Dominating the box office for a third weekend in a row and turning all competitors into casualties of war, The Avengers held on firmly to the number one spot breaking more records in the process. Audiences were not very excited about the new releases as the big-budget action tentpole Battleship suffered a poor opening in second place, the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Dictator failed to match the raunchy funnyman’s past performances, and the all-star pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting debuted in fifth with weak results. It was the first time in fourteen years that the normally-busy weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame failed to deliver any $35M+ openings causing the top ten to fall below both last year’s and 2010’s levels.
The shawarma-loving super heroes continued to rule the box office as The Avengers grossed an estimated $55.1M in its third weekend on top, dropping a reasonable 47%. Disney’s Marvel juggernaut has now amassed an eye-popping $457.1M in 17 days and broke two more speed records breaking $400M in 14 days and $450M after 17. The Dark Knight held both of those milestones before with 18 and 27 days, respectively. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team zoomed up to number six on the list of all-time-domestic blockbusters sitting right behind the $461M lifetime of Star Wars with a final North American take of near $600M likely.
Moviegoers have been loving Avengers and really have not been moved by all the other offerings that Hollywood has programmed into May. Studios knew that it would be a heavy hitter so they avoided slotting in any high-profile sequels into the first three weeks of its run for fear of being crushed. But the Iron Man-led film opened much stronger than expected and has been holding up very well utterly dominating the movie conversation and reaching beyond the core fan base of comic book geeks.
Avengers enjoyed the second largest third weekend gross in history trailing only the $68.5M of Avatar which had help from the New Year’s holiday that frame. Both films enjoyed a boost from 3D surcharges although more of those screens are installed now. 2002’s Spider-Man grossed $45M ten years ago this weekend while in its third session but actually sold about 30% more tickets than Avengers. 2008’s The Dark Knight grossed $42.7M which was about even with Avengers in terms of tickets sold on the third weekend. The Batpic enjoyed a slightly better hold with its 43% decline.
With Avengers grossing so much, industry eyes will shift to the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises which opens July 20. Being a 2D film, it’s not expected to break the $207.4M record opening of Avengers. However, with stronger midweek grosses when students are out of school in July, its final tally could challenge the Marvel team’s especially if it can hold up like its predecessor. While the gross is unprecedented, the Avengers audience size is not record-setting. Four years ago, Dark Knight pulled in $393.8M in its first 17 days which would equate to roughly $440M at today’s 2D prices. Factor in 3D surcharges and the rough admissions totals would be 55 million for Dark Knight and 50 million for Avengers. Of course, Rises will not have the Heath Ledger factor but the good will created by the last Knight will certainly pay dividends this July.
Overseas, The Avengers banked another $56M in its fourth round for a $111.1M global weekend. The international cume has rocketed to $723.3M bringing the worldwide tally to a staggering $1.18 billion putting it at number four on the all-time global list right behind Avatar, Titanic, and the final Harry Potter. In another week or so, Nick Fury and pals will beat the Hogwarts clan and settle into what should be its final resting place with a bronze box office medal. Leading markets continue to be the U.K. ($72.3M), China ($69.3M), Mexico ($56.2M), and Brazil ($51.9M). Avengers has become the top-grossing movie of all-time for Disney which expects more cash to come from future films from Marvel which it owns.
Universal suffered a pricey misfire with the big-budget action film Battleship which just didn’t connect with moviegoers. Costing at least $209M to produce with no other studios sharing the financial risk, the PG-13 naval adventure opened to only $25.4M, according to estimates, with an average of only $6,870 from 3,690 theaters. It would barely be a respectable performance for a film costing half as much. Audiences in the mood for a large-scale effects-driven action picture had Avengers to see – even if it was for a second time – and Battleship just did not stand out as a must-see film.
Critics and audiences were not too thrilled with what Battleship delivered. Reviews were mixed but more on the downbeat side while patrons polled by CinemaScore gave the film a mediocre B grade. As expected, the alien attack film loosely based on the alien-less board game skewed towards men as studio research showed that 57% of the crowd was male while 55% was 30 or older. An aggressive marketing campaign including Super Bowl spots failed to excite audiences who felt that the pic basically looked like Transformers at sea without Michael Bay at the helm. The cast included Liam Neeson, pop singer Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Taylor Kitsch who after John Carter now enjoys the distinction of starring in the year’s two biggest flops. The more expensive Carter opened to $30.2M including 3D surcharges and has stalled at $283M worldwide for Disney.
Battleship set sail over a month ago in international waters where it found more success. Entering most markets at least two weeks before Avengers it was able to scoop up a decent amount of cash before getting pummeled by a superior action film. This weekend saw an estimated $6.5M bumping the offshore take to $226.8M and the global sum to $252.1M. But given its current grosses and the calendar ahead, the worldwide figure looks to finish in the neighborhood of $325M which will be a big disappointment given the massive production and marketing investments which add up to nearly the same amount.
Also underperforming and costing a lot (for its genre) was Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy vehicle The Dictator which bowed to an estimated $17.4M over the weekend and $24.5M since debuting on Wednesday. The three-day average was $5,790 from 3,008 locations. Over five days, the R-rated film grossed less than the three-day openings of the last two films the funnyman anchored. 2006’s sleeper hit Borat opened to $26.5M from just 837 theaters while 2009’s Brüno bowed to $30.6M from 2,756 locations. Both R-rated comedies landed at number one and were based on popular characters that Cohen had developed on his television series. Dictator brought some of the same brand of raunchy satire to a new character, an eccentric tyrant that ruled a fictitious North African oil-rich nation.
Reviews were generally good, however audiences were not pleased with what they paid for as the Paramount release earned a troubling C grade from CinemaScore. Brüno scored the same grade and quickly eroded away at the box office tumbling 73% in its sophomore frame. Cohen has been promoting his film in character on numerous talk shows and at prestigious film events like the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Awards in an attempt to make his product stand out as something buzzworthy. But American audiences may be getting tired of the same humor from the British comedian. And the budget of $65M was high for a comedy not driven by special effects or having a proven star like Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell.
Studio research showed that a steep 65% of the crowd was male and 56% was under 25. The Dictator had extremely limited female appeal and males had two huge effects-driven action films to go and see so competition took its toll. Political comedies usually skew older but Cohen’s bold humor led to a young adult crowd taking interest. But with low customer satisfaction ratings and Men in Black 3 opening Friday, the domestic road ahead looks grim.
However, The Dictator fared well elsewhere in the world. The Wadiya pic debuted to an estimated $30.3M overseas from 29 markets – most of which are not among the world’s top-grossing territories – taking the number one spot in 25 of them. Cohen’s home market of the U.K. led with $7.2M over five days followed by Australia with $5.7M in five days. Both opened smaller than Brüno, though. Germany debuted to $4.5M which was bigger than the fashionista pic. The underwhelming American response may end up meaning little in the long run if international markets continue to embrace the film and perform well. With $54.8M globally in its first extended weekend, and France, Italy and Japan still to come over the months ahead, The Dictator seems positioned to recover its costs.
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton saw their fans flee this weekend as their latest project Dark Shadows tumbled 57% in its sophomore round to an estimated $12.8M. Word-of-mouth has not been very good for the pricey film which cost an estimated $150M+ to produce. Warner Bros. has collected a disappointing $50.9M in ten days and looks headed for a $70-75M domestic finish putting tremendous pressure on international markets to deliver. Overseas, Shadows grossed an estimated $30.4M this weekend from 52 markets including a $5M debut in Japan boosting the international cume to $81.3M and the worldwide gross to $132.2M.
Lionsgate tried to offer counter-programming for adult women not interested in testosterone action tentpoles by releasing the all-star pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting but was met with modest results. The PG-13 film starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Rock, Dennis Quaid, and Brooklyn Decker in her second new film of the weekend bowed to an estimated $10.5M from 3,021 theaters for a sluggish $3,476 average. Reviews were more negative than positive but often times with these comedies starpower can trump bad buzz from critics. That wasn’t the case here. With men being repelled by the subject matter, Johnny Depp taking in more money from adult women, and Avengers still sucking up all business from broad audiences, What to Expect failed to generate much excitement with its intended audience despite being based on a best-selling book. A B- CinemaScore for the $30M film indicates that the film should exit theaters soon.
The indie comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel expanded once again by doubling its run from 178 to 354 theaters and climbed up two spots to number six with an estimated $3.3M. The Fox Searchlight release averaged a solid $9,181 per location raising its total to $8.2M. Hotel is connecting with a crowd not interested in big studio tentpoles (all films above it on the chart are playing in 3000+ theaters) and is carving out its own piece of the box office pie. The ensemble hit will go nationwide on Friday for the long Memorial Day holiday frame reaching more than 1,100 playdates.
Lionsgate’s franchise flick The Hunger Games held up well again dropping only 33% to an estimated $3M putting the stellar cume at $391.6M as it inches closer to the quadruple-century mark. Sony’s hit comedy Think Like a Man followed with an estimated $2.7M, off 54%, for a $85.9M cume.
Falling 57% was the romance The Lucky One with an estimated $1.8M while Sony’s 3D toon The Pirates! Band of Misfits dropped 54% to an estimated $1.5M. Totals stand at $56.9M and $25.4M, respectively.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $133.3M which was down 15% from last year when Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened at number one with $90.2M; and down 6% from 2010 when Shrek Forever After debuted on top with $70.8M.
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It wasn’t too long ago that Megan Fox found herself at the dizzying center of the celebrity maelstrom. Through no particular fault of her own, she was teetering on the brink of media overexposure — the kind that comes from the usual perception of someone (and more often an actress) suddenly becoming too big, and too fast. Fox’s well-publicized (and rather humorous) feud with her Transformers director Michael Bay lead to her being dismissed from the third installment (quick: try and remember the name of her replacement), while her would-be star vehicle — the hopelessly misunderstood Jennifer’s Body — bombed with critics and audiences.
Yet Fox’s career is taking an arguably more interesting turn now that the white light of scrutiny has subsided: she’s got roles in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up sequel This is 40 and Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator on the way, and this week stars as part of the ensemble cast of Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids. In the well-received comedy-drama, Fox plays Mary Jane, the much-younger girlfriend of single-dad-with-a-twist Adam Scott, while getting to act alongside a cast that includes Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.
We got a chance to chat with Fox about the experience recently, as well as her thoughts on doing more of this kind of comedy in the future. Read on for that, but first, she reeled off her five favorite films. (And for being the first person to pick Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, well, we salute her.)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson; 2001, 2002, 2003; 92%, 96%, 94% Tomatometers)
Well number one — and we have to count it as one or else it’s take up my whole list — is The Lord of the Rings. That’s pretty self-explanatory. I read the books when I was a kid and Peter Jackson just created this incredible world and environment that you get caught up in. It’s amazing.
Finally — and this is a series as well — the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. The original three are just… [sings] “Go ninja, go ninja, go!” I just really loved those movies.
I do love the first one. How old were you when you saw them?
I was must have been really young — maybe five or six when I first saw them. And I think they still hold up. [Laughs] My husband laughs ’cause he thinks they’re so terrible, but I love the animatronic puppets. I just love the old school, the practical — you know, there’s no CG. I prefer the original Yoda in Star Wars as opposed to the CG Yoda. I love puppets and animatronics.
I’m with you. He needs to go and rewatch those films. That should be your mission.
To make him a believer? [Laughs] I’ll try.
Next, Fox chats about her role in this week’s Friends with Kids, why she enjoys playing comedy, and her experiences working with Judd Apatow and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Let’s talk a little about Friends with Kids. This is an ensemble comedy, and a different kind of movie for you. How’d you get involved?
Megan Fox: I think that there were a few names that Jen [director Jennifer Westfeldt] was considering to play Mary Jane, and she came over to my house to meet with me about it. We ended up talking for hours. I think it was maybe three hours, and we were talking about astrology and nothing that had anything to do with the movie — but we ended up getting along well so it sort of came about that way.
Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph — you got a fine cast to work with there. What was that like?
Well they’re all… first of all I feel like they were such a safe choice to make, because the movie’s gonna be amazing because the talent in the movie is so high. There’s so many really strong comedians and fantastic actors in it, and I just wanted the opportunity to get to work with them. I sort of felt the pressure was off of me, you know — I didn’t have to carry it or do anything spectacular to move the story along. It wasn’t really about me, which I really appreciated. I really enjoyed the process of that. And they’re also all good friends, which I feel like is an easier environment to work in and walk in to — as opposed to this sort of awkward, get- to-know-you stage that people go through when the entire cast has not met one another and is not familiar with each other.
With that pressure off, did you get a taste for doing more of these kinds of smaller films?
Yeah, I love it. I also really enjoy being a part of an ensemble cast. It was fun to go to work every day, and that’s a nice feeling to have — to wake up and be happy that you’re going to work. It’s not always that way.
It sounds like you don’t miss being part of a huge juggernaut production.
Ah… I don’t. There is something about filming those types of movies that is so [laughs]… there’s a lot of adrenalin each day because you never know what’s gonna happen, and literally going to work was dangerous. It was like, “Well, who on the crew is gonna almost get blown up today?” Which was, you know, there’s something really fun in it — I mean, it’s psychotic, but there’s something really fun and kind of frighteningly enjoyable about doing that. But you can’t always do that. [Laughs] That’s sort of a once-in-a-lifetime, or you maybe do that a couple of times, but you can’t make a living out of doing that. It’ll kill you.
You’ve done comedy before: Jennifer’s Body, for example, which most people unfortunately didn’t get—
[Sighs] I know.
Is comedy something you’d like to pursue?
I mean, I’m much more comfortable doing comedy. It feels, I don’t know — it’s a better environment for me and I just enjoy it more. That’s not to say that I’ll be successful at doing it, but right now I at least have more fun on comedy sets.
There’s less chance of getting blown up.
What was it like working with Judd Apatow on This is 40?
I love him. He’s such a nice guy. I never saw him get angry or impatient; he’s just this big, happy kid who also happens to be a genius. The way he shoots is so open and so creative. There’s so much improv on his set, it’s crazy. I don’t know how he has the foresight to take all of that and make it into a movie, because he has endless hours of material of all of these comedians that just spend all day improv’ing in these scenes. I loved working with him; he’s one of my favorite people.
And you’re in The Dictator — that’s just a cameo?
Yeah, it’s just a cameo I shot one day. [Laughs] But, you know — it’s Sacha, so it’s gonna be really interesting. It pushes some boundaries. I had a good time. He was a gentleman, but he’s really hysterical and very funny. That was a good experience as well. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I think it’s probably going to be really funny.
Did he stay in character while he was filming?
Yeah he did. He was in character the whole time. He would come out of character for a few minutes, but he has this song — he has this sort of chanting — that he would do to get himself back into his Dictator character, which he would do right as we were rolling
Friends with Kids is in theaters this week.