Sunday 4 November 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 2nd - 4th November 2012

1. Wreck-It Ralph - $49.1M - $49.1M
2. Flight - $4M - $4M
3. Argo - $10.2M - $75.8M
4. The Man With The Iron Fists - $8.2M - $8.2M
5. Taken 2 - $6M - $125.6M
6. Cloud Atlas - $5.2M - $18.2M
7. Hotel Transylvania - $4.5M - $137.5M
8. Paranormal Activity 4 - $4.3M - $49.5M
9. Here Comes The Boom - $5M - $39.5M
10. Silent Hill: Revelation - $8M - $8M

After disappointment by all the new releases last frame, studios will be hoping for something of a rebound this weekend, but are aware that the effects of last week's terrible storm are still being felt by many. The big release is the animated family feature Wreck-It Ralph, joined by Robert Zemeckis' return to live action fare with Flight, and the directorial debut of the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA with martial arts mash-up The Man with The Iron Fists. This weekend marks the start of a big movie run, which will lead right up to Christmas Day. Next week brings us the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall, followed a week later by the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2. Further ahead there's the long-delayed Red Dawn remake, literary adaptation Life of Pi and the animated Rise of the Guardians.

Easily expected to be the biggest film this weekend, Wreck-It Ralph is the latest release from Disney Animation. The plot follows Ralph, the protagonist in the fictional videogame Fix-It Felix, who tires of being the bad guy and leaves his game to find another in which he can become a hero. Along the way he encounters Tamora Calhoun, a sergeant in the Call of Duty/Halo style game, Hero's Duty and Vanellope von Schweetz, an 8 year old girl in racing game, Sugar Rush. But while Ralph is trying to realise his dream, Schweetz discovers a problem within her own game, one that could have dire consequences not only for the cast of Sugar Rush but the entire arcade - and it looks like Ralph leaving his own game could be the cause of all the problems. Development on Wreck-It Ralph began a number of years ago, as an idea from story artist Sam Levine. At that point the picture was known as Joe Jump and featured an over the hill character attempting to make the transition into modern videogames. Levine was making good progress on the project (enough for a rough synopsis to turn up online) but when John Lasseter took over as head of Disney Animation in 2006, the status of Joe Jump became unclear. While the Pixar honcho let Levine (and his writer) work on the project for a further year, it began to languish, and with little sign of moving forward, Joe Jump was put on the shelf and Levine was assigned to another project. While Lasseter was impressed by the core idea, he wasn't sold on the story itself. Moving forward to October/November of 2009 and another project that wasn't working out - the still missing in action, King of the Elves, on which all work was halted while it was retooled. Requiring a project for 2012-2013, Disney dusted off Joe Jump and set Rich Moore to direct. Moore got his break working on TV shows like The Simpsons, The Critic and Futurama, amongst others, and also did sequence direction on The Simpsons Movie. He took on Joe Jump and completely reworked what Levine had done, erasing almost all trace according to those familiar with both versions.

The picture also received a title change, to Reboot Ralph and now resembled the plot detailed above. In order to add an air of authenticity to Ralph's world, Moore and his creative team opted to write in a number of cameo roles for famous (and not so famous) video game characters, with the idea to secure the rights when scripting and storyboarding was complete. The vast majority of copyright holders granted permission (though Nintendo were said to have requested too high a fee to allow the use of Mario and Luigi), with some going so far as to work alongside the animators to ensure there was no misrepresentation. In all, there are said to be over 185 of these cameo appearance in the finished film, including Sonic The Hedgehog, Streetfighter's Chun Li and Zangief, alongside the cast of Q-bert and Pac-Man. For the voice behind the character of Ralph, Moore chose John C. Reilly, with Sarah Silverman as Schweetz and Jane Levy as Sergeant Calhoun (30 Rock's Jack McBrayer takes on the role of Fix-It Felix). Originally set for a March 2013 release, the picture was actually pulled forward to November 2012 thanks to being ahead of schedule. In June 2011, Reboot Ralph got its final name change, to Wreck-It Ralph, and the first footage debuted a couple of month later at Disney D23 conference. The first trailer appeared in June 2012, timed to coincide with the E3 videogame festival. The studio went all out on marketing the picture, producing fake commercials for the Fix-It Felix and Hero's Duty arcade games, retro-style posters and even going so far as to create an actual Fix-It Felix videogame for online and mobile devices. A second trailer appeared with the 3D release of Finding Nemo in September. Disney were hoping that Wreck-It Ralph would play to both the old and the young, with the former recognising the retro characters from their youth. In terms of competition, Ralph would face the six week old Hotel Transylvania, which had had the family market almost entirely to itself, becoming the film of choice by default (Frankweenie aside). Reviews were incredibly strong, with 85% of critics awarding the film a positive notice.

On its first day out Wreck-It Ralph comfortably secured the top spot with a solid $13.4M, much stronger than the aforementioned Hotel Transylvania's opening day ($10.9M) but weaker than some of the other animated releases of 2012 - though arguably, Ice Age 4 and the Madagascar sequel had something of a built in audience (and the summer holidays) to help. Audiences who saw the feature on Friday rated it highly, giving it a 'A' Cinemascore, which certainly didn't hurt despite word of mouth generally being of little concern for an animated release. With the expected Saturday and Sunday matinee boost, Ralph powered on ahead towards an impressive $49.1M three day figure, once again leaving the Adam Sandler flick in its shadow (HT opened to $42M). With that $49M, it has also completely eclipsed the entire box office run of Frankenweenie (Disney/Buena Vista's previous release) in just one weekend. The studio must be pleased with that figure, more so considering that it wasn't a cheap film to produce - estimates put its production costs at $165M. But the sky is the limit here as there is no direct competition until Rise of the Guardians in a few weeks time. That aside, the only thing that will push Wreck-It Ralph down the chart is the number of films due in the next six weeks - and even they won't have much impact on a family-friendly, well-reviewed animated release. Expect Wreck-It Ralph to give Brave's $235M final figure cause for concern over the coming weeks.

Flight marks the return of Robert Zemeckis to live action directing after a 12 year hiatus and stars Denzel Washington as airline pilot Whip Whitaker. When a flight runs into trouble, Whitaker manages to execute a safe emergency landing, saving everyone on board. However, during an investigation into the events, it's revealed that the pilot had alcohol in his bloodstream, something that could lead him to be prosecuted and face life in jail. John Gatins scripted the film, the idea coming during a flight he made in 1999, when he sat next to an off-duty pilot. He began sketching out the basic plot and air crash centre piece, but unable to get much further, he moved on to writing and making his directorial debut on Dreamer. When Dreamworks' Adam Goodman (who had signed up Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity and worked with Gatins on Dreamer) asked him to write an outline for a new film, he turned in Flight. Despite the idea (at that point) being both unconventional and largely non-commercial, Goodman would bring it with him when he moved from Dreamworks to Paramount. Teaming Gatins with producers Walter Parkes and Laurie McDonald, the trio spent months working on the script, experiencing particular problems with its ending. The project still didn't move forward and eventually Gatins departed to work on the screenplay for Real Steel. In 2010, the script ended up in the hands of agent Ed Limato, who in turn showed it to his client, Denzel Washington. The actor liked what he read and met with Gatins, but wanted a more experienced director to helm the feature. Around this time, Robert Zemeckis found himself without a project and came across the script for Flight.

Motion Capture had been the reason for Zemeckis' absence from live action filming since 2000's Castaway. Beginning with The Polar Express in 2004, the costly festive release (produced through his company ImageMovers) did turn a profit but came in for criticism for the 'dead eye' nature of its characters, something the director attempted to rectify with his 2007 follow up, Beowulf and 2009's A Christmas Carol, to varying degrees of success. However, it was 2011's costly flop, Mars Needs Moms (that Zemeckis produced via ImageMovers Digital - a partnership with Disney) that was the final nail in the coffin, becoming the biggest bomb in cinematic history. After pre-production on his fourth motion-capture film, Yellow Submarine, was scrapped due to budgetary issues and concerns over the success of the mo-cap system, he opted to return to live action (though hasn't ruled out a return to motion capture particularly in regard to a long-gestating Roger Rabbit sequel).  In April 2011, it was announced that Robert Zemeckis had signed on to direct Flight, with Washington's participation confirmed in June. Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood and John Goodman would all join the picture by late September, with a view to begin shooting mid-October 2011. Thanks to a huge tax incentive by the state of Georgia and the director and main star foregoing their usual salaries, Paramount were able to bring Flight to screens for just $31M (adjusted for inflation, the smallest budget Zemeckis had worked with since 1980's Used Cars, according to an interview he gave to the LA Times). Washington came to Flight off the back of the second biggest domestic release of his career, February's Safe House, and has remained a reliable (if not always huge) box office draw for a number of years.

Reviews for Flight had been solid enough, with many pointing out Washington's dramatic turn and the central plane crash sequence as particular highlights (it's currently 76% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes). As a method to further reduce costs and their own risk, Paramount opted to put Flight into 1,900 locations this weekend, worried that the R-rated drama would struggle to find an audience despite the recent success of the similarly dramatic (and R-rated) Argo. One imagines the studio regretted that somewhat reduced rollout as soon as they saw Friday's $8M figure, knowing they could have easily added a further $2-3M with a bigger theatre count (Safe House made $13M at 1200 more locations). Certainly a good start for the flick, and proof of Washington's appeal once again, along with the public's desire to see adult orientated drama. The picture held very well over Saturday and into Sunday, finishing up with a very impressive total of $25M. In comparison, Unstoppable did $22.6M from 3,161 theatres while 2009's The Taking of Pelham 123 made $23.3M over its first three days (as an aside, Safe House took $40.1M). There's little doubt that Flight could have finished closer to $30M had it had a wider release, and while Paramount will be pleased with the result regardless, they know they missed a chance at an even bigger hit this weekend. Skyfall will obviously take a little wind out of its sails next Friday, but by that point the film will have all but recouped its production budget. Another hit for Washington and a good return to live action film making for Zemeckis.

Having achieved the somewhat rare occurrence of moving up into the top spot, Argo once again dominated through out the week too, and while it was expected to side step while Flight moved in, it still remained a dramatic force to be reckoned with. Before Friday, the Ben Affleck flick was up to $65.6M and had closed the gap between itself and the director's previous release, The Town, to within $2M. As we've seen, Argo lost the top spot to Wreck-It Ralph this weekend, but still managed a $2.9M Friday haul, despite Flight also playing well. By Sunday the feature, based around the 'Canadian Caper', had made $10.2M for its fourth weekend (yet another incredible drop of only 15%). That gives it an overall total of $75.8M, putting The Town's $92M finish firmly within its reach. Argo is already a resounding success - and there's every chance of award glory in the coming months.

The wild card entry this week was The Man with the Iron Fists, a Shaw Brothers style martial arts epic directed by RZA, a member of the rap group, Wu-Tang Clan. The film was officially announced back in 2008, but RZA and director Eli Roth had talked about the project as early as 2005. Roth joined in a producing capacity in 2007 and the duo spent the next two years turning RZA's story into a workable script, with the view that the Wu-Tang member would make his feature directing debut on the movie. While still in development, Quentin Tarantino agreed to get involved, offering to lend his name in a 'Presented By' capacity (RZA claimed in October 2012 that the two had planned a crossover with Tarantino's Django Unchained which would see the rapper cameo as his Iron Fist's character but time constraints meant it didn't come off). With a $20M production budget in place, shooting commenced in Shanghai in December 2010, with the legendary fight choreographer Corey Yuen co-ordinating the action sequences. The premise would see a blacksmith (played by RZA) forced to defend his villiage when a group of warriors and assassins descend upon it in a hunt for gold. Amongst its cast, The Man with the Iron Fists counts Lucy Liu, mixed martial arts fighter Cung Le and former-WWE wrestler, David Bautista. Joining them would be Russell Crowe, who had worked with RZA on the Paul Haggis film, The Next Three Days. By March 2011, the director was ready to assemble his first cut, which ran to an eye-watering four hours. Initially the idea of releasing two films was entertained but Roth convinced him to edit the film down to a tight 96 minutes (RZA admitted to leaving the editing process for two weeks in disgust at having to chop his film down to size).

To promote the picture, alongside the usual trailers (standard and ultra violent red band which debuted in June and August respectively), the rapper turned director embarked on an 11 city music concert tour, and also narrated an animated prequel, detailing how the blacksmith had first encountered Bautista's Brass Body character. Universal opted to put the film into around 1,800 locations, perhaps a little unsure how the Grindhouse-style flick will play with the general public. Critical opinion was above average, with 62% of critics finding something they liked about the picture. There was certainly an audience waiting for The Man With The Iron Fists on Friday, when it slotted into third place with $3M, which given its screen count, was a decent enough debut (Grindhouse only made $5M on its opening day, with a lot more hype surrounding it). While Argo managed to move ahead as the weekend wore on, Iron Fist added a further $5.2M, to bring its overall total to $8.2M. For a genre picture in a restricted amount of theatres, that isn't a bad start, and obviously had the potential to clear $10M. Next frame will reveal whether it will break out or witness a horror-movie style big drop. If nothing else, The Man With the Iron Fists marks RZA out as a talent to watch.

Taken 2 refuses to go quietly into the night, and made $6M this weekend. In its 31 day run, it has made an impressive $125.6M and remains a popular choice (It was back up in third place on Thursday) for cinemagoers. While it will fall short of the $145M made by its predecessor, this is still a great showing for all involved, especially overseas, where it has made over $200M to date. Liam Neeson might have ruled out a Taken 3, but with a global total over $320M to date, the studio aren't about to let him and his particular set of skills go without at least one more fight.

With Wreck-It Ralph now on general release, the public abandoned Hotel Transylvania in its sixth weekend on general release. A lack of competition has really helped it play well during its run, and only this frame has it seen a weekend to weekend drop bigger than 37%. Given its patchy production history (and average reviews), there was every chance Sony could have been left with egg on their face, but Hotel Transylvania is looking at clearing $150M domestically, with almost certainly more coming from overseas, where its current tally runs to $91M. This weekend, the Adam Sandler comedy added $4.5M, to give it a running total of $137.5M.

Despite their best efforts, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer were unable to get much audience interest in Cloud Atlas last weekend. The sprawling, time-spanning epic opened to a very poor $9.6M, even worse than the $12-14M many had predicted. There was talk that the incoming storm was partly to blame, but more likely was its extended running time, R-rating and complicated plot which saw the same actors portraying multiple characters across six time periods (Warner Bros. marketing campaign and choice of release date also came in for criticism). And for those that did see it, opinion was nowhere near unanimous in praise, something that Cloud Atlas needed if it was to bring in an unsure public. During the week it faired no better, seeing its best day as Tuesday, when it made just over $1M. With Flight and Argo more than ably covering the dramatic genre this weekend, Cloud Atlas struggled to just $1.5M on its second Friday, down a high 56% on an already weak opening day. With little to shout about, the feature made only $3.7M more over Saturday and Sunday, giving it a second weekend total of $5.2M, and a cumulative gross of $18.2M. With the flick as good as dead domestically, expect WB to slash its theatre count as early as next weekend, leaving the overseas distributors (and investors) to hope for a better showing.

Paranormal Activity 4 may have managed to move up into second place over Halloween (all three of the current horror flicks moved toward the top spot on Wednesday) but by the eve of its third weekend on release, it still hadn't surpassed what PA3 made over its first three days ($52.5M). By Friday night, the fourth entry into the found footage franchise had dropped all the way back down to seventh position, making $1.4M in the process. By the end of the frame it was still trailing its predecessor and stands the very real chance of not crossing $60M by the end of its theatrical run (its current total is now $49.5M. Of course, given the micro-budget involved it will still be incredibly profitable for Paramount, but like the Saw series (which Paranormal Activity usurped to become the Halloween film of choice) the law of diminishing returns will eventually start to bite. With only one major release next weekend, Paranormal Activity 4 should see one more top ten showing. Overseas the news is only marginally better, with the picture currently sitting on a $50M+ total.

In at ninth this weekend is Here Comes the Boom, Kevin James' teacher turned MMA fighter flick. Despite seeing success both as a solo star and alongside Adam Sandler, James has been unable to make a hit out of Boom. It made $3.6M this weekend, bringing its overall total to $35.5M.

Like all of the new releases last weekend, Silent Hill: Revelation underperformed, but also scored the worst reviews by some distance. Even though it bumped up into third place on Monday, the 20 day old Sinister moved ahead over Halloween itself. By the time Friday came around again, the sequel to the 2006 horror was sitting on a $10.5M total, just over half of what it cost to produce. Revelation found itself shunted down to eighth place on its second Friday, making $1.1M and dropping a not unexpected 69% on the same day last week. All told, the [very loose] videogame adaptation made $3.3M this weekend, bringing its ten day total to a disappointing $13.8M. With international figures it will break even and should end up making a small profit, but it seems safe to say that if there are any further Silent Hill flicks, they'll be of the straight to DVD/Blu-ray variety.

Skyfall continues to go down incredibly well overseas - it made more money in its first seven days on release in the UK than any other film in history.

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