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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (May 25-28, 2012)

For the first time this year the box-office was down from last year two weeks in a row. Despite a solid, if unspectacular, debut by Men in Black 3 and good performances by the holdovers, the $146.5 million 3-day Top 12 cume couldn’t hold a handle to last year’s Memorial Day weekend box-office when The Hangover Part II made more than $85 million over the three-day period and Kung Fu Panda 2 was also strong out of the gate. Compared to the last weekend the Top 12 gross was up 8%, but it was down a pretty bad 32.2% to the same weekend last year. The four-day cume of $185.5 million was down 30.9% from last year. If the actual numbers are just a tad lower, this might very well beat 2010 and become the lowest-grossing Memorial Day weekend at the box-office since 2001. It is certainly the worst-attended Memorial Day weekend at the movies since 1994. While The Avengers has propelled the start of the summer box-office season to unknown heights, it came in at the cost of all following openers delivering subpar numbers as The Avengers is stealing their thunder. A lot of hope is now riding on next weekend’s Snow White and the Huntsman to bring the 2012 box-office back on track.


Arriving almost ten years after the last instalment in the blockbuster sci-fi series, Men in Black 3 captured the top spot with $55 million over the 3-day weekend and $70 million including its Memorial Day gross. During the three-day portion the sequel averaged $12,947 from 4,248 theatres (12th-widest opening ever). Men in Black 3 also became Will Smith’s 13th #1 live-action box-office hit and should also soon become his 12th $100+ million live-action grosser giving him the same number of $100 million films as Adam Sandler. After a small box-office letdown by Seven Pounds ($70 million) in 2008 and three and a half years of absence from movies, Men in Black 3 marks a solid return for Will Smith, once again confirming his position as Hollywood’s top acting draw. It is mostly thanks to him that the tired franchise with a badly-received predecessor still opened to these numbers.

In sheer numbers this opening looks nothing but good. However, if taking into account the production budget of nearly $250 million it will have a long way to go to become profitable. Obviously a $55 million 3-day opening is nothing to sneer at and the numbers appears even more impressive given the recent failures by Dark Shadows and Battleship. On the other hand, looking at the other two films in the Men in Black franchise, this is not a particularly great start. The first Men in Black opened to $51.1 million back in 1997 and went on to gross a bit over $250 million domestically. Five years later, the follow-up opened to $52.1 million, but it was also a Wednesday release, making over $87 million during its first five days in theatres. It finished with $190.4 million domestically. Men in Black 3 has ten years of inflation, the 3D and IMAX boost and a holiday weekend as an advantage and yet barely topped the predecessor’s Friday-to-Sunday opening. The movie sold significantly less tickets opening weekend than Men in Black II. In that way, despite an obviously solid start, there is still a lingering sense of disappointment pertaining to Will Smith’s glorious return to his big franchise.

Men in Black 3 just followed the tradition of sequel that arrived long after the hype for the series has passed. Others in this category include Rush Hour 3, Little Fockers and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. All these movies hit the screens more than five years after their respective predecessors and ended up grossing significantly less. All three films also became the lowest-grossing entry in their series and (for now) ended the respective franchises. Men in Black 3 seems to follow suit here as well. Even though its retention in gross will be better than for the three aforementioned films, it needs to be kept in mind that it had more years of inflation to help it and the 3D premium boost that those films didn’t have. With 57% of its audiences opening weekend being above the age of 25, it looks like the series (originally aimed at teen audiences) now mostly just appeals to the older fans of the first two films. Like American Reunion very recently, it seems like the film failed to connect to current young audiences. On the other hand, much better reviews than for the second film and an encouraging “B+” CinemaScore could mean a prolonged life at the box-office. The best-case scenario for it would be a run similar to that of the Memorial Day weekend opener Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian which had a very similar opening weekend and went on to gross $177 million. On the other hand, Night at the Museum appealed more to families which usually helps the legs. Men in Black 3 will suffer under losing is IMAX screen to Prometheus and Rock of Ages over the upcoming weeks. A $165-175 million appears to be its likely goal at the moment, thus making great overseas returns a necessity to break even. This isn’t spectacular, but it is still a reminder that Will Smith is a force to be reckoned with.


Even though Men in Black 3 unseated it for the top spot, Disney’s The Avengers still had a terrific Memorial Day weekend with $36.8 million (down 33.9%) drawn over the three-day period. The four-day figure of $46.9 million put its running total at an incredible $523.6 million after four weeks on release. It is now less than $10 million away from passing The Dark Knight’s total gross and becoming the 3rd-highest-grossing movie ever in North America, not adjusted for inflation. Its fourth weekend gross came in as the second-biggest ever, just trailing Avatar ($50.3 million). It also handily became the fastest movie ever to break the $500 million barrier. It did it on Saturday, the 23rd day of its release, beating the previous record-holder Avatar by nine days! In terms of drops it now looks to be on a similar pace with the original Spider-Man film which dropped 36.7% in its fourth weekend which was also the Memorial Day holiday frame). Spider-Man went on to gross another $70 million after Memorial Day, a figure that’d put The Avengers close to $600 million. However, The Avengers is coming off a significantly larger fourth weekend gross which ensures that $600 million is a lock at this point. The Avengers will pass Titanic’s first run total ($600.8 million), but the question is still up in the air about how close it will get to Titanic’s gross including the 3D re-release (currently at $658.5 million).

If The Avengers shows itself unaffected by the loss of 3D screens to Prometheus and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and achieves the same sort of longevity as the first Spider-Man then, indeed, $650 million will become a real possibility. With the film having passed the half-billion mark domestically, it will probably receive an additional push in the media. A safe guess puts its trajectory at $610-630 million, but the movie hasn’t ceased to surprise so far. With over $1.3 billion in the bank worldwide so far (more than Iron Man and Iron Man 2 combined!), the film is already one of the biggest box-office stunners ever.


Last weekend’s gigantic disappointment Battleship was hit hardest by Men in Black 3 aiming for its male demographics and dived 57.3% to $10.9 million, giving it the worst hold in the Top 12. The four-day portion amounted to $13.8 million, giving it a running total of $47.3 million which looks miniscule when compared to the films gargantuan $209 million budget. This gives Taylor Kitsch his second big-budget box-office disaster in 2012, following the infamous failure of John Carter ($72.5 million). At least this time, the movie has performed a tad better overseas, currently standing at $233 million outside of North America. That said, it is a certainty now that it won’t make back its production budget while in theatres. With its audiences being older (55% of its opening weekend audiences was at least 30 or older) and predominantly male (57%), there is a great overlap with Men in Black 3’s audiences.  The mild “B” CinemaScore isn’t helping much either. It should sink at the box-office with around $60-65 million in the bank.


Despite the terrible “C” CinemaScore, Sacha Baron Cohen’s new provocative comedy The Dictator managed to avoid a very bad drop and settled for a 46.8% decrease to $9.3 million and the fourth spot of the box-office. After the four-day cume of $11.8 million, the $65 million production stands at $43.6 million. Cohen’s last endeavor, Bruno, also received the “C” CinemaScore, but held much worse, dipping 72.8% in its second outing. The Dictator is currently tracking well behind Bruno, but coming off a bigger weekend the gap should be reduced. The Dictator is well on its way to become the 10th R-rated movie this year to pass $50 million (keep in mind that last year we had just 11 $50 million-grossing R-rated films in total). With no comedy competition until That’s My Boy in three weeks, The Dictator might be able to rebound somewhat and actually pass Bruno’s $60.1 million total. I project it to end up with around $62 million.


Despite being the first horror movie to hit the theatres since The Cabin in the Woods almost two months ago, Chernobyl Diaries couldn’t stir much attention in its opening. Warner Bros.’ critically maligned film bowed at #5 to $8 million ($9.3 million over four days) at 2,433 locations for a per-theatre-average of $3,274. With a purported budget of $1 million, it is a surefire hit already, but the miserable “D+” CinemaSocre and apparent strong frontloading over the weekend (it dropped 32.6% on Saturday) make the prospect on future legs look rather grim. It should settle for a $16-18 million total.


The eighth Tm Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration, Dark Shadows, dropped two spots to #6, losing 40.7% of its audiences in the process for a 3-day cume of $7.5 million. Over four days it took in $9.4 million bringing its running cume to $64.9 million after 18 days. The film is not a complete disaster at the box-office akin to Battleship or John Carter, but given the strength of their previous projects and the $150 million budget, Dark Shadows is a major letdown for both Depp and Burton. Next weekend, Snow White and the Huntsman should bite a large chunk out of the film’s target audiences. It should quietly leave most theatres by the end of June and finish with around $77 million.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting held well in its sophomore frame after the bad opening last weekend, dropping just 32.6% to $7.1 million and the 7th spot of the box-office. The four-day holiday take of $8.9 million pout the Lionsgate comedy at $23.9 million after 11 days. Stil, the $40 million film stands as a big disappointment given the strong marketing it has been given and its ensemble cast which includes Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kendrick, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Chris Rock. For Diaz the film will be her lowest-grosser since 2009’s The Box ($15.1 million) and if you don’t count that then since In Her Shoes($32.9 million) back in 2005. Diaz is usually a very reliable draw, making this film’s failure even less explicable. It looks to wind up with $41 million in the bag.


Down to #8, Fox Searchlight’s crowd-pleasing hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel finally went wide in its fourth week by adding 879 theaters and bringing its theatre count to 1,233. The expansion paid off very well helping the film jump 97% to $6.4 million over the three-day portion. Over four days it grossed an amazing $8.3 million with its running total standing at $18.4 million. Its 3-day PTA was at $5,162, more than any other Top 12 movie aside from Men in Black 3 and The Avengers. Yet another good expansion should definitely be in store. Terrific word-of-mouth and its great appeal to old audiences will really help it in the long run as I don’t see it finishing below $35 million at the moment. In fact, it might pull a Midnight in Paris ($56.8 million) and play well throughout the summer. I currently see its total gross in the $40-50 million range, though I wouldn’t be shocked if it went even higher than that.


Despite losing almost one third of its theatres, The Hunger Games still held splendidly, making $2.3 million (down 23.1%) at #9 over the weekend and $2.9 million over the long frame. Its current gross stands at $395.9 million as it spent its 10thweekend in the Top 10. Considering that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 made much less in its 10th weekend and yet went on to gross almost another $3 million after that, $400 million is a certain thing for The Hunger Games now. The question to be asked now is whether it will top Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’s $402.1 million. It will be a close race as I predict a $402 million finish for The Hunger Games.


The urban-oriented breakout hit Think Like a Man rounded off the Top 10 and added another $1.4 million to its gross ($1.8 million over four days), dropping 47.2%. That pushed its running cume to $88.7 million. It should find its way to a final cume of $91 million.


Down a spot to #11, Aardman’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits dropped 30.3% over three days and took in $1.1 million with an additional $0.4 million following on Monday. Its total now stands at $27.7 million. With the release of Madagascar 3 just ahead, its remaining life at the box-office won’t be long. I expect it to fizzle out with around $29 million.


At last, in a surprising turn of events, Millennium Entertainment’s all-time highest grosser Bernie rose one spot to #12. Richard Linklater’s Jack Black-starrer added 99 theatres in its fifth weekend and jumped 77% to $0.9 million over the 3-day frame ($1.2 million over four days).  It is currently playing in 194 venues and its running total stands at $2.5 million. What is particularly remarkable about its jump is that despite more than doubling its theatre count, its per-theatre-average dropped just around 13% from last weekend. Looks like it will go on to finish with $5+ million.


The most remarkable performance outside of the Top 12 this weekend goes to Wes Anderson’s Cannes opener Moonrise Kingdom. The director always had a very devoted fanbase, but nevertheless the film’s opening at #14 with $523,000 made from just four theatres after three days is beyond incredible. It gave the film an average of $130,750, easily beating Dreamgirls’ record for the biggest opening PTA for a live-action film. How far it wll go from now will depend on Focus Features’ expansion plans and how well the film will cross over with mainstream audiences. The Darjeeling Limited also opened to a great PTA five years ago, but didn’t even top $12 million in total.

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