Sunday 25 March 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 23rd - 25th March 2012

1. The Hunger Games - $155M - $155M
2. 21 Jump Street - $21.3M - $71M
3. The Lorax - $13.1M - $177.3M
4. John Carter - $5M - $62.3M
5. Act of Valor - $2M - $65.9M
6. Project X - $1.9M - $51.7M
7. A Thousand Words - $1.9M - $14.9M
8. October Baby - $1.7M - $1.7M
9. Safe House - $1.3M
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - $1.3M - $97.1M

There's only one major release this weekend but it's a big one. The Hunger Games is expected to take over from Twilight and Harry Potter as the next major franchise, and it's been gaining enough pre-release hype to pull it off. Many have tried but it looked like this one may succeed. Elsewhere we've got the second frame for the well received 21 Jump Street and we find out how close to $200M The Lorax can get in its fourth weekend on release.

The Hunger Games is based on the first of a trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. The story is set in a future, post apocalyptic America (named Panem), which is now split into a number of districts. As a result of an uprising many years ago, The Capitol (which now controls society) demands each district submit two teenagers as tributes, annually, to take part in a fight to the death, entitled the hunger games. The pair of teenagers from each district are selected by lottery and when her young sister Prim is selected in her first year of eligibility, her older sister Katniss volunteers to take her place. Katniss soon finds herself in the Capitol, being trained and groomed for what could literally be the performance of her life. Lionsgate acquired the rights to the series of books back in 2009, between the release of the first and second novel (Catching Fire) and set Collins herself to adapt the story into a screenplay, with later polish coming from screenwriter Billy Ray. Gary Ross signed on to direct the picture in late 2010, and with a release date of March 2012 already set, the Seabiscuit director had his work cut out for him. After an extensive casting session to find 'their' Katniss, Academy award nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class) was picked to take the lead role and principal photography commenced in May of 2011. So tight was the shooting schedule that Steven Soderbergh was hired to shoot some second unit work, though this was later downplayed by the director himself. Shooting so quickly pushed the initial $75M budget north of $90M, but subsidies allowed the studio to pull back some of the overspend, resulting in a production cost of around $78M.

The first teaser, detailing one short sequence, was released in August 2011 with a full trailer being attached to Breaking Dawn Part 1 in November. With the book being a best seller, hype was already high for the flick but in the weeks leading up to its release, everything went into overdrive. Online vendor Fandango reported Twilight series style ticket sales and midnight sneaks/first day showings quickly sold out. While fans of the series would see the film regardless, Lionsgate needed the general public to show up too, essential if they wanted the picture to last beyond that first weekend. Salvation came in the guise of some of the best reviews of the year so far. After debuting at 100% fresh, The Hunger Games entered the weekend at a very strong 87% approval rating. With little direct competition, the scene was set for a huge, possibly record breaking, opening frame. Out to over 4,000 locations, the movie hit the ground running, scoring an impressive $19.7M from midnight sneak peaks. From its first Friday, The Hunger Games made a huge $48M (excluding those sneaks), giving it a single 'day' total of $68.3M - good enough to be the biggest single day take for a non-sequel, and the fifth best single day take of all time (not to mention the fourth best Friday take of all time). A strong start indeed and proof positive that the film had spilt over from the book's fanbase and into the mainstream. But would it take a hit Saturday now that the front-loading was out of the way? It would seem the effect was minimal as it added a further $51M, and that led some to speculate that the Hunger Games would open bigger than New Moon, currently the biggest weekend opener of the Twilight series with a three day take of $142M. Ultimately it would blow that figure away, with a near unprecedented $155M three day total - the biggest weekend for a non-sequel in history and the third best opening of all time. It goes without saying that it's also the biggest March opener by some margin, blasting Alice in Wonderland's $116M opening from back in 2010.

As Box office prophets mentioned in their Friday analysis, the sort of figures The Hunger Games is seeing are comparable to the final parts of the Twilight and Potter franchises, and yet this is the first film in a new series. Indeed - if you remove the midnight sneaks from both films, The Hunger Games actually made more money on Friday than Deathly Hallows Part 2. Its weekend figure, as mentioned, is bigger than New Moon (and therefore any other Twilight film thus far) and only Deathly Hallows 2 from the Harry Potter series had a bigger weekend (along with The Dark Knight). With the sequel already greenlit and preparing to enter pre-production, it seems Lionsgate's faith was well placed and a worthy successor for the Twilight (and Harry Potter) franchise crown has finally been found. Next weekend should be an interesting one for The Hunger Games, when it faces off against Wrath of the Titans, which is sure to find one hell of a fight on its hands.

21 Jump Street got off to a great start last frame, making $35M over its first three days. The Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum re-imaginging had recouped its production budget by only its fifth day on general release and the flick was still riding high from some good reviews and excellent word of mouth as we entered its second weekend. While The Hunger Games would undoubtedly have an impact on takings, 21 Jump Street's R-Rating meant direct demographic competition would be limited. After a $13.3M first day, the comedy saw a drop of 53% on its second Friday on general release - a high figure but almost a given after that initial start. As the weekend wore on, the comedy managed to recover its footing somewhat, ending the frame down 41%, with a total of $21M. With its $42M budget already well covered, 21 Jump Street could end up as high as $90-100M in North America, with a similar or better figure abroad. Work on a sequel has already begun, with all principal cast members expected to return.

Again, like 21 Jump Street, our number one film this week would have little demographic crossover with The Lorax. The Dr Seuss adaptation added another $13M this frame, to bring its running total to $177M. A finish above $200M is certainly on the cards, though we're still a few weeks away from that point. If that wasn't enough, The Lorax still has no direct competition for at least a month so should continue to play well to the family market. Overseas things are just getting going, with a total of $14M on the books so far. Expect that figure to rise rapidly in the coming weeks.

Things continue to go from bad to worse in North America for John Cater. After a very public slating by Disney this past week, in which the studio blamed poor upcoming financial results directly on Carter's lacklustre performance, the flick found itself already being taken out of 500 or so locations, in this, only its third weekend on general release. While it continues to play well around the world ($172M and counting), it could make just $5M on the domestic front and was down a painful 63%. With a number of major titles biting at its heels, at least two of which will rob the film of a number of its 3D locations, the studio are expected to continue to cut their losses and all but abandon the film they put $250M (plus $100M in ads & prints) into bringing to the big screen. John Carter has made $62.3M after 23 days on general release.

With only one major release, the older films in the top ten get another breather. Unfortunately the public have either seen these films or have no desire to, leading the remainder of the top ten to barely make $10M between them.

Act Of Valor drops 500 locations this frame but manages to add $2M, giving it a running total of $65.9M. Made for just $12M, the real life Navy SEALS drama has proved incredibly lucrative for Relativity, and makes up for the disappointment of Haywire ($18.9M finish) and Shark Night 3D ($18.8M finish). Like Act of Valor, Project X sheds a large number of locations this frame as it continues it descent out of the top ten. The found-footage comedy hit $50M on Friday but now seems unlikely to surpass Chronicle's $62M finish.

The Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words looks set to be his biggest 'hit' outside of Tower Heist and The Shrek Franchise since Norbit back in 2007. Sadly that means little when you consider the films in between made just $17M in total. A Thousand Words was actually completed shortly after Norbit but sat on the shelf until this year due to a studio split and Paramount's reluctance to spend money on promotion. It should top out at around $20M.

A very strong showing from only 360 locations allowed October Baby to break into the top ten on Friday. The film, based on the youtube videos of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, chronicles the story of Hannah, a young woman suffering from epilepsy, asthma and depression who collapses on the verge of her stage debut. After being taken to hospital, it is revealed via her journal that she feels lost and unwanted, and after a heated exchange with her parents, Hannah discovers she is actually adopted and was the result of a botched abortion. This information throws her world further into disarray and she sets out to find her real mother, and the nurse responsible for the failed abortion attempt. The film received its limited release in Mississippi, Alabama and Memphis, in part to highlight an upcoming ballot initiative (Measure 25) regarding whether life begins at conception. It had a strong location/tickets sold average and entered the top ten with $605K on Friday. By Sunday it was up to $1.7M, recouping its $1M budget in the process. With such a strong debut and only two major releases next frame, it may land a second weekend in the top ten.

The Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds action thriller Safe House manages one more frame in the top ten, adding $1.3M, for a current total of $122.5M. Overseas the film has made $67M. Incredibly, given its start, Journey 2 crossed $300M in total global ticket sales sometime in the last few days. Made for $79M, the Dwayne Johnson action comedy has made $95M in North America, with a further $207M overseas. While it will fall out of the top ten next frame, it should cross $100M before leaving domestic theatres.

In an even more limited capacity than October Baby, The Raid: Redemption managed a take of $205K from 14 locations. The very well received action flick should expand further in coming weeks.

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