Sunday 18 August 2013

U.S Box Office Report - 16th - 18th August 2013

1. The Butler - $25M -$25M
2. We're The Millers - $17.7M - $69.5M
3. Elysium - $13.6M - $55.9M
4. Kick Ass 2 - $13.5M - $13.5M
5. Planes - $13.1M - $45M
6. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - $8.3M - $38.9M
7. Jobs - $6.7M - $6.7M
8. 2 Guns - $5.5M - $59.2M
9. The Smurfs 2 - $4.6M - $56.9M
10. The Wolverine - $4.4M - $120.4M
(13. Paranoia - $3.5M - $3.5M)

We're almost in the August dumping ground period, when studios put out films that they just want off their hands or know they have little prospect of making money on. It's arguable that at least one of this weekend's releases would fall into that category. Another busy frame sees four new major films set to take on Elysium and We're The Millers. Wednesday brings the release of teen fantasy The Mortal Instruments, which is hoping to become the next Twilight style franchise. Further ahead to next weekend and we have the long-delayed release of horror flick You're Next, along with the final Pegg/Frost/Wright collaboration, The World's End.

The Butler (or rather Lee Daniel's The Butler) is a historical ensemble picture, based on the life of White House Butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents in his 34 year tenure. The film sees its origins in a Washington Post article entitled "A Butler Well Served By This Election", with development starting in the first quarter of 2011 to turn the story into a workable screenplay. Raising the money to finance The Butler is a story in of itself. Producer Laura Ziskin was involved almost from the start and helped secure the initial funds, $2.7M of which came from Washington Mystic's manager, Sheila Johnson. In turn, Johnson approached a number of African-Americans seeking to invest, but problems arose when ZIskin succumbed to cancer in June 2011. Director Lee Daniels and producer Hilary Shor then approached Cassian Elwes, with whom they had made The Paperboy. The influential indenpendent producer quickly set about raising the remaining money, with the final investor tally running to over forty (the film's production budget came in at around $25-30M). Allowing for some artistic license one assumes, the lead character was renamed Cecil Gaines, and would be portrayed by Forest Whittaker. Oprah Winfrey would sign on board to play his wife, Gloria while David Oyelowo would portray their eldest son. The remainder of the roles, which included numerous presidents and first ladies, would take in Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jnr and John Cusack, to name but a few. The story would follow Gaines' humble beginnings as the White House pantry boy, through to him becoming essentially the head of service staff - witnessing some of the defining moments of the last 40+ years in the process.

Finance issues aside, the film also had to endure a lawsuit bought about by Warner Bros, who owned the rights to a 1916 movie entitled The Butler. Eventually the MPAA agreed to allow The Weinstein Company to keep its title, providing it added the moniker "Lee Daniels'" (It was also stipulated that the text on the director's name must be 75% of the size of the main title). As expected with a TWC dramatic release, the initial trailer was cut almost as if it was a submission for the Academy Awards. Reviews have been above average, with The Butler receiving a 72% fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. While initially it was assumed Kick Ass 2 would win the weekend, by the time Friday numbers were issued, a different picture was unfolding. Back in August 2011, The Help had caught many off guard by opening very well and going on to become one of the biggest releases of the year (it even moved up into the top spot during its second weekend and stayed there for a further fortnight). So when The Butler debuted in the top spot on Friday with a good $8.3M, direct comparisons to the aforementioned film were already being drawn. Word of mouth was very strong, and that helped The Butler build on that impressive first day, making $9.2M on Saturday and another $7.3M on Sunday. All up, that meant its opening tally came in at an impressive $25M (In comparison The Help's first weekend clocked in at $26M). What it means is the film has all but recouped its production budget from this first weekend, and looks to be just getting started. It is also the type of film that should play well during the week, which could easily allow it to add another $20M to its total.

We're The Millers is quietly turning into something of a late summer sleeper. Having opened two days before Elysium, it scored an impressive $37.9M five day total - recouping its production budget in the process. It then achieved something of a rarity by moving up into the top spot during the week, thanks in part to its solid word of mouth. On the eve of its second frame the Jason Sudekis/Jennifer Aniston picture was sitting on a $51.7M total. A drop of only 35% saw it make $5.4M on Friday, slipping down to third place despite the fresh competition. Over Saturday and into Sunday it added a further $12.3M, to give it a weekend total of $17.7M (an overall drop of 33%, the lowest in the top ten). That puts We're The Millers on a strong $69.1M after only twelve days on general release. $100M is certainly in play now and a lack of upcoming direct competition could easily keep it in the top ten for a good few weeks yet. We're The Millers will be a very profitable venture for Warner Bros, if it isn't already.

Last weekend's number one movie, the science fiction thriller, Elysium didn't fare too well during the week. Having opened to a slightly disappointing $30M over its first three days, the picture was pushed out of the top spot by We're The Millers on Monday and found itself unable retake the position. By Thursday night it was sitting on a $42M total and was set to face almost direct competition from Kick Ass 2. On its second Friday the Matt Damon picture made $3.9M, that's a sharp drop of 65% on its opening day total (in comparison District 9 dipped 51% and also had a much stronger first week). Things improved slightly over the remainder of the weekend, the picture winding up Sunday night with a $13.6M 3-day total (an overall fall of 55% on its last frame). That gives it a $55.9M total and almost certainly dooms Elysium to a sub-$80M finish in North America. Having cost between $90-120M to produce, Sony will now need to look abroad if it hopes to see a major return on its investment. (Its current overseas total stands at $37M).

The original Kick Ass was released in 2010 and quickly became a firm fan favourite. Having scored some excellent word of mouth from Comic Con, the adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novel didn't become the smash hit some had predicted, but did wind up making $48M domestically, off a budget of $30M. Millar continued to talk up a sequel, but little progress was made and the sequel's official announcement in May 2012 came as something of a surprise. Director Matthew Vaughn opted not to return as director, though as producer was instrumental in choosing Jeff Wadlow to script and helm Kick Ass 2. All principle cast from the original picture would return, including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was set to play the world's first super villain. Donald Faison would join the picture in August, while Jim Carrey was announced as Colonel Stars and Stripes a month later, as shooting got underway. The plot this time around would see Plasse's Chris D'Amico (aka Red Mist in the first film, retitled The MotherFu**er in the sequel) hell bent on taking revenge on both Kick Ass and Hit Girl for the death of his father. Filming went smoothly enough, with Wadlow updating progress (and uploading set/character photos) via his twitter account. With post production well underway, and the first trailer released to the public, Jim Carrey came out and stated he could no longer support the film and its level of violence. While some were quick to put his comments down to a publicity stunt, Carrey has remained steadfast and hasn't featured as part of Kick Ass 2's promotional tour. Millar felt that the actor had actually done the film a huge favour by distancing himself because of the level of violence.

Kick Ass 2 was set for a mid-August release and would be against the second weekend of Elysium along with the new thriller Paranoia. Reviews haven't been kind to the film, but it was still expected to win the weekend. Given that this sequel actually cost less than the original, it would only need a decent start to set it on the right track. The original Kick Ass made $19.8M during its first weekend, which was deemed at the time as being both a success and a disappointment. Along with Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, this was another example of Comic-Con success not translating to mainstream box office, even though $18.5M was a solid enough figure given the nature of the movie. From its Friday haul of $5.8M (barely stronger than the week-old We're The Millers), it looked highly unlikely that Kick Ass 2 would replicate the first film's opening. Indeed, the sequel would add only $7.7M more over the remainder of the frame to brings its weekend total to a soft $13.5M. Its fourth place finish behind two older movies is also telling of its appeal. Once again, this could be viewed from both perspectives - disappointing in that it couldn't top the original (which it was never really going to do) and decent enough for a somewhat unwanted sequel to a cult hit. With that low budget attached, Kick Ass 2 won't lose any money and could turn a tidy profit, but chances are unless a second follow up can be produced even cheaper, we may have seen the end of Kick Ass and Hit-Girl.

After a lacklustre $22M opening total, Planes failed to make much headway during the week - not helped by many children returning to school. With Despicable Me 2 now out of the top ten, the Disney release did manage a little progress during its second frame. A $3.6M Friday take set the picture up for a $13.1M weekend total (Matinee performances helping no doubt). All up Planes has now made $45M. Given its $50M production budget, it won't lose money (especially with merchandising factored in) but is likely to be forgotten as quickly as it appeared, at least until the sequel is released next summer.

Fairing even worse than Planes during its first few days on release was Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The $90M sequel clawed its way to a poor $23.2M five day total - less than its predecessor made during its first three day on general release. This weekend it could add only $8.3M, bringing its cumulative gross to $38.9M. At present rate, Sea of Monsters will close with little more than half the figure made by The Lightning Thief during its theatrical run. A costly (and some would say unwanted) sequel that Fox hope will still play well overseas.

Our second biopic of the week is the Ashton Kutchner starrer, Jobs, based on the life of the fabled Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. Matt Whiteley, a screenwriter, began gathering material on Jobs' life around the time he (Jobs) took leave from Apple to battle cancer. Opting to focus on the company's origins and run up until the introduction of the first Ipod, Whiteley, along with producer Mark Hulme and a team of researchers scoured through hours of footage, and interviews Jobs had given, in an attempt to get as accurate a picture of the man possible. With Aaron Sorkin said to have been at work on a rival project, the race was on to be the first to the screen (In truth, Sorkin's version still appears some way off, with no formal casting or production start date announced). Also joining the film would be Josh Gad, who would play fellow Apple founder Steve Wozniak. Shooting begin in June 2012, and while Kutchner seemed an odd fit for the role of Jobs (the actor primarily known for this comedic turns) initial shots released from the set at least proved he could look the part. Things were certainly kept low key on the $12-15M film, with the first trailer not appearing until Mid-May. Opening on a busy weekend, Jobs needed to some solid reviews if it were to break out and make an impact. Sadly, while critics have been quick to praise the central roles, many dismissed the film's somewhat lightweight approach to the character's life. Jobs opened on Friday to $2.6M, slotting into sixth place. For a movie such as this, it's hard to know what the studio would have been expecting, but one imagines given Steve Jobs' public profile, its start would have been a little higher. The biopic added only $4.1M more over Saturday and Sunday, finishing up with a $6.7M total. Obviously its low budget means it won't lose money but the poor word of mouth will also result in it fading fast. Jobs should manage another weekend in the top ten but little more.

Like Elysium, 2 Guns took something of a hit from the release of Kick Ass 2 this weekend. The Wahlberg/Washington action comedy was made for $61M and with its third frame total of $5.5M comes within grasping distance of that figure. As mentioned previously, 2 Guns is likely to recoup its budget but see little more domestically.

The Smurfs 2 managed to cross $50M on day fifteen of its release (the first film was at $91.8M at that stage) and could only manage $4.6M this weekend - its last in the top ten. A $65M finish in North American will be more than compensated by the picture's $110M (and rising) total overseas.

Rounding out the top ten this weekend is The Wolverine, which has now recouped its $120M production budget. Overseas it is approaching $215M, bringing its global total to $335M

Way outside the top ten is our final release this weekend. The barely hyped Paranoia, stars Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth. Based on the 2004 book of the same name, the movie sees Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth) agree to go undercover at a rival technology company when a prank lands him in hot water. In desperate need to keep his job, Cassidy agrees to the demands of his boss, Nick Wyatt (Oldman) and starts work at a company run by Jock Goddard (Ford). But things quickly become complicated - and dangerous. Directed by Robert Lucketic (who also worked on 21 and Legally Blonde) Paranoia shot in the summer of 2012, with Amber Heard, Richard Dreyfuss and Josh Holloway rounding out the cast. Despite the inclusion of a number of major actors, the picture was barely publicised and received just one trailer back in June of this year. It was held back from screenings until the last minute, but when critics did get chance to weigh in, they savaged the picture, and it wound up scoring just a 2% approval rating. With a Friday take of only $1.3M, Paranoia was dead on arrival, barely making tenth place. It finished up with a terrible 3-day total of $3.5M and has already been forgotten. With the talent involved and a relatively low budget of $35M, one has to wonder how it all went wrong.

A look back on some of the older films of summer. Man of Steel is still $10M shy of $300M and its vastly reduced location count means it is now out of the question. Overseas the picture has made $359.5M to bring its global total to $648M. The Brad Pitt zombie epic, World War Z, which was plagued by production issues, has now made over half a billion dollars, $305M of which came from abroad. Star Trek Into Darkness cleared $452M globally, against its $190M production budget, while Fast & Furious Six has now made an astounding $782M and continues to play well in China (as does Pacific Rim, whose global tally now stands at $345M).

Of the summer's animated releases, Monster University has made $637M (and is now the fifth most successful Pixar movie domestically and may yet surpass The Incredibles). Despicable Me 2 is approaching $350M, with a further $410M internationally, while late summer release Turbo has just about crossed the $75M mark.

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