Monday 24 June 2013

U.S Box Office Report - 21st - 23rd June 2013

1. Monsters University  - $82M - $82M
2. World War Z - $66M - $66M
3. Man of Steel - $41.2M - $210M
4. This Is The End -  $13M - $57.7M
5. Now You See Me - $7.8M - $94.4M
6. Fast & Furious Six - $4.7M - $228.4M
7. The Internship - $3.4M - $38.3M
8. The Purge - $3.4M - $59.4M
9. Star Trek Into Darkness - $3M - $216.6M
10. Iron Man 3 - $2.1M - $403M

Two new films join the fray this weekend, both featuring monsters of one kind or another. Paramount and Brad Pitt were hoping to shake off the production problems that hindered their zombie epic, World War Z. Meanwhile Mike and Sully return in Pixar's first prequel, Monsters University. Elsewhere, Warner Bros. would be hoping that Man of Steel would remain buoyant after its $128M opening, adding further weight to its planned Justice League movie. Next weekend brings us mismatched cop comedy The Heat, and action thriller White House Down.

Monsters University is Pixar's first ever prequel, but it didn't begin life like that. Indeed, if Disney had had their way, Pixar would not have even been involved in its production, let alone its direction. The first film, Monsters Inc. was released in 2001 to incredible critical and financial success (it remains their fifth biggest picture in North America with $255.8M). It told the tale of Mike and Sully, two monsters who scare children for a living, whose subsequent screams act as a power source for Monstropolis. When a child wonders into their world by mistake, chaos ensues as the duo attempt to return her home without anyone finding out, uncovering a conspiracy in the process. Made for $115M, Monster Inc. took over $580M at the global box office and won Randy Newman his first Academy Award. That year saw the debut of the Best Animated Feature award, for which the film was nominated but lost out to Shrek. While Pixar concentrated on Finding Nemo, Disney looked to mine their existing properties (The Mouse House owned the rights to all Pixar productions, running from Toy Story in 1995, to Cars in 2006). In 2005, after a disagreement between the two companies (which had been ongoing in one form or another since 2001), Disney let it be known that they would be moving forward with Monster Inc. 2, and that production would be handled by Circle 7 Animation - a newly formed Disney animation company set up in 2004 specifically to handle Pixar sequels (Along with Mi2, they had Toy Story 3 and a Finding Nemo sequel in the works).

However, when Bob Iger became Disney CEO in 2006, a deal was put in place that would see the company buy Pixar, with all sequel rights reverting back. Pixar immediately stopped all work on the Circle 7 sequels, and set about creating their own in due course. The first hint of a Pixar created Monster Inc sequel came in 2010, and in the following year, a June 2013 release date was announced. In a first for the company, it was revealed in May 2011 that (the now titled) Monsters University would be their first prequel. John Goodman and Billy Crystal would return to voice Sully and Mike. Other Monster Inc. voiced actors, such as Steve Buscemi, would also be back. The plot would see Mike attending university and butting heads with Sully, setting up a rivalry that would one day lead them to becoming best friends. The first teaser debuted back in June 2012, and was followed up by four more trailers, viral spots and a major marketing push in the form of an official Monsters University website and admission process. As mentioned, Monsters Inc. reviewed incredibly well (96%) where as the prequel is more in line with Brave's 78% approval rating. If families did have any reservations, it didn't show in MU's opening day haul of $31M. That number gave Pixar its second best single day take, behind only Toy Story 3's $41M bow. It's also a better figure than the opening day of their most recent releases, Cars 2 ($25M) and Brave ($24.7M). Saturday matinees improved things further for Mike and Sully, and widened the gap between its closest competitor, World War Z. Strong word of mouth kept the film buoyant over the remainder of the weekend, giving Monsters University an excellent 3-day total of $82M. That again is Pixar's second best result after Toy Story 3's $110M opening total back in 2010. With no competition until Despicable Me 2 in a fortnight, MU should hold well next weekend too, and be some way clear of $100M by its second Sunday. Expect the film to be a fixture of the top ten for many weeks to come.

This next section covers the production of World War Z. If you wish to skip this and go straight to its weekend analysis, please scroll down to the ------------- line.

Max Brooks began his writing career with The Zombie Survival Guide, released in 2003. A no-nonsense handbook, it took a completely straight approach to identifying and enduring a zombie apocalypse. His 2006 follow-up, World War Z, employed some of his previous book's methodology and detailed via individual accounts, a worldwide zombie epidemic; starting with Patient Zero and running through the human race's virtual extinction and eventual fight back. The novel received much praise upon release, as it did its award winning audio book counterpart.

Prior to publication, the book had attracted the attention of Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt, and a bidding war broke out which would see Paramount secure the screen rights for Pitt's Plan B Entertainment to produce, at a cost of around $1M. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski was tasked with adapting the novel for the screen, finding a way to link the individual stories into a movie-friendly narrative. In the meantime, the hunt was on for a director who could handle both large scale set pieces and the quieter moments of humanity. Pitt sent the novel to Marc Forster, who was at that time working on the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. The two had been developing a story about a man with AIDS, but had been unable to make much progress on it. Forster liked what he saw in World War Z, and drew comparisons between the zombies and modern day mindless consumerisms. The director joined the project in 2008 but clashed almost immediately with Straczynski over the direction of the script. Forster wanted to beef up the action and the set pieces, something Straczynski's adaptation had largely avoided to that point (in truth, the book itself had few major set pieces, the 'Battle For Yonkers' aside). Still, the screenwriter took the notes onboard and turned in his second draft in December 2008, noting that production was expected to begin in 2009.

However, despite incorporating many of Forster's notes into the new version, the director still disliked what had been turn in, stating that the script lacked the urgency that the modern movie goer demanded. The decision was made to all but scrap what had been done so far and hire a new screenwriter to take the adaptation in a more cinematic direction. For this, Plan B hired Matthew Michael Carnahan, brother of director Joe, and writer on The Kingdom and Lions For Lambs. Carnahan threw out the first person narrative and introduced the central character of Gerry Lane, a retired UN investigator, with which to anchor the film. Lane had existed in the previous draft, but only as an incidental character, sharing little more page time than any other character. Furthermore, instead of being set after the zombie epidemic, the story would begin near its inception, and task Gerry Lane with a globe-trotting mission to discover the outbreak's source, and hopefully a cure. With the script still being knocked into shape, production was pushed back well into the latter part of 2009. Forster stayed with the project, but also began work on the Gerard Butler movie, Machine Gun Preacher (released in September 2011).

Script work continued throughout 2009 and well into 2010, when Pitt agreed to take on the role of Gerry Lane. The actor had been impressed with the direction Carnahan had taken the story, while the studio felt the globe spanning journey would give the film a worldwide appeal - and franchise potential. Pitt and Forster were officially confirmed in their respective roles at Comic-Con in the summer of 2010, with a view to getting production underway in early 2011. The next issue for the picture was budget. Opting to shoot on location pushed costs up, and the studio were quick to realise that a $150M zombie epic would be difficult to finance alone. By March 2011, with pre-production set to begin just a month later, Paramount were forced into a difficult position - either find a financing partner or scrap the entire project. After eleventh hour discussions, Skydance Films (a regular Paramount co-financier), along with GK Films and HMC agreed to partner with the studio to front some of the costs.

Principal photography on World War Z began in July 2011. And perhaps in an effort to reduce initial costs, the remainder of the cast were made of relative unknowns, including Mireille Enos, who would play Lane's wife, Karen. While Matthew Fox, Bryan Cranston and Ed Harris were also rumoured to be involved, only Fox would take a role (which would end up being a cameo in the finished movie). After such a long drawn out scripting and funding process, it seemed the movie was back on track, but it wasn't long before all involved realised their problems were only just beginning.

Although enthusiastic enough about the script to greenlight the movie, Paramount and Plan B knew it still had issues, especially its third act - a huge battle set in Red Square that would see Pitt and an enslaved Russian people face off against the zombie hoard. The actual ending left the film open for at least one sequel, but most agreed it did not work - at least not in context with what had come before. Primarily, the ending was deemed too dark - Pitt isn't yet reunited with his family and goes from being a peaceful observer, to a highly efficient zombie killing machine. Despite still working on these problems, production got underway in Malta in July. It soon became apparent that shooting in real locations with 900 zombie extras would be a logistical nightmare even for a seasoned action director - something which Forster was not. Add in another 600 or so crew members, and a last minute location move to a much busier area, and the problems and costs quickly rose. Issues with local businesses caused delays, while a costume shortage resulted in expensive alternatives being sourced locally. By the time the three week Malta shoot was finished, the production was already way over budget and still had two major sequences yet to shoot. [According to a Vanity Fair article, the clean up crew found millions of dollars worth of unpaid purchase orders tossed into a drawer and forgotten about]. Problems with the third act were still weighing heavy.

With all that was going on, Paramount announced a release date of December 2012, around 15 months away at that point. Producer Colin Wilson was seemingly held (or felt) responsible for the initial budget over runs, and resigned from the project. He'd soon be replaced by Ian Bryce, the man who kept Michael Bay's movies on budget and on time. Bryce found himself on set only four days after his initial conversation about the picture, and was greeted by chaos. Having set a new shooting regime in motion, Bryce managed to get the shoot got back on track, and sequences were removed to make some headway into the budget overspend - though an issue in Budapest threatened to throw the production back off the rails. Real guns, that had been altered to make them safe to use as props, were seized by officials who set up a press conference to show how easily they could be turned back into deadly weapons. Despite the threat of charges being bought to the production, the case was quietly dropped a few months later. Even with reservations, the problematic third act seem to come together, all concerned being mindful of the promised PG-13 rating, and finding inventive, but bloodless way to dispose of the attacking hoard. Finally, in November 2011, shooting was complete and Forster could begin editing, ready for an executive screening in February.

The screening ended in silence. Only once they saw the final battle up on the big screen, in spite of months of concerns, did the assembled group realise that it simply did not work. Pitt's transformation from everyman into a seasoned zombie killer in the space of a few short scenes was jarring, and the chaos of the end sequence was too overwhelming. Having already spent at least $150M on the production, Paramount were stuck. All were agreed the picture didn't work in its current state but few could offer a workable solution. A month later the studio pushed the release date back from Christmas 2012 to the summer of 2013. The production problems on World War Z were already in the public domain, and this delay just added fuel to the fire. In April, Brad Pitt reached out to Damon Lindelof. The screenwriter was shown a 72 minute streamlined edit, and after, asked to see the excised footage. He agreed about the ending and offered Pitt two solutions - either write a few short scenes that explain Gerry Lane's transformation and highlight what is at stake to him personally, or simply scrap the entire last act, including the 12 minute Russian battle sequence, and create a new ending. Lindelof figured the second option was a long shot to say the least, and was quite taken aback when Plan B favoured the idea. They sold Lindelof's plan to Paramount, who hired the writer to begin immediately. Working with Drew Goddard (his Lost co-writer who had also scripted Buffy, Alias and Cabin in the Woods), he crafted 60 pages, which would cover around 30-40 minutes of new footage. By September the studio had greenlit the additional work and a smaller crew assembled in London a month later.

When it was announced they'd be shooting for up to six weeks, the internet all but exploded with gossip and theories - Pitt wasn't speaking to Forster, Forster wasn't directing the additional footage - and so on. In reality, Forster did direct the new scenes, and publicly stated he and Pitt shared no animosity. Paramount were actually quite up front, stating that while they felt they had a fantastic first hour, they wanted a more intense, more emotional payoff for the audience's investment in the latter half of the picture. But no one could deny, shooting so much extra footage on an already hugely expensive project, was a very, very rare occurrence. The studio's only condition was to have writer/director Christopher McQuarrie on set, in case any dialogue issues arose. The new sequences are said to have cost around $20M, which would put the official budget at around $170M. However, many have speculated, with good reason, that the actual cost is much closer to $225M, if not higher still. Whatever figures were involved, all concerned were much happier with the new ending, and the first footage debuted in November. While it was quite a spectacle, fans of the source material were vocal in their disappointment, stating it shared little in common with Brooks' novel, save for them both containing similar protagonists. A second trailer ramped up the action and set pieces further, as early word began to trickle out that World War Z was a solid globe-spanning thriller.

In the months since, more positive word has emerged from screenings and it did begin to seem as if Paramount had managed to salvage something entertaining amidst all the chaos. For his sins, Pitt has been working overtime to promote the film, even turning up at a number of small scale screenings. Even with all the money spent, the studio launched a huge marketing campaign, including a $50 advance ticket package. As we saw with Man of Steel, the positive opinion began to wane as more critics weighed in, but most are in agreement that this was far from the disaster it could have been (oddly it is the new third act that has come in for most criticism). World War Z began its release on a very decent 68% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (MoS ended up at 56%). World War Z was set to open a week after Man of Steel, and alongside Pixar's Monsters University. Given the huge investment, it needed to be an even bigger hit than before, and that left many wondering if there would ever be a big enough market to cover its costs. The studio are staking a lot on it performing well overseas thanks to the appeal of Pitt, 3D and the undead (or infected) but even they knew it would be an uphill battle.


If proof were ever needed that the general public take little note of a film's production problems, World War Z provides it. The first sign that things were going to be ok came from the midnight screenings, when the film made $3.6M, a little more than Monsters University (to be expected given the demographics the two pictures attracted). That initial figure led to a strong first day tally of $25M, giving Pitt the best single day figure of his entire career. And while it wasn't quite out of the woods yet, World War Z had shown it could hold its own against Man of Steel (which was relegated to third place with $12.7M). As was expected given its family film status, Monsters University pulled further ahead over the rest of the weekend, but WWZ held well in second place, proving to be the primary choice for the older cinema-goer. All up, the zombie epic made a very impressive $66M, much stronger than anyone could have predicted, and exactly the kind of start the picture needed given its high production costs. That's easily the best opening weekend of Pitt's entire career and means $100M is a shoe-in, even with the busy weeks of competition ahead. This has to go down as a victory for all concerned and must surely ease tensions at Paramount. It's also a bigger figure than morbid curiosity alone could have raised. The overseas numbers helped back up that solid start, adding another $45M to its total. That gives WWZ a global total of $111M. While Brad Pitt has talked of a possible sequel, one assumes that we're still some way from that point yet, but there's no denying World War Z has gotten off to a great start and looks to have finally had its fortunes turned around. Next weekend will reveal what kind of front loading was involved and give us a more focused picture of where it could end up domestically.

Man of Steel broke the June box office record last weekend, and thanks to Father's Day, saw a boost over the initial takings estimate of $125M. All up, Zack Snyder's Superman reboot made $128M from the Thursday to Sunday period and allowed Warner Bros. a big sigh of relief. During the week the film continued to dominate, adding $16M on Monday and another $11M on Tuesday. By the start of its second frame the picture was sitting on a 7 day gross of $168.7M ($31M shy of what Superman Returns made during its entire theatrical run). On its second Friday on general release, Man of Steel added a disappointing $12.7M to it total. That figure meant a drop of 71% on the same day last week, and even though the film's first full day on release was expected to be front-loaded, no one thought it would it turn out to be quite so. Obviously most people who wanted to see the film did so over the first few days, and the impact of the fresh competition cannot be discounted either - the family went to see Monsters University while the rest chose World War Z.

Man of Steel did recover somewhat over the remainder of the frame. Overall for its second frame, the superhero flick made $41.6M (an overall weekend to weekend drop of 65%), bringing its total to $210M. The knock on effect is that $300M domestically is no longer a sure thing, and anything less will surely be on the lower end of WB's expectations (though is unlikely to hinder their sequel and spin-off plans). What won't help the cause (or that of WWZ's) is the upcoming release slate - White House Down, The Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim will all attract the same demographic and impact earning potential. Internationally the picture's roll out stepped up into a number of new markets, which helped it increases its oversea's tally to $188M. After ten days, Man of Steel has a global total of $398M - almost $150M more than what Superman Returns made during its entire worldwide run.

Apocalyptic comedy, This Is The End did ok up against Superman last frame, and thanks to a Wednesday start, had recouped its production budget by the close of play on its first Sunday. Both reviews and word of mouth were strong for the picture, allowing it to hit almost $45M by the start of it second Friday. With World War Z thrown into the mix, This is the End dropped a not bad 41% on its previous Friday, making $4.1M in the process. It added $8.9M over the rest of the weekend, finishing up with $13M and bringing the comedy's cumulative gross to $57.7M. As stated, the film has covered its $32M costs, and while its unlikely to be a $100M sleeper it, it will still turn a tidy profit for Sony. Next weekend it'll face competition from the R-rated comedy, The Heat.

Now You See Me dropped down to fifth position, but grossed another $7.8M in what was its fourth weekend on general release. That gives the magic heist thriller a running total of $94.4M, with a finish of around $120M on the cards. The picture is just getting started overseas and has already made $40M.

The other comedy in major general release isn't fairing quite as well as This Is The End. The Internship, which stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, has a three week total of $38.3M, and may be looking upon its last frame in the top ten. Produced for $58M, it will need to look overseas if it is to turn a profit.

After an almost complete collapse in its second frame (down 76% on the previous week), The Purge could manage only $3.4M in this one.  That brings its seventeen day total to $59.4M. While generally a fall this fast would be a disaster for a movie, The Purge cost just $3M to produce and work has already begun on a follow up. It may yet turn out to be one of the most profitable films of 2013.

Fast & Furious 6 is now the most successful entry in the series, domestically and in the last few days, internationally. The film added $4.7M over the Friday to Sunday period, to bring its North American total to an impressive $228M. As a series, it has amassed an astonishing $2.2 billion dollars, against a total budget of $569M.

Star Trek Into Darkness is looking at its last weekend in the top ten. The JJ Abrams directed sequel has made $216.6M. At the time of writing, there is still no word on a third picture moving forward.

One final note - Iron Man 3 crossed the $400M barrier on Tuesday, making it only the seventeenth picture in cinematic history to achieved such a feat domestically. Its total now stands at $403M, and $804.6M abroad.

Credit for additional World War Z information from http://www.vanityfai...rld-war-z-drama

Next Weekend...

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