Sunday 7 October 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 5th - 7th October 2012

1. Taken 2 - $50M - $50M
2. Hotel Transylvania - $26.3M - $75.9M
3. Pitch Perfect - $14.7M - $21.5M
4. Looper - $12.2M - $40.3M
5. Frankenweenie - $11.5M - $11.5M
6. End of Watch - $4M - $32.8M
7. Trouble with the Curve - $3.8M - $29.7M
8. House at the End of the Street - $3.6M - $27.5M
9. The Master - $1.8M - $12.3M
10. Finding Nemo - $1.55M - $38.9M

Another strong weekend was on the cards, as along with Tim Burton's Frankweenie and the return of Liam Neeson in Taken 2, last weekend's surprise chart entry, Pitch Perfect expanded into wide release. They're all taking on the second frame for Looper and the record breaking Hotel Transylvania. Ahead to next week and we have four major releases, including Ben Affleck's Argo, Sinister and comedy, Here Comes The Boom.
Taken became a domestic sleeper hit when it was released back in late January 2009. Starring Liam Neeson, the Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen penned tale saw an ex-CIA agent attempting to track down the people who kidnapped his daughter while she holidayed in Paris. Working against the clock, Neeson's Bryan Mills is willing to use his 'particular set of skills' (which run to coercion, torture and murder) to rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) before she is sold into sex slavery. Produced for just $25M, Taken became a smash hit overseas, making over $80M on the back of very little hype. It would be almost a year after Taken had made its French debut that  the film would land in North America. By that point word of mouth was white hot. Hoping to maximise the situation, Fox re-edited the film to secure a lower certificate, opening the picture up to a much bigger potential market. The plan worked, with Taken opening to a then-record breaking $24M over Superbowl weekend. From that point it continued to impressive, dropping just 17% and 8% in weekend two and three (something that is practically unheard of for a release seeing no major expansion). By the time Taken had left theatres in July, it had made $145M, bringing its global total to an astounding $226M - and all against that $25M budget. It performed well on the home market too, selling in excess of 4.4 million DVDs up to March 2011. Furthermore, it introduced Neeson to a whole new action-fan base, something he has capitalised on since with roles in Unknown, The A-Team and The Grey. A sequel was obviously a no-brainer but ended up taking some time to pull together due in part to Neeson's busy schedule (he has featured, in one capacity or another, in fifteen films since the release of the first Taken) and at one point it looked as if the actor would not return at all. Schedules were finally smoothed out and Neeson officially joined the sequel in March 2011. Someone who wouldn't be returning was director Pierre Morel, who at that point was knee-deep in pre-production on Dune (since abandoned). Instead, Transporter 3/Columbiana helmer Olivier Megaton would be on directing duty, with Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen again providing the story.

This time around, Bryan Mills is in Turkey on business when he gets a surprise visit from his daughter Kim and ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). Unbeknownst to Mills, the father of one of the men he killed in the original film has sworn revenge, and puts in place a plot to kidnap Mills and his family. Cornered, Bryan manages to get word to Kim to find safety, before setting off to track down the now kidnapped Lenore, ready to take on anyone who gets in his way. Filming took place earlier this year, with an October release date set. The first (of many) trailers debuted in June. With such success in North America, Fox sought a PG-13 (or equivalent) for Taken 2's global roll out, hoping to maximise the potential audience. While this makes sense business-wise, more than a few reviews have highlighted the film's choppy editing as a result of removing violent footage and sound effects. Critical opinion on the original was above average (58%) but the sequel took a real kicking, scoring just 19% at Rotten Tomatoes. The action flick also faced competition from last weekend's sci-fi hit Looper, but was still expected to make a big splash. With a $45M budget attached, it would only need one good frame to be high and dry. Taken 2 got off to cracking start, making $1.5M from Midnight sneak peaks (In comparison Battleship made just $425K in the same time) on its way to a very impressive Friday of $18.6M. That's more than two thirds of what the first film made during its entire opening weekend. While that kind of momentum couldn't be sustained over Saturday and Sunday, the action thriller continued to play well despite the poor word of mouth that was starting to build. All told, Taken 2 finished the weekend with an incredibly strong $50M, marking the best opening of Neeson's career - at least as the main character. In fact, only two October releases have opened bigger - Jackass 3D ($50.3M) and Paranormal Activity 3 ($52.5). It's also the best opening figure since The Dark Knight Rises back in July. Chances are it'll drop quite hard next weekend, a combination of competition and word of mouth (not to mention front-loading) but there's no denying that fantastic start. And with its production budget already covered, it won't be long before it begins to approach real profit. Overseas was a similar story, with Taken 2 opening to staggering $55M.

With Frankenweenie biting at its ankles, Hotel Transylvania faced direct competition in its second frame on general release, but as we will see, was never any real threat. The Adam Sandler picture had opened incredibly well last weekend, taking the September debut record with $42.5M. As the family market began to wane during the week (as is the norm), it gave up the top spot to Looper and by Thursday night was sitting on a $49M total. On its second Friday, Hotel Transylvania made $6.4M, a not-bad drop of 41% on the same time last week, more so when you consider the fresh competition. Over the remainder of the frame the computer generated comedy stepped up into high gear, adding a further $19.9M, finishing in second place with $26.3M (down 38% on last weekend overall). After ten days Hotel Transylvania has made $75.9M and looks set to become Sandler's thirteenth $100M earner.

The real headline-grabber last weekend wasn't Hotel Transylvania or Looper but the limited release, Pitch Perfect, about a university A Cappella group attempting to reinvent itself. Opening at just 335 theatres, the film smashed into the top ten and took an incredibly strong $5.1M, seeing off new release Won't Back Down and holding its own against the older pictures in wide release. October 5th was originally Pitch Perfect's release date but thanks to some great word of mouth from Universal's extensive screening program in August/early September, the studio opted to chance a limited roll-out first (as seen last week). Now out to 2,770 locations, with some incredible word of mouth backing it up, Pitch Perfect made $4.9M on Friday, moving up to third place and besting at least one of the new releases in the process. Saturday through Sunday, the musical comedy made another $9.8M, to bring its second weekend gross to $14.7M, for a ten day total of $21.5M. Even with the busy upcoming frame, Pitch Perfect should continue to play well and has already recouped its $17M budget. With her role in this and End of Watch, star Anna Kendrick is having a great few weeks.

Looper impressed last weekend with its $20.8M start, putting to rest any fears that a mainstream audience wouldn't show up for an R-rated time travel drama. It also played well during the week too, making $1.7M on Monday and moving into the top spot on Tuesday with $2.3M (it would remain at no.1 until Friday morning). After seven days on release the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis picture had amassed $28.1M (just $2M shy of its production budget) and was getting ready to battle the new releases. Looper scored $3.5M on its second Friday, that's down about 48% on this same time last frame, a little high but obviously a result of Taken 2. The Rian Johnson directed film finished the weekend with an $12.2M total, that's down 41% on the last frame as a whole and brings its cumulative gross to $40.3M. At this point, Looper is likely to cross $50M within the next fortnight but a lot depends on how it faces up against adult fare Argo, 7 Psychopaths and Sinister next week. What ever happens, it has been a resounding critical success and should end up doubling its production budget domestically.

Frankenweenie's origins stretch right back to 1984, when Tim Burton worked at Disney. The young director got his first break thanks to a short film he made while at college, entitled Stalk of the Celery Monster. The short drew Disney's attention, who offered him an animation apprenticeship, where he would work on The Black Cauldron and The Fox and The Hound, amongst others. In 1982, he made his first stop-motion short for Disney, an ode to his childhood hero, Vincent Price. 'Vincent' played the Chicago film festival and was followed up by the director's first foray into live action in the guise of Hansel and Gretel. Burton gave the Grimm fairytale a Japanese spin, culminating with the titular heroes in a kung fu battle against the evil witch. The film aired just once and prints have since become so scarce that for a number of years many thought the project was a myth. By 1984, the young director/animator was ready for his next live action short, a tale of a boy whose dog is killed by a car and his attempts to bring it back to life. A homage to Frankenstein, Frankenweenie ended up getting Burton fired from his job at Disney, who felt he had squandered time and money on a film that was too scary for children (It had been set to debut with the re-release of Pinocchio). Curiously, it would be Frankenweenie that got the director his big break in Hollywood when Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-Wee Herman) saw the short and decided that Burton was just the man to direct Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The rest, as they say, is history. The idea to expand Frankenweenie into feature length began to take shape in 2005, when scripts by Sara Parriott and Josann McGibbon were turned in. A year later, screenwriter John August (who has worked with Burton on a number of occasions) was approached to rewrite but wouldn't officially join the project until 2009, when Frankenweenie was announced as part of a two-picture Disney Digital deal (the other film being Alice in Wonderland). Instead of live action, the feature would utilise stop-frame animation, and also be shot in black and white.

Burton is no stranger to stop-frame work, not only from his earlier shorts but from producing Henry Selick's Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. He went one step further in 2005, when he directed the stop-motion flick, Corpse Bride. Indeed, many of the Corpse Bride team would return for Frankenweenie, which began production in July 2010. The crew built three large sets, which were then divided into a number of sections to enable multiple scenes to be worked on at the same time. Such was the complexity of the production, especially the character of Sparky the dog, that the model makers had to employ watchmakers to create some of the tiniest components. The picture would follow a similar plot to the original short - a young boy named Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is distraught when his dog Sparky is killed and sets about bringing him back to life using the power of science. However, success brings a new set of problems when the dog escapes and accidentally causes trouble all over town. Alongside Tahan, the director cast Winona Ryder and Catherine O'Hara, two actors whom he had worked with on Bettlejuice, along with Martin Short and Martin Landau (who won an Oscar on Burton's Ed Wood). Originally Frankenweenie was set to open in November 2011 but was moved back to March 2012. It would receive one further release date change, to October 2012, Disney slotting John Carter into the vacant March slot left by the move. Early word on the movie was said to be very strong, with many citing it as a real return to form for Tim Burton, something that the 85% fresh rating bears out . But with Hotel Transylvania scoring big last weekend, would the public be ready for another spooky fantasy, and in black and white at that. It seemed not quite, as Frankenweenie could only manage $3.3M on Friday, entering in fourth place and barely making more than half of what the Adam Sandler comedy made on the same day ($6.5M). While it received a slight boost thanks to the usual matinee crowd, it wasn't enough to save the film from disappointment, and it finished the weekend with a subdued $11.5M, weaker than ParaNorman's $14M start back in August. Obviously the public preferred the more colourful, perhaps less frightening, Hotel Transylvania to Burton's flick (for a family film, it had quite a scary trailer and PG rating). What this opening means in real terms is that Frankenweenie is unlikely to cover its $39M domestically, leaving the studio to hope for better numbers abroad.

End of Watch faced both Looper and Taken 2 this frame, and could only manage $1.1M on Friday, on its way to a weekend of $4M (a drop of 49% overall). The 'found footage' style cop drama was produced for just $7M - a figure it almost doubled within its first three days, so this weekend's $4M total will be of little concern to the studio. Strong critical opinion should also see it perform well overseas. Overall, End of Watch has made $32.8M

The Clint Eastwood drama, Trouble With The Curve, managed to keep hold of fourth place during the last week, but dropped to seventh on Friday when the new (and expanding) releases entered the scene. It ended up Sunday night with a third weekend total of $3.8M ($29.7M overall). With four new releases next weekend, Curve may yet see one more top ten placing.

Despite poor word of mouth, House at the End of the Street managed to avoid a huge frame to frame drop last weekend. The Jennifer Lawrence thriller has already more than doubled its production budget and added a further $3.6M this weekend (for a $27.5M overall total). A $35M finish looks to be on the cards.

Without any further expansion, The Master managed $1.8M this frame. The incredible performance in limited release hasn't translated to mainstream success, partly on account of its difficult subject matter, and it will end up being amongst the lower performing of Anderson's films (His best is the $40M grossing There Will Be Blood). But a film like The Master was never really about making money, so expect the Weinstein's to be lobbying hard come award season.

Finally, rounding us out this weekend is Finding Nemo. The Pixar re-release added $1.55M over the last three days to bring its total to $38.9M

Out in limited release this frame is Butter, a long delayed comedy from director Jim Field Smith whose previous film was the Jay Baruchel comedy, She's Out Of My League. Butter is set in Iowa and is the story of a young girl named Destiny, who has a particular talent for butter sculpting. Her skills pit her against the wife of the reigning champion (played by Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell respectively). The picture also features Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone and Oliva Wilde. While on the surface the film is about butter carving, it's actually meant to be a metaphor for the 2008 Barrack Obama/Hilary Clinton Iowa Caucus. The script actually featured on the 2008 Black List - a round up of the best unproduced screenplays in that year, and shot sometime during 2010. Despite having debuted at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, with further appearances at numerous U.S film festivals through October and November, the picture sat without a release date for a number of months. Eventually, the 5th October 2012 was settled on (day and date with the flick's VOD debut). Butter opened at around 90 locations and made a paltry $75K.

Our final release this weekend is The Paperboy, a movie adapted from the Pete Dexter book of the same name. It's directed by Lee Daniels, who was Oscar nominated for his work on the 2008 picture, Precious. The Paperboy follows the sultry Charlotte Bless, played by Nicole Kidman, as she attempts to get the death penatly sentence against her boyfriend Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack) overturned due to inconsistencies and a lack of evidence. She hires brother reporters Jack and Ward Jenssen (Matthew McConaughey, Zac Ephron) to investigate the event but thanks in part to Bless' overt sexuality and the need for the brothers to make a name for themselves, the situation quickly gets out of hand. An adaptation has been in the works for the past ten years, with author Dexter working alongside  Pedro Almodovar. While the Spanish directed ultimately handed the reigns to Daniels, he still retains a producer credit. The film debuted at Cannes to mixed opinion, though many were quick to highlight Kidman's outstanding turn. The Paperboy opened at a handful of theatres this weekend and scored $110K.

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