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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (Apr 6-8, 2012)

Even though 2012 has won yet another weekend against 2011, this year’s Easter frame still came in well below general expectations due to the two wide openers delivering rather underwhelming numbers. Obviously, we are having a great box-office year so far and not every single movie can break out and perform above expectations. It is still surprising that of all films, it were Titanic 3D and American Reunion that underwhelmed. The Top 12 cume amounted to $117 million, down 16.6% from the previous weekend. The number was up 13.9% from the same weekend last year when Hop defended the top spot in its second weekend. However, it was still the lowest-grossing Easter weekend since 2008. Besides the underperforming new releases, another reason for that is the sheer lack of holdovers still doing well. In fact, only seven movies this weekend managed to pass $1 million. At the same time six of those movies made more than $10 million. The discrepancy between #6 and #8 of the weekend is huge. This situation can only be attributed to bad scheduling by the studios which overcrowded the summer, but left March unbelievably empty.


Repeating at the #1 spot in its third week, The Hunger Games became the first movie since The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 to make it three weeks at the top spot of the box-office. With next weeks’ batch of new releases looking relatively weak, it is quite likely that it will manage four weeks on top, making it the longest stretch as the #1 film since Avatar. A solid 42.8% drop led to a $33.5 million weekend and a total gross of $302.8 million after just 17 days in theatres. By passing the $300 million mark on Sunday, it became the 6th-fastest film ever to hit the mark. It should be noted here that out of the six other movies in total that took 17 days or less to pass $300 million, only two failed to reach $400 million and all broke $380 million. Considering that those two films were also coming off a significantly smaller third weekend than The Hunger Games, it bodes very well for the film’s future prospects. After the disappointing hold last weekend, it looks like $400 million, even though not extremely likely, is very much back in the game.

The Hunger Games’ third weekend was actually the 7th-biggest third frame ever, beating the likes of Iron Man, Toy Story 3 and The Passion of the Christ. It is also already tracking over $20 million ahead of Spider-Man 3 despite nearly identical opening weekends for both films. The Hunger Games has also outgrossed all Twilight movies so far, a franchise The Hunger Games has often been compared to prior to the film’s release.  In fact, The Hunger Games has also outdone all Harry Potter movies in unadjusted numbers except for the first and the last one. The first part of the planned trilogy is already the 37th-biggest movie ever on the domestic all-time chart and the 18th biggest “original” movie. I expect it to easily break into the all-time Top 25 by the end of the next weekend and it is a given already that it will end up as one of the ten biggest movies that are not a sequel or a prequel. That, alone, is an astonishing achievement for any movie. However, for a Lionsgate March release that is simply unbelievable. The movie will immensely benefit from the media hype created by its terrific box-office performance thus far and the lack of strong releases with wide appeal until The Avengers in May will help its legs further down the road. At this point, it will certainly make it past $370 million. Right now a realistic projection would put its final cume somewhere in the $380-390 million range. However, if the majority of April releases fails to launch, it stands a solid chance at passing $400 million afterall, making it the third original film in ten years to do so.


Whereas The Hunger Games continues to dazzle, the 1990s isn’t paying off as expected. American Reunion, the fourth theatrical instalment in the American Pie franchise which started in 1999 opened at #2 to a disappointing $21.5 million over three days for a per-theatre-average of $6,736 from 3,192 locations. Given its $9.3 million opening day, it has shown great signs of frontloading throughout the weekend. The previous three American Pie movies all made more than $100 million domestically with American Pie 2 being the top grosser with over $145 million in the bank. After a series of successful direct-to-DVD movies, Universal was encouraged by the success of Fast and Furious which saw the reunion of the first film’s stars and moved forward with a new theatrical entry in the American Pie franchise. However, the endeavor went more the way of last year’s Scream 4 which made less than $40 million in North America despite the huge legacy left by the first three films. Things aren’t as grim for American Reunion as the movie’s strong overseas appeal will ensure that the $50 million production will turn into a bona fide hit for Universal. However, the domestic performance is noting to write home about. How come that the movie didn’t elicit better results.

The explanation is probably quite simple. The audiences just moved on to a different kind of humor. The Apatow R-rated comedy brand is what appeals to modern moviegoers and American Reunion’s old school jokes just didn’t lure new audiences. This is evidenced by the fact that 61% of the film’s audiences were above the age of 25. The movie’s performance is just heavily reliant on nostalgia and the generation of fans that grew up with the first three films. For younger audiences, this is just a new throwaway teen comedy with mostly unrecognizable stars as most of the first film’s cats never had a great career outside of the American Pie films. On the upside, the American Pie movies always enjoyed solid word-of-mouth and good legs with each movie hitting a multiplier above 3. American Reunion might fall hard at first, but with no R-rated comedies until The Five-Year Engagement at the month’s end, it should recover fairly well. The“B+” CinemaScore also hints at solid WoM. I see the film with a $60-70 million total by the end of its run.


Weirdly enough, this weekend also saw the release of another film banking on 1990s nostalgia. The 3d-converted Titanic is the third 3D re-issue of an older movie this year, following Beauty and the Beast ($47.4 million) and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace ($43.3 million). The movie grabbed $17.4 million over the weekend from 2,674 venues which also include 79 IMAX locations and averaged $6,488 per theatre. The total gross since its Wednesday release stands at $25.7 million with $2 million from IMAX screens alone. More IMAX locations are supposed to be added next week. These numbers put the film’s lifetime domestic gross at $626.5 million. These seem solid numbers for a 15-years old movie – so why are they still perceived as somewhat of a let-down? The thing is that we’re dealing with Titanic here which is just a different kind of beast than The Phantom Menace or Beauty and the Beast. Until Avatar’s release in 2009, Titanic had held the domestic all-time top spot for 12 years straight. During its run in 1997/1998 it set numerous weekend records, some of which even Avatar failed to surpassed and had unimaginably great word-of-mouth which resulted in myriads of repeat viewings. It made over $600 million during its original run and the director James Cameron’s star power rose even more recently when he became the director to top his own record-breaking film with Avatar. Considering all these circumstances and the heavy marketing for the movie it was fair to expect higher numbers. However, one must keep in mind that Titanic is also a movie that thrives thanks to word-of-mouth and that its original opening weekend was deemed a failure as well (before it went on to develop phenomenal legs).It appears like the re-release’s reception isn’t much worse as the film scored a great “A” CinemaScore with the female audiences given it an “A+”. What is interesting is that unlike American Reunion, Titanic 3D actually lured younger audiences into theatres as well. Around 51% of the audiences were under the age of 25 and 60% were female. Usually re-issues tend to implode after their openings (The Phantom Menace won’t even manage an opening-to-total multiplier of 2). However, last year’s The Lion King was the exception to the rule and Titanic might just become another. It should find its way to a $55-60 million finish which is a solid number for any re-release.


Last weekend’s underwhelming sequel Wrath of the Titans added another $15 million (down 55.1%) to its total bringing it to $58.9 million after ten days on release. This weekend’s #4 movie’s total cume is still smaller than its predecessor’s opening weekend ($61.2 million). With a $150 million budget to boot, it is destined to be a domestic disappointment. However, early signs are speaking of slightly better word-of-mouth than for the predecessor and it actually managed a better second weekend hold too. With no new IMAX releases until The Avengers, the IMAX screens should help soften the drops throughout April. Moreover, the film will also be helped by the fact that, aside from The Hunger Games, it is the only big blockbuster type of movie around until The Avengers. All that still won’t prevent it from being a financial letdown (though it will make up for the pitiful North American numbers overseas), but on the other hand, it also won’t end up as en embarrassment like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. It will finish in the $85-90 million range and should easily cross $350 million worldwide.


The fifth spot of the box-office this weekend went to Mirror Mirror the first of this year’s two Snow White films. The Lily Collins/Julia Roberts starrer experienced a mild 39.3% drop to $11 million, upping its running cume to $36.5 million. With a $85 million production budget it still has a long way to go to become a hit. This weekend’s hold, however, bodes well for its future performance. There will be no major family-oriented flicks released over the next two weeks that can pose a serious threat to Mirror Mirror. Aside from that, the movie also seems to be enjoying solid WoM. The Tarsem-directed fairy tale will leave the theatres with around $68 million in its pockets.



21 Jump Street might have dropped two spots to #6 this weekend, but its hold was terrific. The film eased just 31.2% to $10.2 million. Its running cume stands at $109.6 million after just four weeks, making it the fifth movie this year to pass the $100 million mark. The really impressive thing about this hold is that, for the first time since its release, 21 Jump Street aced direct R-rated comedy competition courtesy of American Reunion. Evidently it survived the onslaught very well and should now have a very smooth sailing throughout April. There isn’t much competition for it to speak of during the upcoming weeks and its obviously terrific WoM should keep it playing n a number of theatres at least until the end of May. Comparing it to another Jonah Hill-starring Sony hit, 21 Jump Street is now tracking more than $6 million ahead of Superbad, even despite the fact that it doesn’t have the strong summer weekdays that Superbad had. Outgrossing Superbad is not a question anymore, it is a certainty. If it can stay in enough theatres for a long time and if The Five Year-Long Engagement and The Dictator underwhelm, 21 Jump Street will actually have a solid shot at $150 million. Right now, a $135-140 million finish is looking more likely, but the movie never ceased to surprise so far.


Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax was the only other $1+ million grosser this weekend. The animated flick settled for the 7th spot of the charts with a $5 million weekend for a $198.2 million running total. The movie was down 35.8% from the previous fame, making it the movie’s best hold so far and the first time it dropped less than 40%. It looks like it is finally able to benefit from the lack of family-oriented competition in the marketplace. Next weekend at latest it will become the second movie this year to pass $200 million, a number very few expected from this movie before its thunderous opening. It will soon pass Tangled’s $200.8 million and become one of the 20 biggest animated movies ever in North America and also the animated movie to beat this year. I project it to end up with $212 million when all is said and done.


Down one slot from last weekend, the Lasse Hallström drama Salmon Fishing in the Yemen delivered the best drop in the Top 10, losing just 23.4% of its audiences for a weekend just under $1 million. It currently stands at $4.6 million. With its per-theatre-average being nothing out of ordinary, it should start losing theatres again soon and won’t stay on the radar for long. I see it ending up with $8 million in the bank.


The eternal loser John Carter dropped three spots to #9 after decreasing yet another 59.6%. A $0.8 million weekend brought its running cume to $68 million after five weeks. Ever since it has been released, the movie dropped 59.3% on average each weekend which is really terrible, given that the $250 million didn’t open all that well to begin with. Right now it looks like its total will come in at just under $70 million.


The Denzel Washington-starrer Safe House surprisingly re-entered the Top 10 in its 9th weekend. The Universal hit might have been helped by the release of Universal’s American Reunion. The actioner made $0.6 million (down 25.5%) over the weekend for a total gross of $124.8 million. It should end up with around $127 million.


The Indonesian acclaimed action flick The Raid: Redemption added 130 theatres in its third weekend and rose to #11 of the weekend. With a weekend cume of around $0.6 million, made from 176 theatres, it averaged $3,210 per theatre. The film made $1.3 million since its release. Next weekend an expansion to over 650 theatres is planned which should help it remain in the Top 12 despite three new wide releases. Its final gross is difficult to pinpoint now, but chances are good that it will be in the $4-6 million range.


Relativity’s Act of Valor rounded off the Top 12. A decent 46.5% drop led to a $0.5 million weekend, bringing its current total gross to $68.8 million after seven weeks. In retrospect it is simply incredible that this movie will not only end up with a higher total gross, but also with much better legs than John Carter. I see it finishing with about $71 million.

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