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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (June 8-10, 2012)

After losing to 2011 for three weeks in a row, the 2012 box-office finally recovered and won some ground on last year. Thanks to the combined strength of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus which brought in a total of $110 million, the box-office Top 12 amounted to $172.1 million, increasing 27.8% over the preceding frame. Compared to the same weekend last year (when Super 8 opened on top), the Top 12 went up a whopping 30%. This weekend also marks a new achievement. This is the first time ever that two 3D tentpoles opened on the same weekend and performed strongly. This finally proves that the 3D is now widespread enough to easily accommodate two new big 3D movies on the same weekend.


Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted became the second animated movie this year (after Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) to win a weekend as it opened to $60.4 million from 4,258 theatres (11th-widest opening ever). It averaged a solid $14,173 per theatre. This opening currently stands as the 4th-biggest start for any movie this year and the 15th-biggest opening ever for an animated movie. The first 3D entry in the Madagascar franchise lost the box-office battle on Friday to Prometheus, making $20.5 million as opposed to Prometheus’ $21.4 million. However thanks to a healthy Saturday it easily won the weekend by over $10 million. The film’s immediate predecessor, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa opened to $63.1 million back in November 2008. However, its legs proved to be lacking as it failed to reach an opening-to-total multiplier of 3 and finished with $180 million. The first movie in the series grossed $193.6 million after a $47.2 million opening in summer 2005. To some the opening weekend of the third installment in the series might seem underwhelming. Afterall, despite three-and-a-half years of inflation and the added bonus of 3D the third movie still opened to less than the second. However, noting the recent trend of animated sequels decreasing from its predecessors in opening weekend and in total, its retention is still very remarkable. Last year, DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 opened to just $47.7 million on course to a $165.2 million finish, a 23.2% drop-off from its $215.4 million-grossing predecessor. Happy Feet Two fared even worse, making $64 million in total, whereas the first film gathered $198 million domestically without the aid of 3D. Cars 2 outopened the first Cars movie ($66.1 million vs. $60.1 million), but its $191.5 million final cume was a far cry from the original’s $244.1 million total. It was mainly Shrek 2 back in 2004 that fooled most box-office followers (and studios) into thinking that sequels to well-received animated films are bound to increase over their predecessors. While some followed this expectation (Ice Age: The Meltdown, Toy Story 3), most failed to meet these expectations. Therefore, Madagascar 3’s $60 million opening is nothing but laudable.

The best is yet to come for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. The first movie had a strong opening, but faltered soon thereafter facing competition and a mixed reception by audiences. Madagascar 3 which skewed female (56% of its opening weekend audiences were female) and appealed to all age groups (54% of its audiences was below 25) should wind up with significantly better legs. I see an outcome similar to how Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs performed compare to Ice Age: The Meltdown. The latter had a stronger opening, but far weaker legs to boot. Madagascar’s glowing “A” CinemaScore will certainly help it over the next weeks. Another advantage it has are summer weekdays which the second Madagascar film lacked (by the time the strong holiday box-office kicked in, the movie was almost done). On top of that, with Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy being the only openers next weekend, the film will face absolutely no direct competition in its sophomore frame. Certainly, Pixar’s Brave will hit it hard the weekend after, but maybe the two will find a way to co-exist, akin to 2008’s duo of Kung Fu Panda and WALL-E. By the end of its second weekend, Madagascar 3 might very well be tracking ahead of the second film in the franchise and will never look back after that. Currently I see it finishing with $190-200 million. That gives it a fair chance to become the highest-grossing entry in the series. Along with a strong showing overseas, this ensures a fourth Madagascar film in near future.


One of the movies box-office analysts and cinephiles have been looking forward to most this summer has finally reached North American screens. Ridley Scott’s return to science-fiction, Prometheus, delivered $50 million from 3,396 venues for a per-theatre-average of $14,723, slightly edging out Madagascar 3 for the weekend’s best PTA among wide releases. Around 54% of its audiences saw the film in 3D which seems to be around the share which most big 3D releases get nowadays. Obviously $50 million is a strong start for an R-rated hard-sci-fi movie. In fact, it is the 12th-biggest opener ever for an R-rated film and the biggest one since Paranormal Activity 3 last October ($52.6 million). Ridley Scott isn’t new to delivering R-rated movies that open to big numbers. Back in 2001 his The Silence of the Lambs sequel Hannibal opened to $58 million – the biggest R-rated opening of all-time at the time. It still stands as #5 on the chart. In 2007 his collaboration with Denzel Washington, American Gangster, posted the 11th biggest R-rated opening ever ($43.6 million), whereas Gladiator ($34.8 million), at the time of its release, had the 3rd-biggest opening weekend ever for an R-rated film (behind Air Force One). One could therefore call Ridley Scott the king of strong R-rated films.

At the same time, one can’t help, but feel ever so slightly underwhelmed given the tremendous hype leading up to the movie’s release as well as the 3D and IMAX premium that it got. Most disturbing is the film’s daily pattern over the weekend. After a strong $21.4 million Friday, the film collapsed on Saturday to $16.1 million. This is an indicator of strong frontloading and potentially weak word-of-mouth. The movie garnered mostly positive reviews, though not many are glowing. It also earned a decent, though unspectacular “B” CinemaScore. Even though it is not a sequel, the hype created around this film and its vague ties to the Alien franchise should make it more frontloaded than your typical non-sequel science-fiction release. If it were spring, there would have been a chance of it pulling a Watchmen-type of box-office run. Watchmen (also a hyped R-rated movie) opened to $55.1 million, but failed to hit an opening-to-total multiplier of 2 (the highest opener ever not to manage this multiplier), stalling at $107.5 million. Summer weekdays will certainly prevent that from happening, but the $130 million production certainly won’t display any kind of extraordinary legs. The best case scenario would put its total somewhere around $135 million, but a $120-130 million finish is far more likely. It will give Scott the sixth $100+ million of his career, but Fox must be at least a little disappointed by this kind of performance. Luckily for them, the movie is doing terrific numbers overseas.


Last weekend’s top film Snow White and the Huntsman expectedly slid two slots down to #3. What’s more disturbing, though, is that it lost 59.1% of its audiences in the process, making $23 million over the weekend for a running total of $98.5 million. It is certainly somewhat surprising that despite delivering the 4th-biggest opening of the year last weekend, the fantasy film still failed to reach $100 million within ten days, a usual benchmark for a blockbuster nowadays. The shortcoming of this performance is even more obvious when compared to Men in Black 3’s 2nd-weekend hold. Even though that film is a sequel and was coming off a holiday weekend, it still dropped less than 50%. Without any doubt, Snow White was hit hard by the two openers grossing $110 million this weekend together. All the other holdovers dropped heavier than expected as well. Still this kind of drop goes beyond your usual competition and initial frontloading. It also goes on to show that the film’s WoM is far from strong. In fact, there are a lot of mixed feelings towards the film with most audiences being disappointed by the lack of an epic scope in this film (which the trailers promised). This situation outs Universal’s announcement of a sequel which is being fast-tracked at the moment in a different light. It is questionable whether a sequel to a movie with such mixed WoM has a chance to perform well. There are not a whole lot of moviegoers asking for the continuation of this story. Snow White and the Huntsman carries a $170 million price tag. With the film now unlikely to even reach $160 million domestically, it will need to fully rely on overseas return to turn into profit. In order for the sequel to be successful, Universal will certainly need to reduce the production costs as it is extremely likely that the next film will decrease domestically. The Kristen Stewart-starrer is on track to a $145-155 million finish in North America.


Men in Black 3 held worse than in its second weekend as it dropped 51.9% to $13.5 million, occupying #4 of the box-office in its third frame. After 17 days its total stands at $135.5 million. This was the decisive weekend as far as its chances at topping Men in Black II’s $190.4 million total go. While last weekend made it seem like there was hope for it to become the 2nd-biggest grosser in the series, the harsher drop this weekend sealed its fate. It is currently tracking $12.5 million behind Men in Black II after the same point in its run and it is unlikely to win more ground over the next weeks. It will definitely strongly benefit from the lack of direct competition next weekend as well as from Father’s Day as it should be one of the audience’s prime choices for Father’s Day. However, even if it recovers well and stabilizes afterwards, there is little chance for it to finish with more than $170-175 million. All things considered, its performance so far is at least solid compared to the turnouts for other sequels that arrived past their expiration date like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon ($102.5 million) or Little Fockers ($148.4 million). It should also be noted that Men in Black 3 will become Will Smith’s 8th live-action $150+ million hit, equaling him with Tom Cruise in that respect.


The Avengers went down two spots to #5 this weekend as it decreased a harsher-than-expected 47.2%. A $10.8 million weekend put its running total at an incredible 571.9 million after six weeks. Its 6th weekend is “only” the 18th biggest ever (compared to the all-time #4 that its fifth weekend achieved). While it is still ahead of any other movie at this point of their runs, Avatar is catching up very quickly and is only $20 million behind The Avengers now. There is no doubt that it will overtake the comic book adaptation by the end of the next weekend. There is also no doubt left that The Avengers is certainly not up to the daunting task of passing Titanic’s lifetime gross (including this year’s 3D re-release) of $658.7 million. Father’s Day will help it and $600 million is still locked up for it, but it probably won’t get much further than that, settling for a $605-610 million finish.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continued to show immense strength and great WoM as it managed to hold better than any other wide release in the Top 12. Dropping just 27.8% to $3.2 million as it firmly held on to the 6th spot of the chart. The Fox Searchlight release starring a all-star British cast now stands at $31 million, making it the 19th-biggest release ever for Fox Searchlight domestically. With Father’s Day and little direct competition for older audiences ahead it should have no problems becoming this summer’s bona fide sleeper hit. It will soon cross 40 million and will definitely end up in the studio’s all-time Top 10. In fact, I expect it to finish with $45-50 million and become the only one among its 8 most successful films not to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Awards.


The pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting also managed to hold its ground as it stayed in #7. The flick added another $2.7 million after a 38.5% drop, bringing its running cume to $35.7 million. The film’s legs have been nothing but great. It was in its opening, however, where the film utterly disappointed making its current total somewhat of a let-down too. It should find its way to $43 million before leaving the theatres.


Universal’s biggest domestic flop of the year, Battleship, declined 55.1% to $2.3 million and dropped four spots to #8 of the weekend. With the running total of $59.8 million and not much gas left in the tank it will certainly go down as one of the year’s biggest box-office disappointments, albeit the $235.6 million overseas cume somewhat makes up for that (not enough, though, given the $209 million production budget). Father’s Day should help it a little next weekend, een though the likely huge loss of theatres and screens will negate the boost. After the next weekend, I expect it to vanish from screens pretty quickly, collecting $64 million before ending its run.


Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator was hit equally had this weekend as it dropped to #9. The movie made $2.2 million (down 54.3%) over the three-day period, giving it a running total of $55.2 million. It is now tracking around $4 million behind Bruno is seems unlikely to catch up to it. Direct competition from That’s My Boy will severely hurt it next weekend and after that it should lose most of its theatres. I expect a final cume of $59 million.


After a very successful run in a small number of theatres, Wes Anderson’s newest offering, Moonrise Kingdom, added 80 theatres, bringing its total theatre count to 96. Following that its weekend gross jumped 80.1% compared to last week, helping it to rise to #10 this weekend. It made $1.6 million, averaging $16,448 per location. Its total is $3.8 million. This expansion is somewhat better than that for The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson’s last live-action film. When that film expanded to 95 theatres in its third weekend, it made $1.1 million. Moonrise Kingdom is a much better-reviewed and more accessible film, even though its typical Anderson quirkiness will certainly limit is box-office potential. It won’t reach the heights of last summer’s auteur hit Midnight in Paris, but there’s a good chance of it reaching $15-20 million in total.


In its 5th weekend, Tim Burton’s box-office disappointment Dark Shadows dropped out of the Top 10, going three spots down to #11. The film made $1.4 million (down 63.6%) as it had the worst hold in the entire Top 12. Its current total is $73.7 million and there is little chance of it making more than $76 million in total.


In one of the weekend’s biggest news, The Hunger Games finally passed $400 million, becoming the 14th movie in US box-office history to do so. A $1.1 million weekend (down 33%) at #12 lifted its total to $400.3 million. It hit the mark on the 80th day of its release, making it the slowest movie ever to $400 million. However, it is still doing quite well and is in good shape to finish with $403 million and thus pass Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($402.1 million) for #13. It might even have it in itself to pass Spider-Man’s unadjusted $403.7 million total.

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