Sunday 14 October 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 12th - 14th October 2012

1. Taken 2 - $22.5M - $86.7M
2. Argo - $20.1M - $20.1M
3. Sinister - $18.25M - $18.25M
4. Hotel Transylvania - $17.3M - $102.2M
5. Here Comes The Boom - $12M - $12M
6. Pitch Perfect - $9.3M - $36M
7. Frankenweenie - $7M - $22M
8. Looper - $6.3M - $51.4M
9. Seven Psychopaths- $4.2M - $4.2M
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - $2.1M - $6.1M

A busy weekend, with three features opening in over 2,500 theatres, along with another two at 1,000 locations or more. Argo, Sinister and Here Comes The Boom were all set to battle Liam Neeson and Taken 2, with Seven Psychopaths and Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 set to back them up. And after narrowly missing out on a top ten place last weekend, The Perks of a Wallflower gives it one more go as it expands into 726 screens. Ahead to next Friday and we have the return of the Paranormal Activity franchise and the Alex Cross reboot that will see Tyler Perry stepping out of his comfort zone for the first time.

After its $50M debut last weekend, all eyes were on whether Taken 2 could make it two in a row at the top. Despite some middling word of mouth, the Liam Neeson picture had played well during the week, with over $5.5M on Monday (Columbus Day) and a further $3.9M on Tuesday. By the start of its second frame, Taken 2 was sitting on $64.2M (the original Taken made $33M during its first full week) and got ready to take on the newcomers. On its second Friday, the action sequel made $7M, down 62% on its strong opening day and gave up the top spot to Sinister. As Argo put the pressure on and Sinister began to fall back, Taken 2 pushed ahead and reclaimed the top spot with a $22.5M weekend total. That's a fall of 55% on last frame, which was all but expected given the front loading associated with this sequel (not to mention the middling word of mouth and the fresh competition). In contrast, the first movie opened to $24.7M and dropped a near unheard of 17% in its second weekend. At this point Taken 2 will clear $100M domestically but may ultimately fall short of the $145M made by the first picture. Overseas the film got off to an equally spectacular start last weekend, clearing $55M. By Thursday it was up to $81M and was expected to have comfortably cleared $100M by the end of play on Sunday.

Our first new release on this busy week is the latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck. Argo is based on the real life story of the audacious rescue of six U.S diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979/80. The basis for the screenplay is in part based on the memoirs of CIA Agent Tony Mendez (who orchestrated the rescue) and a 2007 Wired magazine article entitled 'How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran' written by Joshuah Bearman. The film follows true events, though as Affleck (who was the bomb in Phantoms) has been quick to note, Argo is based on a true story, as opposed to being a true story and thus a certain amount of dramatic license has been used to bring the events to life. After students and militants swarm the American embassy in Iran, which results in 52 people being taken hostage, a group of six manage to evade capture and ultimately seek sanctuary at the Canadian Embassy. In order to get them out of Iran safely, the CIA enlist the skills of their agent Tony Mendez, a specialist in covert and clandestine work. Mendez comes up with the idea of a fake film (the Argo of the title), with the idea of passing off the six diplomats as members of the Canadian film crew, who are in Iran to scout locations. To further cement the cover story, the CIA set up and staff an office in Los Angeles for the fake picture and even produce posters for inclusion in Hollywood publications. With the help of the Canadian government (who granted the U.S citizens Canadian passports), the plan was put into place.

The rights to produce a film based around Bearman's article were secured in its year of publication by George Clooney, David Klawans and Grant Heslov, but it would not be until 2011 that the project moved forward. Ben Affleck made his directorial debut on missing child film, Gone Baby Gone in 2007, which he followed up three years later with crime drama The Town. He officially signed up to direct Argo in February 2011, with casting commencing in June. First on board the project was Alan Arkin, who was joined by Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Affleck himself, taking on the role of Tony Mendez. Shooting took place in California, Washington and Istanbul, with the first trailer debuting in May 2012. Argo debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in August and screened at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, to great acclaim. But controversy also raised its head due to the film downplaying the role of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who was instrumental in getting the Canadian government to grant the fake passports. The director responded by altering the final text in the film to better credit the ambassador's contributions. With such strong notices and a subject matter a little way from the mainstream, it was initially assumed that Argo would open in a limited capacity, building up word of mouth before it expanded wide. However, Warner Bros. opted to open the picture wide, taking in an estimated 3,250 theatres. Reviews have been incredibly strong, with Argo scoring the best notices of any of the wide releases this weekend (It is currently 94% at Rotten Tomatoes). While the very positive notices didn't translate to the picture winning Friday, it still had a solid enough start of $5.9M. Unlike Sinister (See below), Argo has blistering word of mouth, something evident in its rare A+ Cinemascore rating. Over Saturday and into Sunday, it saw something of a boost and added a further $14.3M, to finish the weekend in second place with a $20.1M total. While it isn't the best opening for an Affleck directed film (That honour stays with The Town's $23M debut) it's still a very good start and put its well on track to recouping its $44M budget. With the aforementioned strong word of mouth, expect Argo to play well during the week and beyond. There's also the already-building award talk which won't do the picture any harm at all.

The Paranormal Activity franchise gets its yearly airing next weekend but for this week, we have Sinister, a brand new scare flick starring Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays true crime writer Ellison Osbourne, who along with his wife and two children move into a house which was witness to a family slaying. Hoping to use the murders for the basis of his latest book (with a view to solving the crime) he is intrigued when he comes across a collection of 8mm film reels that depict not only the deaths of the previous residents, but a number of other families. Osbourne becomes obsessed with the footage and starts to notice a strange character appearing in the background of them. When odd things begin to occur around the house, he realises that he may have put his family and himself in terrible danger. Sinister was written by Ain't It Cool News contributor C.Robert Cargill , with assistance from Scott Derrickson, writer and director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The horror flick shot around this time last year with Hawke being joined by Juliet Rylance and Vincent D'Onofrio. Early buzz began to build after its debut at the SXSW festival in March, and continued to rise thanks to strong summer screenings (including a showing at Frightfest). While the standard teaser hinted at the possible frights on offer, it was Sinister's red band trailer that revealed its more disturbing side. Hawke dabbled in the genre in 2010's Daybreakers but Sinister is his first out and out horror film.

While initial reviews were positive, as more critics weighed in, the picture dropped to a 63% approval rating (which is still solid for the genre). Advanced ticket sale information revealed that the movie accounted for 25-30% of all tickets sold, meaning Sinister would at least have a good opening day. And indeed it did, taking the top spot with $7.4M and displacing (temporarily) Taken 2. In comparison, House at the End of the Street's first day clocked in at $4.6M, while The Possession opened to $6M (though admittedly on a much quieter weekend). What was worrying going forward was Sinister's C+ cinemascore, meaning word of mouth wasn't that strong and would have a real effect over the remainder of the weekend. By the end of play on Sunday it had made $18.2M, which is certainly a solid enough debut even if that initial momentum couldn't quite be kept up. What's more, with only a $3M production budget attached, Summit have already more than covered any financial layout and will be seeing real profit in the coming week. Paranormal Activity 4 will give Sinister a hard time next weekend, but ultimately that will be of little consequence. The green-lighting of a Sinister sequel seems a foregone conclusion even at this early stage.

Hotel Transylvania easily bested Frankenweenie last weekend, and with no new direct competition, managed to keep most of the family market to itself this frame. With an $84.4M total as of Thursday, it also looked likely the film would hit $100M within 17 days. On its third Friday on general release, the Adam Sandler-voiced flick added a further $4.2M, on its way towards a weekend total of $17.3M. That's down a not-bad 36% on last weekend and brings Hotel Transylvania's cumulative gross to $102.2M (That makes the thirteenth $100M picture of Sandler's career). In terms of recent Sony Animation releases, this new film is tracking some way ahead of 2009's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, which had made $81.5M at this point in its release. In fact, only The Smurfs has now made more money in terms of Sony produced animated features, and one could argue that that was a mix of animation and live action. With no direct competition until Wreck-It Ralph in a fortnight's time, Hotel Transylvania should continue to play well as it pushes towards $130M and beyond.

Here Comes The Boom stars Kevin James as biology teacher Scott Voss. When his school is faced with budget cuts, which would see extra curricular activities scrapped, Voss comes up with a scheme to raise the money himself. Having been something of an amateur wrestler in college, he decides to become a mixed martial artist as way to earn the $48,000 the school would need to keep its activity programmes running. Here Comes The Boom also stars Salma Hayek as fellow teacher Bella Flores and Henry Winkler as Marty, a colleague who will lose his job if music classes are cut. Taking on the directorial role is Frank Coraci, who worked with James on the 2011 release, The Zookeeper, and also directed the Adam Sandler comedies The Wedding Singer, Click and The Waterboy. James too has a history with the comedy actor, having played opposite him in Chuck and Larry, Grown Ups (and its upcoming sequel) and current release, Hotel Transylvania. Boom is also produced through Sandler's Happy Madison production company. Kevin James shot to fame as Doug Heffernan in King of Queens, before breaking into film opposite Will Smith in Hitch. He also saw solo success with his lead role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which made a staggering $145M in January 2009.

Shooting on Here Comes The Boom ran from March until May of 2011 in Boston. Initial reports pegged the film as costing just $10M to produce, but these have since been denied and at the time of writing, no actual budget data was available. Only Pitch Perfect would offer direct competition this frame, and front-loading last week might have taken the edge off somewhat. In the end, Boom barely bested the three-week old A Cappella flick, making a subdued $3.6M on Friday (Pitch made $3M) and dropping in at fifth place. Prospects for the new comedy didn't really improve as the weekend wore on and it ended its first three days with a $12M total. In terms of previous movies in which James was the main lead, this is easily his lowest opener - The Zookeeper saw a $20M start while Paul Blart cleared $31M. While average reviews may have been a factor for this lacklustre start, the sheer amount of films, both new and old, may have been more of an issue. Next weekend will give us a clearer picture as to where Here Comes The Boom is heading and whether word of mouth is helping or hindering.

Even with somewhat direct competition from Here Comes The Boom (and the other new releases), Pitch Perfect still made $3M on Friday. The well received film, a combination of Bring It On and Glee, expanded wide last weekend and managed to make almost $15M. Back to this frame, and the picture added a further $6.3M over Saturday and Sunday, to bring its weekend figure to $9.3M ($36M overall). With its $17M production budget more than covered, Pitch Perfect will turn Universal a nice profit and should manage a couple more weekends in the top ten. It may yet spawn a life of its own on the home market too, similar to the aforementioned Bring It On, which received several sequels.

The strong reviews for Frankenweenie didn't translate to box office success last weekend, when the Tim Burton film struggled to $11.4M. The scary nature of the feature, combined with it being shot in black and white may have put off people, especially those with younger families. The situation wasn't helped by the colourful, family-friendly Hotel Transylvania being in general release either. On its second Friday the picture added $1.7M and slipped down to eighth place. Over the remainder of the weekend it received a slight matinee boost and made a further $5.3M, bringing its total to $7M, a drop of 39% on its first three days. Frankenweenie now has a ten day total of $22M and may well end up being the second lowest grossing film of Burton's career (Ed Wood topped out at only $5.8M, but at its peak was at only 623 locations as opposed to the 3,000+ Frankweekenie is at).

With at least three of the new films in competition with it (not to mention Taken 2), Looper  managed a $1.9M Friday haul. The Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt time travel thriller made $6.3M this weekend, to bring its 17 day total to $51.4M. That figure gives it a weekend to weekend drop of 48% (slightly weaker than last weekend's 42% dip). At this point, with its $30M costs covered, Looper should finish up with a domestic tally of around $65-70M.

Our next new release this weekend is Martin McDonagh's follow up to In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths. It stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. Farrell plays Marty, a wannabe writer attempting to finish his 'Seven Psychopaths' screenplay. Rockwell plays Marty's best friend Billy, a part-time dog thief, while Walken plays Billy's partner in crime, Hans. Serious problems arise for the trio when Billy and Hans mistakenly kidnap a dog belonging to a very violent gangster named Charlie (Harrelson), who will do anything to see its return. Seven Psychopaths also co-stars Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko. Director McDonagh, an acclaimed playwright, made his feature debut with the well received In Bruges back in 2008. While promoting the film, McDonagh talked about a couple of other potential scripts (at that point he wasn't even sure he would direct another film despite the success of In Bruges) one of which turned out to be Seven Psychopaths. However things didn't move forward on the project until 2011, with the first casting taking place in May of that year. Harrelson was actually a late replacement for Mickey Rourke, who left the film after disagreements with McDonagh (Rourke had also turned down a role in The Expendables 2 to work on Seven Psychopaths). 

Shooting took place in late 2011 with an October 2012 release date set by CBS Films. The picture had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September and received some very strong notices, especially for Walken. In Bruges had a very long, but limited release, never seeing more than 232 theatres during its 20 week run. Seven Psychopaths went out somewhat wider (around 1,475 locations at the time of writing) and would need to rely on those strong reviews (it's 84% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and word of mouth if it was to break out and stay ahead in a crowded weekend. Sadly it seems Argo and Sinister stole most of its thunder, as Seven Psychopaths crawled to just $1.3M on its first day out, only good enough for ninth place. It would remain there for the rest of the frame, adding only $2.9M more over the next two days. All told, the comedy drama made $4.2M this weekend and runs the real risk of this being its only top ten placing. Perhaps a limited roll out to build word of mouth, before expanding on a quieter weekend, may have worked in its favour.

After three weeks in limited release, The Perks of Being a Wallflower expanded into 726 locations this frame, and finally managed to crack the top ten. The well received drama, which stars Emma Watson and Logan Lerman made $2.1M this weekend, bringing its cumulative gross to $6.1M.

Finally this week we have Atlas Shrugged: Part 2, the sequel to the 2011 film. Atlas Shrugged is based on the book of the same name by author Ayn Rand, and is set in a dystopian future in which all of North America's most productive workers have gone on strike. Critically maligned upon its release in 1957, it has remained consistently popular in the ensuing decades. A film adaptation had been in the works since the early 1970s but it wasn't until producer John Aglialoro secured the rights in 1992 that things began to move forward. However, it would take Aglialoro a further 18 years before production would began on the first film. Critical reaction to the original picture was overwhelming negative and from a $20M production budget, Atlas Shrugged (Part:1 of a planned trilogy) made just $4.6M. Despite the failure, the producers managed to secure funding for a sequel, hiring an all new cast in the process. Reviews for this second flick were even worse, with it receiving the infamous 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (the original managed 7%). On its first day of release, Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 made just $692K, little better than the $674K made by its predecessor (which was at 700 or so less theatres). Come Sunday night it had a three-day total of $1.7M - again, little different to the $1.6M made by the first film in the series. It's hard to imagine the proposed third feature securing funding after this second failure. Expect Aglialoro to once again directly blame critics for the picture's failure.

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