Sunday, 5 August 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 3rd - 5th August 2012

1. The Dark Knight Rises - $36.4M - $354.6M
2. Total Recall - $26M - $26M
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - $14.7M - $14.7M
4. Ice Age: Continental Drift - $8.4M - $131.9M
5. The Watch - $6.4M - $25.4M
6. Ted - $5.4M - $203.4M
7. Step Up: Revolution - $5.3M - $23M
8. The Amazing Spider-Man - $4.3M - $250.6M
9. Brave - $2.8M - $223.3M
10. Magic Mike - $1.3M - $110.8M

Parts of this report have previously appeared at Mendelson's Memos

Blockbuster season begins its wind down as we enter August. Only a handful of major tent-pole releases remain, and they'll be surrounded by smaller films, along with those which the studios want to quietly offload. This week it's the turn of Sony's costly Total Recall re-imagining and the third in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Dog Days. Last week's openers, The Watch and Step Up Revolution will be hoping for anything they can get after such weak starts (especially for the former) while The Dark Knight Rises will be hoping to make three weeks at the top. Next weekend sees the release of The Bourne Legacy, along with the Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy, The Campaign.

The Dark Knight Rises retains the top spot for the third weekend running. Any doubts that the film had been a disappointment must have all but evaporated this week as it hit $300M on Tuesday, its twelve day on release. Only two other pictures have hit the figure quicker, May's The Avengers and The Dark Knight. As it approached its third Friday, The Dark Knight Rises had amassed $318M but had been expected to take some heat from Total Recall this frame. At that point in its release (Day 14), The Dark Knight had made $351M, so one can see the gap between the two has continued to expand, but the second sequel's performance should not be underplayed. Even with Total Recall entering the fray, The Dark Knight Rises remained solid, adding $10.4M on Friday (and retaining first place). Overall, it finished its third frame with $36.4M, that's down only 41% on last weekend and a better third frame dip than TDK. It brings its total to $354M and puts the film just outside the all time top twenty, around $3M behind Jurassic Park. As mentioned, the gap between this film and its predecessor continues to expand but if one were to remove that comparison for a moment, The Dark Knight Rises is performing very well, more so given the incident in Colorado, its lack of 3D and the incredible front-loading the picture witnessed, not to mention any impact the Olympics is having on cinema going. $400M will come within the next few weeks, with a finish of around $420-440M on the cards. On the international market The Dark Knight Rises has continued to be the dominant film, and crossed the $250M mark in the last few days.

Total Recall began life as the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story, 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'. The rights to adapt (and expand) the story into a feature length film were purchased by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett around the time of Alien (which the duo wrote), but despite their best efforts, they were unable to find a backer for their screenplay.  It would be the mid-80s before the project showed signs of life again, when Dino De Laurentiis came on board, with a view to signing Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze in the lead role. However, director David Cronenberg wanted William Hurt for the role of Doug Quaid (Quail in the original story) and clashed with Shushett over the direction of the story - the helmer favouring a closer adaptation while the writer was looking for "Raiders of the Lost Ark...On Mars". Cronenberg left the film, and De Laurentiis lost interest after the failure of the costly Dune adaptation in 1984. Curiously, while he received no credit on the eventual film, a number of the director's ideas made it into the picture, including the Mars mutants and the character of Kuato. At this point, with De Laurentiis's company in trouble, Arnold Schwarzenegger convinced Carolco to purchase the rights to 'We Can Remember..' with a view to star. The actor cut such a powerful deal that he was given veto power over producer, director and screenplay, amongst other things. He recruited Paul Verhoeven to helm the picture, who hired someone who could knock the script into shape - at this point it was on its forty second draft. Gary Goldman worked with Ron Shushett and finally created a workable third act. Meanwhile Verhoeven began recruiting some of the cast and crew he had worked with on his U.S feature debut, Robocop, including Ronny Cox as villain, Vilos Cohaagen, and special effects designer Rob Bottin. Shooting began in Mexico City soon after, on what would become known as Total Recall.

Despite running into problems with the MPAA over its graphic violence, Verhoeven found a way to keep its impact without cutting the film to shreds. For the time, Total Recall was a costly film to produce, weighing in at around $65M ($116M in 2012 dollars). However, it quickly became apparent that this was money well spent. Opening to $25M, the picture went on to make $119M ($212M today) in North America, from a location count of just over 2,000. Overseas it would be stronger still, amassing $141M. Total Recall went on to have a long and rich life on video, and further cemented Schwarzenegger's reputation as the action hero of the time. (A year later he would return in the iconic role of the T-800 in Termintor 2: Judgement Day). With almost twenty years having passed since the release of the original film, it came as little surprise when Sony announced in late February of 2009, that they would remaking the film, teaming up with uber-producer Neal H. Mortiz (21 Jump St, Fast Five, The Green Hornet) and his production company, Original Films.  In June of the same year, Kurt Wimmer was hired to script, along with co-writer Mark Bomback (with a further pass being done by Amazing Spider-Man's James Vanderbilt). Work would quietly progress for almost a year before Sony announced that Len Wiseman had been taken on to direct what was now being described as a fresh, yet loose take on Dick's original story, rather than a remake of Verhoeven's 1990 classic. Wiseman began his career working with Roland Emmerich as a property assistant on Stargate, ID4 and Godzilla, before venturing into advertising and music video directing. In 2003 he made his feature directorial debut with Underworld, a film that went on to make $95M from a budget of $22M. He would return to direct a further sequel (Evolution) and produce two more in the series (Rise of the Lycans, Awakenings). His next big break came in 2007, when he directed the fourth instalment of the Die Hard franchise (Live Free or Die Hard), which made $383M in total global ticket sales.

With Wiseman in place, work began on casting Doug Quaid. In August 2010, rumours began to surface that Schwarzenegger was interested in once again taking on the role, but by October, Colin Farrell, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender were all said to be in the running for the lead, with Farrell being officially announced as Douglas Quaid in January 2011. Joining him would be Wiseman's wife, Kate Beckinsale (in the role made famous by Sharon Stone in the 1990 film), Jessica Biel as Melina and Bryan Cranston as Vilos Cohaagen. Rounding out the cast would be John Cho and Bill Nighy. While the characters and situations sounded similar - Quaid visiting Rekall and finding his memories are false and that he may actually be an undercover agent - the locations would not be. No longer would the last half of the picture take place on Mars. Instead, Quaid would be earthbound, finding himself between two warring super-states - Euroamerica and New Shanghai. While Sony were eager to distance themselves from the original movie, the first trailer revealed quite startling similarities. Indeed, since that first footage was released, the only difference between the two version appears to be their location - everything else appears to be present and correct, right down to the three-breasted lady. Sony have marketed the film hard, and opted to take a PG-13 rating so as to open it up to as wide an audience as possible (though, curiously, they chose not to shoot or post-convert into 3D). The studio have a lot riding on the picture too, with costs long rumoured to run up to $200M (despite news in the last few days that they were closer to $140M), and knowing full well its visuals and brand recognition will be needed to sell it due to a  lack of star-power. Early signs weren't promising, with reviews embargoed until late Wednesday evening. When they did start to appear, they were extremely negative, with the flick's Rotten Tomato rating dipping as low as 9%. Things had improved by the time the film hit theatres, but that only put it on a 32% approval rating. While reviews were quick to praise the special effects and the action sequences, most felt it added nothing over the original and was generally a redundant remake (something levelled at the recent Spider-Man reboot). The film was out to over 3,400 locations and Sony would be looking for a solid start to avoid issues going forward, especially with The Bourne Legacy due next weekend.

That solid start never came. As we've already seen, Total Recall lost out on the top spot on Friday, making $9.2M - certainly lower than the studio would have been hoping for and setting it on track for a poor weekend. In fact, that opening figure is only $1.3M better than what the original film made during its first day (at 1,600 less locations and in 1990 dollars - with inflation factored in, it opened to $14.1M). Worse still for the re-imagining, Friday was its strongest day of the last three. By Sunday, the picture had made $26M, almost exactly what Arnie's Total Recall made during its first weekend, twenty two years ago. There's little way to describe this as anything but a major disappointment for the film and its studio. This places it in the company of Battleship ($25M), Dark Shadows ($29.6M) and John Carter ($30M) in terms of opening figures. Even with a spectacular hold next frame (which won't happen given the word of mouth and competition), Total Recall is already doomed domestically and will now require a fair amount of luck just to get beyond $75M. Sony will now need to rely heavily on the film's international performance to shore up the poor figures in North America. Like the aforementioned John Carter and Battleship, this is another example of a project being so costly as to require near record breaking figures just to break even.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books are written by Jeff Kinney and actually began life as an online journal of sorts back in 2004. The site proved so popular that readers urged Kinney to release a print edition, which appeared as 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' in 2007. Such was the success of the book that a second volume was released a year later, with the subtitle, Roderick Rules. Less then a year on from that came The Last Straw, followed quickly by Dog Days, which would go on to become one of the best selling books of 2009. Book five and six, The Ugly Truth and Cabin Fever, debuted in November 2010 and 2011 respectively and a seventh book, The Third Wheel, is due at the tail end of this year. The stories all follow the high school struggles of a boy named Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley Jefferson. Hollywood, ever on the hunt for the next franchise, were quick to come calling, with Fox securing the rights to the series back in early 2009. The first picture, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was released on March 19th 2010 and went on to recoup its $15M production budget within the first three days of its release - making more money than the Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston comedy The Bounty Hunter, also released that weekend.  All told, the movie would make $65M domestically. With plenty of material to work with, Fox pushed Roderick Rules into production for a March 2011 release. While Rules opened stronger (and again recouped its $21M production budget from its first weekend) it would finish lower than the first movie, banking $52M in all. Overseas, where the books appear less well known, the original picture made $11.6M, while its sequel managed $19.7M. With decent numbers on the home market, the studio moved forward with the next book in the series.

Curiously, instead of trying to stretch the franchise out by splitting a single story into two movies (see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) Fox opted to merge The Last Straw and Dog Days into one feature. 'Roderick' director David Bowers would return to helm, this marking his second live action feature after working in animation for a number of years (cutting his teeth on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, before going on to direct Flushed Away and Astro Boy). Zachary Gordon (Greg) and Robert Capron (Rowley) would also return for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and it would be the first of the series to chance a later summer release. This third film sees Greg having finished school for the summer but quickly finding all his plans going awry. The books have a very solid fan base meaning the picture should at least open well, and there's only limited competition for the demographic from the current family releases (Ice Age 4 and Brave, both starting to look a little worse for wear). However, whether Dog Days can best Roderick Rules' $23.7M opening frame remained to be seen. The previous films scored middling reviews from critics and this third one is no different, coming in at 50%. Its first day take of $5.8M puts it as the lowest opener of the series so far (both previous releases scored above $7M on their first day). Takings did hold steady over the remainder of the frame, leaving Dog Days with a weekend haul of $14.7M - a OK start but again, some way below the opening figures of the original movie and its sequel. That dip could be a due to a couple of things - this is the first Wimpy Kid film that has opened in the summer, and has therefore had to face off against more competition. Furthermore, there's an age factor that could have come in to play too - fans of the first film and books are now a couple of years older, and may well have outgrown Greg and Rowley's adventures. The studio will remain largely unfazed and know that by next week, the picture will have recouped its $22M production budget and almost certainly have secured a fourth movie in the process.

With new family orientated competition, Ice Age 4 found itself down a not-bad 37% this frame, making $2.4M on Friday for a weekend total of $8.4M. At this point it feels largely like the film is treading water, waiting to be pushed down the chart. By weekend four, Dawn of the Dinosaurs had made $171M, on its way to a series best finish of $196M. With a bit of luck, Continental Drift should hit $150-155M by the time it leaves theatres. Overseas there's simply no stopping Scrat & co. as takings rapidly approach $550M (a figure that makes up 80% of its overall total).

When three major comedy stars fail to open a much-hyped film above $15M, you know you're in trouble. Sadly, that's exactly what happened to Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn with The Watch last weekend. Made for $68M, the flick barely registered with cinema-goers and actually finished behind the fourth Step Up movie during its first day on release, ending the frame with a flop-worthy $12.7M. By the eve of its second week, The Watch hadn't even hit $20M and added only $1.9M on its sophomore Friday, down a quite poor 57% on its already weak opening day. By the frame's end, it had added just $4.4M more, for a running total of $25.3M. There really isn't any good news here, and one can expect Fox to cut its losses and get the The Watch out of theatres as quickly as possible.

Even with The Watch on its tail, Ted dropped just 27% last weekend. The Seth MacFarlane comedy crossed the $200M mark on Saturday, its 37th day on release (and the 8th film of 2012 to achieve such a feat). This is an amazing performance for the $50M feature - more so when many had it pegged as making around half its current total. Ted should manage at least one more frame in the top ten and finish its domestic run with around $220-225M. Abroad, it's already up to $77M, with $100M and beyond a certainty.

While it may have initially given The Watch a run for its money, Step Up Revolution ended its first weekend on release in fourth place, with $11.7M, an opening low for the series. Things didn't really improve from there, though it did manage to move up a chart position on Tuesday. On Friday it made only $1.7M, heading toward a second weekend finish of $5.3M, $23M overall. That total figure is barely more than what the first film made over its initial three days ($20.6M) and sets Revolution up for a $30-35M finish. This is actually the first movie with Summit at the helm (Disney produced the first three) and while the studio know they won't lose money in the long term, it will be the international figures which they'll view with the most interest, given that the previous Step Up movies have made progressively more money overseas.

The other comic book character in the top ten isn't fairing so well. Taken as a reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man got off to a great start five weeks ago, making $137M over its first five days. It followed that frame up with a decent enough hold but got crushed by The Dark Knight Rises a week later. Since then the webslinger has done its best just to keep its head above the water, recovering a little last weekend. A week on and the picture dropped down to eighth, making $4.3M over the last three days. With a cumulative gross of $250M, expect The Amazing Spider-Man to top out at around $265-270M domestically, with $500M abroad still an outside possibility.

Brave has now almost over taken Wall-E to become Pixar's eighth most successful film . This weekend saw it add a further $2.8M, bringing its total to date to $223.3M. Brave might see one more weekend in the top ten and looks to be heading for domestic total in the region of $235M. Internationally things are starting to heat up, the picture crossing the $100M mark in the last few days.

Rounding us out this weekend is Magic Mike, the third Channing Tatum film to hit $100M this year. The stripper drama took $1.3M this frame (its sixth on release), giving it $110M in total ticket sales.

The well received indie drama Beasts of the Southern Wild managed a top twelve finish this weekend, thanks in part to some minor expansion. From 318 locations, it made $1.1M to bring its total to date to $5.9M. The NC-17 rated Killer Joe saw another good frame, adding $163K ($220K total).

In limited release, the romantic drama Jesse and Celeste Forever, co-written and starring Rashida Jones, made a solid $112K from only four theatres. Elsewhere, The Babymakers, directed by Broken Lizard's Jay Chandrasekhar, made just $5,784 from 10 locations.

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