Sunday 30 September 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 28th - 30th September 2012

1. Hotel Transylvania - $43M - $43M
2. Looper - $21.2M - $21.2M
3. End of Watch - $8M - $26.2M
4. Trouble with the Curve - $7.3M - $23.7M
5. House at the End of the Street - $7.1M - $22.2M
6. Pitch Perfect - $5.2M - $5.2M
7. Finding Nemo 3D - $4M - $4M
8. Resident Evil: Retribution - $3M - $38.7M
9. The Master - $2.74M - $9.6M
10. Won't Back Down - $2.7M - $2.7M

After the photo finish last frame, things looked to be a bit more clear cut this week, with three new wide releases vying for attention. The family market gets another spooky entry in the guise of Hotel Transylvania while time travel flick Looper was hoping there was still an audience willing to take a chance on a complex, genre bending thriller. There was space for drama too, in the form of Won't Back Down. All three would be up against End of Watch, which finished up on top last weekend. However a limited release would make more than a few headlines.

The family film Hotel Transylvania marks the feature directorial debut for  Dexter's Laboratory/Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky. Even monsters need a holiday, is the concept behind the film. Count Dracula has run the titular five star hotel for many a year, and decides to invite some of its most famous guests (Frankenstein's monster, a Werewolf husband and wife, Quasimodo and many others) back for his daughter, Mavis' 118th birthday. The Count is proud of the fact that the resort has been human-free since 1898 but has to think fast when Jonathan, a young traveller stumbles into the place. Can Dracula keep Jonathan from discovering the secrets of Hotel Transylvania and protect Mavis from falling in love with this perfectly regular human? Adam Sandler provides the voice of Count Dracula, while his 'That's My Boy' co-star, Adam Samberg plays Jonathan. Both are ably supported by Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon and singer Cee Lo Green, as an obese Egyptian mummy. Miley Cyrus was originally announced as the voice of Mavis back in November 2011, but left the film to focus on other projects, to be replaced by Selena Gomez. The feature has been a long time coming, having been announced back in 2006, with  David Feiss and Anthony Stacchi attached to direct. However, by 2008, they'd been replaced by Jill Culton, director of Open Season. She in turn left in 2010, with effects animator (and lately producer) Chris Jenkins stepping in to helm, with Todd Wilderman acting as co-director (or sole director, depending on which report you read).

Tartakovsky was announced as the new director in February 2011 and set to work re-writing and re-imagining the film. Having worked fruitlessly on the project for a number of years, the crew of Hotel Transylvania took some winning over, but were eventually sold on the Russian-American animator's vision, and things finally began to move forward. Directorial and cast changes weren't the only alteration the film has seen - in the original version of the script, the hotel was actually a safe haven for the classic monsters who found themselves irrelevant in a 21st century world, and a long lost relative of Van Helsing is the one who ends up falling for Mavis. With such a long pre-production period, Hotel Transylvania has seen its budget continue to rise, and while Sony insist costs currently run to $85M, they may in actual fact be much higher (Tangled's long gestating production period saw its budget pushed beyond $250M). While the film had the family market pretty much to itself this weekend (ParaNorman is all but done at this point), Sony know it only had seven days before facing Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. While critics weren't sold on the film (it's currently on 41% at Rotten Tomatoes but scored a B+ Cinemascore), the public were more than happy to turn out to hear Sandler, Gomez and Co. On Friday, Hotel Transylvania scored a solid $11M, comfortably winning the weekend there and then. That figure compares favourable to the 2009 release, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which debuted with $8.1M. As expected, matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday gave the flick a considerable boost, allowing it to finish up with a very impressive three day total of $43M. Not only is that a new record for a Sony Animation release but it is also the best September opening of all time, smashing the previous record ($35.6M) held by Sweet Home Alabama since 2002. Furthermore, the film is also the second best opening of Adam Sandler's career, beaten only by The Longest Yard ($47M). Given the potted production history and average critical response, this must surely go down as a major victory for the studio, and while it'll face direct competition next frame, Hotel Transylvania could be some way beyond $55M before Frankenweenie arrives.

Sony's second release this frame is Looper, a new science-fiction feature from Brick director, Rian Johnson which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. Levitt plays Joseph Simmons, a 'looper' who works for the mob. A very well paid assassin, it's his job to kill people sent back from the future, where time travel has been perfected, but outlawed and consequently taken over by the mob. 'Loopers' only operate on one rule - never let your target escape. Major problems arise when Simmons comes face to face with his next hit and discovers it is a future version of himself (Played by Willis). In the confusion, the older version escapes, leaving a young Simmons in a race against time to put things right before the mob step in - all the while knowing that if he succeeds, he will become his own murderer.  Johnson began developing Looper once production on his previous film, The Brothers Bloom was completed in 2008, with a view to start work some time in 2009. While things didn't come together as quickly as anticipated, by May 2010 he had script, budget and had cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, the two having previously worked together on 2005's Brick. Willis would join the picture later that same month, with Blunt added to the cast in October. Shooting on the $30M Looper got underway in January 2011 (after a short delay while Levitt worked on Premium Rush) taking in Louisiana and Shanghai amongst its locations.

The central idea of time travel can be a difficult concept to pull off successfully - more so if one wants to avoid the usual pitfalls and paradoxes associated with it. Initially it looked as if the director had gotten support on this aspect from Shane Carruth, who handled multiple time-lines in his debut movie, Primer, but this was later played down. In fact, during a recent Q&A for the film, Johnson mentioned Carruth had offered advice on the script (which they ultimately had to disregard) and helped them shoot a sequence that ended up not making it into the picture. The first trailer for the film debuted in April 2012, alongside the now de-rigueur viral campaign. This was followed up with further footage, trailers and featurettes.  Film District and Tri-Star set Looper for release in September 2012, but in an interesting move, DMG Entertainment, who are responsible for the picture's release in China, requested a longer cut, reinstating some sequences Johnson had shot in Shanghai but removed due to pacing issues. Early word on the picture had been incredibly strong, with very favourable comparisons to Children of Men, 12 Monkeys and Moon. By Thursday night, Looper was sitting on an impressive 92% at Rotten Tomatoes. It's not often a studio gets a one-two placing but Sony managed to achieve it this weekend as Looper landed comfortably in second place, with a good $7M Friday haul. That figure is better than the entire combined gross of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, so even if Looper had closed the same day it opened, it would still be Johnson's most successful film. Given its potentially complex subject matter, there was always the chance audiences would give the picture a wide berth, despite a strong marketing campaign, but that opening day figure certainly tells a different story. The Willis/Levitt feature kept the rest of the top ten at bay throughout the remainder of the weekend, finishing up with a three day total of $21.2M. Excluding cameos (The Expendables series) and Red, this marks Willis' best opening since 2007's Live Free or Die Hard and the best of Levitt's career, at least as a main player. Looper also did sterling business abroad, especially in China, where its debut looks set to outgross its US counterpart. If that does happen (confirmation won't come until after a public holiday), it would mark the first time in cinematic history that China would be the world’s leading market for an international film. By the time Taken 2 arrives next weekend, Looper will have all but covered its production budget (if not completely covered it) and give us a clearer picture as where it is heading.

End of Watch kept everyone guessing last weekend, tying with House at the End of the Street when estimates were issued on Sunday. By Monday, with actual figures released, Watch held on to the top spot, and would continue to do so throughout the week, its best day being Tuesday, when it made $1.4M. With its budget already covered during its first three days, the film had little to worry about this weekend, and was operating on some incredibly strong word of mouth. On its second Friday the Jake Gyllenhall flick made $2.4M, down around 48% on the same time last weekend - obviously the film taking a hit from Looper. Over Saturday and into Sunday, the cop docu-drama added another $5.6M, to bring its weekend total to $8M. At this point, ten days into its run, End of Watch has made $26.2M, and could finish up with around $45M - covering its $7M production costs a number of times over.

Having had to settle for third last weekend, the Clint Eastwood/Amy Adams drama, Trouble With The Curve moved into second place on Monday. By Thursday it had an average  weekday take of $1M, and began its second week with an overall total of $16.1M. A Friday haul of $2.3M saw Curve drop down to fifth place (down 45% on its opening day). Playing to a slightly older demographic may well have offered the film a little respite from the competition (both old and new) and allowed Trouble With The Curve to finish up Sunday night with a $7.3M weekend total ($23.7M overall). With three wide releases next weekend, the picture should see at least one more showing in the top ten, but won't finish up as one of Eastwood's bigger acting hits (his best being Gran Torino's $129M).

Clashing with End of Watch last weekend, The House at the End of the Street managed an ok $12.2M total when all the differences had been settled - though one could say it went some way to show how much Relativity had inflated estimates in an attempt to grab weekend headlines ($800K separated the estimated and the actual figure). With poor word of mouth taking hold as early as Sunday, the Jennifer Lawrence starrer was in for a bumpy week ahead, making just $611K on Monday and $588K on Thursday. So it was something of a surprise when the film didn't completely collapse on its second Friday as many predicted, making $2.33M, a not-bad drop of 50% on its opening day figure (and not dissimilar to the 52% second Friday drop seen by recent release, The Possession). By Sunday, House at the End of the Street had a weekend total of $7.1M (a decent hold of 41% on last weekend as a whole), for a cumulative gross of $22.2M. The film was made in 2010 before Lawrence became a global star and was produced for $10M, which looks to be shaping into a wise investment for the studio.

Out to just over 330 locations this weekend is the musical comedy Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson. Kendrick plays Beca, a freshman who is talked into joining the university's A Cappella group, The Bellas. Despite initially resenting the idea, she's soon working to convince the group that they need to update their songs if they're going to take on and beat a rival male group in an upcoming competition. Part Glee and Bring It On, Pitch Perfect marked the directorial debut for Jason Moore, a Broadway director who won acclaim for his work on Avenue Q, along with working on Shrek The Musical and a Steel Magnolias revival. The film actually started life as a book by former GQ editor, Mickey Rapkin, and was adapted for the screen by Kay Cannon. The first trailer debuted in June, with Universal opting to release the film at the end of September - limited at first, with expansion a week later. Reviews were well above average, with 72% of critics finding something they liked about the picture. The studio also launched their largest ever word-of-mouth/free ticket screening program to raise awareness for the film earlier in the month - the success of which prompted the limited roll out a week ahead of the originally announced date. Still, even with positive critical (and non-critic) opinion, most weren't expecting Pitch Perfect to trouble the top ten, at least not this weekend with such a limited screen count. Opinion changed rapidly on Friday when the film weighed in with a stunning $1.75M - good enough to crack the top ten and land in sixth place, putting the likes of Won't Back Down (2,515 screen roll out) to shame in the process. The musical-comedy held steady over the remainder of the weekend, finishing up with an equally impressive three day take of $5.2M (the best theatre to tickets sold average of the entire top ten). Had the weekend been a little quieter, the film may well have finished top five. With such an amazing start, tied to some equally strong word of mouth, expect Pitch Perfect to hit the ground running next weekend when it expands into over 2,500 theatres.

With Hotel Transylvania entering the fray, Finding Nemo dropped 58% this weekend, making $4M in the process. The Pixar 3D re-release may not have performed as well as The Lion King re-release in September 2011 but has comfortably covered its conversion costs and will make its real money on the home market. Finding Nemo 3D has made $36.4M during its three weeks on general release.

Resident Evil: Retribution dropped 700 or so screens this weekend, and only just managed to hang onto a top ten position. With $3M over the last three days the fifth Resident Evil picture has a North American total of $38.7M and is still yet to surpass the $40M finish of the original film, made ten years ago. At present rate, it will finish as the fourth most successful of the series domestically, some way short of the $60M total of Resident Evil: Afterlife. Internationally things are still going very well, though whether it can top the $236M total of the previous film, remains to be seen.

After a record breaking debut, The Master made $4.3M when it expanded last weekend. The general public were certainly interested in Paul Thomas Anderson's movie about a man forming a new religious movement but perhaps not to the degree hoped for by the studio. With only minor expansion this frame and the curiosity factor starting to wane, the picture made $787K on Friday, down 44% on the same day last week, when it had expanded into 788 locations. For the weekend as a whole, The Master made $2.7M, bringing its 17 day total to $9.6M. While it should continue to play quite well even after dropping out of the top ten, some have speculated that releasing the picture this early may leave it forgotten during awards season. Next up for Anderson is an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel, Inherent Vice.

The final wide release this weekend is the true-life drama, Won't Back Down, which stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. The story follows Jamie (Gyllenhaal) and Nona (Davis) as they attempt to transform a local school which they feel is failing their children. The film is partly inspired by/based around the introduction of the 2010 Parent Trigger Law, which allows a parent to enforce changes in a public school if petitioned. Should the petition be successful, parents can push for staff dismissal, or even a conversion to a charter school (Which would see it receive public money). The film was written by Brim Hill and Daniel Barnz, who also directed, this being his follow up to 2011's Beastly, a Beauty and the Beast re-imagining. Along with the aforementioned stars, Won't Back Down also features Ving Rhames and Holly Hunter, who returns to film after a seven year hiatus. Interestingly, Walden Media, who produced the drama also funded documentary Waiting For "Superman", which dealt with failures in the American education system. Won't Back Down began life as Still I Rise, before getting a title change to Learning to Fly, then Steel Town and finally, the title it now carries. Of the three wide releases this weekend, this was the one out to the least number of locations, and it stumbled before it even got into theatres thanks to a number of negative reviews that left it with a 35% Rotten rating. On Friday it made just $921K and couldn't even hold a candle to Pitch Perfect, which as we've already seen was out to 2,180 less theatres. By Sunday, Won't Back Down had made just $2.7M and was all but confirmed as a failure. Even with a modest budget of $19M, the movie is going to struggle to see even half of that figure domestically, and may yet have a tough time surpassing the $6M made by Waiting for "Superman".

Despite strong reviews and white-hot word of mouth, Dredd 3D stumbled out of the gate last weekend, making $6.2M and becoming one of the poorest performing comic book adaptations in recent times. While it gave House at the End of the Street a bit of a fight during the week, it was sitting on a disappointing $8.5M at the start of its second frame. A $676K Friday led to a weekend of just $2.2M, the film lost its top ten place in the process. At this point Dredd is unlikely to see $18M in North America, but may yet be saved by its overseas performance, which currently stands at around $10M, $6M of which was from the UK.

Still in limited release The Perks of a Wallflower made  a stunning $1.1M this weekend from only 102 locations. That's a strong follow up to the $228K it made last frame and all but assures further expansion.

No comments: