universal issued a statement that the idea was to be shelved indefinitely.

Reviews for Tower Heist were generally positive, with 69% of critics finding something to enjoy. Going into the weekend it was expected to comfortably take the top spot from Puss In Boots but things didn't quite work out as planned. On Friday the film opened to a soft $8.1M which was on the lower end of expectations - Universal would have been looking for a figure closer to $12M, if not higher. By Sunday things hadn't improved, leaving the film with a $25M total and a second place finish. Again, that figure is almost certainly a good $5-8M off what the studio had hoped for and gives the film a tougher task next weekend up against Adam Sandler's Jack & Jill. It's hard to say at this point why the film didn't open higher, but some will no doubt point to the stigma attached to Eddie Murphy vehicles as one possible reason that Tower Heist isn't in the top spot this weekend. There's also the Harold & Kumar flick, which, while attracting a slightly different crowd, will no doubt have had some impact. Whatever the reason, the $85M budgeted flick has some work to do next frame.

Our only other new release this weekend is the third film in the Harold & Kumar series, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. The series kicked off back in 2004 with Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, which became a modest theatrical hit ($9M budget, $23M gross) and gained cult status on the home market. The film followed the titular stars (portrayed by John Cho and Kal Penn) who end up on a series of misadventures after smoking cannabis and attempting to locate a White Castle fast food outlet. Instead of quickly rushing a sequel into production, New Line waited until 2008 before unleashing Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay onto an eager public. This time around the hapless duo find themselves on the way to Guantanamo Bay after being imprisoned on a flight to Amsterdam, suspected of being terrorists. While the film didn't review as well as the original, it made $43M from a production budget of $12M - and again would go on to find cult success on the home market. Which brings us to 2011 and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Set six years after the last film, it sees the characters estranged, leading their own lives with new friends. But when Kumar arrives at Harold's door with a mysterious package, and inadvertently sets fire to Harold's father-in-law's beloved Christmas tree, the duo must embark on a mission to replace it - with trouble at every step of the way!

Cho and Penn both return, along with Neil Patrick Harris, whose role playing a more outrageous version of himself has provided the series with some of its highlights. Trailers played up the film being in 3D for all it was worth and New Line issued the now standard red band trailer alongside the theatre friendly green band. Reviews for this third film were as good as the first (72% for this versus 74% for White Castle) and it opened to a $5.4M haul. By Sunday the comedy had managed $13M, down a little on what the second flick opened with in 2008 ($14.9M) but still a decent enough figure, especially given the competition from Tower Heist. As an aside, according to data supplied by Boxofficeguru, 95% of tickets sold for the film were for the 3D version. Even with a high drop next frame the film should have little trouble recouping its $19M production budget, and the studio know that this theatrical money is all a bonus to what it will make from the film on the home market.

Scare flick Paranormal Activity 3 crossed $100M in total global ticket sales some time last weekend. Of further note is that fact that the entire series cost $8M to produce and has now crossed the $500M mark in total series ticket sales. This week it finds itself down a further 54%, similar to the 57% drop witnessed by the previous film during its third frame, and should become the most successful of the series, at least domestically (internationally the film is up to $65M so far). With front-loading playing a big part (and Halloween now passed), this third film won't be around for much longer but that'll be of little concern to Paramount, who must be banging down producer Oren Peli's door, with cash ready for a fourth film.

In Time, Andrew Niccol's sci-fi actioner opened to $12M last frame which appeared to split opinion as to whether the figure was disappointment or a minor success. This weekend the film added a further $7.7M to its total and witnessed a 35% frame drop - which is a good hold considering its opening frame - it could so easily have been as high as 60%. Word of mouth isn't doing the Justin Timberlake flick too many favours but given it cost $40M to produce, In Time should recoup costs domestically and may end up performing better on the international market.

The Paramount/MTV remake Footloose adds a further $4.5M to its total this frame as it looks towards hitting $50M before leaving theatres. Overseas the film has barely scratched the surface, having been released in only a handful of territories so far for a running total of $6M. Expect that figure to rise in the coming weeks, making the film a potential $100M earner for the studios.

While it may now be floundering in North America, Real Steel is still going down a storm abroad - $86M and counting. For Jackman, Real Steel's $78M current domestic total marks his best showing outside of Van Helsing and the X-Men series. The futuristic robot boxing film has one, possibly two more weekend's in the top ten and should go on to perform well on the home market.

Johnny Depp experienced life outside of Pirates of the Caribbean franchise last weekend when The Rum Diary opened to just $5M. The Hunter S Thompson adaptation seemed an odd choice to open at 2,200 locations when a smaller release may have benefited the film better - allowing it to build up word of mouth before gradually expanding into more theatres. This weekend it managed just $1M on Friday, $2.9M for the entire frame (a drop of 42% on its opening weekend). It's unlikely to see a further weekend in the top ten and will need to rely heavily on Depp's fans overseas if the film is to make back anywhere near its $45M production costs.

Rounding us out are The Ides of March, the George Clooney political drama. Produced for $12M, it has so far made $36M, and Moneyball which opened seven weeks ago and managed to continue to secure a place in the top ten while bigger, more populist films came and went. Made for $50M, the Brad Pitt baseball flick has now made $70M.

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