Sunday, 18 December 2011

U.S Box Office Report - 16th - 18th December 2011

1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - $40M - $40M
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked - $23.5M - $23.5M
3. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - $13M - $13M
4. New Year's Eve - $7.4M - $24.8M
5. The Sitter - $4.4M - $17.7M
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 - $4.3M - $266.4M
7. Young Adult - $3.6M - $4M
8. Hugo - $3.6M - $39M
9. Arthur Christmas - $3.6M - $38.5M
10. The Muppets - $3.5M - $70.9M
(11. The Descendants $3.3M - $28.7M)

A slightly shorter report again this week I'm afraid, due to family and work commitments. Hopefully things will get back on track after the new year. On to this weekend - and it's once again a busy one on a number of levels. We have two wide opening major releases, with an expansion to a 1,000 locations for Young Adult, and the Imax release of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Which will expand onto normal screens next week, along with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). And next weekend is busier still...

Guy Ritchie's reworking of Sherlock Holmes looked set to rub many up the wrong way back in the December of 2009. With Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson respectively, Ritchie's take amped up the action and camaraderie, while leaving some of Holme's crime solving skills on the back burner. The public loved it - to the global tune of $524M, from a budget of around $90M. A sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, was quickly put into production with all the principle cast returning (Downey Jnr turned down Cowboy & Aliens to work on the sequel), alongside new comers Noomi Rapace (making her English language debut) and Jared Harris as Holmes arch nemesis, Moriarty. Production went along without a hitch, though it wasn't until late into filming that it was confirmed that Rachel McAdams' Irene Handler would return in some capacity. The budget for the sequel was pushed up to $140M, with expectation riding high. Reviews were slightly weaker for the second film, with it currently holding a 64% rating at RottenTomatoes (against 70% for the first film). Competition from the current releases would be minimal, giving Holmes a shot at at least one decent weekend - The Chipmunks would have their hands full with the five other family releases in the market - but something that wasn't accounted for was the Christmas Shopping Effect.

The original opened on the 'Christmas day' weekend to an impressive $62M, and that was up against the second weekend of Avatar. The actual day itself is an incredibly popular one for cinema visits - most places are closed, all the shopping is out the way etc. Opening on the weekend before Christmas Day - arguably the biggest shopping days of the year, might have done Holmes more damage than the other films could have hope to have done. Friday saw the film hit $15M, a solid figure but a good way short of the $24M made on the first film's opening day - and lets not forget this time around the public know what to expect. Saturday was a similar story and by Sunday night, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was sitting on a slightly underwhelming $40M. While it's early days, especially with a major boost expected next weekend, Warner Bros. would have been hoping for north of $50M, and like every other studio, they know it'll only get tougher to make money from here on out - Ghost Protocol expands Wednesday, The Girl with Dragon Tattoo hits late Tuesday while TinTin, The Darkest Hour, War Horse and We Bought A Zoo are all lined up for next weekend. Holmes must now tread with caution to avoid being a disappointment.

Our second new release this weekend is also a sequel - Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. The first film in the series opened back in 2007 and surprised many with how well it would go on to perform - $217M domestically, with another $144M overseas. The sequel, subtitled The Squeakquel, played even better - $219M in North America with $223M from the rest of the world. A third film was a no-brainer, especially given the combined budget for the first two flicks had been $135M. The third film sees The Chipmunks and Chipettes (introduced in the second film) performing on a cruise ship, with their manager-friend Dave Seville (Jason Lee) along for the ride. Chaos quickly ensues, which results in them being shipwrecked on a desert island. Competition hasn't been such an issue for the series before but this time around it has had to face off against The Muppets, Arthur Christmas and Hugo, not to mention the older films Happy Feet 2 and Puss in Boots. The first day of the original film saw $14M while the second made $18.8M - so the studio can't have been too pleased with the $6.8M Chipwrecked stumbled to. Things didn't improve much from that point and the film ended up with a three day take of $23.5M - little more than half of what the first film made during the same period. Again, it's worth remembering the effect Christmas is having, not to mention the family market competition - and at the end of the day $23.5M is still a pretty impressive figure. This third entry cost $75M to produce and even with this slow start, it should cover costs in the coming weeks, with assistance from the international market.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol marks the live action debut for animation director Brad Bird. The fourth film in series sees Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his IMF team framed and hunted for an explosion which destroys the Kremlin and kills many in the process. Disavowed by their government, the team have to continue to evade capture while attempting to figure out who was behind the bombing in Russia. Simon Pegg returns as Benji Dunn in an expanded role from M:I3, and he and Cruise are joined by Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Michael Nyqvist (amongst others - though no Ving Rhames this time out). Before production began, it was rumoured that Jeremy Renner would be taking the lead role, with Cruise's Hunt acting as more a supervisory figure. However, once shooting commenced and further plot details emerged, it was revealed that Cruise would still lead the film and Renner would be part of his new team (Renner himself is taking over the Bourne franchise). Set photos showed a fearless Cruise shooting at the top of the world's tallest building, while Bird announced that the film would be partially shot for Imax, and would not be in 3D. The third film in the series had disappointed at the domestic box office (something levelled on Cruise's bizarre off-screen behaviour at the time) but had performed better overseas, making over $265M. Reviews for that film were strong, with it scoring a 70% approval rating with critics. For this fourth film, reviews were little short of astounding (95% at the time of writing), with many singling Brad Bird's eye for framing action sequences and the breakneck (and breathtaking) pace of the film as major plus points.

With a crowded market, Paramount opted to open the film in Imax theatres this weekend (425 locations), with a view to expand wide (and into conventional theatres) on the 21st. The film also gained a major Imax boost with news that The Dark Knight Rises six minute prologue would play in front of it. Given its limited initial release, MI:GP performed exceptionally well, making $4.1M on Friday - good enough for third place. The flick remained popular over the remainder of the frame and finished up with $13M - the best location/dollar take of any film in general release, including the still white hot Descendants. Of course, some will say a good percentage of those ticket sales were thanks to The Dark Knight Rises, something which will be proved or disapproved come Wednesday - but one can't argue with those figures, help or not.

After a lacklustre start last weekend (which saw it score the lowest figure for a no.1 placed film since 2008's Bangkok Dangerous), New Year's Eve dropped 50% on a Friday to Friday basis (43% for the weekend overall). If the writing wasn't already on the wall for the big name ensemble flick, it most certainly is now. The film has made just over half of what Valentine's Day did within its first three days. Competition from the new films hasn't helped, and neither did the terrible reviews and subsequent poor word of mouth. With new and expanding films on Wednesday, and further releases next weekend, New Year's Day looks set to make a sharp exit from the top ten.

The news isn't any better for Jonah Hill's The Sitter, the R-rated 'Adventures in Babysitting' homage which opened to just $10M. A week on and the film found itself down 55% on its first frame and falling three places in the process. The good news is The Sitter was produced for around $25M, which is a figure the film should see about three quarters of domestically. Hill won some great notices with October's Moneyball and will appear next in his 21 Jump St. remake in March 2012 (opposite Channing Tatum). Meanwhile, director David Gordon Green must be wondering where things went wrong - The Sitter is his second failure of 2012 after Your Highness crashed to just $21M in April.

Now in its fifth weekend, Breaking Dawn looks unlikely to hit $300M, unless Summit plan to keep the film in theatres for another three months (which they did with Eclipse, which took 16 weeks to hit $300M). Overseas, the fourth flick in the Twilight series should hit $400M some time over the Christmas holidays.

Expanding to a thousand location this weekend is the new comedy/drama from Jason Reitman. The director once again teams up with Juno writer Diablo Cody, to bring us the tale of Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron), an author of teen-fiction who returns to her home town, in hopes of reclaiming not only her past glory but her high school sweetheart, the now happily married Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). When things don't go to plan, she forms an unlikely friendship with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), someone else who is struggling to adjust to life. Reitman saw success and acclaim last year with Up In The Air (for which he was Oscar-nominated), and while reviews for Young Adult weren't quite as strong (90% versus 78%), it got off to a solid start last frame, taking $310K from just eight locations. With a thousand locations now under its belt, the film made $3.6M for the weekend which is a little disappointing given the film success last frame. Whether the studio opt to expand the film further will be based more on how the film does next weekend but the crowded market might have already put pay to that.

Arthur Christmas adds $3.6M and is all but done at this point. The $130M production never really got a foothold in North America but has performed better overseas ($57M and counting). The last Aardman film, Flushed Away, disappointed back in 2006 to the tune of $64M - a figure Arthur Christmas would kill for.

Like The Muppets, Hugo also took a hit from Alvin & Co. During the week the Martin Scorcese flick had managed to move further up the charts (thanks, one assumes, to the white hot word of mouth) but the new releases put paid to that and the film could add only $3.5M this weekend. The $150M budgeted film doesn't have an easy road ahead but does have the vast majority of overseas locations awaiting the its release.

With fresh competition from Chipwrecked, The Muppets drops 51% on last weekend's $6.9M. After a good start the film has struggled somewhat, not recovering as well from its post Thanksgiving drop as many expected it to. In this, its fourth weekend on general release, the film adds a further $3.5M to bring its running total to $70M, but drops over 500 locations in the process. Overseas, it's just getting started, having so far made $6M.

Just outside the top ten but worthy of note is Alexander Payne's The Descendants. The film, which stars George Clooney is still out to only 878 locations and dipped only 24% this frame. Golden Globe nominations this past week will have opened the film up to more people's notice too and the flick could be looking at a finish north of $45M. Not bad from a budget of just $8M.

With that, I'd like to thank everyone who reads and comments on the box office reports each week, your time and discussion is very much appreciated. Look out for the Year End Box Office review sometime within the next fortnight. A very Merry Christmas to you all!

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