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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (Jan 13-16, 2012)

Like each January, this year’s long Martin Luther King weekend delivered a potent #1 movie along with other successful openers and caused the holdovers to have milder drops than they would have had otherwise in spite of competition. It should be noted that Contraband’s top spot gross was still the lowest weekend take for a Martin Luther King weekend top film since 2007 when Stomp the Yard opened at #1 with $21.8 million. Nevertheless, even though the weekend was lacking a The Green Hornet-like $30+ million movie thanks to the other two new films and the holdovers the three-day cume for the Top 12 was nearly identical to that of last year. The $115.1 million cume was down 8.8% from the last weekend, but only 0.3% from the same weekend last year. The same goes for the 4-day Top 12 number ($141.2 million) which was up around 0.8% from last year.


The Mark Wahlberg-starring remake of an Icelandic thriller, Contraband, took the top spot of the weekend with ease with $24.3 million from 2,863 locations over the three-day portion, averaging a strong $8,505 per theatre. Its 4-day gross comes in at $28.5 million. This just goes on to show that Mark Wahlberg is a formidable box-office draw in the right role. Contraband is the 10th #1 opening of his career and coming off three major successes in a row – The Fighter ($93.6 million), The Other Guys ($119.2 million) and Date Night ($98.7 million) – this is another one to be added to the list. Unlike those three films Contraband is an R-rated film which adds to its success factor. It is also a great start into a new year for Universal. After some slow years and several high-profile failures, Universal has had a terrific year in 2011. Thanks to the huge breakouts of Fast Five and Bridesmaids it was Universal’s biggest year since 2008. Considering Contraband’s $25 million budget, the studio’s year kicked off with another bona fide hit. The film’s future prospects don’t look too bright, though. It’s not only that the Martin Luther King weekend action openers tend to have mediocre legs, in Contraband’s case it’ll also be the sheer amount of direct competition it will be facing over the next weeks. Next weekend alone, two other R-rated action films will compete for its audiences – Stephen Soderbergh’s Haywire and Underworld: Awakening, starring Wahlberg’s co-star from Contraband; Kate Beckinsale. A week later, Man on a Ledge will vie for its demographics and The Grey will present itself as further R-rated competition. Therefore, even though the word on Contraband is solid, it is not amazing enough for it to withstand the competition. Under different circumstances I would have expected a run similar to that of The Book of Eli which delivered a 2.89 opening-to-total multiplier. However considering the obstacles in its way, I expect less longevity and a $63-68 million finish. Even then, it is a great success for everyone involved.


The 3D re-issue of Disney’s Best Picture-nominated animated classic Beauty and the Beast took in $17.8 million from 2,625 theatres over the weekend for a per-theatre-average of $6,763. The 4-day total stands at $22.2 million thanks to a strong Monday. The film’s lifetime total gross which also includes an IMAX re-release from 2002 is now at $193.6 million and should cruise past $200 million next weekend. Of course this opening is a far cry from The Lion King’s $30.2 million take last September, but if you consider that Beauty and the Beast didn’t even make half of what The Lion King did in its original run and the lack of the whole novelty thing that The Lion King’s re-release had, it is still a formidable opening. Moreover, The Lion King entered a marketplace completely devoid of family-oriented competition, whereas Beauty and the Beast 3D has Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, The Adventures of Tintin and We Bought a Zoo as still successful holdovers aiming for family audiences. The Lion King went on to have truly good legs for a re-release (which usually tend to crumble after their opening) and finished with a 3.13 multiplier. Beauty and the Beast is in a similarly great position of having almost no direct competition coming up. The first truly family-oriented film won’t arrive until February 10th when Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the re-release of The Phantom Menace open. Therefore I see solid legs here (though not as good as a completely new family-oriented film would have had with such a release date) and a total cume of $55-60 million. That bodes well for the upcoming re-release of Disney’s behemoth, Finding Nemo.


Down one spot from last week, the breakout action sequel Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol added $11.7 million to its total, decreasing 41.2% from its last weekend. Over the 4-day portion the film collected $14.2 million bringing its cume to an amazing $189.4 million after five weeks. The Tom Cruise-starrer has now passed the first film in the franchise (unadjusted for inflation of course) which made $181 million in North America. The movie is now showing signs of slowing down, but it is still doing quite well. Given the upcoming onslaught of R-rated movies it should be able to hold its own over the next few weeks, while still remaining the must-see winter blockbuster for most audiences. It is incredible how far the film’s great word of mouth and Paramount’s unusual but clever release strategy brought this film. It should almost certainly be able to pass M:I-2’s $215.4 million and become the series’ biggest film. In fact it might even break past $200 million by the end of the next weekend. Overall, I see it ending up with around $215-225 million in the bank with its sequel making even more thanks to the good reputation of this film.


The urban-oriented music drama Joyful Noise opened lowest of the three wide releases this weekend, but still made a respectable $11.2 million ($13.8 million over four days) from 2,735 theatres for a PTA of $4,104 and the 4th spot of the box-office. It’s a decent number, but nothing to write home about. Nothing suggests any kind of special legs, so that it’ll wind up with an average $30-35 million total when all is said and done.


Down to #5, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows continued to do quite well after its tepid opening. Many have written it off after its first three days and once Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’s domination has become apparent the prospects of this film looked bleak. Doubts have been raised regarding another potential sequel. However, the sequel managed to hold its own, rebounded over the holidays and is still doing quite well. It appears as if this follow-up is actually enjoying better WoM than its predecessor which had decent, but far from extraordinary legs considering its release date. The film made dropped 37.2% from last weekend for a $8.6 million 3-day take and $10.4 million over the 4-day weekend, putting its running total at $172 million. The film is now tracking less than $22 million behind its predecessor and thanks to its good holds should narrow down that gap even further in the course of its run. Much like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol it won’t face much direct competition during the upcoming weeks. Its only problem might become holding on to enough screens and theatres to ensure ongoing longevity. Sherlock Holmes will wind up with around $192 million in the bank which, combined with its terrific overseas run, is more than enough to ensure another follow-up.


Relinquishing last weekend’s top spot, The Devil Inside lost 76.2% of its audiences over the 3-day weekend and made $8 million. Over four days the “found footage” horror flick collected $9 million and put its total at $47.4 million after 11 days. Its an amazing number for a movie that Paramount paid just $1 million for to distribute. The “F” CinemaScore that the film has scored is showing, though. Its 2nd weekend drop is the 21st-biggest ever and even the 4th-biggest ever for a movie that opened to more than $10 million. Given heavy R-rated competition next weekend and the poor reception of the film I expect it to start shedding theatres like crazy soon and to keep dropping like a rock until it’ll vanish from all screens in just a few weeks. Before that The Devil Inside will collect around $54 million, finishing with one of the worst multipliers ever for a wide release, akin to that of the Friday the 13th remake. Even then, it is still a tremendous breakout hit for Paramount that will still be remembered by the year’s end as one of the year’s bigger box-office stunners.


Dropping 41.4% and three spots to #7 this weekend, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo added another $6.7 million ($8 million over four days) to its total which currently stands at $89.2 million. The film definitely started off slowly, but it picked up a lot of steam after the holidays (maybe the grim nature of this 160-minutes long dark R-rated thriller turned off audiences during the merry holidays). With the movie almost definitely getting nominated for a slew of major Academy Awards it will definitely get yet another boost later on. It did not become an all-out December breakout (like True Grit) that some have expected, but it also overcame the fears of a disappointment which arose when it opened. It will end up with around $115 million which should definitely be enough for Sony to produce the adaptation of the second book in the trilogy.


Steven Spielberg’s War Horse surprisingly scored the best hold in the Top 12 as it eased just 31.8% to $5.9 million over the three-day portion and $7.4 million over four days. That was enough for #8 of the weekend and brought its running total to a solid $67.5 million. Its further run will heavily depend on how it’ll perform with the Oscar voters. Once the nominees are releases next week it could go either way for War Horse. Currently the film has a solid chance to get nominated for Best Picture or even Best Director, but unlike in The Descendants’ or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s case, it is far from a sure thing. If it doesn’t get major nods, then I expect it to play quietly into February. However, I do see it doing well with the Academy and receiving quite a big boost at the box-office thanks to that. I don’t see it winning any big awards, but even a slew of nominations should help it find its way to $88 million. In order to have a shot at $100 million, it’d need to win Best Picture, though and I don’t see that happening.


Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked suffered a bit under the release of Beauty and the Best. The family-oriented film dipped 37.9% over the 3-day weekend and dropped to the 9th spot of the charts. Its 3-day gross was $5.9 million whereas over the four-day weekend it made $8 million. Its running total gross stands at $121 million after five weeks now. It is still trailing the first and the second Alvin movies by $67 million and $81 million respectively and unlike Sherlock Holmes it won’t get anywhere nears them either. While the lack of competition will help it just like it will help Beauty and the Beast the film still can’t hope for more than $136 million by the end of its run. Then again, it is still a higher number than many have expected the first Alvin film to make in total before it has been released.


Rounding off the Top 10, Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo continued to display some strength, even though its goal to get some awards buzz didn’t work out. The heartwarming movie dropped just 33% and collected $5.6 million Friday to Sunday and $7.4 million until Monday. Its $65.9 million total cume puts it at #8 among the highest-grossing movies that have never hit the top spot. Now this is a list that We Bought a Zoo actually might end up topping, or, at the very least, get into its Top 5. Right now I project a $79 million finish for it, but there is a good chance that it’ll end up topping $80 million. Either way, the film is going to end up with terrific legs!


The Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic starring Meryl Streep, expanded in its third weekend to 802 theatres and collected $5.4 million in the process ($6.6 million over four days) for an average of $6,749. Its running total now stands at $7.2 million. Now the huge awards buzz for Meryl Streep (will she finally win again?!) is definitely helping the film as will the Golden Globe win for Streep. I see further expansions. However, the amount of money it will make in total will absolutely depend on whether or not she will actually win the Oscar for her performance. If she does, the film will capitalize on it the same way Crazy Heart did on Jeff Bridges’ win. What is hurting the movie, though, is that the film itself, aside from Streep’s turn just isn’t all that good. Right now I think it could end up anywhere around $25-40 million. The future will tell us more.


Lastly, The Adventures of Tintin dropped 40% over the 3-day weekend and grossed $4 million. The 4-day weekend cume of $5.6 million brought its running cume to $69.3 million after four weeks. Given that the popularity of Tintin isn’t that huge Stateside it is a decent number, but for a Christmas family-oriented Spielberg/Jackson tentpole it is not that great. Luckily with almost $280 million in the bank already, it is much more successful overseas. Domestically it will end up with around $80 million. That will lead to a worldwide gross of over $360 million when all is said and done and that is definitely enough for a sequel.


As for the weekend’s limited performers, The Artist continued to shine. The Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) winner added another $1.6 million over four days as it upped its theatre count by 44 to 216. The black/white silent film now stands at $9.2 million. Major expansions are to be expected soon. On the opposite, Roman Polanski’s Carnage isn’t doing that well. The film went from 15 to 494 theatres and didn’t even make $0.9 million over the 4-day weekend. Chances are that it’ll finish below $5 million. With its great cast and its director, it’d be a true disappointment.

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