Sunday, 15 April 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 13th - 15th April 2012

1. The Hunger Games - $21.5M - $337M
2. The Three Stooges - $17.1M - $17.1M
3. The Cabin in the Woods - $14.8M - $14.8M
4. Titanic 3D - $11.6M - $44.4M
5. American Reunion - $10.6M - $39.8M
6. Mirror Mirror - $7M - $49.4M
7. Wrath of the Titans - $6.9M - $71.2M
8. 21 Jump Street - $6.8M - $120.5M
9. Lockout - $6.2M - $6.2M
10. The Lorax - $3M - $204.4M

Three new films enter the fray this weekend, but speculation was rife running up to their opening day that The Hunger Games would make it another weekend at the top - something which no film had achieved since Avatar in late 2009. Last weekend, Titanic 3D and American Reunion had underperformed to some degree, and in their second frames they'd be facing off against The Three Stooges, Cabin in the Woods and Lockout - along with expansion to over 880 locations for the well received action flick The Raid: Redemption. We're now just three weeks away from Summer blockbuster season, which kicks off on May 4th with The Avengers.

Even with the new competition, The Hunger Games took the top spot again. This weekend saw the film start with a $6.4M Friday, down 50% on the same time last week, before going on to dominate throughout the remainder of the frame, to become the first feature since Avatar to make it four weekends in a row at the number one position. Its overall weekend to weekend dip is 35% - an excellent hold for the novel adaptation, as it adds another $21.5M. With a running total of $337M, The Hunger Games has now broken into the top twenty five grossing pictures of all time (it currently sits at 22nd - just above Spider Man 3). At this point $400M looks to be a long shot, but there's little reason why the picture couldn't surpass the $361M made by Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt.2. The success of the film cannot be understated, this is a brand new property, and while it has a dedicated fan base, the type of business it is doing is practically unprecedented, and happens only once or twice a year. Curiously, overseas the picture is trailing the Twilight saga by some margin, having so far amassed just over $150M, though it is worth noting that the film has yet to open in Japan or China, along with a number of other major territories. The sequel, Catching Fire has been making the news this week as Hunger Games director Gary Ross has officially ruled himself out of returning to direct, leaving Lionsgate scrambling to find a suitable replacement for what is now, their most valuable property.

The Three Stooges began life as a Vaudeville act in the 1920s, specialising in physical comedy/slapstick, and were part of an act headed by Ted Healy. The group made their feature debut in 1930 in Soup To Nuts, and while the film was a disappointment, the Stooges themselves were singled out for praise. Deciding to separate from Healy, the three signed a contract with Fox, but due to legal issues over ownership, this was quickly dissolved. Upon discovering the legal problems stemmed from Healy, the trio of Moe Howard, Shemp Howard and Larry Fine signed a new contract and set off on a tour of theatres. Healy once again brought legal action, and went as far as threatening to bomb theatres that signed up The Three Stooges. After further problems, including a new contract with Healy (which he managed to escape from thanks to a loophole), Shemp left the Stooges, to be replaced by 'Curly'.

In 1933 the team signed up with MGM and starred in a number of short features (in various line ups), to great success. When this contract expired, the current Stooges trio finally parted company with Ted Healy and began working with Columbia pictures, for whom they would go on to make 190 short features, along with a number of feature length films. While the line up would change over time due the deaths of Shemp and Curly, Moe and Larry stayed as part of the Three Stooges for the duration of their success. After seemingly coming to the end of their careers in 1959, the team were granted something of a second wind by television, where their short features were shown five nights a week. This resurgence helped the current line up get back into full length features, which were hugely popular, especially with children, and stayed that way throughout the remainder of the decade. Further work was planned but a stroke in 1970 ended Larry's career and while Mo would attempt to bring new ideas to fruition, he himself succumbed to cancer in 1975 (just four months after the death of Larry).

A TV biopic (executively produced by long time fan Mel Gison), made in 2000, brought the characters back to the screen and it was just a year later when the Farrelly brothers became involved in developing a Three Stooges project after Warner Bros. obtained the feature rights from C3 Entertainment (the Stooges producing/licensing company). After completing a script but ultimately finding no buyer, the rights lapsed. In 2008 MGM acquired the rights, along with the script the Farrelly's had written for Warner Bros. and set a release date of Novemer 2009 for the film. Due to casting issues this date was shelved, with the project put on permanent hold after MGM filed for bankruptcy in Novemer 2010. A month later Fox purchased the project and finally set the Farrelly brothers to direct. While working on the project for MGM, casting rumours began to circulate that Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro had expressed an interest in roles, as had Hank Azaria (Penn had actually signed on according to sources, but eventually withdrew to concentrate on his charity work). Later, Jim Carrey would sign on to play Curly, but left the project due to health fears relating to gaining weight for the role. In the end, Will & Grace star Sean Hayes would play Larry, with Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Mo. Shooting began in May 2011, with a production budget of $30M, and rather than shoot a feature film as such, the Brothers decided to make three unrelated short features (as the original Three Stooges had made), to be released as one single film.

Shooting went smoothly but the short features idea was dropped in favour of a story that would see the trio setting out to save their childhood orphanage from closure and getting caught up in both a reality TV show and a murder plot. Initial trailers were met with almost universal derision, but reviews were slightly stronger than expected (including two and half stars from Roger Ebert). With American Reunion offering comedy competition and Mirror Mirror (and The Lorax) covering the family market, it was hard to see where the now little known trio would fit in - even with a 3,400+ location roll out. As you'll see below, The Three Stooges clashed with Cabin in the Woods on Friday, with both making around $5.6M ( pegged Stooges at $5.6M, Cabin at $5.5M). However, the comedy managed to pull ahead on Saturday thanks to family matinee ticket sales. Over the remainder of the frame, Stooges would maintain its lead and finished up with a not bad three day total of $17.1M. Like Cabin, this one cost around $30M to produce so should have little problem recouping that figure, even if it suffers a high drop off next weekend. Considering how the feature was tracking prior to release, Fox must be pleased with this result.

Cabin in the Woods is Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's antidote to what they saw as horror's descent into cliché and low budget torture porn in recent years. Wanting to create both a return to form and something of a game changer, they set to work on the script for Cabin in the Woods some time in 2008. The duo had previously worked together on scripts for Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, and Goddard had been responsible for writing the JJ Abrams produced Cloverfield (as well as numerous episodes of Alias and Lost). With a script in place, Goddard opted to make the film his directorial debut. The story would follow the age old 'kids visiting a spooky cabin in the woods' idea, but this time, as the tagline went - "You think you know the story..." Shooting on the picture took place back in March 2009, finishing up late May. With post production underway, MGM set a release date of February 2010 for the flick but as Avatar (and its 3D) was breaking box office records, the studio opted to delay the film for nearly a year while it was converted to 3D. Unfortunately, due to MGM's financial difficulties, both Cabin in the Woods and their Red Dawn remake ended up being indefinitely delayed while the studio attempted to find a buyer for them both. Lionsgate emerged as a potential bidder in April, with some speculating a Halloween release date was on the cards. However, once the deal was signed in July, the studio set an April 2012 date for Cabin in the Woods' release. Such was the delay, that in the interim Woods' star Chris Hemsworth auditioned for Marvel's Thor, was accepted, starred in the film and saw its release, and then went on to make The Avengers and Snow White & The Huntsman - all before Cabin in the Woods theatrical release date (indeed, it barely beat the Avengers to screens).

The film received its official premiere at the SXSW festival in March 2012, but had actually screened to great acclaim at Harry Knowles' Buttnumbathon festival in December. The first trailer came in for some flak from those who had already seen the film for spoiling some of the twists for those who hadn't - something levied at reviews too. While those reviews may have spoilt elements, they were also nearly universal in praising the picture, giving it a stunning 93% at Rotten Tomatoes - a figure practically unheard of in the horror genre. But Cabin in the Woods found itself in an interesting situation - one was urged not to see the trailer, but without seeing the trailer you didn't know how the film differed from other teens in peril features - not to mention that the horror genre, reinvented or not, had been struggling of late (excluding the found footage sub-genre). Competition also existed in the form of Lockout, not to mention the still dangerous Hunger Games and, to a lesser degree, Wrath of the Titans. As it turned out, The Three Stooges would give it more trouble than Lock Out ever would. The two films opened Friday to roughly the same amount but ultimately, Cabin in the Woods found itself trailing over the remainder of the weekend. Even with those great reviews, the film ended up having to settle for third place with a three day total of $14.9M. That's an OK start but may be on the lower end of what the studio were expecting. What's interesting is word of mouth seems to be split between fantastic and poor - something reflected in its Cinemascore rating of 'C' (Cinemascore are a market research company who hand out survey cards in 25 major cities on the day of a film's release. This gives the studio a better picture of how a movie is playing with actual audiences as opposed to critics, and has gained popularity of late). With a $30M budget attached, Cabin won't lose any money but its $14.9M is a far cry from the $33M that the critically vilified The Devil Inside opened to in January. Next frame it might be a different story, especially if the positive word of mouth gets a chance to rise.

It's difficult to judge how well the Titanic 3D re-release has done, given the success the film witnessed upon its original release. Many analysts have been quick to label it a disappointment, especially when compared to other 3D re-releases, such as The Lion King (which debuted to $30M back in September 2011). But Titanic is not your average release, given that its subject matter is not family friendly, and with a run time in excess of three hours, limiting the amount of screenings per day. Not only that, but its initial success meant that the vast majority of people will have already seen the film, and they would therefore be reluctant to pay the higher ticket price to watch it again (combined too, with the potential headache of watching a three hour film in 3D). Titanic 3D made $17.2M last frame and adds a further $11.6M this weekend, for a 33% drop in business. The picture will see at least one more frame in the top ten and should end its run with around $60-65M in takings. Of note overseas is the film's debut in China, where it made a record breaking single day take of $11.6M.

With a $21M opening weekend, American Reunion was the poorest performing of the franchise's theatrical releases. The picture, which reunites almost all of the cast from the first film, was made for $50M, a figure it should recoup within the next fortnight, but the dizzy heights of $100M (achieved by all of the first three films) are well out of its reach. While fans showed up, there was only limited crossover with those new to the series, not helped by the nine year gap since Jim & co graced our screens. This weekend the film found itself down a nasty 63% on a Friday to Friday basis (a better 50% for the weekend overall), making $10.6M. By day 10 of its release, American Wedding had made $65M, while this sequel can only manage $39.8M. Thanks to there being only one major release next frame it will see another top ten placing, but it will be pretty much done by that point. Overseas American Reunion debuted to $19M, a series best.

Mirror Mirror looked like it might have a little more staying power than Wrath of the Titans, a film with which it shared a release date. Sadly, after recovering from a poor opening day, Tarsem's take on the Snow White story failed to further capitalize on its break, despite having a decent second Friday and making $7M this frame. Made for $85M, Mirror Mirror is likely to finish up with around $65M domestically. A disappointment for Relativity, who, thanks to Tarsem, saw Immortals push to a global finish of $226M back in November.

Wrath of the Titans took a kicking from Cabin in the Woods and The Hunger Games this weekend, adding just $6.9M to its total. Made for $150M, the Sam Worthington sequel failed to live up to studio expectations, making less than half of what its prequel made during its opening weekend (in fact, Wrath has only just surpassed the opening weekend total of the first film). Even at this point, we can rule out $100M, and indeed, almost anything north of $85M. While Clash was successful in North America, it made most of its money overseas, to the tune of $330M. At the time of writing, it looks again like the international market will save Wrath's skin - its current total stands at $150M.

21 Jump Street barely missed a step last frame, even with direct competition from American Reunion. The $42M re-imagining adds another $6.8M this frame, its fifth on general release, to bring its total to a very impressive $120M. Overseas the film has opened in only a handful of markets, making $27M so far.

Our final new entry is at the least number of locations of all the new releases. Lockout is the latest movie from the pen of producer/director/writer Luc Besson and sees a buffed-up Guy Pearce as Snow, a former government agent framed for a crime he didn't commit. Sentenced to 30 years in prison, Snow is offered a shot at freedom - all he needs to do is rescue the president's daughter (played by Lost's Maggie Grace), who has become trapped on MS: One, an orbiting prison whose inmates have taken over. Making their feature directing debut on Lockout are cinematographer James Mathers and writer Stephen St Leger, both of whom collaborated on the script with Besson. Pearce was initially turned down for the role of Snow after the directors felt he was too skinny to play a toughened agent but promised to bulk up to make himself more suitable for the role. Grace, who had worked with Besson on Taken (and will return for its sequel) also had to endure a rigorous fitness regime, which included combat training and wire work for her role as Emilie Warnock. Shooting commenced in September 2010, utilizing a large amount of green screen work. With a distribution deal in place just over a year later, Open Road set the film for an April release.

The first trailer seemed to emerge from nowhere (much like Taken) yet despite its red band credentials, the studio opted to edit the movie to receive a PG-13 rating, ensuring a larger potential audience - hopefully those who were refused entry for Cabin in the Woods. (Oddly, Lockout was released in Canada with an R-rating). Reviews for the film weren't anything to write home about and it currently sits on a 33% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. With the picture sharing its main demographic with the aforementioned Cabin, would there be enough market to go around? It would appear not as the film limped to only $2.2M on Friday, barely good enough for sixth place. Things didn't improve much over the remainder of the weekend, leaving Lock Out with a three day total of only $6.2M. That figure puts it below even the $8M made by the Besson produced From Paris With Love in its opening frame back in February 2010. The only saving grace is the single wide opening release next weekend, which may afford Lock Out one more chance at top ten exposure.

After 41 days on general release, The Lorax finally crossed the $200M mark. The Dr. Seuss adaptation is now the most successful animated release since 2010's Despicable Me (which, like The Lorax, was produced by Illumination Animation for Universal). Expect the flick to top out at around $215-220M, with equal or better figures abroad (where its current total is $59M).

Despite expansion (into over 880 locations), The Raid: Redemption narrowly missed out on a top ten placing. The well received action flick made $1M this frame, to bring its overall total to $2.5M.

From 26 International markets, Peter Berg's sci-fi action epic Battleship, opened to an impressive $58M. The film opens in North America next month.

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