Sunday, 21 October 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 19th - 21st October 2012

1. Paranormal Activity 4 - $30.2M - $30.2M
2. Argo - $16.6M - $43.2M
3. Hotel Transylvania - $13.5M - $119M
4. Taken 2 - $13.4M - $106M
5. Alex Cross - $11.7M - $11.7M
6. Sinister - $9M - $31.9M
7. Here Comes The Boom - $8.5M - $23.2M
8. Pitch Perfect - $7M - $45.8M
9. Frankenweenie - $4.4M - $28.3M
10. Looper - $4.2M - $57.8M

With Halloween almost upon us, Paramount roll out the big guns this frame in the guise of the fourth Paranormal Activity movie - but would audiences once again return? Elsewhere, Tyler Perry takes on the role of Alex Cross, a character first bought to the screen by Morgan Freeman. Ahead to next week and we have Tom Twyker/Wachowski Starship's audacious collaboration Cloud Atlas. Joining that will be the Silent Hill sequel, Revelations, Nickelodeon comedy Fun Time and Chasing Mavericks, a surfing drama starring Gerard Butler.

The Paranormal Activity franchise is a multi-million dollar global phenomenon and shows little sign of stopping. The origins of the series stretch back to 2007 when director Oren Peli gathered a group of unknown actors together and shot a very small scale scare flick utilising the 'found footage' technique (to keep costs costs down he even converted his house into a shooting location and set just seven days aside for filming). The story followed a young couple who encounter strange goings-on in their house. Katie claims an evil presence has always been with her, while her partner Micah is sceptical. Setting up a video camera in their bedroom, they soon discover more unexplained events, which escalate in the space of a few days. Made for just $15K, Paranormal Activity began gaining strong word of mouth thanks to an impressive showing at the ScreamFest Horror festival. This screening ended up securing Peli an agent but attempts to get the film a distribution deal stumbled even after the director (and Miramax's Jason Blum) re-edited the feature for its Sundance debut. A number of promo DVDs were sent out to any potentially interested party and one managed to catch the attention of Dreamworks' execs Stacey Snider and Adam Goodman, who bought the film to Steven Spielberg's notice. The studio quickly cut a deal with Peli, on the proviso that he re-shoot the picture with an increased budget and higher production values. He agreed, on the condition that he could again screen his original version for an audience . When people walked out not long into the screening, Goodman figured they'd backed a failure. However, when he realised that the people had left due to being frightened by what they'd seen, his opinion changed. The remake idea was scrapped and the studio quickly moved to purchase the domestic rights to distribute (via their deal with Paramount) and the international rights to any sequels. Peli then re-edited the film, and altered the ending from the one seen at Screamfest. But, due to ongoing talks between Paramount and Dreamworks regarding their partnership, all of the latter's productions were delayed for the foreseeable future. Only when Adam Goodman became head of Paramount in summer 2009 did Paranormal Activity gain a release date.

In the September of 2009, Paranormal Activity received a 13 location roll-out, with the director urging people who wanted to see the feature to lobby their local theatres via the Eventful website (according to sources, this marked the first time a major motion picture was virally marketed in this way). Expansion to 33 locations came a week later and saw a large number of sell-out screenings resulting in a stunning $532K return. From that point, things snowballed to a practically unheard of level. In its third weekend (at just 160 locations) it made a staggering $7.9M, followed a week later with further expansion and a $19M weekend total. Paranormal Activity was a smash hit - almost everyone wanted to see it and the 82% positive review score managed to convince many of those that didn't, to take a chance on it. All told, the first film in the series made $107M domestically (a series best, new release aside) with a further $85M abroad. With the initial small layout and huge return, Paranormal Activity became one of the most profitable films ever released. It didn't take long for a sequel to be greenlit, with an October 2010 release date set. Peli would hand over directing reigns to Tod Williams due to beginning work on the still as yet unreleased Area 51. Paranormal Activity 2 saw a budget increase (to $3M), but continued to use the found footage device and a largely unknown cast. Events in the sequel ran concurrently with its predecessor and featured Katie, her sister Kristi and her family, including her young son, Hunter. The studio did away with the limited roll-out this time around, opting to put Paranormal Activity 2 into 3,200+ theatres straight off the bat. Comparisons are therefore difficult to make with the first film's box office performance, but the sequel opened strong, making $40M over its first three days. By the end of its thirteen week run, PA2 had grossed almost $85M in North America, with a further $92M overseas. What was interesting in terms of box office for this sequel was the speed of the drop off in takings. That first weekend saw the film make almost half of its entire box office total, and was witness to large drops in the next six weekends. While the series was attempting something different, it had fallen back to acting like a typical (but very successful) horror feature. All that side, the studio had a $177M global hit from a budget of only $3M. Around the same time a different sequel, Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Nights, was produced in Japan. While it bears little in common with its US counterpart, it was still a success in its native homeland.

For Paranormal Activity 3, Oren Peli recruited Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to direct, the duo having previously seen some success with their documentary-style picture, Catfish. Perhaps sensing that they couldn't use the same story for a third time, this second sequel was set primarily in 1988 and would feature Katie and Kristi as young girls, documenting their first encounters with the spirit that would return to haunt them later in life. Paranormal Activity 3 was received slightly better by critics than part 2 (62% versus 59%) and would go on to become the best opener of the series so far. With $52.6M made over the first three days (including $8M from midnight sneak peaks) it broke the October weekend record, something that not even Liam Neeson and Taken 2 could smash a few weekends ago. PA3 became the second picture of the series to make more than $100M in both North America and overseas (It finished up with $104M domestically and $101M internationally). The budget was again only slightly increased, this time to $5M, so this was yet another exceptionally profitable picture for all concerned. At the time of writing, the series taken as a whole, has made $577M, from a combined budget of just over $8M. Even with marketing and film print costs factored in, the Paranormal Activity series is one of the most profitable in cinematic history.

In January 2012, Paramount made the announcement that a fourth Paranormal Activity picture was in the works. Little information other than a release date (October 19th 2012) was forthcoming, though it did emerge that Katie Featherston would be reprising her role as Katie (who had vanished at the end of the second film and had only a minor role in the third). Also returning would be directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, with Oren Peli producing once again. Due to the low budget nature of the movies and the tight shooting schedule, filming didn't actually begin until the end of June, with the first teaser showing up attached to the August release, Total Recall. The plot this time around centres on Katie, and Kristi's abducted son, Hunter (taken by Katie at the close of PA2 and now renamed Robbie) and is set a few years after the events of the second film. It also features a new group of people including teenager Alice, her mother, brother Wyatt and Alice's boyfriend, Alex. When Katie and Robbie move into the neighbourhood, strange thing begin to occur in Alice's family home. After Katie has to go to the hospital, Alice's mother takes in Robbie which triggers an escalation in the supernatural events. While budget details weren't initially available, it was revealed closer to the weekend that production costs matched those of PA3 - $5M. One potential stumbling block going into Friday looked to be the growing audience apathy to the found footage genre - there have already been nine pictures that utilise the device released in 2012 (another, Barry Levinson's The Bay, is due November). Furthermore, reviews for this fourth feature were the poorest of the series so far - just 28% of critics found something they enjoyed about the picture (compare that to the 82% scored by the original and the 68% achieved by part 3).

With the series already three films old, comparisons are unavoidable. Initial signs weren't too positive as Paranormal Activity 4 opened to lower midnight sneak peak numbers than what the third movie managed. In fact, not only did the new flick make just over half of what its predecessor made, it actually started screenings much earlier in the evening, making the $4.5M it made seem even more subdued. This initial earning pattern was to continue over Friday and into the weekend. On its first full day, PA4 made $15M - a solid figure for any other horror flick but way short of the $26M made by PA3 (and that $15M included the $4.5M midnight take). With Friday being its best day, it was downhill from here on out. All told, the fourth Paranormal Activity feature made $30.2M this weekend. That means it has not only covered its production budget many times over, but is well on the way to recouping its advertising and print costs. On the surface, another great showing but it also makes it the second lowest opening film of the franchise and does highlight that the public are tiring of the found footage horror series. But obviously, this is largely academic given its budget-to-3 day return ratio. This latest entry will still be extremely profitable for Paramount but even they may look for a different direction for the inevitable fifth entry. Next weekend will give us a clearer view of where the movie may end up but chances are it will become the lowest grossing of the series. Overseas figures peg Paranormal Activity 4 as opening to $26.4M.

Despite not taking the top spot last weekend, Argo impressed with its Saturday boost - an increase on the previous day's takings  of nearly 47%. It finished up with $19.4M on Sunday night and would continue to perform well throughout the week, knocking Taken 2 from the top spot on Monday and keeping that placing until Paranormal Activity 4 showed up on Friday. By the eve of its second frame, the Ben Affleck directed thriller (which is based on the infamous 'Canadian Caper' which took place during the Iran hostage crisis), was sitting on a seven day gross of $26.5M (At this point the director's previous release The Town was at $33M). On its second Friday on general release Argo added a further $5M, and slipped to second place. That figure represents an incredible drop of just 14% on its opening day and proves that the exceptional word of mouth is really carrying the flick and getting people into cinemas. Over Saturday and into Sunday, even with Alex Cross in somewhat direct (but weaker) competition, the  movie held well, ending the weekend with a $16.6M total (an astonishing overall frame to frame drop of just 15%). With those numbers factored in it has now made $43.2M in ten days, from a budget of $44.5M and looks to have a lot of life left in it yet - indeed, some are already speculating that the film could move up into the top spot next weekend if none of the new releases break out. There's also a chance Argo will become Affleck's most successful film to date (That title currently rests with his previous movie, The Town, which made $92M domestically).

With Frankenweenie having little impact, Hotel Transylvania still had the majority of the family market all to itself. This weekend the Adam Sandler/Selena Gomez voiced flick made $13.5M, to bring its overall total to an impressive $119M. It's got one more weekend before facing competition in the guise of Wreck-It Ralph. There's a chance it could become the biggest earner of Sandler's career (currently Big Daddy's $163.4M finish). Overseas the film crossed the $50M mark in the last few days.

Taken 2 lost some ground this weekend to the still-dangerous Argo and Paranormal Activity 4. Liam Neeson's return as Bryan Mills got off to a great start three weeks ago and witnessed a 56% drop last frame, which wasn't as bad as it could have been given the less than stellar word of mouth surrounding the flick. A week on and Taken 2 scored another $4.2M on Friday, as it headed towards a third weekend figure of $13.4M (a drop of 39% on last frame). Its overall total makes it the twentieth release of 2012 to cross the $100M mark. At this point in its release, day 17, Taken had made $77.6M, and while the sequel is stronger ($106M overall), it isn't holding up anywhere near as well (Taken dropped 17% and 8% in its second and third frames respectively). The film is looking at a North American finish of around $140M. Overseas it has already surpassed the finally tally of the first picture ($81.8M) and currently sits on a gross of $135M.

Our only other wide release this frame is Alex Cross, a film based on the popular character created by author James Patterson. Cross has appeared in more than fifteen books and was previously portrayed on the screen by Morgan Freeman, first in 1997's Kiss The Girls and again in 2001's Along Came A Spider. Talk of a reboot began in 2010 with the announcement that Rob Cohen would direct Idris Elba in an adaptation of Patterson's 12th novel, Cross. At that point the picture was titled I, Alex Cross, but by early 2011 Elba had left the project to be replaced by the one-man media empire Tyler Perry. Perry would be stepping out of his comfort zone, with the film marking the first time he had not been involved in the creation of a picture in which he would star (or direct). He'd be joined by Ed Burns, playing Cross' partner Tommy Kane, and Lost's Matthew Fox as Michael 'The Butcher' Sullivan. Fox undertook an extensive training programme to build up muscle and reduce his body fat to virtually nil to portray the former military operative turned cage fighter (and sadistic killer). This marks director Rob Cohen's first film since 2008's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. He, along with Vin Diesel, had originally been set to return to the XXX franchise this year, but the proposed sequel didn't come to fruition and the star opted to resurrect the Riddick franchise instead. With a $24M budget in place, shooting on the now renamed Alex Cross took place in September and October of 2011, the picture counting Cleveland and Detroit amongst its locations. The story would see Cross coming up against 'The Butcher', whose training and knowledge of police procedure allows him to keep one step ahead of the authorities. Drawn into a deadly game, Cross must risk everything to apprehend the killer who appears to predict and counter his every move.

The first trailer debuted in June, with its content (brutal torture and murder) seemingly at odds with its PG-13 rating. While the picture opened against only one other new release, last weekend's Argo, Sinister and the three-week old Taken 2 all offered it various levels of competition. Reviews were little short of horrific - indeed, Perry's critically maligned Madea films managed higher approval ratings than the 12% that Alex Cross scored. Out the gate on Friday, Cross had to settle for a fourth place debut, making $4M in the process. Even though audience approval was strong (it scored an 'A' Cinemascore) and Perry (or at least his Madea character) has a huge fan base, the picture couldn't even hold on to its chart position and finished the weekend with a lacklustre $11.7M. While certainly not an outright failure, given that the eleven year old Along Came a Spider made $16.7M ($21.6M in 2012 dollars) over its first three days, this has to be on the very low end of expectations (Even Kiss the Girls managed $13.2M). It may also be a bit of an embarrassment for Summit, who had already let it be known in the past week that they were pushing ahead with another Alex Cross adaptation. How this weekend's start will affect the proposed sequel is something we'll need to wait a few weeks to find out, but prospects must have certainly taken a knock.

Horror flick Sinister had already recouped its $3M production budget by the end of its first day on release. All told it made $18M over its first three day but would face tough competition from Paranormal Activity 4 this weekend. From Monday to Thursday it averaged around $1.2M each day and entered week 2 with $22.9M in its coffers. The Ethan Hawke starrer dropped 60% on its second Friday, making $2.9M in the process. That drop is well in line with the normal second frame horror film drop and as mentioned, Sinister had such a low budget that even a complete collapse this weekend would have made little difference. Over the next two days it added a further $7.1M, for a weekend total of $9M ($31.9M overall). It should see at least one more frame inside the top ten and end up being incredibly profitable for Summit, who also have Alex Cross and The Perks of Being a Wallflower in general release. A Sinister sequel will almost certainly be greenlit within the next couple of months, if not sooner. [As an aside, 'Perks' made a further $2.1M over the last three days for a running total of $9.1M]

After success in Hitch, The Zookeeper and Paul Blart: Mall Cop (along with numerous Adam Sandler collaborations), Kevin James new flick, Here Comes The Boom disappointed last weekend when it made $11.8M. It stayed in fifth place during the week, making just $665K on Wednesday. In fact, by the end of its first week on release, Boom hadn't even made as much as 2011's The Zookeeper did in its first two days. On its second Friday, the comedy about a teacher who turns cage fighter to raise money for his school, made $2.5M, and dropped down to sixth place. It would make $8.5M this weekend (a not-bad drop of 28% on last frame), bringing its cumulative gross to $23.2M. With four wide opening releases next week, Here Comes The Boom may well be looking at its last shot in the top ten. Expect a slightly disappointing finish of around $45M.

Musical comedy Pitch Perfect, now in its fourth week, made $2.3M on Friday, for a weekend total of $7M. The $17M picture is operating on some impressive word of mouth and should clear $50M even if it drops out of the top ten next weekend.

Sadly, despite the great reviews, Frankenweenie never really got going at the box office. Its black & white look, scary nature and PG rating all contributed to its woes, with Hotel Transylvania being the final nail in its coffin. This frame, its last in the top ten, saw the Tim Burton production make $4.4M, bringing its total to $28.3M.

Looper, the Rian Johnson time-travel drama has now almost doubled its $30M production budget domestically, and continues to perform well abroad too. This weekend it added a further $4.2M, to bring its grand total to $57.8M. Internationally it's up to $75M and may even cross $100M by the end of its run.

Finally this weekend is limited release The Sessions, a drama based on the life of Mark O'Brien, a man paralysed from the neck down by Polio, who hires a surrogate in order to lose his virginity. John Hawkes plays O'Brien, while Helen Hunt is Cheryl Cohen-Greene, a professional sex surrogate. The picture was directed by Ben Lewin, a polio survivor himself, and made its debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival (known as The Surrogate at that point). After its premiere, star John Hawkes received two standing ovations, with critics full of praise for the film and his performance. It would go on to win the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at the festival. The Sessions was quickly snapped up by Fox Searchlight for $6M and set for limited release this weekend. It debuted at four locations and made $121K, the best per theatre average of any other picture this weekend

A couple of notes on some older pictures. The Expendables 2 crossed $300M in total global sales this last week, made up of $84.5M in North America and an staggering $204M overseas. Another feature performing well abroad is Resident Evil: Retribution. It barely surpassed the take of the original film in the US but has climbed to over $170M and counting internationally.

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