Sunday 27 May 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 25th - 27th May 2012

1.    Men In Black 3 - $55M - $55M
2.    The Avengers -    $36.9M - $513.6M  
3.     Battleship - $10.7M - $44.2M
4.     The Dictator -    $9.6M - $41.4M
5.    The Chernobyl Diaries - $8M - $8M
6.     Dark Shadows -    $7.5M - $62.9M
7.     What To Expect When You're Expecting     - $7.1M - $22.1M
8.     The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $6.3M - $16M
9.    The Hunger Games - $2.2M - $395.2M
10.    Think Like a Man - $1.4M - $88.2M

Memorial Day weekend in North America this frame and that means potentially bigger Sunday figures as people take advantage of not working Monday with a late weekend cinema trip.  After Dark Shadows and Battleship, the big guns arrive this frame in the guise of Will Smith and Men In Black 3. The Avengers made it three at the top last weekend, but a fourth win looked out of reach - not that it would bother the billion dollar grosser. Hoping for a quick hit would be producer Oren Peli, who returns with another horror picture, this one set in the shadow of Chernobyl. Elsewhere, the aforementioned Battleship would be looking for a minor miracle to salvage its domestic performance.

Men In Black 3 marks Will Smith's first film since 2008's Seven Pounds. The idea for a third film was bandied about by Smith while he was working on the prequel back in 2002 and despite some development of the idea, the proposed time travel aspect proved a stumbling block. Director Barry Sonnenfeld went off to work on RV and later, Pushing Daisies, while Smith moved on to a Bad Boys sequel and the sci-fi thriller I, Robot. In April 2009, Sony announced a Men In Black 3 picture was in development and hired Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Madagascar 2) to work on a script. Despite initial reservations, due to issues while shooting Men in Black 2, Barry Sonnenfeld chose to return to helm the third film. As late as March 2010, Smith was still undecided if he would once again take on the role of Agent J or join another feature. By May of the same year, the director announced that both Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would reprise their roles, and a quick teaser trailer was put together to announce the upcoming film and publicise Sony's foray into 3D TV. Three further writers would take a shot at the script, David Koepp first, followed by Jeff Nathanson, who was tasked with re-writing the problematic 1960s section in November 2010 - the same month that principal photography began. In an extremely risky move, Sony opted to commence shooting with only half a script in place - the second act was incomplete and the entire third act was still to be heavily reworked/rewritten. [In a spiky interview with Ain't It Cool News posted on Saturday, Sonnenfeld denied they didn't have a complete script at the start of shooting despite comments he made to the contrary in an earlier interview  given to Empire Magazine]. Even with the script issues, filming needed to begin so that the production could benefit from a 30% tax incentive for lensing in New York. A plan was put forward to shoot what they had from November through until Christmas, take a short break, then re-start work in February 2011. In the interim, Michael Soccio beefed up the script further, which caused a longer than expected delay, and shooting finally recommenced in April.

The plot of this third film would see Agent J attempting to discover why his friend and colleague, Agent K, had been seemingly erased from existence. In order to do this, he must travel back in time and work with a younger version of K, portrayed by Josh Brolin. Joining the cast would be Emma Thompson, taking over from Rip Torn as head of MiB, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchord fame as Boris The Animal, the film's main antagonist and David Rasche (star of the 80s show, Sledgehammer) as Agent X, head of MiB in the 1960s. As mentioned, this is Smith's first film since 2008 but the star's global appeal doesn't appear to have diminished, something that Sony are banking on - especially given that the rumoured budget is some way north of $225M (some sites are quoting $375M including prints and advertising though even this figure, may be on the conservative side). In terms of previous films in the series, a comparison is difficult to make given the time that has passed, the nature of the market today and the 3D surcharge this new film carries. The first film hit 15 years ago, while its sequel debuted in the summer of 2002. Men In Black opened to an impressive $51M and would go on to clear $250M by the end of its run, while the second picture opened slightly stronger but finished some way short ($52M, $190M respectively). Reviews too, differed wildly when the final results were in - a fantastic 91% for part 1, but ony 39% for Men In Black 2. As critics weighed in on this third film, opinion fell somewhere in between, with the picture scoring a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 68%. Sony opted to open the film wide, at 4,248 locations, but with The Avengers still a dangerous opponent, there was a chance that things wouldn't go the way of Smith, Jones and Men in Black 3.

First signs weren't exactly positive, with the flick making only $1.5M from midnight sneaks (which saw it play at around 2,200 locations). Fortunately, things did improve as Friday began proper, with Men In Black 3 making $18M and becoming the film to finally usurp The Avengers from the top spot. The first day figure, while solid, was lower than Sony were hoping for - north of $20M would have been more to their liking. Over Saturday and into Sunday the flick played well, but the Marvel match-up continued to be a thorn in its side. By the end of the weekend, MiB3 had made $55M, which is obviously a decent figure as it stands but given analysts were predicting anything up to $90M last week, has to be tinged with disappointment - more so with that huge budget attached. It's worth mentioning that the now four week old Avengers managed nearly $37M this frame, only $18M less than this brand new picture. Due to the first two entries being some years old, comparisons with their first frames don't work as indicators to how well this new film has done but if we adjust for inflation, the original film would have opened to $71M in 2012 dollars. Internationally MiB3 debuted at no.1 in 104 territories, making well over $100M, a good start and once again, showing that despite the four year absence, the public are happy to turn out to see Will Smith in a new Men in Black film. Where it goes from here will be decided more by its next frame - it'll be up against Snow White and needs a sub-50% drop to stay firmly in the game and avoid having to rely too heavily on foreign ticket sales.

Men In Black 3 might have taken the top spot this weekend but there was no way The Avengers were going down without a fight. The Marvel superhero flick dominated once again throughout the week and entered its fourth frame with $476.6M in its coffers. The race was now on to earn $500M quicker than previous record holder, Avatar, which achieved the feat in 32 days. The picture would need to make $24M this weekend but faced sizeable competition in not only the major new release but with its own staying power - having dominated with such huge weekend figures, would it now be running out of potential patrons? That hadn't been an issue before but it might be now. Before it hit the weekend, The Avengers managed to move up another slot on the all time domestic chart, surpassing The Phantom Menace. Only The Dark Knight, Titanic and Avatar have made more money at this point. Even With Men In Black 3 knocking it from the top spot, The Avengers remained a force to be reckoned with, adding another $9.6M on Friday. Throughout the remainder of the weekend the film continued to push closer to that $500M figure, finally surpassing it some time on Saturday - nine whole days quicker than Cameron's 3D epic. Its running total is now an astonishing $513M, with a further $781M overseas, giving it a global total of over $1.29B. That $36.9M this frame is a drop of only 34% on last frame, which goes to show how well the film continues to play, despite major competition. What's amazing is that the film has been on release through the world for just 44 days - it opened in New Zealand (along with a few other locations) on April 25th. The only issue for The Avengers is where it can go from here, it will certainly surpass The Dark Knight's $533M domestic finish within the next ten days, if not sooner, but after that, Titantic's $658M looks untouchable (though technically, that film made $600M during its initial run, the remainder was taken during its recent 3D re-release). Achievements aside, The Avengers continues to impress and it's not done yet.

Of last weekend's new releases, Battleship performed the strongest - but that was only in terms of money taken. When one looks at the cost of the film, along with its huge marketing campaign, it could be argued that the Taylor Kitsch sci-fi actioner was the biggest loser. The Universal picture opened to just $25M last frame and continued to make roughly half of what rival flick, The Avengers, made throughout the week. Battleship inevitably took a kicking from Smith & Co. too, making $3M on its second Friday, down 66% on the same time last week, which was itself an incredibly weak figure. As mentioned in last weekend's report, the film would have little breathing room this frame and that was evident in its 3-day figure - just $10M. That puts Battleship down 58% on last weekend as a whole, and almost certainly dooms it to a sub-$70M domestic finish, if not worse (its drop is the worst of any top ten film). The studio must be both thanking and cursing those international numbers - grateful that the picture has made $227M, but kicking themselves that they did not choose to use the same strategy domestically. It might only have given it a short jump on The Avengers but that would have been enough to push it much higher than it may hope to go now. Next frame won't offer it a respite either, with the release of Snow White and The Huntsman, followed the week after by Prometheus. One has to pity Taylor Kitsch, he must be one the most successful 'failures' of 2012 - overseas, he'll have had two films make nearly half a billion dollars, domestically those two films will be lucky to surpass $130M combined.

Though he had success with Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen could only sit by and watch as Bruno limped to a $60M finish in North America - despite opening to $30M. Similar may be on the cards for his new creation, General Aladeen, star of The Dictator. Opening midweek cost the film a better first weekend figure; indeed, if we remove those initial Wednesday and Thursday numbers, the comedy made only $17.4M. That highlights how poorly the film had performed - though it did give Battleship a good run for its money during the week. In a number of reports last frame, it was suggested The Dictator might have more staying power ('legs') than Bruno but that seemed doubtful when the flick took just $2.7M on its second Friday - down 51% on the same day last week. With only a slight improvement on Saturday (the same thing happened last frame), Cohen's latest creation was looking at a subdued three day total of $9.6M. While the second weekend overall drop isn't as harsh (Bruno dipped nearly 73%), it is still higher than the comedy could have done with, especially on the back of that average start.  Abroad, the film opened to almost exactly the same figure (only $5K separated the two) - figures for this frame are yet to be issued. Thanks to the limited number of releases in the coming weeks, the comedy should manage two more frames in the top ten but can't hope to reach the dizzy heights of Borat's $128M finish.

King of the found footage genre, Oren Peli, returns this weekend with a new horror thriller based in and around the ravaged town of Pripyat - near to the devastating Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Peli came to fame back in 2009 with the micro-budgeted 'jump-fest' Paranormal Activity, which he wrote, directed and produced to immense success. From a budget of just $15K, the film made $193M and launched a franchise which continues to flourish (a fourth entry is due in October). While he would take a producing role on the sequels, Peli would return to the director's chair for Area 51, which was shot shortly after the release of his first film but remains as yet, unreleased. In between Paranormal Activity sequels, he found time to produce Insidious, another low budget success story ($1.5M costs against a $97M global return). For his fourth film as producer (he also has three further films awaiting release or in post production) he decided against using the found footage device, relying on a scripted plot and multiple camera setups. The Chernobyl Diaries follows a group of holidaymakers, who are looking for a tour that's a bit less run of the mill. Hiring an extreme tour guide, they find themselves in Pripyat, the now abandoned town which once housed workers of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. After an initial exploration, the group find themselves stranded and quickly discover that the town isn't as deserted as they thought... The idea for the flick came from the story The Diary of Lawson Oxford (also written by Oren Peri).

Working with a small cast, which included former All My Children star and voice actor Jesse McCartney and Wolf Creek backpacker Nathan Philips, director Bradley Parker was able to shoot quickly and cheaply - even with location shooting in Pripyat itself. While accurate budget details weren't available at the time of writing, chances are the feature cost less than $7M to produce. This weekend seems an odd choice to release a horror film but in much the same way a romantic comedy or drama is used as alternate programming, Warner Bros. hope Chernobyl Diaries will attract the horror/R-rated crowd while the rest of the public are at Men in Black 3 or similar. The film wasn't screened for critics, but since release it has gained an approval rating of 26%, which isn't as bad as it could have been. With the low budget, the picture would need one half decent frame to cover costs and approach 'real' profit (meaning it would be covering its prints and advertising budget, something that is by and large, left out of studio issued budget figures). The Chernobyl Diaries actually got off to an impressive start, making $525K from midnight sneaks, stronger than Battleship last frame. That initial momentum didn't last as the film managed only $3.5M for Friday, still good enough for third place though. As word of mouth spread over the remainder of the weekend, Diaries took a tumble and finished up with only $8M - a low figure even considering its budget and location count (2400+). While it's no Paranormal Activity, that low budget will help it become a decent success. Not only that but with only five releases in the next three weeks, it should maintain a top ten position for a lot longer that it would have at almost any other time of the year.

The other comedy release last weekend, What To Expect When You're Expecting was even more of a disappointment, barely clearing $10M. Based on a self help book, the flick followed the ups and downs of a five couples, and their experiences with pregnancy and child birth. Not even a huge ensemble cast, which included Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Elizabeth Banks could entice the public in. Some speculated that part of the problem was that the comedy skewed the female demographic a little too much - and those who had been through the issues covered by the film may not have wanted to be reminded of them. Either way, the flick's second weekend wasn't quite as bad as it could have been. What to Expect made $2.7M on Friday, heading to a 3-day total of $7.2M - a quite good drop of 32% on last frame. Like The Dictator, it should manage a couple more weeks in the top ten, but will be all but forgotten by mid-June.

The Johnny Depp/Tim Burton reunion that is Dark Shadows continues to disappoint. Now in its third weekend on general release, the film managed to cross the $50M mark on day 20 but with a take of $7.5M this frame, its days are looking numbered. A finish of around $80-85M is on the cards domestically. However, as predicted, Dark Shadows will be saved by its overseas performance, where its total as of Friday was $81M.

Having impressed with its performance in a very limited capacity, Fox Searchlight chose to expand The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel into 1,233 locations this frame and were rewarded with an eighth place finish and a take of $6.3M. The word of mouth on the comedy drama is white hot and that's allowed the film to perform stronger than pictures on twice as many screens. There's a chance it will expand further but it will fight more and more competition in the coming weeks - perhaps not direct, but enough to push it back towards the tale end of the top ten and beyond.

The Hunger Games sits desperately close to $400M now but will have left the top ten before surpassing the figure. Made for $78M, the novel adaptation is now in its tenth frame in the main chart, and has taken $395M as of this weekend.

The $12M comedy, Think Like A Man, rounds us out this frame. Having opened back in mid-April, the film saw great success with weekend totals of $33M, $17M and $8M up against The Avengers debut. This frame, its last in the top ten, Think Like A Man added $1.2M, to give it a running total of $88.2M.

Released in a limited capacity this weekend is The Intouchables. The film, about the friendship between a man suffering from tetraplegia and a young offender who becomes his live-in carer has been a smash hit overseas - spending a record 10 weeks at the number one spot in France (it is now the second most watched French film in its cinematic history). It repeated this success in a number of other European countries, including Germany and Austria. In March 2012, The Intouchables became the most successful non-English language film, surpassing previous record holder, Spirited Away. According to Boxofficemojo, it has made over $339M to date. The film was purchased for U.S release by The Weinstein Co. who opened the film at four locations, seeing a take of $101K.

Also new in limited release this week is Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. The film, which stars Bruce Willis, Ed Norton and Bill Murray, amongst others, is set in 1965 and sees a young couple running away together, prompting a search by the local sheriff and the couple's family.  Reviews have been incredibly strong, with the picture scoring a 97% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. At just four locations it made a very strong $508K, one of the best screen to takings ratios in the chart. Further expansion is assured.

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