Sunday 8 April 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 6th - 8th April 2012

1. The Hunger Games $33.5M - $302.8M
2. American Reunion - $21.4M - $21.4M
3. Titanic 3D $17.3M - $25.7M
4. Wrath of the Titans - $15M - $58.8M
5. Mirror Mirror - $11M - $36.4M
6. 21 Jump Street - $10.2M - $109.5M
7. The Lorax - $5M - $198.1M
8. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - $0.97M - $4.6M
9. John Carter - $0.82M - $67.9M
10. Safe House - $0.5M - $124.7M

This weekend marks the return of two films who have their origins in the 1990s. One was shrouded in high drama and teetered on the verge of disaster, while the other launched a franchise and a number of tenuous spin-offs. Titanic (In 3D) and American Reunion (aka American Pie 4) found themselves facing off against the still strong Hunger Games, now in its third frame, with the respective studios also hoping there would be room for Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror amongst the ticket buying public.

Having easily seen off both new releases last frame, The Hunger Games managed a not-that-bad fall of around 61% against its first record breaking weekend (with a $152M start, any drop below 70% would be classed as acceptable). In its second full week on release, the novel adaptation continued to dominate, managing to best Titanic by $300K on its opening day. Prior to entering its third Friday, the Gary Ross directed picture had made $269M in North America, with another $131M and climbing overseas. Despite the return of the American Pie Franchise, most analysts predicted a third weekend at the top for the Hunger Games as even a 50% drop on last frame would still give it a $30M finish - American Wedding opened to $33M in 2003, American Pie 2 made $45M back in 2001, but fans of the series weren't expected to return in those kind of numbers.

Friday saw the Games dominate again, adding a further $12.9M ($3.6M clear of its nearest rival), all but securing a third weekend at the top there and then - something that hadn't happened since Breaking Dawn Part 1 back in November 2011. The only remaining question was whether The Hunger Games would hit $300M by Sunday? And hit it, it did, in its seventeenth day of release. Only five other films have hit the figure quicker, The Dark Knight, Revenge of the Fallen, Avatar, Deathly Hallows 2 and Dead Man's Chest. The gap at this point, with what Breaking Dawn had made, is even more pronounced - $246M against that $302M - further proof, were it needed, that The Hunger Games has broken out of its fan base and well into the mainstream. With three wide opening, but relatively low key releases next weekend, can the film make it a fourth one at the top?

American Reunion is the fourth official entry in the American Pie series, which made its debut in 1999. The story followed four high schoolers in the quest to lose their virginity before graduating. With a number of gross out sequences, full frontal nudity, but also a lot of heart, American Pie became an instant smash with the public, and thrust its young stars into the limelight. Made for just $11M, it would go on to gross $102M in North America, with a further $132M coming overseas. Sensing a franchise could be in the offing, Universal were quick to move ahead with a second movie. American Pie 2 opened two years later and saw almost all of the cast return, as we caught up with the familiar gang after their first year of college, planning to spend the summer at the beach and preparing to throw a huge end of season party. With a "if it's not broke, don't fix it" attitude, the film followed the same gross out/nudity filled ideal of the original and Universal found themselves rewarded with even better numbers - from an increased budget of $30M, American Pie 2 made $145M in the U.S, with a similar $142M abroad.

In 2003, with the cast now starting to look their age, it seemed Universal were about ready to let the series bow out with one final entry - American Wedding, which would see Jason Bigg's Jim preparing to marry Alyson Hannigan's Michelle, the pair having become a couple at the end of the second film. The difference this time around would be the cast - with Chris Klein being the main cast member to pass due to scheduling conflicts. Other absentees included Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth and Mena Suvari, along with a number of minor players including Natasha Lyonne and Chris Owen, who played the Sherminator. By now, with another increase in budget (to $55M), the series was showing signs of a struggle. But while the figures for American Wedding were down on its prequel, the film still managed $104M domestically, with a further $132M internationally. Time to let the gang live the rest of their lives? The gang, yes, the American Pie name and links to the original films, it seemed not. With straight to DVD sequels becoming a cheap, quick cash injection for studios, Universal decided to move forward with a new DVD based American Pie film, which would contain no major returning cast members, but still have a link to the series. In fact, out of the series' wide range of major and minor roles, only Eugene Levy - Jim's dad, and Chris Owen's Sherminator would return, along side Stifler's brother Matt, who would be portrayed by a different actor for American Pie Presents: Band Camp, the first spin off.

Obviously the tenuous link worked enough for the studio to produce a further sequel a year later - American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. Only Levy would return, with the story now focusing on Matt's cousin Erik. The studio made around $27M in DVD sales, from a budget of $15M. Finishing character arcs started in Naked Mile, 2007 saw the release of American Pie: Beta House, which again proved a sales/rental success. Eugene Levy was the only cast member from the original series to return, as he would again for the last entry - American Pie: The Book of Love. The plot sees a new character, Rob, having to recreate the fabled (but now destroyed) book of love, witnessed in the very first film, with the help of Levy's character, who it is revealed, was the original author. And just as it seemed the franchise had been laid to rest, rumours began to emerge during Book of Love's production in 2008 that Universal were planning on getting the original cast together for the first proper American Pie sequel since American Wedding back in 2003.

Little more appeared to be known about the project until April 2010, when it was announced that Harold & Kumar directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg had signed on to write and direct American Reunion - and that they planned to bring everyone back for this third sequel. In March of 2011, it was announced that Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy would all reprise their roles in the new film. Biggs and Scott would executive produce the picture and were instrumental in getting other cast members to return. By April, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein and Mena Suvari had all joined the film, to be followed by Eddie Kay Thomas, Chris Owen, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Jennifer Coolidge. Finally, in further proof that everyone was returning, Natasha Lyonne and John Cho were announced as the final cast members to join the film - despite both actor's characters being little more than cameos in the original films. The plot would see the gang getting back together for their ten year high school reunion, focusing on the choices they had made, the missed opportunities and where their lives had ended up. Initial trailers appeared to show a return to form for the series but the picture didn't have the reviews to match, leaving American Reunion as the lowest rated of the 'original' series (60%, 52% and 55% against 44% for this new picture, though word of mouth is said to be very strong). 21 Jump Street would be the only movie to offer it direct R-rated comedy competition, and the Jonah Hill flick was now entering its fourth weekend on release, but there'd also be demographic crossover with The Hunger Games and Wrath of The Titans.

American Reunion managed a second place, $9.3M haul on Friday, good enough for the top spot some weeks but not when The Hunger Games is on general release. So much time has passed since the last film that box office comparisons are largely irrelevant but the most recent, American Wedding, opened to a first day of $12.2M in a busy August 2003. While there was a built-in market, as mentioned above, they didn't turn out in the numbers needed for the film to make a bigger dent - it's worth noting that the majority of people who saw the original in 1999 may now have commitments of their own that take precedent over a trip down memory lane (which a number of reviews have been to keen point out the film is). Reunion couldn't capitalize on that first day, seeing a dip on Saturday and Sunday, leaving it with an ok $21.4M start - only $3M better than what the original made in its debut in 1999. 21 Jump Street proved there was a market for an R-rated comedy a few weeks ago, and while Reunion's opening isn't a disaster, it's clearly some way short of what the studio had been hoping for. Sadly, for all concerned, nostalgia isn't quite what it used to be and its second weekend performance is more likely to show if it managed to breakout and find a new fanbase (something that looks unlikely at this point). With a production budget of around $50M, the movie won't lose the studio any money, and should perform well overseas (it's already had a series best debut of $19M), but it's also likely to finally put the series to bed.

Titanic's production was amongst the most infamous in cinematic history. James Cameron decided he wanted to make a film based around the ill-fated ship after seeing an Imax film featuring footage of the wreckage. With a plan to dive the wreckage himself, the director pitched the idea of a love affair set during Titanic's maiden voyage to the studio (Fox, who co-financed with Paramount), adding that while it would cost more to shoot the actual wreckage than it would to re-create it via CGI, they could use his dives to gather the footage as part of the publicity for the film itself - and indeed, use the footage as the opening to the story. (In actual fact, Cameron simply wanted to visit the wreckage of the Titanic, the idea for a film seemed an ideal way to get the studio to fund it, he has said). During 1995, Cameron and his crew would dive to the Titanic eleven times, and according to sources, actually spent more time with the ship than its original passengers. With the footage gathered, he began work on a script, spending a further six months researching every single passenger who made the trip, and working with experts in an effort to ensure accuracy down to the smallest detail. The story would see a man and woman, from opposite sides of the class system, (played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet) meeting and falling in love while on the Titanic's maiden voyage. With an incredible (for the time) $150M shooting budget attached, the risks for all concerned were incredibly high.

Footage that would bookend the film was shot first, around July 1996, with production ramping up in September of the same year. The shoot was arduous to say the least, the pressure of the budget, working with such huge sets and crews, not to mention shooting on flooded 'sound stages', all helped cement Cameron's reputation as being one of the most formidable directors in Hollywood. Indeed, Winslet spoke publicly of her fear of working with the director, and for her own life after chipping her elbow, leaving her vulnerable while working on the flooded sets (while this was later played down by the star and studio, Winslet claimed she would need a lot of money to ever work for Cameron again). Stuntmen ended up injured, cast and crew came down with various illnesses from long exposure to the water, and at least 50 people ended up in hospital after a disgruntled crew member laced some soup with PCP. The shoot dragged on an additional 22 days (bringing its total to 160) and the budget shot up to $200M. Fox had no room to manoeuvre - they'd spent so much money that they had to have something to show for it, and in Cameron's own words, they'd have to kill him if they wanted to fire him from the picture. Refusing to cut the film down from its three hour run time, the director offered to forgo his share of the profits - something the studio figured was an empty gesture as they couldn't reasonably see how the film would ever make money.

With a release date of July 2nd 1997 finally nailed down, post production complexities pushed the film back to December, fanning rumours that it was a disaster. The studio, annoyed that they would lose out on the profitable summer period, could only sit back and count the potential losses. A screening in July generated some positive notices, but word from its Japanese world premiere in November was decidedly lukewarm. However, once Titanic debuted in Hollywood, all bets were suddenly off. Despite the troubled production and talk of a cinematic mess, people were eager to see what the fuss was about - be it good or bad. Titanic debuted to an $8M Friday, making $28M for its first weekend as a whole. An impressive figure but put down to morbid curiosity in some quarters. Signs that the tide was turning occurred a week later, when, with barely a location increase, the film made even more money, seeing a $35M second frame. After that the floodgates well and truly opened and the studios found themselves with a phenomenon on their hands. In all, Titanic spent fifteen weekends at the top spot, having an equally impressive sixteen weekend takes above $10M. When the film finally left theatres in the following September, it had made $616M in North America, becoming the biggest movie in cinematic history. The news abroad was better still, a $1.2B haul. Cameron's sweet victory was further complimented when the picture won eleven Academy awards, a feat achieved by only one other film at the time, Ben Hur (Return of the King has since equalled the figure).

Titanic would remain the biggest film in history for twelve years, when it was surpassed by Cameron's own film, Avatar. The director announced Titanic was being converted to 3D (and remastered to 4K resolution) during an appearance at Comic-con in 2009, confirming a Spring 2012 release sometime later. A release of April 4th was finally settled on after a bit of schedule jumping, the date being just six days prior to the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic's launch. With American Reunion offering competition, along with The Hunger Games, would the public be ready to return to Titanic? Having scored $325K from sneaks on Tuesday, Titanic's first full day on re-release saw the picture make $4.3M from just over 2,600 locations. Thursday witnessed only a slight dip in takings, giving the film an $8.3M total before it hit Friday competition. As the weekend began, it added a further $7.1M, thanks in part one imagines, to the higher price for 3D screenings, finishing up with a weekend total of $17.3M, and a 3D re-release total of $25.7M (with a complete release figure of $641.9M). That $25.7M means the conversion has already paid for itself - not that the picture owed anyone any money. Like American Reunion, comparison to the original release don't really prove anything considering the time involved but given how popular the film was during that first run, getting people back into theatres and asking them to pay top dollar for the privilege of seeing the film in 3D, Fox must be quietly pleased with that opening six day figure.

Hoping to emulate the success of the first film, Wrath of the Titans could only sit by and watch as it made barely half of what Clash made in the same time frame. With the original 2010 release still fresh in people's minds, the poor reviews and word of mouth attached to its sequel kept the public away, and while its $33M wasn't a disaster, it was a long way from what the studio had been hoping for. A week on and the news is no better as that poor word of mouth has started to bite. Friday, the Sam Worthington starrer found itself down 56% on its already disappointing first day, making $5.4M. With Hunger Games and American Reunion cutting into its audience, the film could only manage a $15M weekend total, giving it $58.8M since release. While that equates to a better weekend drop than expected, one must remember the film's start last frame was roughly half of what the original film had made. To put this into perspective, by this point in its release the original film had made $110M - and based on its performance so far, Wrath will be lucky to see $80M domestically. Fortunately, like the first film, the international market seems a lot more interested the titan sequel and should have pushed its international total to over $100M by the end of Sunday evening.

Like Wrath of the Titans, Mirror Mirror didn't set the box office alight last frame, but it did at least manage to recover from a poor Friday start by enticing in some of the family market, increasing its Saturday take by 30%. That bump ultimately helped the film to a weekend total of $18M - and pulled the $85M production just about out of flop territory. A week on, and once again thanks to the family market's lack of choice, Mirror Mirror dipped just 22% on a Friday to Friday basis. Saturday saw only a very slight dip, which allowed Tarsem's Snow White re-imagining to finish the weekend with an $11M total, down 38% on last weekend as a whole. While Mirror Mirror still has a lot of work to do, this second frame haul has provided it with some respite. With a similar dip next frame, the film should find itself well on the way to $50M and ever closer to that $85M production cost.

With direct competition from American Reunion, the similarly R-Rated 21 Jump Street still only dropped 31% this frame and managed to reach the $100M milestone sometime on Friday, an impressive feat. Made for $42M, the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum comedy re-imagining opened to $36M in mid-March and has played well in subsequent weekends, seeing totals of $20M, $14M and $10M this weekend. For Tatum, this marks his second $100M picture this year, after February hit The Vow made $123M (and is still on limited release). While Jonah Hill is coming off the disappointment of The Sitter, he's still basking in the good notices and Academy nomination for Moneyball - not to mention having a screenplay credit on this picture. Expect 21 Jump Street to top out at around $130-135M.

Mirror Mirror was expected to be a sticking point for The Lorax last frame, but the Dr. Seuss adaptation remained largely untroubled, dropping only 32% from its previous weekend figure (the best hold of its run so far). This frame, its sixth on general release, saw the film add another $5M, to give it a running total of $198M. The Lorax still has a few more weeks before the release of The Pirates! Band of Misfits hits theatres and should be hitting $200M in the next day or so. Only The Hunger Games has made more money this year.

The romantic drama, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen saw a location increase last frame which enabled the Ewan McGregor/Emily Blunt flick to finish inside the top ten. A week on, and with a minor increase in locations (and only two major new releases with which to contend), Yemen added another $975K, to bring its current total to $4.6M and once again secure a top ten position. Alas, with further expansion unlikely (at least to any major degree), not to mention the major releases due next frame, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is looking at its last frame in the top ten. Expect the film to play well overseas, where the book has proved equally popular.

Losing even more of its 3D theatres to Titanic this weekend, along with a high number of conventional ones too, John Carter could only muster a $0.82M three day total. With three wide opening releases next weekend, this looks to be the Disney releases last hurrah in the top ten. Made for an estimated $250M, John Carter has made $67M in North America, but has continued to soar internationally, helping to push its global total to over $260M.

Jumping back into the top ten is Safe House, the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds action thriller. Made for $85M, the flick has made a total of $124.7M, and may yet surpass American Gangster's $130M finish to become Washington's most successful movie in North America.

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