Sunday 16 December 2012

U.S Box Office Report - 14th - 16th December 2012

1. The Hobbit - $84.7M - $84.7M
2. Rise of the Guardians - $7.4M - $71.3M
3. Lincoln - $7.2M - $107.8M
4. Skyfall - $7M - $272.3M
5. Life of Pi -$5.4M - $69.5M
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $5.1M - $276.8M
7. Wreck-It Ralph - $3.27M - $168.7M
8. Playing For Keeps - $3.2M - $10.8M
9. Red Dawn - $2.3M - $40.8M
10. Silver Linings Playbook - $2M - $16.9M

[This week's report is a Hobbit Special Edition. If you wish to skip this section, please scroll down to the ---------- Thank you]

Only one release this weekend but it's one of the biggest and most eagerly awaited of 2012. Peter Jackson unleashes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey into over 4,000 theatres and will be hoping to emulate the success of his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Ahead we've got a few busy weeks despite the impending holiday. The Guilt Trip, starring Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen bows on Wednesday, while Tom Cruise appears as Jack Reacher on Friday, joined by Judd Apatow's This Is Forty. Beyond next weekend things are just as busy, with both major and limited releases. But back to this week, and the tale of a Hobbit called Bilbo...

The Hobbit was written by J.R.R Tolkien and first published in 1937, to great acclaim. The fantasy novel told the tale of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with a group of dwarves, alongside Gandalf the Grey. Hugely influential, not to mention successful, it led Tolkien to write the Lord of the Rings trilogy, further establishing the world, characters and history of Middle Earth. Essentially written for children, The Hobbit's short story nature seemed ripe for adaptation, and indeed, it has appeared in many various guises over the intervening years including (but not limited to) stage and radio plays, computer games, comic books and an animated feature in 1977.

New Zealand director Peter Jackson became involved in a feature film version of The Hobbit back in 1995, while working on The Frighteners. At that point he was known primarily for his work in the splatter-horror genre but had changed tack completely for his 1994 real life drama, Heavenly Creatures. Jackson saw The Hobbit as the first part of a proposed Tolkien trilogy, with parts two and three covering the events of The Lord of the Rings. Teaming up with Harvey Weinstein, they attempted to secure the rights to produce a film from Saul Zaentz (who had acquired them in 1977), but quickly ran into a host of problems. Zaentz did indeed own the right to produce a picture based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but didn't actually possess the distribution rights - they were held by United Artists who hoped to do something with them. Further muddying the situation was Universal Studios, who offered Jackson the chance to direct his dream picture, a remake of King Kong. A year later the rights situation was still no closer to being resolved, and Weinstein's attempt to purchase them from UA also came to nought. Jackson took up Universal's offer, with a view to direct a Lord of the Rings picture once work on the Kong remake was completed. However, by 1997, King Kong had been put on indefinite hold, at which point Harvey Weinstein contacted Jackson, his partner Fran Walsh and long time collaborator Philippa Boyens with the offer to solve the Tolkien rights issues out once and for all. At that point UA still held on to The Hobbit rights so all concerned put their efforts into adapting The Lord of the Rings into two pictures.

Budget issues prompted the Weinsteins to reduce the two films into a single two hour movie, which would have resulted in the merging or wholesale removal of many plots and characters from the story, along with the reduction of all of the planned action sequences. Jackson baulked at this idea and began shopping the project around other Hollywood studios. It would ultimately land at New Line, who instead of offering to finance two pictures, proposed a trilogy. The rest, as they say, is history. The three Lord of the Rings pictures would go on to see incredible critical acclaim and huge financial success. But post-release of the final film, all was not well between the studio and the director. At this point, MGM entered the frame. Having bought United Artists, they had come into possession of the rights to The Hobbit, and proposed a co-production with New Line. There had been much talk of Jackson returning to work on The Hobbit but negotiations stalled when the directer launched a lawsuit against the studio over lost revenue, in 2005 (Subsequently, a number of parties would launch similar suits against the studio). Jackson figured this was almost a trivial matter to rectify and wouldn't stop movement on The Hobbit but New Line boss Bob Shaye took great exception, branding him greedy and publicly stating that Peter Jackson would never direct another film for New Line. Rumours were widespread that the studio had offered The Hobbit to other directors, including Sam Raimi, but no real progress was made. MGM halted production because they did want to work with Jackson on an adaptation and hoped for a resolution. By August 2007, with New Line having suffered a string of disappointments and failures, Shaye set about repairing bridges between himself and Jackson. By December, MGM and New Line issued a statement that Peter Jackson would return to produce two Hobbit films. December 2011 and December 2012 release dates for the pictures were put in place shortly after. Having ruled himself out of directing the films (stating that he did not want to compete with what he had already produced in the LotR trilogy) the hunt was now on to find a director to finally bring The Hobbit to the big screen.

Peter Jackson had discussed working with Guillermo Del Toro on a Halo movie back in 2005 and while that hadn't come to fruition, the two had stayed in touch. Del Toro was announced as director on the new films in April 2008 and The Hobbit officially entered pre-production in August of that year. Having previously been vocal about his dislike for the books, Del Toro buried himself into Tolkien's entire world and made in-roads into winning over the fan base. He divided his time between America and New Zealand while working on the outline and structure for the films with Jackson, Walsh and Boyens. Del Toro found himself writing from early morning to mid-afternoon, before spending time at the WETA workshop, approving designs and ideas across the whole production. After a number of intense writing sessions, many lasting in excess of twelve hours, the team were ready to submit their work for approval.

Story development on The Hobbit has been increasingly complex, ironic given that it is a relativity short book. Confirmed and denied at various points throughout its history, the initial rumour was that the first film would follow the events in the original story, and that the second film would act as a bridge between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Rings. There was also talk that both pictures would focus solely on the main story, and that Jackson was talking about making a third film, made up of largely original material, that would act as a Rings prequel. He also mentioned during development that the biggest issue was that the original story was lightweight, with a number of incidents occurring away from the reader, and only hinted at (remaining unexplained or disregarded in some cases). If they were not planning on an original bridging flick, they would need to create such sequences to fill out the backstory of the two films. But they were restricted too in that they had no permission to use any material from The Silmarrillion. Despite all the time spent on the project, it was still at a relatively early stage, with the greenlight to start work on the actual scripts not coming until March 2009. It's also important to note that this was only the go-ahead to start scripting, not for the actual physical shooting of the films. Meanwhile, WETA were pushing forward with creature design and reinvention - Del Toro hoping to revolutionise the animatronics industry with what they had planned. He'd also begun thinking about casting, both new characters and those who would return. But in spite of their best efforts, the script was proving troublesome and resulted in physical production (based on story approval) being pushed back into the middle of 2010. This caused many to suspect the film would not meet its December 2011 release date (something confirmed in January 2010 by Alan Horn).

But a bigger issue was about to raise its head, which would put the entire production in danger. MGM's financial woes had already seen the delay of two finished movies (Red Dawn and Cabin in the Woods) and had caused work on the 23rd James Bond film (Skyfall) to come to a grinding halt. The Hobbit too, would not escape the studio's problems. With scripting taking longer than expected, production had already been pushed back at least once. Work continued on all aspects of the project but MGM refused to commit to a shooting start date and sought to delay things further. Fans were outraged at the situation and urged MGM to sell the rights to New Line. Having been on board since April 2008, and with a potential two years still to go (Including almost 270 days of shooting, excluding a gap while The Hobbit Part 1 was edited), Guillermo Del Toro opted to exit the project. He stated on May 30th 2010 that with no confirmed start date, he could no longer remain at the helm of The Hobbit, in part due to commitments on other projects. The studios wanted Jackson to return, but also entertained the idea of hiring, amongst others, Neill Blomkamp, David Yates and David Dobkin. By late June, Jackson was said to be in negotiations to return to direct, and by October 2010, New Line announced that not only would he return, but that the project had been officially greenlit for production with a February 2011 start date confirmed. The two films would shoot in 3D and were to be subtitled An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again, due for release in late 2012 and 2013 respectively. The Hobbit was finally on, and back in familiar hands.

With the film being set before the events of Lord of th Rings, it was expected that only a few characters would make a reappearance. Sir Ian McKellan would return as Gandalf The Grey, though his participation wasn't a forgone conclusion. He was under no contract and stated that he wasn't sitting around waiting for the call. However, by late November 2010 he hinted via his website that he had signed on board, something he confirmed in early January.  Andy Serkis would also reprise his role as Gollum, providing the voice and the motion capture framework for the character. He would also help Jackson direct too, taking on the role of second unit director. Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett would return as Elrond and Galadriel, with Christopher Lee taking up the mantle of Saruman The White once again. For the key role of Bilbo Baggins, Jackson (and Del Toro) had realised that Ian Holm would be too old to portray the character (as he had done in The Lord of the Rings) but he would still feature in The Hobbit as the elder Bilbo. In casting the young Bilbo, Martin Freeman was chosen. Freeman had been approached for the role in late 2010 but commitments to the BBC show Sherlock forced him to turn down the offer. However, a few weeks later Jackson confirmed that Freeman had indeed been cast as Bilbo (his Sherlock co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as the voice of Smaug, and also provided motion capture work for the character). For the roles of the thirteen dwarves who Bilbo accompanies on their quest, Jackson chose a mixture of newcomers and established players, including James Nesbitt, Being Human's Aidan Turner, theatre actors John Callen and Adam Brown, along with Spooks star Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarf company. Stephen Fry, Barry Humprhies and Billy Connolly would also take on supporting roles, and both Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood reprise their roles in a limited capacity. The vast majority of the production crew on the previous trilogy would also return to work on The Hobbit series, including the WETA Digital team (WETA Workshop had long been involved since before scripting began), cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, editor Jabez Olssen (who graduated from being Additional Editor on Rings) and Howard Shore, who would once again provide the score.

As he did on Rings, Jackson planned on shooting both films together, with the first day of principal photography falling on March 21st 2011. New Zealand once again served as the primary filming location (though major issues regarding the use of labour and unions almost caused the film to up sticks to Eastern Europe) with some studio work taking place at Pinewood in the UK. A second block of filming ran from August to December 2011, though The Hobbit's official final day of principal photography fell on July 6th 2012. In all, the production shot for 266 days. As stated when the movies were greenlit, shooting took place in 3D (as opposed to any kind of post-production conversion). Furthermore, Jackson also shot the film at 48 frames per second, twice as many as the conventional method. While the picture would play at the normal speed, the extra frames, it was hoped, would enhance the image to an incredible degree. It also meant that to fully appreciate the new method, special projectors would be required. The first footage presented at 48fps debuted at CinemaCon 2012 in April and was met with mixed results. While some were impressed, many felt it gave the footage an almost TV movie quality. There was also the issue of image clarity, with the picture being so clear that it actually took viewers out of the film and highlighted that they were simply watching actors on a set. In its defence, Jackson has stated that he was not surprised by the reaction of those who saw the ten minute presentation at CinemaCon as it generally  took longer for the eyes to adjust to the new filming method. Either way, since then, the studio has appeared to play down the 48fps shooting/presentation method, while ensuring people that the vast majority of showings will be in traditional 24fps 3D. With all the pieces having finally fallen into place all eyes looked towards December, but there was one final card to play.

Throughout the project, one thing many people couldn't understand was the need to make two films based on The Hobbit when it was actually quite a short story. As mentioned, Peter Jackson had stated they would be expanding the book, taking in elements not described for the reader, along with a little invention of their own. So, in July 2012, when the director announced that The Hobbit was now a trilogy, more than a few people raised concerns. The plan was to take footage envisioned for parts one and two (though more from the latter) and assemble a third movie. They also planned on shooting additional footage and mining further Hobbit-related information from the extensive appendix of The Lord of Rings trilogy. There and Back Again would now be the title of this third part, while film two became The Desolation of Smaug. The studio announced a December 2013 release date for Smaug, with There and Back Again slotting into summer 2014. The first teaser for An Unexpected Journey appeared online in December 2011, with a proper trailer debuting in mid-September of this year.


Box office-wise, Fellowship of the Rings was something of an unknown prior to its release in 2001, but opened to $47M, on its way to an impressive $315M finish. The sequels, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, would go on to bigger openings ($62M, $72M) and better finishes ($342M, $377M). Global performance was even stronger, with the trilogy amassing a staggering $1.8 billion dollars (and that excludes the US tally). Anticipation was incredibly high for this new film, though initial reviews have run from below average to very positive. It currently sits on a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65% - a much lower total than the Rings trilogy (92%, 96%, 94% respectively). The main criticism appears to have been the picture's padded out runtime, with the 48fps filming method also coming in for some harsh words. But reviews aside, the general public across the globe were more than ready for An Unexpected Journey, with it making a $11.2M from sixteen markets (including France, New Zealand and Germany) on Wednesday and a further $16M on Thursday. It also got of to a cracking start in North America, seeing a impressive $13M from midnight screenings (in comparison, December 2009 release Avatar saw $3.5M). For its first full day on release the picture saw $37.5M (which includes the aforementioned $13M), a new record for a day in December and the best single day figure for any Tolkien release. It's worth noting however, that Return of the King made $34.4M on its opening day, which was a Wednesday, not a Friday and it did that without the benefit of inflated 3D ticket prices (in 2012 dollars, RotK would have made $42.9M). Comparisons aside, The Hobbit got off to a very strong start that set it up to take the December weekend record (which stood with I Am Legend's $77M haul prior to this frame) with some claiming a $100M three-day total was possible.

Despite the film receiving mixed opinion, it managed to secure an 'A' Cinemascore, meaning word of mouth should have kept the picture buoyant over the remainder of the weekend, but it ended up suffering a bigger than expected drop on Saturday (off around 25% and putting the chop on it reaching $100M). Major front-loading would have been partly to blame for that, and it could signal an issue going forward, though with a lucrative holiday period ahead, the film should be fine. All up, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made $84.7M during its first three days, setting a new December record and clearing Return of the King's opening frame by more than $12M (3D ticket sales made up almost 50% of that $84M). How ever way you write it, that is a staggering opening for a prequel nearly 170 minutes in length. The question now is where does The Hobbit go from here? Front loading will have played a big part in this record opening weekend, which will no doubt affect it going forward. By next Friday, there will be four more wide releases all ready to eat into the film's grasp on the market. The final Lord of the Rings film made $50M during its second weekend and if this new film can replicate or even better that, it will set it up it to be one of the most successful films of 2012. With another $130M+ coming from the 55+ international markets, after only five days on release An Unexpected Journey has a fantastic global total of over $220M. As with Breaking Dawn Part 1 (and indeed, Fellowship of th Rings) it looks likely the performance of this first Hobbit picture will comfortably pay the production costs on the next two entries in the series. After years of hard work and stalled development, it seems the efforts of all concerned have finally paid off.

With The Hobbit dominating, the rest of the top ten was set to take the full brunt of its impact - though given the age of some of the current releases, the damage was negligible. While Rise of the Guardians recovered a little last weekend, it was seen by some as too little too late. By Day 22, the Dreamworks animated tale which features Father Christmas, The Easter Bunny and Jack Frost had made $63M - compare that to Wreck-It Ralph's 22 day total of $139M to see just how much the festive film is under-performing. There's further trouble ahead next Wednesday when Monsters Inc. gets its 3D re-release, which is sure to impact on Rise of the Guardians. The picture made $7.4M this weekend and did manage to push ahead of all but The Hobbit, but even this is likely to be a hollow victory to Dreamworks. It now has a running total of $71.3M. Domestically it will be lucky to see $95M and while its performance abroad is stronger, it doesn't yet appear to have the kind of legs witnessed by films such as Ice Age 4 or Madagascar 3, even discounting the advantage those flicks had from being sequels.

On Thursday, Lincoln became the 15th film of 2012 to surpass the $100M landmark. The Spielberg biopic has performed well beyond expectations and done so in the face of some strong competition. This past week saw the picture garner seven Golden Globe nominations, including one for best film and  acting nods for Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field. This frame it added a further $7.2M, bringing its overall total to $107.8M.

Skyfall, the third Daniel Craig outing as super spy James Bond was sitting on $265.3M as it entered its sixth frame. A $1.8M Friday (and a drop down to fourth place) led the film to a $7M weekend total, bringing Skyfall's cumulative gross to a staggering $272.3M. It still has a very slim chance of making $300M domestically but that got much harder this week with The Hobbit and will only get tougher when Jack Reacher and Django Unchained enter the fray. All that aside, the film has been an incredible global success and may yet enter the illustrious $1B dollar club (It's currently at $951M, making it the third biggest global release of 2012).

Over the last week, Life of Pi had managed to jump ahead of Breaking Dawn 2 (and Rise of the Guardians) and wound up Thursday night with $64.1M. The Ang Lee adaptation of Yann Martel's book has continued to gain some good word of mouth, helping it to build on its $30M Thanksgiving frame. This weekend, its fourth on general release saw it add $5.4M, to bring its running total to $69.5M. Abroad Life of Pi has already cleared $100M, with an incredible $68M of that coming from China alone, where the film has already outgrossed the complete theatrical runs of The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, after just two weeks.

Breaking Dawn 2 continues to track almost identically to both its predecessor and New Moon (By day 31 of its release, summer release Eclipse was at $285.4M). This weekend saw it make $5.1M, bringing its total to date to $276.8M. It's looking likely (though not forgone) that the final film in the Twilight series will fall short of becoming the biggest, but should end up with a very respectable $295M by the end of its theatrical run. Internationally, BD2 is already the most successful of the series, having made almost $500M.

Wreck-It Ralph has now recouped its $165M production budget and seems to have remained largely unaffected by the release of Rise of the Guardians. In this, its seventh weekend, the video-game theme flick made $3.27M, giving it a cumulative gross of $168.7M.

Gerard Butler's rom-com, Playing For Keeps limped to a weak $5.7M total over its opening three days. A week on and it tumbled 52.5% on its second Friday, making just $1M. By the end of the weekend it had added just $2.2M more, for a very poor ten day figure of $10.8M. If the film hasn't dropped out of the ten by Wednesday evening, it will be gone by Friday and be a distance memory soon after. Up next for Butler is a role in ensemble comedy, Movie 43, and White House actioner Olympus Has Fallen.

Red Dawn, the remake of the 80s cult classic made $2.3M this weekend, giving it an overall total of $40.8M - still a good way short of its $65M production budget. This will be its last weekend in the top ten and it will need to hope for a half decent showing overseas to shore up its domestic total. Given that it was made before Chris Hemsworth became a major player, it's unlikely to affect his career going forward.

Silver Linings Playbook re-enters the top ten but has still yet to expand beyond its 371 theatres. This weekend it made another $2M and dipped just 4% on what it made last frame. That brings its five weekend total to $16.9M, but it could have potentially been double that figure by now had the Weinstein Company opted to expand the picture in its second weekend on release (it had a solid debut of $443K from 16 locations). While expansion is said to be on the cards, by the time the it happens it will have to face both fresh competition and a public who have already decided to wait for the home release instead.

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