(Photo by Diyah Pera/©Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
Zac Efron was the prince of the late-2000s musical with the Certified Fresh Hairspray and, of course, the High School Musical franchise, which by its third and final entry had graduated from the TV space and into a full-fledged theatrical experience. Senior Year and Hairspray were big money makers, and so was Efron’s first post-High School movie, 17 Again. Critics were just on the edge of giving it a Fresh rating, but the transformation comedy certainly appealed to his fan base, and set Efron up for a future as lead man in films.
After getting the requisite Nicholas Sparks adaptation out of the way (The Lucky One), Efron spent several years building up a dramatic resume, though only Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles connected with critics. After the surprise box office success of the Certified Fresh Neighbors, Efron found a new career tack in raunch comedies, letting loose in the likes of Dirty Grandpa, Baywatch, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and The Beach Bum.
Efron starred in 2019’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, a Ted Bundy biopic that coincided with the 30th anniversary of his execution. And Efron returned in 2020 on a much lighter note, voicing the ascot-less Fred in Scoob!, the latest in the venerable Scooby-Doo franchise. Jinkies! Now it’s time to look back on all Zac Efron movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
This weekend, Hollywood studios suffered failures of every kind with their new releases. The pricey actioner John Carter debuted in second place putting it far from where it needed to be to recover its enormous costs, the horror entry Silent House scored the lowest audience grade of the year, and Eddie Murphy’s latest comedy A Thousand Words earned the worst reviews of 2012 from film critics. Instead, moviegoers once again made the animated comedy The Lorax the most popular film in North America and the overall box office continued to beat out last year’s levels, although by a narrow margin.
Easily leading all movies in the marketplace, Universal held onto the number one spot with the Dr. Seuss toon The Lorax which slipped an acceptable 44% to an estimated $39.1M. The PG-rated hit averaged a sensational $10,430 in its second weekend from 3,746 theaters and continues to play to families and beyond. 3D and IMAX ticket prices have helped along the way and on Sunday, Lorax became the highest-grossing film of 2012 after just ten days of release with a cume of $122M. Breaking the $200M barrier should be no problem for the $70M production.
Landing in second place in its opening weekend was the mega-budgeted 3D sci-fi epic John Carter with an estimated $30.6M from 3,749 theaters for a $8,163 average. The gross itself was not all that bad for a sci-fi actioner releasing at this time of year. But it was far from what was needed to make a project with such a mammoth cost become a financial winner. Conservative estimates put the production cost alone at $250M while some industry insiders put it higher. Add in a lavish global marketing and distribution push and the total cost to make and release this PG-13 adventure came to nearly $400M. That eye-popping level is often reached by Hollywood tentpoles but with known brands like Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and Harry Potter which result in billion-dollar global grossers. Last summer saw all three of those franchises come out with their first-ever 3D installments and each reached ten digits at the worldwide box office.
Disney’s risky investment featured Pixar guru Andrew Stanton directing his first live-action film after his wildly successful toons Finding Nemo and WALL-E. The source material was a century-old novel which is cherished only in the hardcore sci-fi world and virtually unknown elsewhere. Reviews were mixed at best and the trailers and TV spots failed to generate much excitement with a broader action audience. Females had incredibly low interest and there was no starpower to pull in mainstream crowds. Overall, John Carter from the start had little in its arsenal to become a giant hit making the insanely large budget hard to justify.
Of course, international markets drive global box office and 3D action films are tops among those that work well overseas so the studio is counting on moviegoers around the world to show up. Carter‘s international debut was indeed impressive with an estimated $70.6M this weekend from 51 markets. All major territories bowed day and date except for China and Japan which are sure to contribute solid numbers in the months ahead.
In North America, John Carter played mostly to adult men. Studio research showed that 63% was male and 59% was over 25. IMAX 3D represented 16% of the gross ($4.9M) and overall, 64% ($19.6M) came from 3D screens which was an encouraging ratio by today’s standards. The CinemaScore grade was a decent B+. Friday kicked off slowly with $9.8M while Saturday enjoyed a healthy 25% boost. Sunday is estimated to drop by only 31% to $8.5M.
Other effects-driven action films released in the spring have opened in the $30M range like 10,000 BC ($35.9M), Constantine ($29.8M), The Scorpion King ($36.1M), and Jumper ($27.4M). However, none carried the towering budget of John Carter and none had 3D surcharges. Disney even released its red planet pic Mission to Mars this very weekend in 2000 to the tune of $22.9M which at today’s 2D ticket prices would put it ahead of Carter. Last year this weekend, the studio had a costly bomb with Mars Needs Moms which bowed to a pitiful $6.9M weekend and $2,218 average. Chances are the company will stay away from opening Mars movies in March for the time being.
Those young men that didn’t show up for the Mars flick were busy partying it up with the raunchy comedy Project X which held up surprisingly well in its second weekend with an estimated $11.6M representing a 45% decline. With a Friday-to-Saturday drop on opening weekend and lackluster exit polls, the Warner Bros. title was expected to fall harder the way these types of films do. Instead, the target audience was uninterested in the three new offerings and showed up for this one which has now banked $40.1M in just ten days. Project X cost only $12M to produce and should finish with a promising $65M or so, joining Chronicle and The Devil Inside as low-cost found-footage pics that scored big bucks this year from young adult audiences.
Audiences hated the ending and gave a dismal F CinemaScore grade to the new horror pic Silent House which debuted in a tie for fourth place with an estimated $7M. The Open Road release averaged a weak $3,300 from 2,124 locations and saw no growth in sales on Saturday from opening day. The R-rated chiller starring Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman terrorized in her family cabin earned mixed reviews but featured a twist ending that ticket buyers were not at all entertained by. CinemaScore grades are often affected by the mood that polled moviegoers are in immediately after walking out of a theater so many vote on how satisfied they were with the final parts of the film. Devil Inside from January also met with an F before collapsing 76% in the second weekend.
Also collecting an estimated $7M this weekend was former number one Act of Valor which fell by 48% which was the largest decline in the top ten. Relativity has taken in a stellar $56.1M for the low-budget action film.
Eddie Murphy’s latest career embarrassment came in the form of his new comedy A Thousand Words which tanked in its debut grossing only $6.4M, according to estimates. The Paramount release about a fast-talking agent that must refrain from speaking or else he will die (yes, that’s the plot) failed to excite moviegoers and averaged a weak $3,360 from 1,890 theaters. The PG-13 film was eviscerated by critics and had the rare distinction of earning a Rotten Tomatoes score of 0%. Postponed for years, the DreamWorks production cost $40M to produce.
If there was any good news for Murphy it was that Words beat the openings of his recent box office disasters Meet Dave and Imagine That — both PG-rated summer pics — which bowed to $5.2M and $5.5M, respectively. This would be the only thing that could count as good news. The audience breakdown was 55% female and 61% 25 and older while the CinemaScore was a B-.
Universal’s action hit Safe House followed with an estimated $5M, off 33%, for a $115.8M cume with solid legs going into its fifth frame. The Sony smash The Vow also held up well dropping only 34% to an estimated $4M raising the total to $117.6M. Channing Tatum aims for his second number one hit in as many months with Friday’s release of 21 Jump Street.
Reese Witherspoon’s action-romance This Means War is another film that audiences continue to flock to. The Fox title wasn’t super strong out of the gate but has been posting good holds each week. This weekend saw a 33% dip to an estimated $3.8M lifting the sum to $46.9M. Yet another action title followed as Journey 2: The Mysterious Island collected an estimated $3.7M, off 44%, giving the Warner Bros. sequel $90.7M to date.
A pair of indie films enjoyed solid results in their limited debuts. The relationship comedy Friends With Kids opened in 374 theaters and landed in the number 13 spot nationwide with an estimated $2.2M and a good $5,799 average which was third best in the entire Top 20. Starring Maya Rudolph, Kristin Wiig, and Jon Hamm, the R-rated film from Roadside Attractions earned mostly positive reviews.
The Ewan McGregor-Emily Blunt pic Salmon Fishing in the Yemen opened in just 18 locations but took in an estimated $240,000 for a solid $13,333 average. Reviews were generally good for the CBS Films release which played to older women as exit polls showed that the audience was 61% female and 71% over 50. Yemen widens in existing markets Friday and then expands to new markets on the following weekend.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $118M which was up 5% from last year when Battle: Los Angeles opened in the top spot with $35.6M; but down 9% from 2010 when Alice in Wonderland remained at number one with $62.7M.
Universal had cash registers ringing from coast to coast as its 3D animated smash The Lorax blasted past expectations to score the biggest opening of the year by far. The low-budget party film Project X, 2012’s umpteenth overperformer, opened in second place with an impressive haul of its own. The one-two punch sent the North American box office soaring 26% ahead of the same weekend from last year continuing a boom year which has seen long lines at multiplexes.
Surging to an incredible $70.7M this weekend, according to estimates, The Lorax dominated the marketplace with the year’s top opening. It was also the biggest bow for a Dr. Seuss film beating the $55.1M of 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and overall, the second largest non-sequel animated debut ever trailing just the $74M of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie. That puts Lorax ahead of such recent 3D toons from power players Pixar and DreamWorks as Cars 2 ($66.1M), Kung Fu Panda 2 ($47.7M), Up ($68.1M), and Monsters vs. Aliens ($59.3M) as well as Fox’s Rio ($39.2M) and Universal’s own Despicable Me ($56.4M). It was also the third largest opening in the month of March after Johnny Depp’s colossal 3D hit Alice in Wonderland ($116.1M) which debuted this weekend two years ago during the post-Avatar boom and the 2007 smash 300 ($70.9M).
Lorax indeed played like a sequel bringing in parents familiar with the children’s book and kids interested in a fun and colorful ride. The studio partnered with dozens of corporate brands that provided extra marketing muscle hitting the target audience from every possible direction thereby boosting awareness and excitement by Friday, which was also the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The opening day saw a solid $17.4M in ticket sales but Saturday witnessed a spending surge climbing 80% to an incredible $31.3M. Most films this time of year never come close to that for the entire weekend. Sunday is estimated to drop 30% to $22M. Produced for $70M, Lorax averaged a sensational $18,965 from 3,729 theaters.
The road ahead looks bright for the Danny DeVito-voiced pic which should find its way across the $200M domestic barrier plus solid overseas sales. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the toon a glowing A grade plus there are no major new releases aimed at younger kids until the Snow White film Mirror Mirror at the very end of this new month. The Easter holiday in early April could also provide a boost if the film is still holding on then. Positive word-of-mouth from families should more than offset mixed reviews from critics. It’s been a strong first quarter so far for Universal which already scored number one action hits with Contraband and Safe House.
Another of this year’s low-budget, no-star vehicles had audiences opening their wallets as the party comedy Project X debuted with strength in second place with an estimated $20.8M from 3,055 locations for a solid $6,800 average. The R-rated film about three high schoolers that throw a wildly out of control party played mostly to older teens and young adults and an effective marketing campaign excited the target audience. The MPAA’s rating description was essentially an invitation to high school and college students everywhere as the raunchfest was cited for “crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens.”
Project X cost a mere $12M to produce and Warner Bros. used Hangover producer Todd Philips’ name in the marketing push to ensure that young adults knew they were in for some debauchery, only this time with characters too young to be concerned with getting married. Studio research showed that 67% of the crowd was under 25 while 58% were male. The CinemaScore grade was only a B, reviews were mostly negative, and Saturday sales dipped 6% from opening day so good legs are not expected. However, the modestly priced film will be a moneymaker and has continued the recent trend that has seen young adults come back to the multiplexes for their weekend entertainment.
Falling from its number one ranking last weekend but still holding up moderately well was the military training-video-turned-movie Act of Valor which declined by 44% to an estimated $13.7M. The Relativity release has banked an impressive $45.2M in just ten days and could be headed for a domestic finish of about $75M. Valor cost just $12M to produce and joins other low-cost 2012 hits like Project X, Chronicle, and The Devil Inside. Combined, the four films cost $27M to produce and will end up grossing north of $240M from North America alone. Of course, marketing costs were extra.
Denzel Washington’s CIA thriller Safe House followed with an estimated $7.2M, down only 34%, for a solid $108.2M cume for Universal. The film now ranks as the Oscar winning actor’s third biggest grosser after the $130.2M for his bad guy role in American Gangster and the $115.7M for his good guy role in Remember the Titans. Tyler Perry’s latest pic Good Deeds tumbled 55% to an estimated $7M for a ten-day tally of $25.7M. Look for Lionsgate to end its run with about $38M ranking among his lowest performers.
With lots of kids fleeing to see The Lorax, the adventure hit Journey 2: The Mysterious Island fell harder than before dropping 48% to an estimated $6.9M in its fourth round. Warner Bros. has taken in $85.6M to date and should be able to break $100M domestically. Sony’s romance blockbuster The Vow held up well dropping 39% to an estimated $6.1M boosting the total to $111.7M. The Channing Tatum-Rachel McAdams hit is the top-grossing film of 2012, for now.
Fox’s action-romance This Means War held up well again with an estimated $5.6M, off only 33% giving the Reese Witherspoon vehicle $41.5M to date. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance fell 48% to an estimated $4.7M for $44.9M after 17 days. The Sony sequel is running 53% behind the pace of its 2007 predecessor though admissions are lagging even more since Spirit‘s take includes higher ticket prices and 3D surcharges.
The Weinstein Co. nearly doubled the screen count of its Oscar champ The Artist which found itself in the top ten for the first time in its 15th week of play. But that didn’t mean the silent film connected with a more mainstream crowd. The Best Picture winner added 790 runs and grossed an estimated $3.9M from 1,756 locations for a dull $2,221 average. The estimate included a very optimistic 25% Saturday-to-Sunday decline so final numbers to be reported on Monday may come in lower. Despite the 82% increase in screens, the weekend gross rose just 34% putting the total at $37.1M. Though a low-budget production, The Artist was backed by an extensive and expensive marketing campaign over the past few months that simultaneously targeted consumers as well as industry voters. Adding hundreds of new prints and backing them with national advertising doesn’t come cheap either. A final domestic gross in the $45-50M range may result.
Other Oscar winners tried to parlay statues into extra box office receipts. Original Screenplay champ The Descendants dropped 36% to an estimated $1.4M pushing the total to a hearty $80.5M for Fox Searchlight. It is now 2011’s top-grossing Best Picture nominee released during the most competitive fourth quarter. Hugo, the most expensive of the top contenders and a winner of 5 Oscars, dipped only 14% to an estimated $1.3M for a $71.4M cume to date. Both films lost screens this weekend.
Also shedding a few playdates, but enjoying a healthy 30% surge from last weekend, was Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady with an estimated $900,000. The double winner for Best Actress and Makeup generated more interest from adult audiences and added a bit to The Weinstein Company’s total which is now $27.1M.
The Academy Award winners in the foreign language and documentary categories both expanded to capitalize on the added publicity. Iran’s A Separation added 160 screens and saw its weekend take jump 174% to an estimated $1M for a $3.7M sum and $4,123 average for Sony Classics. The football doc Undefeated expanded from five to 13 theaters and collected an estimated $84,000 giving The Weinstein Co. a $6,485 average and cume of $166,000 early in its run.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $146.7M which was up 28% from last year when Rango opened in the top spot with $38.1M; but down 20% from 2010 when Alice in Wonderland debuted at number one with $116.1M.