Sunday 20 May 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 18th - 20th May 2012

1.    The Avengers - $55.1M - $457.1M
2.    Battleship - $25.3M - $25.3M
3.    The Dictator - $17.4M - $24.5M
4.    Dark Shadows - $12.7M - $50.9M  
5.    What To Expect When You're Expecting - $10.5M - $10.5M
6.    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $3.2M - $8.2M
7.    The Hunger Games - $3M - $391.6M     
8.    Think Like a Man - $2.7M - $85.8M
9.    The Lucky One - $1.7M - $56.9M   
10.  Pirates! Band of Misfits - $1.4M - $25.3M  

Something of a busy weekend release wise, with three new films joining the summer battle. All will be attempting to knock the record breaking Avengers off its top perch, with one of them, Battleship, standing the best chance. Elsewhere, Dark Shadows will be hoping  for a decent second frame while the limited release, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, looks for another top ten finish despite being at a fraction of the screens of any other chart release. Next frame sees the return of Will Smith after a gap of four years, with Men In Black 3. He'll be joined by Oren Peli's latest found-footage horror movie, The Chernobyl Diaries. Summer still has plenty of surprises in store.

The Avengers continues to dominate on a global scale. Despite Battleship attempting to give it a run for its money, the Marvel picture made it three in a row at the top this frame. Last weekend it managed to snatch the second weekend record from Avatar, by over $25M and moved up to eighteenth place on the all time domestic gross chart after being on release in North America for only ten days. It would also go on to cross $1B in total ticket sales after just 19 days on the global market. Once again, it played well during the week, even seeing an increase in takings from Monday to Tuesday ($7.9M versus $8.4M), with The Dictator barely making a dent on Wednesday. As The Avengers entered its third weekend it was sitting on a domestic total of $402M. That Thursday push over $400M meant the flick beat The Dark Knight's record by four days, and put it within the top fifteen all time domestic grossing pictures. Not only that, but the movie is now the most successful domestic release in Disney's history. Up against Battleship the film still dominated, making $15.3M on Friday, on its way to the third weekend win of $57M - a drop of only 44% on last frame, which is another great hold for the film, more so given the increased competition.

One of the few records the film hasn't taken is the biggest third weekend gross, that still belongs to Avatar with $68.4M. The Avengers has now made a staggering $457M in only 17 days (domestic), helping it into the all-time gross top ten - it slots in at sixth place, just behind the original Star Wars. The Dark Knight's $533M finish is well within its sights. Overseas, the news was the same - Marvel domination. Pushing over $720M, the picture is now number seven on the all time international chart, beating Dead Man's Chest in the last few days. In total, The Avengers has a global take of $1.18B - the fourth best worldwide figure of all time. The return of Will Smith and the Men In Black might end The Avenger's reign but it will remain a force to be reckoned with for some time to come yet.

Having a board game be the basis for a major film is quite a rare occurrence. It has happened before, notably with the excellent Clue in 1985, but never on the scale of Battleship.When the picture was announced back in 2010, many questioned how it would translate to the big screen, as the board game seemingly had no noticeable hook. Things became further baffling when a $200M budget was announced for the project, with actor/director Peter Berg taking the helm, so to speak. It would seem Hasbro, who owned the rights, had some big ideas. Working with producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, the toy company had already created big screen versions of Transformers and G.I Joe with great success and they saw the potential for a third franchise in Battleship. Peter Berg had experience on action pictures before, notably Hancock and The Rundown, but this would be his biggest project by far. The plot was kept under wraps while a cast was assembled, with John Carter star Taylor Kitsch taking the lead role of Lieutenant Alex Hopper, joined by Alexander Skarsgard, playing a fellow officer and Hopper's brother. In addition would be Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane, Commander of the Pacific fleet, and making her feature debut, pop star Rihanna (she'd previously appeared as a herself in a cameo role in a Bring It On sequel, and in a her concert movie, Good Girl Gone Bad). Serving naval officers were also drafted in as extras. Shooting was set to take place in Australia but due to a lack of tax incentives, was switched to Hawaii.

Everything fell into place with the debut of the first trailer - which appeared to channel a Transformers-at-sea style epic, something which further footage played up. The plot would see NASA sending signals to a newly discovered Earth-like planet, circa 2005. Meanwhile, Alex Hopper is struggling to make anything of his life, and after getting into trouble yet again, his brother has him drafted into the navy. By 2012, Hopper has risen to the rank of lieutenant and is aboard the USS John Paul Jones when five alien crafts descend upon the earth. The crew quickly realise that the new visitors are far from friendly, setting up a scramble to destroy the invaders and put a stop to them organising a global invasion. Elements from the board game do make an appearance, part of the alien craft resembling a playing 'peg' and the grid like positioning of the buoys resembling the playing board, amongst other things. Reviews for the potential blockbuster weren't strong, giving it a 36% rotten rating. Curiously,  the film debuted in mid-April around the globe, saving its North American release for May 18th. The thinking for this may have been two-fold - first, to get a jump on The Avengers' overseas release, which was late April, and to also build up hype for its domestic release. It certainly seems to have paid off to some degree, as Battleship has already made over $220M abroad, inevitably getting knocked off the global number one spot by The Avengers upon its debut. What no one could have foreseen was the huge (and continuing) success of the Marvel super hero flick, Hasbro and Universal hoping no doubt, that the film would have had a strong opening, followed by a large drop in its second frame - leaving the ground wide open for Battleship to clean up this weekend. As we now know, nothing of the sort happened, and the board game adaptation would have one hell of a fight on its hands - despite The Avengers now being in its third weekend.

Trouble was on the horizon for Battleship the moment the midnight numbers came in, late Friday afternoon. Even with a huge advertising campaign, it made less than $425K, and looked likely to not even win Friday. Battleship did indeed lose Friday to The Avengers and what is surprising is the gap between the two films - over $6M. That start was a major blow for the studio who must have at least hoped to give the superheroes a run for their money, even if it couldn't trouble the top spot. The Saturday crowd weren't that interested in the flick either, and by Sunday, Battleship had made just $25.3M. Given the costs involved and what was spent on marketing, there really isn't any way to write this up other than as a major disappointment, barely out of flop territory. Taylor Kitsch, who saw John Carter open to only $30M back in March must be wondering what he did wrong (though to his credit, Battleship wasn't being carried solely on his back). There's little manoeuvring space for the film from here on out, MIB3 will hit it hard next frame, and The Avengers isn't going to go quietly into the night either. The obvious saving grace is that huge international figure, which will ensure the studio make their money back, though one imagines more than a few executives will be wondering why they didn't play the same release strategy in North America.

Along with the sci-fi epic, we have two new comedies this frame - The Dictator and What To Expect When You're Expecting.

The Dictator sees the return of Sacha Baron Cohen with a new character in the guise of Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictitious state of Wadiya. When the UN demand to know more details about his nuclear programme (or face military intervention), Aladeen travels to New York with his advisor, Tamir (Ben Kingsley) to address their fears. However, unbeknownst to the dictator, a kidnap plot, which will replace him with a more democratically friendly double, is afoot, and he ends up in the captivity of John C Reilly's hitman.  After being stripped of clothes and shaved of his trademark beard, Aladeen manages to escape onto the streets of New York. While attempting to get into the UN, he attracts the attention of Zoey, an activist played by Anna Farris. She takes pity on him (mistaking him for one of Wadiya's oppressed) and offers him a job in her store - which he accepts after discovering that her employees have access to the UN... The film was originally said to have been inspired by Saddam Hussein's book Zabibah and the King, a rumour Cohen himself may have started, but has since been denied as true.

This marks the comedy actor's first scripted film (as star) since Ali G In Da Hood, and follows up his Borat and Bruno pictures. It also sees him reunite with the director of the aforementioned pictures, Larry Clark. The first trailer (released in December) portrayed the character living the life of the Dictator, and the luxuries that provided. It was only with the second trailer, in March of 2012, that the 'second half' of the film was revealed, showing Aladeen down on his luck. As usual, Cohen played up the publicity for all it was worth, conducting interviews in relation to the movie in character. Further gaining notoriety with an Academy Award red carpet stunt (which itself had been a wealth of free publicity when it appeared that the Academy had banned Cohen from showing up in character - an accusation they claimed was untrue), Aladeen would also appear on Saturday Night Live, forcing noted critics Roger Ebert and A.O Scott to say how good the film was, alongside a man with a sack on his head, later revealed to be Martin Scorcese.

In terms of past performance, Borat is Cohen's strongest film as star, making $128M after an incredible start in limited release. Bruno however, struggled to break out in North America, ending its run with $60M. Outside of his own projects, the actor appeared opposite Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd and in 2011's Hugo. (With upcoming work in the third Madagascar film and the new version of Les Miserables). Reviews for The Dictator were in line with Bruno (64%) rather than Borat (91%) and in order to get a jump start on What To Expect When You're Expecting, Paramount opted to open the picture on Wednesday. The issue in opening earlier in the week is that by Friday, a certain percentage of your audience has already seen the picture, leaving it weaker against the new releases. Obviously this only affects that first weekend figure but it's also those numbers that make the headlines. In comparison to Battleship, The Dictator made $600K from midnight sneaks, which led to a first full day total of $4.1M - not bad for the midweek release of an R-rated film but still not enough to best The Avengers (which had taken $6.3M). Thursday saw the expected dip in takings, and a clash with Battleship and What To Expect When You're Expecting on Friday left the film in third place with $5.7M. With that added competition, The Dictator continued to struggle but did at least hold on to its position. By the end of the weekend, the $65M budgeted film had a three day total of $17.5M, $24.5M when you factor in the Wednesday and Thursday figures. To give this a bit of perspective, Bruno opened to $30M, while Borat managed $26M from a location count which is two thirds less than what The Dictator is out to. Whether the studio will come to regret that earlier opening remains to be seen but given the picture's Cinemascore rating of 'C', future business based on word of mouth is going to be an uphill struggle.

For their eighth collaboration, director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp chose to update the 1960s Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. However, average reviews and a somewhat general disinterest from the public (Not to mention The Avengers' influence) saw the film struggle to a $29M opening - a figure about on par with Burton's Sleepy Hollow back in 1999 (though that film's $30M opening equates to $41M in 2012). With the three major releases all stealing potential box office, Dark Shadows tumbled a nasty 60% on a Friday to Friday basis - certainly too high, especially after that already disappointing opening. There was little improvement over the Saturday-Sunday period, leaving the film with a weekend total of $12.7M (a drop of 57% on last weekend). Even at this early stage, Dark Shadows is unlikely to clear $75M domestically. The good news for Warner Bros. is Depp's appeal overseas, where the film has so far made $36M. With further expansion there's every chance it'll hit $100M. (Even the critically maligned 'The Tourist' managed to clear an astounding $210M abroad, thanks in a big part, to Depp).

Book to screen adaptations arrive almost every week but as with Think Like A Man, What To Expect When You're Expecting is based on a best selling self help book of the same name. Written in 1984 by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, the guide has gone on to sell millions of copies and been reprinted and updated countless times, earning the nickname 'The bible of American pregnancy'. Lionsgate announced back in January 2010 that it had acquired the rights to produce a film based on the book from Phoenix Pictures, setting Heather Hach to work on a screenplay, with a re-write performed by Shauna Cross (who scripted Drew Barrymore's Whip It). Directing duties on the picture went to Kirk Jones, who began his career on Waking Ned Devine, most recently working on 2009's Everybody's Fine. Given that the book is a self help guide, it was decided to make the film an ensemble comedy, based around five couples and their various experiences of pregnancy and child birth. What to Expect When You're Expecting features Jennifer Lopez as Holly, a woman who decides to adopt after struggling to conceive with her husband. Joining her is Cameron Diaz as a singer and weight loss expert who finds herself pregnant, and Elizabeth Banks, a woman with strong beliefs as to what makes a good mother - until she discovers she's going to become one. The film also stars Glee's Matthew Morrison, who teams up with Diaz's Jules on a celebrity dance show; Dennis Quaid, who's married to a much younger woman (played by Brooklyn Decker, who also features in Battleship) and Chris Rock as Vic, one of a group of fathers, ready to dish out advice to expectant dads. The feature was shot over last summer, with Lionsgate setting a May 18th release date.

Reviews were the worst of the new releases, with the picture scoring a 22% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. With competition on all sides, both old and new, it wasn't going to be an easy ride for the Lionsgate picture. That became evident with a $3.8M Friday haul, barely stronger than the week old Dark Shadows. The Dictator was obviously the thorn in the side but there's no doubt both The Avengers and Battleship (not to mention Think Like A Man) all cut into the films potential market. As Friday turned into Saturday, it hardly made a dent and finished up at the end of its first three day with a very weak $10.5M. In terms of recent ensemble pictures, that $10.5M is even worse than New Year's Day's soft opening of $13M back in December 2011 and must be pretty much a worse case scenario for Lionsgate - even with their reduced financial risk. Where it will go from here remains to be seen - it may pick up some of the date night crowd during the week, but like The Dictator, its poor word of mouth won't do it any favours. It's only early in the summer season but the hunt goes on for this year's Bridesmaids.

After that top five, there's once again a huge drop in takings for the remainder of the chart, but the age of some of the films has allowed a limited release (with great word of mouth) to gain further ground. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, still at only 178 locations, continues to play very well, making $872K on Friday, on its way to a $3.2M weekend (finishing in a strong sixth place). Fox Searchlight would do well to expand the film while demand is white hot - waiting too long to bring the picture to a (slightly) larger crowd may leave many people deciding to hang on for the home release instead. The Judi Dench comedy drama has already been a smash overseas, making over $75M.

Having held the crown for some weeks, The Hunger Games is now no longer the biggest grossing film of 2012. It's incredible to think that the picture, now in its ninth weekend on general release, still holds a decent chart position - It made $3M this frame to give it a running total of $391M. $400M will come, but it may take a few more weeks yet. Still, The Hunger Games has been a huge success and has given Lionsgate the franchise it was dearly hoping for. Despite buying Summit and gaining the Twilight series, there remains only one more picture to release (The Twilight Saga:Breaking Dawn 2, in November). With The Hunger Games, the studio has secured at least two further major releases, the first of which is due late next year.

Think Like A Man got hit by both comedies this frame and could only manage a $2.7M weekend take. The film cost only $12M to produce and has performed above and well beyond expectations. A proper, profitable hit for Screen Gems, it should manage one more frame in the top ten and may yet surpass Tyler Perry's biggest hit, the $90M grossing Madea Goes To Jail.

The remainder of the chart is made up of a couple of hangers-on in the guise of The Lucky One and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The former added $1.7M this weekend, to bring its five week total to $56.9M. The Aardman release, The Pirates! could muster only $1.4M this weekend, and will end its theatrical run with less than $30M.

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