Sunday 11 March 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 9th - 11th March 2012

1. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax - $39.1M - $122M
2. John Carter - $30.6M - $30.6M
3. Project X - $11.5M - $40.1M
4. Silent House - $7M - $7M
5. Act of Valor - $7M - $56.1M
6. A Thousand Words - $6.3M - $6.3M
7. Safe House - $4.9M - $115.7M
8. The Vow - $4M - $117.6M
9. This Means War - $3.7M - $46.8M
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - $3.6M - $90.7M

This frame brings us one of the costliest films in box office history, alongside a little hyped horror film with a gimmick and a long delayed Eddie Murphy Vehicle. John Carter will be facing off against Silent House but may find tougher competition in the guise of last frame's stupendous winner, The Lorax, which opened with the third biggest March weekend in box office history. We're now gearing up for a very busy few weeks that'll lead into the summer blockbuster season, which unofficially kicks off with The Avengers at the start of May.

With a $70M debut, The Lorax found itself amongst the big players of March. The Dr Seuss adaptation had cleared its budget by Sunday night and would perform well during the week, its lowest single day take being $2.6M. The flick entered its second weekend with $82M and even with John Carter waiting in the wings, had little to worry about as there'd be limited crossover betweens the two film's demographics. The Lorax's second Friday saw a haul of $9.6M, with another strong Saturday to follow, giving it $39M for the weekend as a whole, down 44% on its first frame figure. By the end of the weekend, not only had the film crossed the $100M barrier but it had managed to retain the top spot. Where the picture goes from here is open to speculation - despite the slew of new films coming up, The Lorax has no direct competition until April. At this point it's surpassed the $101M made by The Cat In the Hat and will be targetting the $154M finish of Horton Hears A Who within the next week or so.

Disney's John Carter has been a long time coming. Based on an Edgar Rice Burrough's set of stories, an attempt to bring the character to the big screen began as early as 1931 when Bob Clampett worked on what was intended to become an animated version of Burrough's vision. Even though the studio was enthusiastic with the initial footage, exhibitors weren't so keen, claiming that the story, a civil war soldiers finding himself fighting on Mars, was just too outlandish for a public to accept. Had it been successful, it may have preceded Snow White as the first fully animated feature film. Development lapsed until the 1950s when Ray Harryhausen expressed an interest in the project, which ultimately came to nought. It was then in the 1980s that Mario Kasser bought the rights with the idea of setting John McTiernan to direct Tom Cruise, again, a project that fell apart when McTiernan realised that the effects work required wasn't yet advanced enough to do the material justice. The rights eventually reverted back to the Burrough's estate until 2004, when James Jacks became enthused by John Carter thanks to Harry Knowles writing about the character in his autobiography. Jacks acquired the rights and hired Knowles as a creative consultant, with Robert Rodriguez joining the project after being given the script by Knowles. Pre-production was set to begin with Rodriguez planning to use the green-screen techniques with which he had shot Sin City. But, due to the aforementioned film and the director's insistence that Frank Miller get a co-directing credit on it, Rodriguez had had to resign from the director's guild, which meant Paramount couldn't hire him to direct John Carter. He was replaced by Kerry Conran, who would stay with the project for only a short time before being replaced by John Favreau in 2005. Despite Favreau pushing forward with shooting concepts and designs, he too would leave the project to helm Iron Man. Paramount decided not to renew the rights, which were then picked up by Disney in 2007.

Disney, working with Pixar initially, hired Wall-E director Andrew Stanton to bring John Carter to the big screen. Working with writer Mark Andrews, they turned in what was to be the first part of a potential trilogy, based on the first book, The Princess of Mars. Michael Chabon re-worked the script and shooting dates were set. Bringing Stanton's vision to the big screen wasn't going to be cheap or quick. Taylor Kitsch (Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) was set to play John Carter and shooting began at the start of 2010, with post-production commencing from July of that same year. The story follows a civil war soldier transported from America to Mars, where he finds himself embroiled in a war of another kind. In a move to attract a mainstream audience, the 'Of Mars' part of the title was dropped, with Stanton explaining that the character became John Carter of Mars during the film and that subsequent entries would carry the full title. Shooting went smoothly enough, though there were said to be extensive re-shoots, something Stanton was quick to point out was done with Disney's blessings. Hype for the film kicked off proper with an ill-received Superbowl spot. Things didn't improve from there with Disney attempting almost every trick in the book to get the film into the public's eye - yet the only thing that caught attention was the rumoured $250-300M budget - something that all concerned were quick to deny. [It's worth noting that part of the budget was taken up developing the technology for the film, which the studio hope will enable them to cut costs on future productions] As the release date approached, Disney released more and more footage, including a total of three main trailers, numerous clips and culminating in a complete ten minute sequence going online in the last week.

While genre fans were quick to praise the film, and indeed, initial reviews were very strong, cracks began to appear as more and more mainstream critics weighed in with their opinions. The picture quickly tumbled from 82%, to 62%, to the 50% it currently holds at Rotten Tomatoes. For John Carter, things weren't looking good - not only would it need to be amongst the biggest openers of all time, it would need to perform well in its subsequent weekends, even with major releases in every frame for the foreseeable future. Worse, The Lorax had opened incredibly well only a week previous and with little family competition, would be ready to give Disney's potential blockbuster a run for its money. Early signs weren't promising, at least not in North America. From midnight sneaks on Thursday, the film managed just $500K, that's around $700K less than teen comedy Project X took in its sneak peaks a week earlier. The film clashed, as expected, with The Lorax on Friday, barely beating the week-old release by $250K. But its lead was short lived as by Saturday the Dr Seuss adaptation had stepped up into high gear, leaving the new film with everything still to do.

By Sunday night, John Carter was looking upon a disappointing three day total of $30.6M, a little less than Prince of Persia made a couple of years ago (and a film which box analysts have compared John Carter's release pattern/performance to). With Disney having spent so much hyping the film, especially in recent weeks (One could add anywhere between $75-$125M to cover prints & advertising), there's no way they can wrap up the movie's performance as anything but a failure, domestically. Overseas however, it's another story, with the film setting the opening day record in Russia, where it's already up over $13M. Elsewhere the picture was equally strong (for what is an relatively unknown property), giving Carter an international opening weekend of around $70M. Even with that strong overseas showing, the picture is far from out of danger. A fantastic hold next week could only do so much - and 21 Jump Street will hijack a good percentage of Carter's demographic next frame, leaving it with little room to manoeuvre. There's a very real chance that John Carter won't even hit $100M domestically, leaving Disney to hope the overseas market will save their flick like it did with Prince of Persia ($94M domestic Vs $244M international).

Project X opened well last frame, finishing up with just over $22M. The found-footage party film had already covered production costs by Saturday night and even though it found itself down 51% on that first Friday's takings, it will have been of little concern to the studio (Warner Bros.). Indeed, given what many were predicting for the film's second frame, that drop isn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been. This weekend, with a $3.9M Friday start, Project X adds $11.5M, giving it a running total of $40M - meaning the film has almost certainly covered its prints and advertising costs after just ten days on general release. From here on out, anything the film makes will be all but pure profit and the studio are already pushing forward with a sequel.

Silent House is a remake of the Uruguayan horror picture of the same name. It sees a young woman, played by Elizabeth Olsen (riding high on the notices for Martha Marcy May Marlene), finding herself trapped in the titular house as things become increasingly ominous, both inside and out. While the basic idea isn't that original, its implementation attempts something a bit different - it is shot in one take, in real time. Apart from The Devil Inside back in January, which began strong before utterly collapsing, horror has had little to shout about in 2012. Could Silent House turn that around? The studio weren't too sure and opted to put the film out to just over 2,100 locations. Obvious competition would be John Carter, and to a lesser degree, Act of Valor and Safe House. Friday saw the film debut to a soft $2.6M, only good enough for a fourth place showing (but comfortably covering the film's $1M production budget). Silent House continued down that path for the remainder of the frame, finishing up with $7M - worse than even the poorer performing horror flicks of late, and not a patch on The Devil Inside or The Woman in Black (though both of those films had major selling points - a clever viral marketing scheme and Daniel Radcliffe respectively). The situation wasn't helped by the terrible word of mouth surrounding the flick and it'll only see another frame in the top ten thanks to there being just one major release next frame. All that said, with its micro-budget, distributor Open House will do alright out of this release whatever the future holds for it. But Silent House wasn't poorest performing of the new releases....

Making way for John Carter, Act of Valor dipped 48% in this, its third frame on general release. Like Project X, Valor was already in profit by the end of its first weekend, with a second weekend dip that wasn't as bad as it could have been (or was predicted to be). This weekend the movie adds $7M to bring its running total to $56M. Act of Valor, which features real life Navy SEALS, is assured of at least one more weekend in the top ten.

Our final new release was actually shot back in 2008 and has languished on the shelf ever since. A Thousand Words star Eddie Murphy as Jack McCall, a fast talking literary agent who ends up cursed when he lies to a new age guru. McCall finds a tree in his backyard which loses a leaf for each word he speaks - and he quickly discovers than when the last leaf falls, his life will be over. With his main avenue of communication now cut off, he'll need to rely on actions rather than words and may even learn something about himself from the self imposed silence. As mentioned, the film was completed back in 2008 but fell foul of the Dreamworks/Paramount split and vanished from schedules. By 2011, A Thousand Words was back on the release path but still failed to appear. January 2012 was the next date bandied about by the studio, but was quickly dismissed when Murphy was announced as the host of the 2012 Oscars, and the flick moved to March 23rd. Suffice to say, when Murphy decided against hosting, A Thousand Words was bumped to April, before quickly reappearing this weekend. Reviews were horrific, with the movie earning the infamous (and rare) 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. With limited pre-release hype (though curiously, what was spent on the push was skewed towards the female demographic) and Paramount putting the film into less than 2,000 locations, confidence wasn't high. It appears that lack of confidence was well placed - A Thousand Words managed just $1.9M - on par with the opening day takes of Imagine That and Meet Dave. By the end of the frame it had managed $6.3M - again, in line with the aforementioned Murphy vehicles. While the star managed a minor return in Tower Heist, A Thousand Words has already undone any good work that flick earnt him.

Having crossed $100M last frame, Safe House, the Washington/Reynolds thriller begins its descent out of the top ten, shedding 400 locations this frame. With $115M in takings to date, it's looking increasingly possible that it will pass American Gangster as Washington's biggest film to date. Overseas, Safe House is at $51M and counting.

The Vow adds another $4M this frame, bringing its total to $117M. Like its release partner Safe House, the flick should see at least one more weekend in the top ten and could finish up as high as $135M.

Having underwhelmed throughout its release, This Means War can add just $3.7M in this, its fourth weekend in the top ten. Made for $65M, the McG direct action rom-com has made $46.8M so far.

Journey 2 is now up to an astonishing $275M global total - $185M originating from the overseas market. Down 44% this weekend, the Dwayne Johnson/Michael Caine adventure picture added $3.6M to give it a North American total of $90M. Like Project X, the studio announced this week its intentions to move forward with a further film in the series.

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