In a stunning development, two studios estimated the exact same opening weekend gross for their new big-budget summer films making for a tie for the number one spot at the North American box office. Sony’s 3D kidpic The Smurfs performed well above expectations while Universal’s action entry Cowboys & Aliens failed to meet its projected target. Each studio estimated a $36.2M weekend gross including a $10.1M Sunday figure. Once actual Sunday sales are counted on Monday, the true rankings will be decided.
Chart positions are more about bragging rights though and do not necessarily reflect a film’s financial success. Regardless of the final ranking, The Smurfs proved it was the true winner thanks to a smaller budget, larger per-theater average, better exit polls, and no major profit participants. Sony’s PG-rated family film bowed in 3,395 theaters with a strong $10,663 average and beat out industry forecasts that pegged the opening in the mid-to-high 20s. Based on the popular 1980s cartoon series, the story of the little blue people that find themselves in modern-day New York City was backed by an extensive and highly effective marketing push that truly made it an event film for parents and kids alike.
It follows recent hits from the brand-based live-action/animation genre like last winter’s Yogi Bear which grossed over $100M and the two Alvin and the Chipmunks films that each topped $200M. None of these films impressed film critics, but were embraced by families looking to have some mindless fun together. A third Chipmunks is on tap for this December.
The Smurfs won opening day Friday with $13.4M beating the $13M of Cowboys & Aliens. Saturday told a different story with Cowboys leading with $13.1M (up 1%) while Smurfs slipped 5% to $12.7M. For Sunday, Sony is estimating a 20% drop while Universal is projecting a 22% slide for Cowboys. Production budgets were $110M for Smurfs and a much higher $163M for Cowboys, plus tens of millions more in marketing.
Papa Smurf and company scored an encouraging A- grade from CinemaScore and with no major competitors taking away families over the next two weeks, the film is well-positioned to become Sony’s top-grossing film of 2011 to date. As with most extra-dimensional movies these days, audiences preferred 2D over 3D as 45% of the weekend take ($16.3M) came from the 3D screens. 35% of the crowd was non-family so the brand successfully reached beyond kids and parents to connect with some teens and young adults which certainly helped in generating the large gross.
Also estimated to haul in $36.2M from the wallets of ticket buyers this weekend was Cowboys & Aliens which averaged $9,655 from 3,750 locations. The PG-13 film starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford was directed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau and was expected to debut in the $40-50M range. Hollywood has always found it difficult to mix Westerns with science fiction as audiences do not readily buy into the result. Reviews were more negative than positive which hurt since the film was always expected to skew older. Also the late July slot presented challenges since Cowboys was the eleventh action movie released this summer. Though based on a popular graphic novel, Cowboys & Aliens was not connected to a property known widely enough to make it into a must-see for a sizable audience as Captain America did last weekend.
Cowboys performed much like another period sci-fi film produced by Steven Spielberg this summer, Super 8, which debuted to $35.5M in early June and also played to an older male crowd. The pricey Craig-Ford vehicle drew an audience that was 63% 30 and older and 53% male. A CinemaScore grade of B does not bode too well for the future. With Universal, DreamWorks, Relativity Media, Paramount, and Imagine Entertainment all involved in the worldwide financing and distribution, Cowboys & Aliens had a lot of chefs in the kitchen. A glitzy star-studded premiere last week at Comic-Con was well-received by that crowd, but did little to excite audiences across the 50 states.
Following its stellar debut, Captain America: The First Avenger fell sharply in its second weekend tumbling 62% to an estimated $24.9M bringing the ten-day sum to $116.8M. Fellow summer super hero flicks Thor and X-Men: First Class fared better in their second rounds dropping by 47% and 56%, respectively. Green Lantern tumbled by 66%. With the upfront fan base out of the way and more action titles to come like this Friday’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America could be on course to end its domestic run in the $170M area. The Paramount film had its first major launch overseas this weekend with an estimated $48.5M from 31 territories, 30 of which were new. Totals now stand at $53.5M international and $170.3M global for Marvel’s third entry of the season.
It was a monumental weekend for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 which shattered the $300M domestic and $1 billion worldwide marks. In North America, the final wizard flick fell 54% to an estimated $21.9M boosting the 17-day cume to $318.5M. That makes it the top-grossing Harry Potter film ever surpassing the $317.6M of the first installment from 2001. Higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges led to the new franchise record, but the Hogwarts clan will take it. The domestic trajectory seems to be heading to the vicinity of $370M.
Overseas brought in a hearty $66.4M this weekend, down 48%, lifting the international haul to $690M and the worldwide gross to date to a mammoth $1.008 billion. With the powerful Chinese market to open this Thursday, the epic finale should easily surpass $1.2 billion and could even reach $1.3 billion making it the top-grossing non-James Cameron blockbuster of all time.
A trio of comedies followed all the big action flicks. The divorce comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love debuted in fifth place with respectable numbers grossing an estimated $19.3M from 3,020 theaters for a $6,391 average. Starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Kevin Bacon, the PG-13 film played to a mature audience and skewed female. Reviews were mostly good for the story of a man trying to reinvent himself in the single world after his wife of 25 years leaves him. The opening was about even with the $18.6M debut of last weekend’s relationship comedy Friends With Benefits which boasted younger stars and an R rating. Crazy scored a B+ grade from CinemaScore which was good but not terrific and also opened below Carell’s live-action comedies from last year – Date Night ($25.2M) and Dinner For Schmucks ($23.5M).
The Sony release Friends With Benefits dropped 50% to an estimated $9.3M while the Warner Bros. hit Horrible Bosses was the only holdover in the top ten to lose less than half of its audience slipping only 40% to an estimated $7.1M. Totals stand at a decent $38.2M for the Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis pic and a sturdy $96.2M for the Jason Bateman flick which will hit $100M by Friday, the same day his next comedy The Change-Up opens.
The global juggernaut Transformers: Dark of the Moon followed with an estimated $6M, off 51%, raising Paramount’s domestic haul to $337.9M putting it at number 19 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of Spider-Man 3‘s $336.5M from 2007. Of course, the third webslinger had lower ticket prices and no 3D surcharges. The third Autobots film continued its loud assault around the world with an estimated $42M haul overseas lifting the international tally to a stellar $645M making the global gross soar to $982.9M. The film finally opened in Japan – its last major territory – taking in $9.5M with a very high 82% coming from the 3D screens. But China remains the leader with $22.8M in its second weekend boosting the local cume to an eye-popping $113.7M making it the second biggest U.S. film of all-time there after Avatar. Dark of the Moon will shatter the $1 billion mark in the coming days joining the latest Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter films in the billion-dollar VIP lounge. All three are effects-driven 3D action sequels.
The Kevin James comedy Zookeeper fell 52% to an estimated $4.2M putting Sony’s total at $68.7M. Disney and Pixar rounded out the top ten with Cars 2 which collected an estimated $2.3M, down a steep 59%, giving the toon sequel $182.1M to date. The 3D pic will end Pixar’s streak of nine consecutive $200M+ domestic grossers and will sell the fewest tickets of any of the company’s dozen films.
It was a fragmented frame in the specialty marketplace with a handful of films generating solid debuts, though none stood out as astounding. The offbeat drama The Future from Roadside Attractions bowed to $28,185 from one solo New York house. The Brendan Gleeson-Don Cheadle blackmail comedy The Guard took in an estimated $80,000 from four sites for a $20,100 average for Sony Classics. Both earned strong reviews.
Critics were mixed on the Saddam Hussein pic The Devil’s Double from Lionsgate which bowed in five theaters to an estimated $95,000 averaging $19,000 per location. Sony’s Screen Gems unit released the well-reviewed British sci-fi pic Attack the Block and saw a $130,000 opening from eight playdates for a $16,306 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $167.4M which was up 30% from last year when Inception remained in the top spot for a third time with $27.5M; and up 56% from 2009 when Funny People debuted at number one with $22.7M.
Written by Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!
THE SMURFIEST SMURF SMURFIE EVER SMURFED IN SMURFEATERS
News of a all-CGI Smurfs movie made the news cycle a few years back, but I think it was quickly dismissed as one of those curious announcements that we would never actually see made into a movie (like say, a live-action Transformers movie. Oh wait…). Well, the thing is actually happening, and footage of it from some big Smurfs shindig in Europe has appeared online, in French. The CGI imagery mostly appears at the end of the clip, and the guys at Coming Soon have done some screen captures for your browsing ease. Obviously, this is very early work, but right now, the Smurfs sort of look like VeggieTales characters, but that could just be a symptom of the work not being done yet. Maybe they’ll look like Smurfin’ Beowulf by the time they’re done, heh.
TIM BURTON’S ENTIRE MOVIE CAREER HAS BEEN BUILDING UP TO THIS
Walt Disney Pictures announced a revamping of their release dates for the next few years, and the list included a date (March 19th, 2010) for Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton‘s take on the Lewis Carroll classic, which will combine performance capture (think Beowulf), live action and the wonders of digital 3-D. Linda Woolverton, who wrote Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and cowrote The Lion King is adapting this second Disney adaptation of Alice. In a sense, Tim Burton already made his own sort of Wonderland movie in Nightmare Before Christmas, with its wide variety of holiday-based fantasy characters. The funny thing is that if you try to imagine a “gothic” take on Alice, like what you might think Tim Burton would do, there already exists something like that, which is American McGee’s Alice, a video game from several years ago, which is perhaps slightly dated (graphics wise), but is still visually stunning and sort of awesome. There is not just the game, however, but also Universal Pictures’ plans to adapt McGee’s game into its own gothic-hued Alice movie, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as an all-grown-up Alice who returns to Wonderland to find it even more twisted and disturbing 20 years later. That Alice project has been bubbling through development for nearly a decade now, but I suspect the allure of beating Burton’s movie to the punch might just get it started again soon, with Burton’s movie 23 months from release.
COMIC BOOKS, VIDEO GAMES, ACTION FIGURES… AND NOW BOARD GAMES
Universal Pictures and Hasbro announced a deal this week to adapt at least 4 movies based on Hasbro properties in the next six years, with the goal of the first one coming out in 2010, and there being at least one a year every year after that. Hasbro’s properties are quite vast, and apparently at the top of their target list are Monopoly (already announced as a project for director Ridley Scott!), Battleship, Ouija, Clue (a new movie, not a sequel), Stretch Armstrong (at one time in development as a Jackie Chan movie) and Magic: The Gathering. The possibilities are quite extensive, as you’ll see if you follow the subidiary links on Hasbro’s Wikipedia page. For example, in addition to Magic: The Gathering, Hasbro also owns Dungeons and Dragons, and all of those great campaign settings, like Dragonlance, Planescape and Ravenloft. The Milton Bradley board games also have several concepts that are as good for big budget movies, I suppose, as say a Disney theme park ride or Jumanji (Candyland and Hungry Hungry Hippos, in particular). Of course, we’ll probably just end up getting a Mr. Potato Head movie starring Tim Allen that opens in late August and is forgotten by Labor Day.
AKIRA: AN ANIME MOVIE SO AWESOME IT HAS TO BE REMADE WITH REAL ACTUAL PEOPLE… HUH?
These days, whenever I hear about movie remake projects that were (A) pretty good the first time around and (B) claim to be truer adaptations of the original material than (A), the first thing that pops in my head is Stephen King‘s The Shining TV mini-series from about 10 years ago (it was that long? wow.). Now, admittedly, it was Stephen King’s novel, and I guess he felt like his original vision warranted getting made, but this new thing of his was supposed to compete in some way with Stanley “Freakin” Kubrick’s masterpiece of horror? And so, Leonardo DiCaprio is producing a two-movie live action adaptation of the original six Akira manga books, the first half of which was adapted in the late 1980s as arguably the greatest sci-fi anime movie ever, ever, ever. We know Akira is the greatest because of what they say about imitation and flattery, and 20 years of anime movies and TV shows have flattered it A LOT. It’s unconfirmed whether DiCaprio will actually act in the movies (although there is a well-reported rumor that he would play Kaneda, the sort-of main character, the leader of a motorcycle gang). What is confirmed is that the setting will be “Neo Manhattan” (Americanizing the “Neo Tokyo” of the books and anime movie), and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be playing Tetsuo, the young man with the ca-razy, big-exploding-bubble-at-the-end-of-the-movie, psychic powers who is the other sort-of main character (the titular Akira is important but not a protagonist/antagonist in the traditional sense). The director (Ruairi Robinson) and writer (Gary Whitta) are both new to Hollywood feature films, and Warner Bros hopes to release the first half of the adapation in the summer of 2009, possibly right around the same time Joseph Gordon Levitt will also be seen in theaters as Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe.
2012: THE END OF THE WORLD AS ROLAND EMMERICH KNOWS IT
As 1999 gave way to 2000, and then 2001, etc., it seemed like all the paranormal “experts” out there started adjusting their doomsday scenarios a bit. Now the world wasn’t supposed to end last week, it was just a few more years yet. A favorite target is 2012, which is reportedly the end of the Mayan calendar, and therefore, the target date for all sorts of big bad mojo, hocus pocus, allakhazam, etc. And so, Roland Emmerich, who has built his big budget blockbuster career around various doomsday scenarios (aliens in Independence Day, big lizards in Godzilla, global warming in The Day After Tomorrow, etc), announced this week that his next project would be called 2012 (which Internet people pretty quickly figured out was connected to the Mayan calendar… thing), and it was up for sale to the highest bidder. That studio turned out to be, not soon after, Columbia/Sony, which will release it sometime in the summer of 2009, giving us about two and a half years to prepare for whatever terrible fate Emmerich predicts for us.
Roland Emmerich isn’t the only high profile type director in the apocalypse game, though. M. Night Shyamalan‘s new movie, The Happening, comes out this June 13th, 2008, and the first trailer recently appeared in theaters and online. The slightly hilarious thing, though, is that about a week before *that* trailer, a completely different trailer appeared online, which basically gave away the “twist” of the nature of the big bad apocalyptic thing that’s “happening.” You have to imagine that Shyamalan probably had a mild heart attack when he saw the big reveal given away in the trailer, and hence, the yanking. Anyway, if you want to watch that trailer with a knowledge of what the movie is about, here in spoiler space (click and scroll) it is: Some sort of a new biological life form is spreading, causing people to be obsessively compelled to commit suicide, sort of a “Lemming Effect”. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel‘s huge, gorgeous eyes star.
WOLVERINE AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS
X-Men Origins: Wolverine lit up the movie news sites nearly every day this week, as a large ensemble cast was trickled out in dribbles and spurts. What we’re left with a week later is a cast that looks more and more like the movie should be called Weapon X or even X-Men 4, as it includes nearly every character ever connected in the X-Comics in any way to Weapon Plus or the Weapon X program, and a few that weren’t. Where to start? Well, first off, there is Danny Huston, who will be playing the younger version of Stryker (Brian Cox) from the second movie (keep in mind that in the comics, Stryker wasn’t even involved with Weapon X). And then, there are the many, many Weapon X characters: Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber, replacing Tyler Mane with someone who is more “actor” than “wrestler/stuntman”), Silver Sable (Lynn Collins), John “Kestrel” Wraith (Will I. Am of the Black Eyed Peas) and Agent Zero (AKA Maverick) (Daniel Henney). Not part of Weapon X (traditionally) but also included in the cast are Gambit (Taylor Kitsch from TV’s Friday Night Lights) and “Barnell” (Dominic Monaghan, who played Charlie on Lost, and also played a recurring midget in a few movies back in the early 2000s. I KEED.).
The confusing thing about Monaghan’s character of “Barnell” is that the trades are saying that he has electricity powers, but the only Barnell in the Marvel universe is a mutant named Beak, who is a sad sack with the physical features of a bird (beak, chicken feet, feathers all over, the whole thing), without the expected ability to actually, you know, FLY. Beak is miserable and very sympathetic in a “zero to hero” way that Monaghan would be perfect for (let me admit right up front that Beak is one of my favorite new X-characters introduced in the last 10 years). So, why they’re saying he’s got a completely different M.O. is mildly bizarre. If they’re going to fake us out, you have to wonder why they would bother using the “Barnell” name. And, oh, yeah, there are also rumors that an extra has been seen sporting a huge fat suit as The Blob.
With all these potential enemies (or team mates of a sort) being announced, Wolverine’s biggest threat was also announced this week, in the form of the daughter of that “Achey Breaky Heart” guy, and the unstoppable juggernaut that is The Hannah Montana Movie. If her B.O. beats Wolverine’s B.O. on the 5/1/09 weekend, it will be a sort of generational milestone, I suspect. I would give Hannah Montana her own story, but ummm… I don’t really have much to say. I’ve seen commercials for the TV show, and it appears to be about a teenage girl who is secretly a Britney Spears type pop star. And it’s very popular with girls who were born after I received my Masters Degree. Oh hey, look, I actually did write a paragraph about Hannah Montana. So… NEXT!
WOULD YOU RATHER BE REMEMBERED AS EBENEZER SCROOGE, OR FRASIER CRANE?
Comedy director David Zucker (whose filmography started with Airplane! and most recently includes Scary Movie 3 & Scary Movie 4) has set his particular style of movie satire on tackling the Christmas genre, apparently, with plans of doing a modernized, Americanized adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, called An American Carol. Kelsey Grammer starred in a TV version a few years back as Ebenezer Scrooge, and so he’s been picked by Zucker to star in this version as well. I’m sort of reminded of how many times Patrick Stewart has played Scrooge (in a 1999 TV movie, and in several stage versions), and to this movie’s detriment (before it’s even made), of how great Stewart was as Scrooge. I’m pretty sure Patrick Stewart probably would not have signed on for Zucker’s movie, so… yay for Frasier.
WOULD YOU PREFER STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT… AGAIN!?
With the “chapter closing” movies for both Rocky and Rambo actually performing fairly well at movie theaters (as opposed to being double-packed as direct-to-video DVDs, heh), Sylvester Stallone appears to be setting his sights on repeating the magic with other movies he starred in 20 years ago. Next up? I don’t remember the character’s name, and I’m not inspired enough to look it up, but whoever he played in Cliffhanger? That guy. The sequel will be called The Dam, and I’m guessing it involves a dam.
WHY FIGHT THE STREETS? WHAT HAVE THEY EVER DONE TO YOU?
With lots of other fighting games (Tekken, Mortal Kombat, etc) getting live action movies going, a new Street Fighter movie is also on the way, with Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang on Smallville) being cast as the main character as Chun Li, and Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), Chris Klein (American Pie) and Rick Yune (Die Another Day), also costarring. After a game gets already adapted as a movie that includes those four sacred words (Jean. Claude. Van. Damme.), can a second movie, even with a completely different cast and look for a new generation, ever hope to be as… well, whatever that movie was? Andrzej Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die) is directing.
SHAKING OUT THE REST OF KETCHUP IN THIS WEEK’S BOTTLE
And that, as they say, was the week that was.
Greg Dean Schmitz
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