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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (Apr 20-22, 2012)

After a small slump last weekend, the 2012 box-office regained its supremacy over 2011 thanks to three strong openers including a fairly unexpected breakout. The Hunger Games’ four-week reign came to an end, yet the film still delivered its best hold to date. Overall, the Top 12 cume amounted to $123.3 million, up a great 15.6% from the last weekend and up 1.7% from the same weekend last year when Rio spent its second weekend on top.


Taking the top spot in its opening weekend, the urban audiences-oriented ensemble comedy Think Like a Man grossed a terrific $33 million from just 2,015 locations for a per-theatre-average of $16,377. Most box-office analysts expected this movie which is based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling advice book to debut on top of the box-office, however even the most daring predictors didn’t see such a tremendous opening coming. The $12 million ScreenGems production with an all-star cast of African American actors delivered the third-best per-theatre-average for any wide release this year so far, only behind The Hunger Games and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Moreover, its opening weekend is the 8th-biggest of the year, ahead of John Carter and just behind Wrath of the Titans, two movies boasting $150+ million budgets and both having opened in more than 3,500 theatres.

There is a good track record for movies that heavily appeal to African-American audiences to open really well despite small theatre counts and surprise everyone, but usually such great openings are reserved for Tyler Perry’s movies. However, only Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail has delivered a higher opening weekend than this for an urban-oriented film ($41 million). Think Like a Man’s director Tim Story, however, isn’t new to urban-oriented breakout hits. His first directing gig was the breakout success story Barbershop which opened to $20.6 million in 2002 before going on to gross almost $76 million. Its sequel, Barbershop 2: Back in Business made $65.1 million two years later. That franchise still represents one of the most successful ones for urban-oriented cinema. Still, a $30+ million opening for Think Like a Man is phenomenal and can be attributed to several factors coming together. First of all, there hasn’t been a purely urban-oriented film in theatres since Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds which opened in February. Moreover, Steve Harvey’s book was a huge success, selling over 3 million copies and spending 23 weeks on top of the New York Times best-selling list. Unlike the Tyler Perry films which have a strong reputation of being completely oriented at African American audiences, Think Like a Man’s universal plot might have some crossover appeal. The movie has scored a CinemaScore of an “A” with the men and the audiences below the age of 25 giving it an “A+”. While it might bode well for its legs, the historical data shows that the vast majority of African American-oriented movies end up with mediocre legs at best, even if the word-of-mouth is strong. A very recent example is Red Tails which scored an “A” CinemaScore and had little competition, yet failed to reach a multiplier of 2.7. The lack of similar films until Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection at the end of June might help it a little. Either way, it is safe to say that the film’s distributor, the Sony subsidiary ScreenGems, is having its best year ever with its third #1 opening this year after The Vow ($124.3 million) and Underworld: Evolution ($62.3 million). Think Like a Man is set to finish with $80-90 million.


The 7th Nicholas Sparks adaptation to make it to the big screen, The Lucky One starring the heartthrob Zac Efron opened at #2 with $22.8 million made from 3,155 venues. The film averaged a solid $7,228 per location. The movie has always been a programmed success story and despite mostly negative reviews delivered the second-biggest start ever for a Sparks adaptation, just trailing Dear John’s $30.5 million start. The opening might look much less impressive if compared to February’s romance behemoth The Vow which bowed to $41.2 million, but on its own it is an amazing start for a straightforward romantic drama. The $25 million production is a bona fide hit for Warner Bros. The weekend was strongly dominated by female audiences, once again showing how important it is not to underestimate them (The Hunger Games’ success can certainly also be attributed to its strong female appeal). While 63% of Think Like a Man’s audience was female, the number for The Lucky One was even higher at 76%. The movie scored an overall “B+” from CinemaScore with the women awarding it an “A-” and the men giving it a less generous, but expected “B-“. The Lucky One’s success was a sure thing before its release as, similar to February’s he Vow, it combined several vital ingredients for a successful romance. Nicholas Sparks is always a major draw for female audiences with the six adaptations prior to The Lucky One grossing $60 million on average. It also helps a lot if the film’s main star is Zac Efron, the lead of the High School Musical series who is a major attraction for female audiences. It is the perfect vehicle for him and of course it delivered. It needs to be kept in mind, though, that these films tend to be a bit frontloaded (as evidenced by The Lucky One’s 6.5% Saturday decrease). The Notebook’s extremely leggy run is an exception to the rule as most Sparks adaptations didn’t end up with noteworthy legs. The Five-Year Engagement might already make a dent in its audiences next weekend and What to Expect When You’re Expecting will hit it hard in four weeks. I see it finding its way to around $62-68 million before leaving the theatres, most likely making it the third-biggest Sparks adaptation to date behind The Notebook ($81 million) and Dear John ($80 million).


After four weeks as the unchallenged #1 at the North-American box-office, the young adult bestseller adaptation The Hunger Games dropped two slots to #3, losing just 31.3% of its audiences in the process (the 2nd-best hold in the Top 12). An impressive $14.5 million fifth weekend pushed its running total to $356.9 million. The weekend take is the 9th-biggest ever for a movie in its 5th week, ahead of blockbusters like Shrek 2, The Lion King and Spider-Man. There are just not enough superlatives to describe how impressive The Hunger Games’ overall run has become. After a relatively hefty second weekend drop it recovered very quickly and has now delivered two sub-40% declines in a row. It is this weekend that outs a $400 million total back in the game. While not a lock for it yet, crossing the magical barrier is very much a possibility again. The Hunger Games currently resides at the 19th spot on the all-time chart unadjusted for inflation, just behind Jurassic Park. It has also almost caught up to last year’s #1 movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The former’s total gross was just around $0.4 million ahead of where The Hunger Games is now by the end of its fifth weekend. However it was coming off a weekend gross almost exactly half of what The Hunger Games made in its fifth frame. Overtaking Harry Potter’s total is an absolute lock now. What helps matters even more is the recent announcement that The Hunger Games will return to over 100 IMAX screens next weekend for a one-week engagement. That should ensure yet another sub-40% drop before The Avengers will hit it hard (as well as every other movie in release). It should also be mentioned that before The Hunger Games was dethroned by Think Like a Man, it has spent 28 days straight on top of the box-office – the longest #1 streak since 1999’s The Sixth Sense. The Hunger Games should pass $370 million by the end of the next weekend and is currently looking at a final gross of $390-400 million. It will be a close call for $400 million, but if it gets within $5 million of it, Lionsgate Films will do anything in its power to push it beyond the mark.


Disneynature’s annual nature documentary release coinciding with Earth Day, Chimpanzee, occupied the 4th spot of the box-office this weekend. It made a great $10.2 million over the three-day period for an average of $6,529 per theatre. It is a terrific start for a documentary film, beating all other Disneynature films and coming at the #3 spot among the biggest openings ever for a documentary film. To be fair, it should be mentioned that Earth was a Wednesday release and Oceans opened on a Thursday. Nevertheless, its PTA is very impressive, especially if you consider that it opened in more theatres than Oceans or African Cats and yet could beat their averages. Its opening weekend alone makes it the 15th-biggest documentary ever to hit theatres. The previous documentaries in the series made $22.3 million on average in total, a number that Chimpanzee looks likely to eclipse given its good opening and its “A” CinemaScore. It should wind up with a $27-30 million total, making it one of the five biggest documentaries ever domestically.


The Farrelly Bros.’ The Three Stooges dropped 45.9% to $9.2 million and the #5 spot of the box-office. Its running total stands at $29.4 million after ten days which is over $2 million ahead of where the Farrellys’ last film, Hall Pass, was at after the same period of time. Given the film’s apparent family appeal, it should suffer under the arrival of The Pirates! Band of Misfits next weekend and the four-quadrant monster The Avengers the weekend after. Right now I see it ending up with around $46 million in the bank.


Despite its miserable CinemaScore and the usual frontloadness that the horror genre exhibits, The Cabin in the Woods held surprisingly well, decreasing just 47.4% for a $7.8 weekend take and a $27 million total. The number was enough for the 6th spot of the box-office. The Raven will provide some horror competition to it next weekend, tough it won’t be until Chernobyl Diaries that its audiences will be directly affected. Given that it could survive its sophomore weekend so well, I expect a fairly decent run throughout May, leading to a $42 million total. After last year’s Drive which was also lauded by critics, but received a bad CinemaScore in its opening, The Cabin in the Woods might become another acclaimed film that will manage to develop solid legs despite an initially terrible CinemaScore.


The 7th spot of the weekend went to the sequel American Reunion which drew another $5.2 million (down 50.4%) for a total of $48.3 million after 17 days. The R-rated Universal comedy certainly came in below expectations on the whole, its tally a far cry from its three predecessors. However, it is still on track to become the ninth R-rated movie this year to pass the $50 million mark. Thanks to overseas grosses, the $50 million film will end up as a solid moneymaker for Universal. Domestically it is looking to finish with $58 million or about 5% of American Wedding’s total gross. At the very least, it is not a complete failure like last year’s Scream 4.


After a tremendous hold last weekend, Titanic 3D saw the vast majority of its female audiences being taken away by the duo of Think Like a Man and The Lucky One. The re-issue dropped to #8 as it dipped a horrendous 58.1% to $5 million giving it a running cume of $52.8 million. This time, its hold was the worst in the Top 12. On the upside, it is already the 2nd-biggest domestic re-release since The Empire Strikes Back in 1997 with The Lion King 3D ($94.2 million) being the only one ahead of it. Titanic’s lifetime domestic total now stands at $653.6 million and it moved up to #5 on the all-time domestic chart adjusted for inflation. It doesn’t look to have much gas left in the tank as it will lose many of its 3D screens to The Pirates! Band of Misfits next weekend whereas The Hunger Games should take away many of its IMAX venues. It should disappear from most screens fairly quickly now, leaving the re-issue with a gross of around $61 million when all is said and done.


Shining bright once again, 21 Jump Street managed to hold better than any other film in the Top 12. The R-rated comedy eased just 29.9% to $4.6 million as it dropped one spot to #9. A $127.1 million total finally pus its gross ahead of Superbad ($121.5 million). It is still trailing Knocked Up by around $5 million, but it remains on its heels. The whole thing is even more impressive if you consider that Knocked Up and Superbad could both strongly benefit from summer weekdays, an advantage that 21 Jump Street doesn’t have. The TV series adaptation is still looking at a $139 million finish, making it one of the most impressive performers of the year thus far.


Rounding off the Top 10, the Snow White film Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen and Lily Collins as Snow White, dropped a decent 39.9% to $4.1 million, bringing its running total to $55.2 million after four weeks. It is not an amazing domestic total for the $85 million production, but Relativity should be content with it given the very solid overseas performance. I expect it to wind up with $63 million.


Wrath of the Titans dropped out of the Top 10 in its 4th weekend, making $3.8 million (down 44.6%) for a $77.1 million total. The movie still hasn’t even hit half the total of its predecessor and with The Hunger Games likely taking away its IMAX screens next weekend and The Avengers looming on the horizon its days in the upper ranges of the box-office are counted. It is looking at an $83 million finish.


At last, the Luc Besson-produced Escape from New York rip-off Lockout added $3.1 million (down 50.4%) to its gross, bringing it to $11.1 million after ten days. With its $20 million budget, no money should be lost on it, once foreign grosses are accounted for. Still, it is not the hit that FilmDistrict needs as it couldn’t land a success since last year’s Drive. Watch out for Lockout to wrap up its domestic run with $15 million.

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