Sunday 22 January 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 20th - 22nd January 2012

1. Underworld: Awakening - $25.4M -$25.4M
2. Red Tails - $19.1M -19.1M
3. Contraband - $12.2M - $46.1M
4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - $10.5M - $11.1M -
5. Haywire - $9M - $9M
6. Beauty and the Beast 3D - $8.5M - $33.3M
7. Joyful Noise - $6M - $21.9M
8. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - $5.5M - $197.3M
9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - $4.8M - $178.6M
10. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - $3.75M - $94.7M

After the three new releases last frame, things step up again with four new films being thrown into the mix, along with the critically lauded (and Golden Globe winning) The Artist breaking out into 700+ locations. Next weekend there'll be another three films entering the fray, followed by another three the week after.

The Underworld series kicked off back in 2003 and saw Kate Beckinsale's as the vampiric Selene, taking part in an age old feud against a group of werewolves. Made for $22M, the Len Wiseman film would go to make $95M in total global ticket sales, with further success on DVD. Three years later the same team brought us Underworld: Evolution, which proved to be slightly more successful, with a $111M global finish. However, it was all change for part three of the series, which focused on creating a backstory for the vampire/werewolf feud in the form of a prequel. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans would be the weakest of the series to date, but only by a slight margin (a $91M worldwide total). While it seemed the franchise was being laid to rest, as if on queue, a fourth film (Underworld: Awakenings) was announced, and along with it the news that Kate Beckinsale would return as Selene. This time around differences would have to be put aside as the world finally wakes up to the existence of both werewolves and vampires - and wants them all dead. Meanwhile, a child-hybrid may be the key to the lycans finally gaining the upper hand over the vampire legions.

For a film such as Underworld: Awakenings, reviews don't matter by and large but of those critics who weighed in with an opinion, only 22% found something to like. Even if that wasn't an issue, the film faced heavy competition from not only the new releases (Haywire in particular it seemed) but the still dangerous Ghost Protocol, Game of Shadows and last frame's winner, Contraband. Screen Gems not only needed people to show up, but be willing to pay for the higher priced 3D tickets. The flick's $9.4M Friday debut set it up to have potentially the best opening of the series so far. (Evolution opened to $26.8M). With at least five other films vying for a similar demographic, the film did well to break out. While takings dipped slightly on Saturday, Awakenings held its ground and ended up with a three day take of $25.4M. While not quite managing the best opening of the Underworld franchise, it still proved there was life in the series yet. How it'll cope against The Grey next weekend is another matter but even a half decent frame will put it some way toward recouping its $70M production budget.

A non-Star Wars/non-Indiana Jones Lucasfilm release? We need to go back 1994 Radioland Murders to find one, that was, until the release of Red Tails - a twenty year plus labour of love for exec-producer George Lucas, following the lives and exploits of the first African-American military aviators - better known as the Tuskagee Airmen. The idea for the film began life back in 1988, with Lucas announcing a release date of sometime in 1992. It would take until 2007 before a final screenplay was submitted and 2009 before pre-production began (the delay being blamed, in Lucas' words, on the studio's concern about a costly production, with an all black cast and no major 'white' roles). In the end, Red Tails would be funded by the director himself, with a further $35M of his own money being spent on promoting the film. It's a shame therefore, given the funding method and subject matter, to see it so poorly reviewed - only 34% of critics gave it a positive write-up. As mentioned previously, competition this frame was tight, leading one to wonder why this date was chosen over a less crowded frame.

Unlike Haywire (see below), Red Tails seems to have found its own niche within the action drama genre this frame and managed to debut Friday to a strong $6M. On a location to location basis, that's as good as Underworld: Awakening's Friday haul. The flick played well over the remainder of the weekend, finishing up Sunday with $19M. Again, that's a good return given the amount of films on release. The question now is whether it'll be able to build on that success in its second frame. One thing's for sure, Red Tails certainly performed beyond expectations - at least one analyst had the film opening to $12M.

Our next release this weekend has actually been floating around cinemas since December 25th, when Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close received a limited release at just six locations. Almost a month on and Warner Bros. chose this weekend to expand the film into wide release (2,630 locations). The story follows a young boy (Oskar) who loses his father (played by Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 attacks. Oskar then begins a journey that takes him all over New York in an attempt to find a lock box that will be opened by a key his father left for him. Sandra Bullock portrays Oskar's mother, with other roles being filled by Max Von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright and John Goodman. The story begin life as a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, which was released in 2005, but it was not until 2010 that it was revealed that director Stephen Daldry and producer Scott Rudin had been working on adapting the story for five years. Hanks and Bullock were the first to join the cast, with Thomas Horn (Oskar) being cast based on his appearance on the kid's version of Jeopardy. Reviews for the film were cut pretty much down the middle, with it scoring a 49% approval rating.

In limited release the film had made just $691K, but unleashed onto a wider market, Extremely Loud managed $3.2M on Friday, securing a fourth place position. While word of mouth hasn't been great, the star power of Hanks and Bullock had caught the public's eye. By the close of play on Sunday the film had added a further $7.3M, giving it a weekend total of $10.5M. That start is about on track of what the studio were hoping for but unless it picks up some midweek business, it will be heading for a quick exit from the top ten.

Contraband always knew its time at the top spot was going to be limited to seven days. The Mark Wahlberg smuggler-drama all but recouped its production budget during its first weekend out so a fall of 50% this frame isn't going to be a major concern for Universal. What it does mean is that co-star Kate Beckinsale has the no.1 and no.3 film in the top ten, a feat not many an actor can claim. The film will get hit again next frame by The Grey and Man on a Ledge but should be able to clear $65M by the end of its theatrical run.

Haywire marks director Steven Soderbergh's first foray into the action genre. In an interesting change of direction, the film maker chose a non-actor, the MMA fighter Gina Carano, to take on the lead role of covert operative Mallory Kane. Haywire sees Kane carrying out freelance work for various governments, but when a job goes wrong, she finds herself hunted, and needing to call upon all her training and expertise to not only get back to America, but protect her family and find out who set her up. While Carano might be a newcomer, she's surrounded by some major acting talent - Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonion Banderas and Michel Fassbender, to name but a few. Not only that, but Haywire reviewed exceptionally well, scoring an impressive 83% approval rating at RottenTomatoes - easily the best of the wide opening releases this weekend. The flick was actually made before Contagion, Soderbergh's virus film which saw release back in October 2011, and was set to be released first, before being pushed back to January for unspecified reasons. But with competition on all sides, would Haywire manage to get itself noticed? Thanks to a $23M production budget, the film only needed one good weekend....

Alas it seems the film didn't get one. Despite that cast and the great reviews, Haywire debuted to just $2.9M on Friday. Even with the studio pushing the picture hard, it struggled against the Underworld sequel, and even last week's number one flick, Contraband, gave it a run for its money. Over the remainder of the frame things didn't really improve, leaving the film with a somewhat disappointing $9M. That said, like Red Tails, Haywire was actually expected to debut with even less, so there's every chance the studio will attempt to put a positive spin on those numbers. Thanks to its low budget it won't lose money but it also means it won't stay in the public's eye for long - and may end up stalling Carano's potential acting career.

As the only family-friendly film in the top ten, Beauty and The Beast 3D has the demographic all to itself. It opened last frame to a solid $17.7M and this week saw a drop of 52% on that figure, bringing its running total to $33.3M. While it won't fly as high as The Lion King did last September, it will still be bonus money for Disney. The studio came in for some flak this past week from exhibitors disappointed by the film's opening frame - their claim being that the film's [higher] potential box office was harmed by the Blu-Ray 3D version of the film being readily available to buy.

The Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah musical drama, Joyful Noise, drops 46% in its second frame, adding $6M in the process. It might see another frame in the top ten and should make back its $25M production costs by next frame.

Ghost Protocol continues to impress and is now a half a billion dollar concern. The film finished this weekend within a stone's throw of $200M and now looks likely to become the biggest of the Mission Impossible franchise, though it will have fallen out of the top ten by that point. With its $197M take in North America, the film moves up to number 7 on the biggest films released in 2011 list.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadow crossed the $175M barrier this frame and while $200M isn't out of the question, it gets harder as the film sheds locations to the newer releases. Overseas the film is up over $230M, giving A Game of Shadows a $400M+ running global total.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo sparred with the Iron Lady for the final spot in the top ten, winning out by just $50K. The David Fincher adaptation has now made $94M and should clear $100M within the next couple of weeks.

The silent critical hit, The Artist, expanded into 700+ locations and made $2.3M. Also of note is the George Clooney flick, The Descendants, which crossed the $50M mark this weekend.

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