Sunday 25 November 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 23rd - 25th November 2012

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $43M - $226.9M
2. Skyfall - $36M - $221.7M
3. Lincoln - $25M - $62.1M
4. Rise of the Guardians - $24M - $32.5M
5. Life of Pi -$22M - $30.2M
6. Wreck-It Ralph - $16.7M - $149.5M
7. Red Dawn - $14.6M - $22M
8. Flight - $8.6M - $74.8M
9. Silver Linings Playbook - $4.6M - $6.2M
10. Argo - $3.8M - $98.1M

With Thanksgiving this past week, the three major releases this frame made their bow on Wednesday, hoping to cash-in on the free time people may have. But the new flicks wouldn't have the box office all to themselves, finding tough competition in the guise of Breaking Dawn 2, Skyfall and Lincoln. We're heading for a couple of relatively quiet weekends, before Peter Jackson unleashes The Hobbit on December 14th, after which we'll get seven major releases within the space of just two weeks.
While not a franchise best, Breaking Dawn 2 still opened to staggering $141M last weekend, and held slightly better over its first three days than its predecessor. It also played well during the week, seeing double figures for every day except Thanksgiving, when it made $8M. By the eve of its second frame, it was sitting on $183.7M, and was set to hit $200M in exactly the same time day count (10) as the first Breaking Dawn picture. The series is well known for its harsh second frame falls (caused by the huge front-loading as many fans attempt to see the latest film at the first opportunity, similar to the Harry Potter franchise). While Breaking Dawn continued to dominate on its second Friday, it was off 76% on its huge opening day, making $17.4M in the process. Part 1 dipped a similar 77% on its second Friday so this fall was well within expectations (New Moon also saw a similar fall, while Eclipse's wasn't so harsh on account of it opening in a midweek slot at  a different time of year). That initial drop also meant that the new releases had little effect on the fifth Twilight film. Over the remainder of the weekend it continued to play as expected, finishing up Sunday night with a $43M three day total - again, a near carbon copy of Breaking Dawn Part 1's second frame total ($41.6M and an overall fall of 69%) and brings its cumulative gross to $226.9M. As mentioned in last weekend's report, what all this means is that the series really had reached saturation point with last year's release. In fact, there's strong evidence to suggest it reached its pinnacle with New Moon back in 2009, which saw a second frame of $42.8M. With only two new releases next Friday, there's every chance BD2 will spend another weekend at the top spot. While it hasn't had the finale boost witnessed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, it is still an incredibly successful release and should end up with around $290-300M by the end of its theatrical run. If that figure holds, it would mean Breaking Dawn Part 2 will have cleared its production budget more than twice over domestically (not forgetting that most of the film's costs were already covered by the success of Part 1 last November). Abroad and the picture is tracking well ahead of its North American performance, having made $350.8M so far.

On the 20th of November, Skyfall became the most successful film in the franchise's 50 year domestic history - a feat it had achieved in just 12 days. To get there, it had surpassed the $168.3M take of Quantum of Solace and the $167.4M finish for Casino Royale. Like Breaking Dawn 2, Skyfall was barely dented by the new releases on Wednesday, managing to hold on to its number two placing. The 23rd James Bond feature saw Thursday as its best week day (Friday aside obviously) and as it approached its third weekend on release, was set to become the 10th film of 2012 to cross the $200M threshold. On Friday it added another $14.7M to its total, a rise of 20% on last Friday, thanks in part to many people taking the day off as part of Thanksgiving. Over Saturday and into Sunday, Skyfall added another $21.3M, to give it a weekend total of $36M (down just 12% on the last frame overall). That brings its overall total to a sensational $221M, and with little competition ahead, there's even a chance Daniel Craig's third outing as the super spy could hit $275M before closing. Overseas it remains a strong player, having already amassed over half a billion dollars. Expect the next film in the series to be officially announced for a November 2014 release before the end of the year.

Continuing to impress with its performance is Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which stars Daniel Day Lewis as the 16th President of the United States. In wider release last weekend it managed to make it up to third place and took a very strong $21M, giving it one of the best per theatre averages of the entire top twenty. Buena Vista opted to expand the film a little further this weekend, bringing its locations count to 2,018. It's worth noting that this was not an easy sell to the general public, and the film doesn't cover Lincoln's entire life, just the last few months. The picture held its own on Friday, even against Rise of the Guardians, and managed a very strong $9.9M - an astonishing increase of 55% on last Friday's figure. By Sunday night, it had clocked up a three day finish of $25M (up 19% on last weekend's overall finish), which brings its 17 day total to a stunning $62M. Lincoln cost $65M to produce (that includes the fee the studio had to pay Paramount for initially developing the project) and may yet cross $100M domestically.  As we enter award season, expect both the film and its lead, to feature prominently.

Our first new release this week is the Dreamworks Animation picture, Rise of the Guardians. The film is based on the William Joyce series of books, The Guardians of Childhood, and features such characters as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Joyce has a background in children's books, having written over fifty to date. Not only that, but he has also had a hand in film and TV work too, including as a conceptual artist on Toy Story and A Bug's Life, as well as writing Meet The Robinsons and the 2013 release Epic. If that wasn't enough, he won an Oscar this year for his animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Work on a Guardians film began in 2005 when Joyce announced a joint project with Reel FX to produce a series of animated features, one of which would be based around the Guardians of Childhood books. Sadly this didn't come to fruition, but the deal did bring about the animated short, The Man in the Moon, which introduced the Guardians concept and would serve as a starting point for the eventual film. In 2008, Dreamworks secured the rights to produce a picture based on the books, and to ensure they kept the integrity and vision of the characters, they hired Joyce to co-direct with Peter Ramsey. Pulitzer prize winning writer David Lindsay-Abaire was hired to script on what was at that point entitled The Guardians. Work progressed steadily for a couple of years but Joyce left his co-directing role after the death of his daughter (who was directly responsible for the creation of the stories in the first place when she asked her father if he thought "Santa had ever met the Easter bunny"). He would stay on board as executive producer, alongside  Guillermo del Toro, whom Dreamworks had hired at the project's inception to help shape the story and its structure, along with character designs. Despite being adapted in part from the book series, the film itself is set 200 years after they take place. Joyce stated this decision was made so that people would not compare the movie to the books, and to also give a sense of surprise to those who were familiar with the source material.

By early 2011, the title had been changed to Rise of the Guardians, and the studio took this opportunity to announce the voice cast involved, which included Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher. The plot would see Jack Frost (Pine) enlisted to help the Guardians (Baldwin's Santa Claus, Jackman's Easter Bunny, Fisher's Tooth Fairy and a voiceless Sandman) when Pitch the Nightmare King(voiced by Jude Law) threatens to engulf the world in darkness. The first trailer for Rise of the Guardians debuted in March 2012 and was followed up by further trailers and individual shorts for each of the characters. Dreamworks had originally set the film for release early November, but moved it to Thanksgiving to avoid Monsters University (which itself had moved to avoid Twilight: Breaking Dawn). In the end, the Pixar's sequel was pushed to June 2013 and Wreck-It Ralph slotted into the November 2nd spot. Reviews were good, but not spectacular, with 72% of critics finding something to like about the picture. Opening Wednesday, Guardians got off to something of an average start, making $4.8M and debuting in third place (though it must be noted that most of the target demographic would have been in school). On Thanksgiving it actually saw a worrying drop in takings, adding $3.7M and falling to fifth. Whilst its Friday was a much stronger $9.3M, it still lost its placing to the three-week old Lincoln despite having the huge family market on its side. If one factors in the previous day's totals (giving it $17.8M), things looked quite solid for a non-sequel. But taking those days away, Guardians had a similar Friday to October 2011's Puss In Boots (which had a $9.5M start and 3-day take of $34M, but lost next to no business the following weekend). Things didn't get that much better for the film over the rest of the weekend and it finished up Sunday night with a $24M total ($32.5M since Wednesday). As a three day figure, $24M puts it better than 2006 failure, Flushed Away ($18M debut), while its five day haul is still a little way short of the opening weekend for the aforementioned Puss In Boots and a staggering $22M shy of what Megamind opened to in November 2010. This start isn't a disaster but is surely on the lower end of expectations and gives the film everything to work for going forward. Fortunately it won't face any direct competition until Monsters Inc. 3D in Mid-December, but will need to gain all the ground it can in the meantime.

Life of Pi is based on the award winning book by Yann Martel, first published in 2001. The plot follows the fourteen year old Pi, who winds up stranded on a life boat with a Bengal tiger when the ship on which he was travelling, sinks. The book was rejected a number of times before Martel secured a publishing deal. It went on to become a best seller and won, amongst many other awards, the Man Booker Prize in 2002. Life of Pi has had a long and bumpy journey to the screen. In 2003, Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler secured the rights to produce a film based on the book and set Dean Georgaris to write the screenplay. By October 2004, a deal had been brokered with director M.Night Shyamalan, who would also rewrite Georgaris' screenplay once work on The Village was complete. However, despite working on the project for some time, he opted to write and direct Lady in the Water instead. Fox then entered into talks with Alfonso Cuarón, but the Mexican director decided instead to take on Children of Men. Gabler kept the project alive and by October 2005 had hired Amélie helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Like Shyamalan, Jeunet would write his own version of the screenplay with Guillaume Laurant. Things seemed to be moving forward and a summer 2006 start date was pencilled in, but concerns over the budget (something which would return to haunt the project later) caused Jeunet to exit the project. In early 2009, word emerged that Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee was in talks with Fox to direct an adaptation of Life of Pi. Just as things seemed to be moving forward again, the studio balked at Lee's proposed $70M production budget, and the project stalled for a time while a compromise could be found [Bizarrely given this event, the film's unofficial budget ended up being close to $120M]. Things eventually did get back on track and while Lee searched for an actor to play Pi, David Magee, who wrote Finding Neverland, began work on what would be yet another version of the screenplay.

Out of the 3,000 potential actors he auditioned, Lee chose newcomer Suraj Sharma, who would make his debut on the film. Shooting on Life of Pi finally commenced in January 2011, counting India, Taiwan and Canada amongst its locations. The director also opted to shoot in 3D for the first time in his career. The first footage was unveiled as part of a presentation given by Fox in April 2012, and wowed everyone who saw it with its staggering visuals and sensational creature FX work, not to mention its impressive use of 3D. The general public got to see what all the fuss was about in July with the release of the first trailer - which lived up to the hype. The studio had originally set Life of Pi as a December release but when The Hobbit moved into the same slot, they chose to bring the film forward to Thanksgiving. The picture wasn't an easy sell, and couldn't rely on the success of the book to the same degree as something like Twilight or Lord of the Rings. On its side were those sumptuous 3D visuals (which Avatar director James Cameron has praised in the last couple of days) and the fact that initial notices were incredibly strong, with award recognition already being hinted at. With the budget now rumoured to be closer to $120M, Life of Pi would need all the help it could get. Reviews were the best of all the new releases, including the limited Hitchcock (see below), with the film being classed as fresh by Rotten Tomatoes thanks to an 86% approval rating. With competition on all sides, the picture started with $3.6M on Wednesday, good enough only for seventh place, but stepped up to move ahead of both of the new releases on Thursday, making a further $4.5M. Pi built from there on Friday, when it added $8.8M and clashed directly with Rise of the Guardians (only $500K separated the two). A Cinemascore of A- meant the picture was receiving some great word of mouth from the public, and that helped push it to a $22M three day total (and a respectable $30.2M since release) - impressive given its slightly shaky start. Given the large budget associated with the project, one assumes the studio will be quietly pleased with these figures but next weekend (and the weekdays) will be telling as to where the picture is ultimately heading.

Despite direct competition from Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph didn't suffer a collapse of any significant kind this weekend (in fact, only just over a million dollars separated the two films on Wednesday, the day Guardians debuted). Over the last three days, the video game themed feature made a further $16.75M, to bring its 24 day total to $149.5M. Ralph will have cleared its production budget ($165M) by the end of next weekend and looks to be heading for a $180M+ finish (though with the festive season coming up, $200M can't be ruled out either). Internationally its current total stands at $35M, which will rise rapidly upon further expansion.

Red Dawn is a remake of the controversial 1984 film of the same name, which was written and directed by John Millius. Made as the threat of nuclear war was prevalent, it saw Russia and its allies invading America, with the picture focusing on a small town and a group of high school kids turned resistance fighters. Apart from its notoriety in 1984, it also became the first picture to receive a PG-13 rating and was deemed the most violent film ever made by the Guinness Book of Records, with a total of 134 acts of violence committed in its run time. Thought to be unsettling (and all too possible) at the time, it has since become something of a cult classic. At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, MGM announced plans to remake the movie and set stunt co-ordinator and second unit director Dan Bradley to helm. The idea was to shoot the film in 2009 with a view to release in November 2010. For the lead role of Jed Eckert, Bradley cast the relatively unknown (at that point) Chris Hemsworth, based on footage he had seen of his work in Cabin in the Woods (another MGM flick). Josh Peck, signed on to play Jed's brother Matt, and was joined by Josh Hutcherson, (who has since gone on to star in The Hunger Games) and Friday Night Lights alumni Adrianne Palicki. Kurt Russell was said to be up for playing the role of Lt. Col Tanner, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan would end up taking on the job. The plot would follow that of the original quite closely, but substitute an invading Russian army for a Chinese one - something that  would become the cause of much criticism during the film's production. Shooting took place as planned in late 2009 and photos of Chinese propaganda posters from the set soon showed up online. Apart from the 'enemy' controversy, filming went smoothly and everything started to come together for the 2010 release date.

However, MGM's financial problems (which would also affect Cabin in the Woods and production on the 23rd James Bond film) resulted in Red Dawn's release being shelved for the foreseeable future. When the studio emerged from Chapter 11 restructuring in January 2011, it released the first official cast still and stated that the picture would make its debut within the year. In March 2011, the studio announced that they would be altering the film's antagonists to North Korean, a move seen by some as a way to avoid losing out on access to the now huge Chinese cinema-going market. Changes, which are said to have cost just under a million dollars, included a new opening sequence detailing the current state of the world, along with the digital altering of Chinese words and motifs. MGM wouldn't set a release date for Red Dawn until September 2011, when they announced a deal with Film District which would see the picture put out in November 2012 (in a similar deal, Lionsgate agreed to release Cabin in the Woods in April 2012). The first and only trailer debuted in August of this year, and has since been supported by clips and featurettes. Red Dawn received its premiere at the Alamo Draft House, as part of Fantastic Fest, to mainly mixed reviews. Given the time since the release of the original, the remake was unlikely to benefit from much built-in audience recognition and also faced competition from Skyfall, Breaking Dawn and Life of Pi this weekend. However, since its production, Chris Hemsworth has become a major star thanks to his turn in Thor and The Avengers (along with a role in Snow White & The Huntsman), something that helped raise the picture's profile. Reviews certainly weren't going to help, with the flick scoring just an 11% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The $65M production opened Wednesday in fifth place with $4.2M, and dipped 23% the day after, making $3.2M. Of the three new releases, Red Dawn had the weakest Friday, with a $6M haul. In part, that was due to strong competition from Skyfall, not to mention the lacklustre word of mouth the picture seemed to already be attracting. Over Saturday and into Sunday it added a further $8.6M, for a three day total of $14.6M. That means that since Wednesday, Red Dawn has made an ok $22M but is likely to fall quite hard next weekend, and will almost certainly need to rely on overseas money if it is to turn a profit.

Robert Zemeckis' Flight has now more than doubled its production budget. The Denzel Washington drama got off to a great start a few weeks ago, when it debuted at less than 2,000 theatres. Since then it has seen two weekend drops of around 40% in the face of some pretty big competition. This weekend, Flight made $8.6M, which brings its overall total to $74.8M. It should finish up surpassing the final total of Unstoppable ($81M) and may even trouble Inside Man's $88M.

Silver Lining Playbook debuted to a decent $462K last frame, at only sixteen locations. It had been expected that the Weinstein Company would expand the film much wider this weekend to capitalise on the great word of mouth surrounding the Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence comedy drama, but instead they added only 361 theatres to its count, starting on Wednesday. Still, even with that count, the picture managed to make $1.2M on its first expanded day (breaking in at ninth place), following it up with $1.8M on Thanksgiving. It snagged another $1.6M on Friday, heading to a weekend finished of $4.6M ($6.4M since release). This goes some way to proving that there was a market for a wider release, which must surely be on the cards for next week. With award buzz already surrounding Jennifer Lawrence's performance, expect to hear a lot more from Silver Linings Playbook in the coming weeks.

The Ben Affleck thriller Argo hangs on to another top ten finish this frame, its seventh on general release. In the past few days it also became his most successful directorial effort, surpassing The Town's $92.1M finish. This weekend saw its total rise to $98.1M, meaning it should hit $100M over the next few days. Internationally, Argo has made $40M, which includes almost $9M from the Australian market.

Out in limited release this weekend was the biopic Hitchcock, which was directed by Sacha Gervasi and based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, by Stephen Rebello. Development on the project began in 2005, when TV network A&E secured the rights to Rebello's book with the idea of producing a mini-series based around it. In 2007, the book was optioned as the basis for a movie by Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock, with a view to produce through their Montecito Picture Company. The duo set up the project at Paramount, but after four years in development, it was moved to Fox Searchlight (The Montecito Picture Company remained on board as producer). John J. McLaughlin began work on the screenplay, with further passes done by Rebello, with a view to concentrate the story further on Hitchcock's relationship, both personal and professional, with his wife Alma. In November 2011, Sacha Gervasi, who made his directorial debut with the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil, was announced as director and casting quickly got underway.

By December, Gervasi had secured Anthony Hopkins for the role of the legendary director, with Helen Mirren set to play his wife. Further casting was announced in March, with Scarlett Johansson and James D'arcy taking on the guise of Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins respectively. In addition, Jennifer Biel would play Vera Miles, who worked with Hitchcock on a number of occasions, and Toni Collette as Peggy Robertson, the director's trusted assistant. Shooting got underway in April of this year and was completed by the end of May. With no release date set, it came as something of a surprise when Fox Searchlight announced on September 20th that the film would make its debut in just two months time (meaning it was eligible for Oscar contention). A trailer was issued three weeks later and the picture received its world premiere on November 1st. Early reviews were very strong, but as more critics weighed in, the shine was taken off somewhat. At seventeen locations, Hitchcock made $300K this weekend.

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