Monday 8 July 2013

U.S Box Office Report - 5th - 7th July 2013

1. Despicable Me 2 - $82.5M - $142M
2. The Lone Ranger - $29.4M - $48.9M
3. The Heat - $25M - $86.3M
4. Monsters University - $19.5M - $216.1M
5. World War Z - $18.2M - $158.7M
6. White House Down $13.5M - $50.4M
7. Man of Steel - $11.4M $271.2M
8. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain - $10.1M - $17.4M
9. This Is The End - $5.8M - $85.5M
10. Now You See Me - $2.7M - $110.4M

The lucrative July 4th Weekend in North America is the perfect set up for the summer blockbuster. With the new releases opening on the 3rd and many Americans taking the 4th and 5th off work, the box office was set to do some serious business. Despicable Me 2 was hoping for an easy win over Disney's risky (and costly) Lone Ranger. But they wouldn't have it all to themselves, with strong shows from Monsters University and The Heat also expected. Next weekend promises more risk as Warner Brother's Pacific Rim faces off against the Adam Sandler sequel, Grown Ups 2.

The first Despicable Me film opened back in 2010. It told the story of Gru, a super villain who ends up adopting three children as part of a plan to shrink the moon. But much to his surprise, Gru ends up warming to the girls, eventually becoming a proper father to them. Made for $69M, Despicable Me became a $251M smash hit in North America, and performed even better over sees. A sequel was a foregone conclusion (as was a spin-off featuring Gru's yellow, pill-shaped 'minions') and was announced within weeks of the original picture's release. The plot this time around sees Gru hired to recover a stolen chemical compound, while still juggling the role of being a parent to his three girls. It was announced in April 2012 that all the principle cast would return to voice Despicable Me 2, including Steve Carrell, Russel Brand and Miranda Cosgrove. Kristen Wiig, who voiced Mrs Hattie in the original picture, would take on the role of potential love interest Lucy Wilde,  while Al Pacino took on the voice of the mysterious Eduardo Perez (Pacino's involvement had actually been confirmed in February 2012). With the majority of the voice-over work completed fairly early on, the bulk of the animation could get underway. The first 'Minion' based teaser appeared almost a year and a half prior to the picture's release, with the full trailer debuting in October 2012. Everything appeared to be going smoothly, so it came as a major surprise when just two months prior to the film's release it was announced Al Pacino had left the production. Co-director Chris Renaud said the Godfather actor had been dissatisfied with his character's portrayal and rather than having an unhappy actor promoting a film he didn't believe in, they chose to part ways. With all the animation complete and publicity already underway, a delay was out of the question. Instead, the production hired Benjamin Bratt (who had already been considered for the role during the original casting) to redub all of Eduardo's lines - matching all of the character's timings and mannerisms that had been created based on Pacino's voice work (Bratt has come in for much praise for achieving this).

The original film scored well with critics and while the sequel isn't quite as strong, its 74% is still solid enough. Monsters University was Despicable Me 2's only major competition, and even though it would be facing its third weekend on release, the Pixar move could still offer Gru and his minions some problems. Cashing in on the fact that Independence Day fell on a Thursday, Universal opted to release DM2 on Wednesday. Its performance from that first day was far in excess of even the most extreme estimates. With $4.7M coming from Tuesday night screenings, the film added an incredible $29.6M on its first full day. That meant in just over 24 hours Despicable Me 2 had taken more than half of what its predecessor made in its first weekend. Thursday was only slightly weaker at $26.5M (which was the second biggest Thursday for a non-opening feature). With the July 4th celebrations out the way, the sequel once again picked up steam, turning in a very strong $30.2M Friday figure and allowing it to recoup its $76M production budget in the process. And it just kept on going - by the close of play on Saturday, Despicable Me 2 had already crossed the $100M mark, on its way to a weekend total of $82.5M, and a staggering $142M since release late Tuesday night. Again, that figure is more than half of what the first film made during its entire theatrical run. It's also Universal's biggest ever weekend, surpassing that of Fast and Furious 6. Internationally, where it opened in a number of locations in the past fortnight, Despicable Me 2 is already at $151M. Domestically it won't face any new competition until Turbo on July 17th, at which point it should already be well north of $200M. Even at this early stage, we may be looking at the most successful animated release of 2013.

The Lone Ranger began life as a radio show back in 1933. There is debate as to who was exactly responsible for his creation, but the show and its characters were essentially the idea of Fran Striker and George W Trendle. What there is no confusion about was its success, with the radio show becoming extremely popular. The show spawned a hit TV programme too, that ran for eight years (1949-57). The character also appeared in comic book form and in 1956, made his silver screen debut. This was followed by a further film two years later, and another in 1981. In 2003, Warner Brothers made a Lone Ranger feature length pilot, with the hope it would spawn a series, but sadly it didn't come to fruition. In 2007 Jerry Bruckheimer set up a Lone Ranger project at Disney, having gained the rights in a deal with a company called Entertainment Rights (who had themselves purchased previous Lone Ranger property owners, Classic Media). Having seen great success with Pirates of the Caribbean, the producer tasked writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot with the job of adapting the character for the big screen once more (the duo signed on officially in March 2008). By September of that same year, the studio were ready to announce that Johnny Depp would be portraying Tonto, The Lone Ranger's Native American partner. However, Rossio and Elliot's script, which included supernatural elements, was rejected by the studio who consequently hired Justin Haythe to rewrite the project. Mike Newell's name was put forward as a potential director on the film, but Bruckheimer wanted to wait until work was completed on Prince of Persia before moving forward. Depp too was wrapped up in shooting the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, meaning production could not get underway on The Lone Ranger until all parties (including Disney) were ready. In the interim, Prince of Persia disappointed at the domestic box office, and in September 2010 it was announced that Gore Verbinski, with whom Depp had work on the Pirates movies (and Rango) was set to helm (The director had apparently told Depp he would make a great Tonto while they were filming Dead Man's Chest). With things starting to come together, Armie Hammer was announced for the lead, and production was scheduled to begin in the autumn of 2011. Also joining the cast would be Helena Bonham Carter and William Fichtner as the villainous Butch Cavendish.

Concerns about the budget meant Disney took the unusual step of announcing that work had ceased on the picture while cost-cutting measures were put into place. Verbinski, Bruckheimer, Depp and Hammer all deferred part of their salary in order to get things back on track. By October 2011, pre-production restarted with a view to shoot early in 2012, for a May 2013 release. Filming got underway in March and would take in six different states during its schedule. Despite delays relating to the original production budget, costs on the picture continued to rise, to the point where many claim that The Lone Ranger ended up costing Disney even more than the figure which caused the delay in the first place. While they'd struck gold with Verbinski and Depp three times already, the studio were still nervous moving forward. The first footage debuted in October 2012, with the first proper trailer appearing just before Christmas. Initial reaction appeared to be lukewarm, but all concerned knew that Pirates of the Caribbean had barely registered with the public prior to its release. For such a big movie, the marketing was kept fairly low key (some might argue too low key) until the last month or so.

Early word wasn't great either (it sits on a very poor 23% at Rotten Tomatoes), and as the release date has drawn closer, some had speculated that The Lone Ranger could be a very costly flop for Disney. The ace up their sleeve was Depp's popularity overseas, which had seen the Pirates series of films make over $2.3 billion dollars (that excludes its US tally). Opening on July 3rd, The Lone Ranger got off to a disappointing start, taking only $9.6M. Though its core audience were likely still at work on that day, it would have certainly given Disney some major concerns. Thursday was similar, giving the picture a $19.5M total as Friday rolled around. The feature barely received a boost in the traditional weekend frame, with Friday's take coming in at only $10.6M, leaving it with the realistic prospect of being in third place for the weekend. In all, The Lone Ranger made $29.4M over the last three days, and $48.9M since release. Given Disney stated they were anticipating a five day total in the region of $60-65M (surely their lowest estimate given the budget attached) this is little short of a disaster and leaves the film with an almost insurmountable task going forward. Even an exceptional hold next frame (which simply won't happen given the fresh competition) would still see it struggling toward only $100M. The studio will be hanging its hopes heavily on Depp's overseas appeal, where it has so far made $24.3M. Whether this performance will encourage Disney to delay or hasten production on Pirates of Caribbean 5, remains to be seen.

After a strong start least weekend, The Heat continued to play well during the week and over the holiday period. By the time its second release frame came around, the action comedy was sitting on $61.3M - almost $20M clear of its production budget. On its second Friday it dipped only 37% on the same day last week, adding another $8.6M in the process. Over Saturday and Sunday The Heat made an additional $16.4M, to bring its ten day total to $86.3M. At this point $100M is assured and while it'll face competition from Grown Ups 2 next weekend, the Bullock/McCarthy flick should hold steady.

With Despicable Me 2 dominating the family market, Monsters University took an expected hit on its third Friday, yet still managed a decent enough $7.1M. That figure allowed Pixar's fourteenth release to cross the $200M mark. With another $12.4M over the remainder of the weekend, MU ended up making $19.5M. With $216.1M now in the bank, it is now the tenth most successful movie in Pixar's history and will surpass the $223M made by Wall-E within the next few days. In a change to the normal international release pattern, the studio opted to open the movie in a large number of foreign territories within a short space of time, and has so far seen a return in excess of the $140M.

In its fourth weekend on general release Man of Steel crossed the $270M point but only has a slim shot at $300M, a figure WB would have been hoping the film would easily surpass. That said, another $275M+ internationally should help ease the situation. The DC universe of potential movies looks set to continue with a Man of Steel sequel, before moving on to the fabled (and look gestating) Justice League picture.

World War Z continues to play very well, adding $18.5M this weekend. That figure is down around 39% on last frame and allowed the Brad Pitt zombie epic to cross $150M at the domestic box office. With an even better international tally, WWZ is now a $360M concern, a figure that must have surely looked an impossibility just six weeks ago.

The second Friday for White House Down saw the picture fall a not-bad 50% on the same day last week, but given its weak start, this will be of little comfort for Sony. The costly flick, which stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum appears to have suffered from being released too close to the similarly themed Olympus Has Fallen. This weekend it made $13.5M, to bring its total to $50.4M. A domestic finish of around $75-80M would still leave it more than $70M short of its production budget. White House Down looks likely to be one of the larger failures of 2013.

A surprise entry in the top ten this weekend is the Kevin Hart concert movie, Let Me Explain. Hart had had a hit in 2011 with Laugh at my Pain, which despite never showing in more than 287 theatres, managed to make over $7M and enter the top ten biggest concert movies of all time (Eddie Murphy's Raw is at the top spot, having made $50M back in 1987, which would equate to $103M with inflation factored in). Let Me Explain was shot in 2012 and sees Hart playing to a sell-out Madison Square Garden crowd. With knowledge of his previous success, Summit opted to put this new picture into 876 locations on Wednesday and were rewarded with a $4.7M haul. It added a further $2.7M on Thursday, giving it a $7.4M total as Friday began - the same figure Laugh at my Pain made during it entire run. For the weekend, Let Me Explain made $10.1M, giving it an impressive overall total of $17.4M since release. Word of mouth might well keep it in the top ten next weekend but given the picture cost just $1M to produce, Summit could close the picture today and still make a very tidy profit.

This Is The End faces its last weekend in the top ten. The Seth Rogen/Adam Goldberg directed comedy has now made $85.5M from a production budget of $32M.

Summer sleeper Now You See Me has now been in the top ten for six weeks. Its $2.7M haul this weekend brings its cumulative gross to $110.4M. The film, about a group of magician involved in a bank heist, should end up being a $200M worldwide hit for Summit.

No comments: