Sunday 23 September 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 21st - 23rd September 2012

1. House at the End of the Street - $13M - $13M
1. End of Watch - $13M - $13M
3. Trouble with the Curve - $12.7M - $12.7M
4. Finding Nemo 3D - $9.4M - $29.9M
5. Resident Evil 5 - $6.7M - $33.4M
6. Dredd - $6.3M - $6.3M
7. The Master - $5M - $6M
8. The Possession - $2.6M - $45.2M
9. Lawless - $2.3M - $34.9M
10. ParaNorman - $2.2M - $52.5M

A busy weekend at the box office, with four major releases battling it out. They were joined by The Master, which expanded into 788 locations after a stunning debut last week and the second frame for Resident Evil: Retribution. Next week is almost as busy, with the much-anticipated Looper, CGI family film Hotel Transylvania and drama Won't Back Down all entering the fray. But back to this week, and the three way battle for the top spot, which was so close it won't actually be settled until tomorrow, when the 'actual' weekend figures are issued.

The House at the End of the Street is the new film from director Mark Tonderai, who made his debut with the 2009 thriller, Hush. The idea for the film actually originated from a short story written by Jonathan Mostow (director of Terminator: Rise of the Machines), which was then expanded for the screen by David Loucka. It sees recently divorced mother Sarah and her teenage daughter, Elissa, move into a new place, initially unaware that the house next door was witness to a double murder in which a young girl killed her parents while they slept. After the crime was committed, the girl vanished, leaving her brother, Ryan, as the only survivor. Elissa and Ryan (who still resides in the neighbouring house) form a relationship but it soon becomes apparent that the evil that was present in the house at the end of the street may still be there. Elisabeth Shue takes on the maternal role of Sarah, with Jennifer Lawrence as Elissa. Like recent release, The Possession, 'House' has sat on the shelf for some time, having shot during the summer of 2010. At that point, Lawrence was known primarily for her Oscar nominated performance in indie drama Winter's Bone, but quickly rose to mainstream prominence with her turn as a young Mystique in X-Men: First Class, along with roles in The Beaver and Like Crazy. However, it was her performance as Katniss Everdeen in the March 2012 smash hit The Hunger Games that shot her to global stardom.

The House at the End of the Street was originally set to open in February 2012, but perhaps hoping to benefit from the expected boost in Lawrence's profile, it was pushed back to September. The teaser debuted at the end of March, followed by a second and third trailer in May and August respectively. With The Possession showing its age, there was room for this new horror/thriller to take its place - especially with a 3,000+ location roll out. Reviews were generally poor, with the picture scoring just 12% critical approval at Rotten Tomatoes. Expected to battle Trouble With The Curve, 'House' instead clashed with End of Watch on Friday, taking $4.64M, securing the top spot by just $40K. By Sunday night, The House at the End of the Street had made an ok $13M - weaker than The Possession, which debuted to $17.7M (thought admittedly, had a lot less competition to contend with). With End of Watch making the same amount, we have a rare (yet temporary) tie for the spot, which will be settled tomorrow when actuals are issued by the respective studios. That said, the fact that the picture has sat on the shelf for nearly two years and cost only $10M to produce, one assumes the studio will be quietly pleased with this result even if they ultimately end up settling for second place.

End of Watch follows the day to day lives of two LAPD cops, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, their families, friends and work colleagues. While on a routine traffic stop, the duo confiscate a small amount of drugs and firearms, not knowing they belong to an infamous (and very dangerous) drug cartel, and that in the process of doing their jobs, have marked themselves for death. In a twist on the conventional police drama, director David Ayer opted to shoot the film documentary style, with footage made up from dashboard cameras, CCTV and personal video recording equipment carried by the officers themselves. While not exactly 'found footage', this shooting method attempts to give the picture a more direct and raw approach, adding a gritty realism that would perhaps otherwise be absent. Ayer is certainly no stranger to police drama, having shot to fame as writer and producer on 2002's Training Day. He would return to the Los Angeles Police Department no less than four further times (Including this new film), beginning with the script for Dark Blue, before moving onto S.W.A.T and Street Kings. Even his 2006 directorial debut, Harsh Times, features a character attempting (and failing) to join the LAPD.

Gyllenhaal was last on screen in 2011's Source Code, while Peña played Enrique Dev'reaux in the November release, Tower Heist. Interestingly, Peña also stars in The Gangster Squad, a film that was set for release a few weeks ago but was pushed back so a cinema-based shooting sequence could be reworked. Despite a wide roll out, upwards of 2,500 locations, and the best critical approval rating of all of the new releases. End of Watch wasn't expected to see big numbers. Therefore it came as something of a surprise on Friday when it battled The House at the End of the Street for the top spot, making $4.6M. The battle for number one would continue through out the weekend, with each new film named winner at one point or another (Dredd aside, sadly). When the dust finally settled on the weekend, End of Watch found itself in joint first place, with a three day haul of $13M. Actual weekend figures will decide the winner tomorrow afternoon. The picture cost only $7M to produce, so is already proving to be a wise investment for Open Road Films, who may still be smarting from Killer Elite's poor showing last September. With solid word of mouth it should also see a decent hold next frame, regardless of its final finishing position this week.

Clint Eastwood returns to the front of the camera this weekend in the drama, Trouble With The Curve. He plays famed (but aged) baseball scout, Gus Lobel, who is given one final chance to prove his worth to his employers, who feel he hasn't moved with the times. His boss, played by John Goodman, doesn't want to see his friend fail so asks Mickey, Gus's estranged daughter (played by Amy Adams, who also stars in current release, The Master) to accompany him on the trip. Mickey soon finds herself in a more active role, making up for her father's failing eye sight, while the two attempt to work out their differences and reconnect. Along the way, they cross paths with rival scout Johnny (Played by Justin Timberlake), an ex-baseball player who was discovered by Gus back in the day, and who takes more than a passing interest in Mickey. Eastwood has worked consistently as a director for a number of years, but Trouble With The Curve marks his first acting/non-directing role since 1993's In the Line of Fire (it's also his first time back in front of the camera since Gran Torino). Instead, directing duties went to Robert Lorenz, who first worked with Eastwood as second unit director on The Bridges of Madison County. Since then, Lorenz has gone on to work as assistant director on many of Eastwood's pictures, and has acted as one of his producers since 2003's Mystic River.

Trouble With The Curve shot earlier this year, with location work taking place mainly in Atlanta. The balancing act of what is essentially three separate elements in one story can be a tricky one to play, with at least one of them often being left underdeveloped, however, early word was said to be solid enough. Sadly that didn't translate into great reviews, with only 54% of critics finding something to like about the flick. On its side was location count, with the picture rolling out to over 3,200 theatres. Many expected Curve to win the weekend straight off but it had to settle for third on Friday, making $4.1M. The picture continued to fight with End of Watch and House at the End of the Street but couldn't better its Friday placing. All told, it finished up with a slightly disappointing $12.7M. Obviously this figure is much lower than what Gran Torino debuted with ($29M in it first weekend in wide release) but given the competition, not to mention the somewhat limited demographic appeal the picture was carrying, this might turn out to be a best case scenario. With a lack of front-loading, the film may also see some decent weekday figures.

Having been expected to give the Lion King 3D release a good run for its money, Finding Nemo 3D ended up with a slightly disappointing $17.5M last weekend (which itself was much higher than the $16.8M it actually ended up making). Numerous reasons were offered for the subdued performance but given that the re-release was seen as an advert of the December Blu-Ray debut, anything above the $5M 3D conversion costs was seen as a bonus. This weekend saw Nemo drop down to fourth place, adding a further $9.4M. That brings its re-release total to $29.9M, giving it a lifetime total of just under $370M. Next weekend it'll face competition in the guise of Hotel Transylvania.

After opening as the fourth lowest performing film of the series, Resident Evil: Retribution continued to struggle throughout the week, its best day being Tuesday ($1.8M). As we entered the second frame, the fifth film in the series was sitting on $26.7M, some way down on where the fourth film was at in the same time frame ($33.8M). On its second Friday, RE:R tumbled to sixth place, making just $1.95M (down a nasty 77% on the same day last week). Over Saturday and into Sunday the film continued to take a hit from the new releases to finish the frame with $6.7M - an overall weekend to weekend drop of 68%. Even at this early stage, it's unlikely that the feature will clear $50M in North America. But as we've seen so often this year, Retribution's domestic performance was never the real story here - Screen Gems knowing full well that the big money for the film would come from overseas. In contrast to its North American opening, RE:R performed the best of the series in many foreign territories, finishing its first weekend with $50M in takings. A week on and it was still going strong, managing to cross $100M by its second Sunday. Whether it will eventually surpass the $236M international finish of the last film remains to be seen, but early signs are certainly strong.

Dredd 3D is based on the famous 2000AD comic-character of the same name. He first appeared in print, in the Judge Dredd strip, back in 1977 and was a creation of writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, both ably backed by editor Pat Mills. The character is a future law enforcement officer, with the power to act as judge, jury and executioner all in one. Along with his fellow street judges, Dredd policies the huge Mega-City One, a fictional place situated along America's east coast - at one time stretching from where Boston to Miami would be. The character actually debuted in the second issue of 2000AD and by issue nine, was the most popular strip in the entire comic - a role that Judge Dredd has held pretty much consistently to this day. Many attempts had been made over the years to bring the character to the silver screen, but it wasn't until 1995, when Sylvester Stallone played Judge Dredd in Danny Cannon's movie of the same name, that it actually became a reality. Despite being a huge fan of the character, Cannon's version veered quite sharply from the source, going as far as to sidle Stallone with a comedy sidekick in the guise of Rob Schneider. Critically maligned and a financial disappointment ($113M from a $90M budget), the film has gone on to become something of a cult but halted any further development on a future Dredd film. Author and screenplay writer, Alex Garland first proposed a new Judge Dredd feature in 2006, writing a script which he would ultimately disregard due to being largely unfathomable to anyone not familiar with the character.

In 2008, a new Judge Dredd feature was announced as being in development by DNA Films, the producers of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Sunshine, amongst a raft of other features (notably a hand in Love Actually and Never Let Me Go). Garland joined the project as scriptwriter in September of 2009 and by May of the following year, DNA announced that they had secured a $45M production budget. While an offer to direct went out to Moon's Duncan Jones, it would be Vantage Point director, Pete Travis, who would eventually helm the picture, which would be shot in 3D. With a script, budget and location (South Africa) all in place, the search was on for the actor to play the iconic anti-hero. One of the central traits of the character is that he never removes his helmet (there have been minor exceptions in the comic book, and the Stallone version by and large ignored the rule) and the production needed to find an actor famous enough to sell the film, but at the same time be content to stay masked for the duration of its run time. In August 2010, Karl Urban, who played Éomer in the The Two Towers and Return of the King, along with taking on the role of Dr 'Bones' McCoy in JJ Abrams Star Trek, was announced as Judge Dredd. In fact, Urban had approached the producers and actively campaigned for the role. He'd be joined by Olivia Thirlby, as Judge Anderson, a rookie coming to terms with her psychic powers.

While filming ran smoothly (though initial shots of the judges came under intense scrutiny by fans), trouble raised its head during post production, when it was reported that Pete Travis had apparently been locked out of the editing suite and that Garland was assembling the film, with a view to seek  a co-director credit. A few days after the story broke, a joint statement was released which confirmed that while the editing process was an unorthodox collaboration, Travis was still in charge, and Garland would not be looking for any related credit. After that, apart from the occasional production still and the announcement that the picture would see a release in September 2012, news went quiet on Dredd 3D until the first trailer in May of this year. The reaction to the footage was  generally positive, with many tentatively stating that Urban, Travis and Garland may well have pulled it off. In a surprising, yet logical move, the studio opted to screen the finished film in its entirety at the San Diego Comic-Con, receiving some very strong notices.

The great reviews continued to come and the picture remained 100% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes for some length of time (it's currently at 77%). While the character isn't unknown in North America, it was hoped the positive word of mouth and strong reviews would help get it noticed and exorcise the memory of Stallone's interpretation. Sadly it seems that wasn't the case, with Dredd debuting Friday to just $2.2M - just about good enough for fifth place. Word of mouth is solid, if not spectacular, something reflected in its 'B' cinemascore but over the remainder of the frame, the violent thriller could only add $4.1M more, giving it a three day opening total of $6.3M. That figure is a real disappointment considering how well the film has been received by fans (and reviewers). Worse still, the 3D surcharge doesn't appeared to have given the film a boost of any kind and has all but doomed it to a sub-$20M finish in North America. Truth be told, the surcharge and lack of 2D screenings might have ultimately done the film more damage than good - at least to the casual, undecided cinema-goer. Dredd will now need to look to the overseas market if it is to  stand any chance of recouping its $45M production budget.

The Master made a stunning, record-breaking debut last weekend as just five locations, taking $736K, for a per location average of $147K. There had always been plans to expand the film in the following weekend, with many expecting the Paul Thomas Anderson flick to move into 100 or so more theatres. So it came as something of a surprise when the Weinstein Company announced it would expand the picture into over 780 locations - obviously buoyed by that startling opening and hoping to strike while the iron was hot. Curiously The Master displayed signs of front-loading as early as Monday, and even saw a decline on Tuesday, when films generally see an increase. By Thursday the picture had crossed the $1M mark which is no small feat given that tiny location count. With expansion, The Master broke into the top ten on Friday, making $1.5M. Obviously, the exceptional performance in limited release was never going to translate into equally strong figures in expansion, but given the wealth of new releases, that $1.5M wasn't to be scoffed at. By Sunday night, Anderson's sixth picture had a weekend total of $5M, giving it ten day gross of $6M. With the subject matter, there was always a fear that The Master would be a tough sell to a mainstream audience and it may need another week (with possible additional expansion) to see whether the film's strong central performances are enough to allow it to break out further.

With the new films and notable holdovers out of the way, the remainder of the top ten is made up of older films, the best performing of which is The Possession, which took a hit from House at the End of the Street and Dredd. The Sam Raimi produced horror flick added $2.6M this weekend, to bring its four week total to $45.2M. The violent prohibition thriller, Lawless, made $2.3M and dropped down to ninth place. Despite solid reviews, the picture has been unable to gain much of a foothold in North America and will finish up with around $40M. Overseas it's only just getting started, having made $5.5M to date. Finally, rounding out the top ten is ParaNorman, which made $2.2M this week, to bring its running total to $52.5M.

One further film of note still in wide release is The Expendables 2, which thanks to a very impressive showing overseas, has now surpassed the final global finish of its predecessor ($274M). Domestically it has made $82.9M.

In limited release, The Perks of Being a Wallflower made its debut. Based on Stephen Chbosky's novel of the same name (Chbosky also wrote the screenplay and directed the picture), it's the tale of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a teenager in his first year of high school. Told through a series of letters that he writes to an anonymous person, it sees Charlie beginning the school year as an outcast, but slowly coming to terms with who he is, and becoming close friends with two seniors, Sam (played by Emma Watson) and her step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller). Given some of the film's themes (drug use, suicide, teen sexuality), it ran foul of the MPAA, who initially awarded it an R-rating. However, on  appeal this was reduced to PG-13, with a new advisory statement highlighting the issues dealt with in the picture. The Perks of Being a Wallflower opened at four location this weekend, making $85K on Friday, heading toward a very strong $244K weekend.

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