Sunday 29 April 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 27th - 29th April 2012

1.     Think Like a Man - $18M - $60.8M   
2.     The Pirates! Band of Misfits - $11.4M - $11.4M
3.     The Lucky One -     $11.3M - $39.9M
4.     The Hunger Games - $11.2M - $372.4M   
5.     The Five-Year Engagement - $11.1M - $11.1M   
6.     Safe - $7.7M - $7.7M
7.     The Raven - $7.2M - $7.2M   
8.     Chimpanzee - $5.46M - $19.1M
9.     The Three Stooges - $5.4M - $37.1M   
10.     The Cabin in the Woods - $4.5M - $34.6M

A busy weekend at the box office, with four wide opening releases joining the current crop, all hoping for one decent frame before the big films of summer move in. This is really the last weekend for studios to chance a release of which they've been unsure - both The Raven and Safe fall into this category. Elsewhere we've got a rom-com and a family flick. Of the returning releases, Think Like A Man would be the one to watch, having debuted to $33M, with The Lucky One a distant, but respectable second.

Think Like A Man stunned all and sundry last frame, including the studio which distributed it. Expected to open within the top five at best, the comedy defied belief and not only took the top spot (Unseating The Hunger Games) but saw off Zac Efron's Lucky One to open to a stunning $33M - and it did all this from a 2,015 location count and on a production budget of just $12M. The Tim Story directed picture would also go on to have decent weekday totals too, including a $2.7M Monday and  a $2.6M Tuesday. As it entered its second frame, the flick had a $42.8M running total and would face competition from the new releases,  especially The Five Year Engagement. On its second Friday, Think Like A Man made $5.5M, a clear $1.5M above its nearest rival - which turned out to be The Lucky One, not the Jason Segel/Emily Blunt comedy.  The film was down 55% on the same day last weekend, and while a little high, it is to be expected due to its stronger than expected first day haul. It also highlights just how weak the new releases were this frame, that an initial drop such as this still secured the picture the number one spot for the weekend. Fending off against bigger releases at more locations, it held steady over the weekend and finished up with a three day total of $18M ($60.8M overall). This is great for Screen Gems because Think Like A Man has avoided the big second weekend drop off that normally afflicts Tyler Perry movies (a genre to which the film has been compared). Like everything else in the top ten, it will be affected by The Avengers next weekend but the movie is almost certainly into 'real' profit at this point, meaning its production, prints and advertising costs are all covered.

The next three films are all separated by just $243K, and are subject to change position once actuals are issued on Monday evening.

Our family offering this frame is The Pirates! Band of Misfits (known in Europe as The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists) and is an Aardman Animation production. The story is actually based on two 'Pirates' book, written by Gideon Defoe, and follows a group of amateurish (but ambitious) pirates who wind up hijacking The Beagle, on which Charles Darwin is travelling. Darwin informs the Captain that his parrot is actually the last living Dodo and convinces him to go to London to show 'Polly' to the Royal Society. While the presentation is a success, the pirates (now disguised as scientists) are unmasked, and the captain ends up trading Polly for a pardon and some treasure. However, this only presents more problems when he is disqualified from the Pirate of the Year awards and discovers that Queen Victoria plans to eat Polly at a secret banquet. The film was co-directed by claymation veteran Peter Lord, working on his first feature since 2000's Chicken Run (though he acted as producer on Flushed Away and Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit), alongside animator turned director Jeff Newitt. To reduce production time and allow for more flexibility, CGI was used extensively alongside the more traditional claymation, meaning a percentage of the film was shot on green screen, allowing the directors to add or extend sets and create items that in clay would either be impossible to replicate or simply too time consuming.

Like the aforementioned Were-Rabbit, Pirates! has an impressive voice cast, including Hugh Grant as The Captain, David Tennant as Darwin, Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria and Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek as rival pirates, Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz. The Pirates! represents the second picture in a deal made with Sony/Columbia pictures, the first being 2011's Arthur Christmas, and was produced for around $60M. By the time the film was readying for release on the US market, it had already debuted in a large number of foreign territories, including the United Kingdom, where it has racked up over $18M in takings to date. At this point it is worth noting that Aardman have generally struggled in North America, their biggest hit being Chicken Run back in 2000, followed by Flushed Away, which made $64M despite a budget north of $145M (and indirectly resulted in investor Paul Allen dissolving his partnership with Dreamworks, believing that Flushed Away would flop and deflate share prices). Even the ever popular Wallace & Gromit struggled to get above $55M with their Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Reviews were incredibly strong, with the film scoring an 87% approval rating with critics, making it the best reviewed of the wide releases this weekend. With The Lorax and Mirror Mirror both out of the top ten, the field was wide open for Aardman's creation to clean up. Sadly, it seems the film couldn't capitalize on its break. Out the gate on Friday The Pirates! barely registered with the public, only just beating Safe and The Raven with its $2.7M haul. That's roughly half of what previous Aardman productions have made on their first Friday. Despite matinees showings, which can often give a family film a decent boost, the feature could only make $11.4M for the weekend. Even with a jump to second position, that total is still  lower than Arthur Christmas' disappointing $12M start. Given that The Pirates! was out to over 3,300 venues, it's hard not to write this down as a flop. Word of mouth is solid enough and it won't face any direct family competition in the next few weeks (in fact, there are no direct family films until June's Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted) but chances are The Pirates! will quietly leave the top ten a lot sooner than it deserved to.

While The Lucky One had to settle for a second place debut last frame, it still had a decent $22M opening. The flick recouped its $25M production budget on Tuesday and managed to stick to second place right through to Thursday. Now a week on, the Zac Efron drama found itself down 57% on a Friday to Friday basis (50% overall), again due to Think Like A Man and to a lesser degree, The Five Year Engagement, but slipped only one place. By Sunday night The Lucky One was looking at a $11.3M weekend, for a release total of $39M. It may also find itself less affected by The Avengers next frame than some of our other releases. While The Lucky One won't see the dizzy heights of Dear John's $80M finish, there's no reason why it couldn't surpass $60M by the end of its theatrical run.Next up for Efron is the thriller The Paperboy, opposite John Cusack and Nicole Kidman.

This frame, its sixth on general release, saw The Hunger Games cross the $365M mark, with it sights firmly set on Deathly Hallows Part 2's domestic finish of $381M. The film dropped just 23% this weekend, adding $11.2M, to bring its total so far to a staggering $372.4M. What's amazing is the film is barely impacted by any of the new releases, or even the old ones. Overseas the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel crossed $220M this weekend. With only five major releases over the next three weekends, The Hunger Games should retain a top ten placing well into May.

Offering Think Like A Man romantic comedy competition this frame is The Five Year Engagement, which stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. The hook for the film is that it begins where many romantic comedies finish - at the wedding proposal. Segel and Blunt play couple Tom Solomom and Violet Barnes, who have just got engaged and plan to wed within the year. However, when Violet gets a two year teaching contract in Michigan, they decide to put their plans on hold for a short time. But the two years soon turn into four, leaving the couple to wonder if they'll ever find the right time to get married, and more importantly, if their relationship can take the strain of waiting. The Five Year Engagement was a reunion of sorts, marking the third collaboration for Segel and director Nicholas Stoller, who had previously worked on Forgetting Sarah Marshall and co-written The Muppets together. Like on Sarah Marshall, Judd Apatow (who has worked with Segal on a number of occasions, including TV's Freak and Geeks and Knocked Up) would return to produce. The film wasn't even the first time Blunt and Segel had worked together either - both actors appeared in The Muppets and Gulliver's Travels. Shooting went smoothly enough, with Segel fitting the film in amongst working on The Muppets and Jeff, Who Lives At Home, while Blunt had to fit the flick into an even busier schedule which included Looper, My Sisters' Sister and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Universal set the picture for a late April release, hoping it would act as alternate programming in a similar way to Bridesmaids did last year, once the big summer movie season began.

Reviews were decent enough, with a 64% fresh rating (Segel's best reviewed film is The Muppets while both I Love You, Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall scored above 80%). Going into the weekend, The Five Year Engagement was favourite to win the frame, providing Think Like A Man's audience took a dive. However, as early as Saturday morning, it looked like things wouldn't work out quite as planned for the new comedy and when Friday estimates were issued later that day, the picture found itself having to settle for third, with just $3.5M - well below expectations and especially galling for the studio to have to sit behind two, one week old releases. While it held steady, the film was unable to hold on to even third place thanks to a Saturday boost for The Pirates. The Five Year Engagement finished up Sunday night with just $11.2M - a disappointment for all concerned, and some way below the $17M made by Forgetting Sarah Marshall in its opening weekend. Universal now need to hope that the film plays well as an alternative to The Avengers otherwise it stands a real chance of not making back its $30M production budget. Even taking Think Like A Man out of the equation it appears the Five Year Engagement would have struggled.

Safe is Jason Statham's latest film and sees the action star as ex-NYPD officer, Luke Wright,   who finds himself pursued on all sides when he rescues a 12 year old Chinese girl wanted by the Russian mob, the Triads and a group of corrupt cops and politicians. Wright discovers the girl has the gift to memorise long strings of numbers, and she has the code that everyone is after. Forced to go on the run, Wright sees a way to save the child and perhaps even redeem himself. Joining Statham is Robert Burke, Chris Sarandon and James Hong (a veteran actor known famously for portraying Lo Pan in Big Trouble In Little China). Safe comes on the back of Killer Elite (the costly flop that also starred Robert De Niro and Clive Owen) and is written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who helmed Uptown Girl and Remember The Titans, amongst others. The film was announced back in May 2010, as part of a three picture deal between Lionsgate and IM Global which also included the forthcoming Dredd (and the as yet unproduced Protection). Shooting commenced in Philadelphia and New York in October, finishing up just before Christmas. As mentioned, Statham's previous film Killer Elite had collapsed to just $25M domestically, with not even the overseas market saving the $70M production from failure. Prior to that he had seen success in The Expendables, The Transporter Trilogy and cult status with both Crank films. With a $30M production budget attached to Safe, a half decent start would put it on the right track, though whether it would get chance with the competition, both old and new, was another matter.

Curiously, Safe premiered in Ireland back in November 2011 and was meant to debut in the US a month earlier than that, however Lionsgate opted to move it to March of this year - leading some to speculate that Cabin in the Woods would take its October slot; the studio eventually bumped the film once more to late April. While reviews for such a film are largely irrelevant, critical opinion was above average, giving the picture an approval rating of 55%. Unfortunately the public were largely disinterested in Safe, giving it just $2.5M on Friday, worse than the opening day of Crank 2, which went on to a $6.9M weekend. The picture's $7.7M three day finish is very disappointing and certainly Statham's poorest showing since the aforementioned Crank sequel. If Safe weren't already dead in the water, The Avengers will finish it off next frame, and the picture will only score a second frame in the top ten thanks to that lack of releases going up against Marvel's superhero extravaganza. But Safe wasn't the poorest performing of the new releases.

John Cusack returns to the big screen after what appears to be a two year absence with The Raven. In the film Cusack plays the legendary writer Edgar Allen Poe, in the days prior to his  death. But instead of going down the biopic route, director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) opted to use Poe and his work as the jumping off point for a gothic thriller in which a serial killer murders people in ways detailed in Poe's work. Before long, the writer finds himself incarcerated for the crimes, only for more grisly murders to take place. Teaming up with the detective who discovered the link between Poe and the murders, the two face a race against time before the killer can strike at someone dear to the author. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner were suggested for the role of Edgar Allen Poe, before the producers settled on Cusack (Renner was said to be the original choice but dropped out of the running to work on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). The star was last seen in theatres in 2010 with disaster epic 2012 and comedy Hot Tub Time Machine. Since then he has made at least one film that is in limbo (The Factory, due December 2011, but now scheduled for a mid-late 2012 DVD outing) and another, Shanghai, completed late 2009 but never released theatrically in the U.S (and indeed, barely released around the world despite a $50M budget). The Raven had already debuted in the U.K, along with a few other territories, in March of this year and has made $2.5M so far.

Of all the new 'wide' releases this weekend, The Raven is at the least locations, around 2,200. Obviously that means the film's release isn't a token gesture or contractual demand, but it does show that the studio weren't sure how it will play. Cabin in the Woods was still in theatres despite getting ready to head out of the top ten next frame, but it would still offer The Raven the most direct competition, with Safe also attracting a similar demographic. Reviews were disappointing, giving the film just a 19% approval rating going into the weekend. It's fair to say the box office figures matched those reviews, with the movie making $2.5M on Friday, losing out on sixth position to Safe. With little further interest, The Raven finished the weekend with $7.2M, a failure for all concerned. A quieter weekend, perhaps early January or late September may have seen the picture perform better. As it stands, The Raven will be lucky to see more than one more weekend in the top ten.

Despite the best opening of any Disney Nature release, Chimpanzee falls 49% in its second week on release. That figure is better than the 57% tumble that Oceans took in the same time period and the film has already surpassed the final take of 2011's African Cats ($15M).  The documentary added $5.42M this frame, for a 10 day total of $19.1M. Earth remains the most successful Disney Nature release, at least for now, with a $32M finish.

The Three Stooges adds another $5.4M this frame, bringing its total to $37M. Made for around $30-35M, the comedy got off to a better than expected start and despite high Friday drops, managed to make things up thanks to Saturday matinee ticket sales. The Farrelly Bros. comedy should see one, perhaps two more frames in the top ten, and with a fair wind, finish up with around $45-48M.

Cabin in the Woods rounds us out this weekend. The horror re-invention adds $4.5M this frame, for a $34.6M running total, all against a budget of $12M.

In 3 locations, Bernie, the new black comedy from Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, made $90K. The film is based on a true story and sees Black as a mortician who strikes up a friendship with a widower. When he accidentally kills her, he has to go to great lengths to give the impression she is still alive and well. Further expansion should be on the cards in the coming weeks.

While the film doesn't open in the US until next Friday, The Avengers (known as Avengers Assemble outside of the US to avoid confusion with the 60s TV show) debuted overseas on Wednesday, expanding into 40 foreign territories by the weekend. By the close of play on Sunday the film had made a fantastic $178.4M and broke records for a Disney and Marvel studios release. It opened to the second biggest day take in Mexico, the third biggest in Brazil, and the best non-holiday Friday release of all time in Hong Kong. In the UK, its first two days (The Thursday and Friday) saw the film gross more than Iron Man, Captain America or Thor made over their entire first weekends as individual pictures. The success continued around the world, with The Avengers seeing the biggest opening day in Iceland and Malaysia, and the third biggest Hollywood picture debut in India. In any market in which the film opened, it debuted at number one. At this point, the movie is out to around 70% of foreign markets, with the major players of Japan, Russia and China still awaiting the film's release.

The movie will be covered in detail in next weekend's report but there's already early rumblings that Deathly Hallows Pt.2's three day record could be up for grabs - especially when issued the news that The Avengers was outselling the advanced ticket sales of Thor, Captain America and both Iron Man films - combined. Of those tickets sold, the site reports that 56% are for 3D presentations - something it puts down to the fact that the vast majority of Thursday midnight showings are in 3D.

Elsewhere overseas, Battleship crossed the $170M mark this frame, though the Avengers  will have seriously impacted its appeal.

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