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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (June 30-July 1, 2012)

Who would have thought?! Despite no direct sequels (if we don’t consider the newest Madea film as one), remakes or big animated movies opening this weekend, 2012 was still back with a huge bang! Last weekend, which saw Brave opening to over $66 million was already an improvement over the preceding weeks, but this weekend’s Top 12 reached $197.1 million, marking another 25.2% increase over the preceding weekend and 2.8% over the same weekend last year when Transformers: Dark of the Moon topped the box-office with $98 million. Even though the combined gross of the top two openers came in lower than that, the strength of the top three new movies grossing almost combined $120 million pushed this weekend to the 12th-spot of the all-time biggest aggregated Top 12 grosses. However what makes this weekend so remarkable is the kind of movies that enabled these huge numbers. For the first time ever, the Top 2 of one of the biggest 50 weekends ever was comprised of R-rated films. Also, for the first time ever, four movies made more than $25 million over the three-day period. What is even more impressive is that these two movies are not sequels, prequels, remakes or based on any pre-existing material whatsoever. They just happened to be amazingly marketed, appealing movies with little audience overlap (thus little competition to one another despite sharing the same rating) and they filled a void in the marketplace which, as of last weekend, was mostly catering to family audiences. It is difficult to tell how the weekend would have panned out, had G.I. Joe: Retaliation not moved to next year (Ted took its spot), but it is safe to say that Ted was a huge benefactor of this move.


The two major wide openers wildly overperformed, but Ted easily came out on top with $54.1 million from 3,239 theatres, averaging an amazing $16,703 per theatre. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s live action debut was greeted with good reviews and a warm welcome by  audiences which awarded it an “A-“ CinemaScore. Ted’s opening weekend is the 8th-biggest of all-time for an R-rated movie, the third-biggest for a comedy (behind The Hangover Part II and Sex and the City) and, most amazingly, it is the highest R-rated opener ever not based on previously existing material. Ted is a great success for its (human) stars, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis who are both having amazing streaks. Wahlberg has already landed a surprise hit with Universal this year when the action remake Contraband hit $66.5 million at the box-office. In fact, ted marks his 9th $20+ million opening and his 11th #1 movie. Kunis’ hot streak is no worse. Her previous four films are Friends with Benefits ($55.8 million), Black Swan ($107 million), Date Night ($98.7 million) and The Book of Eli ($94.8 million). Ted is also a fitting continuation of a great year for Universal. While Universal’s most recent R-rated comedy, the third sequel in the American Pie franchise, American Reunion, disappointed at the domestic box-office with a $56.8 million total (it blew up overseas, though with over $230 million worldwide to date), Universal managed to land two huge hits this year with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax ($213.2 million) and the Denzel Washington starrer Safe House ($126.2 million). Even though their Snow White and the Huntsman came in slightly below expectations for a $170 million flick, its current $145.6 million total is solid at the very least. With almost $735 million made by their movies prior to this weekend, Universal holds the 3rd spot among the studios with the biggest market share this year. Keep in mind that the studio hasn’t placed in the Top 3 since 2005. With Ted making huge numbers and The Bourne Legacy and Savages immediately ahead, the studio will pass $1 billion with ease and could land their biggest year ever (they just need to pass $1.07 billion for that).

Alongside pushing Universal to new heights, Ted also yet another showcase of the strength of R-rated movies this year which I have went into detail with an article a few months ago. Magic Mike and Ted became the 10th and 11th R-rated movies this year to open above $20 million. Only six managed it last year. Moreover, Ted became the 12th R-rated movie to pass $50 million (in three days, no less), already one more than throughout the whole of 2011. In fact if this is an indication of how the rest of the year will pan out, 2012 might very well reach the heights of the 1999-2001 period as far as R-rated movies are concerned. The Watch, Django Unchained, The Expendables 2, Resident Evil: Retribution and Paranormal Activity 4 all look primed to deliver at the very least decent numbers with an R-rating to boot. Hopefully this is finally a sign to the big heads in Hollywood that any movie with an appealing enough premise and good marketing can break out, regardless of its rating.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Ted and Magic Mike. The box-office was doing well, but the big business was done by family-oriented films, Brave and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, leaving a void for the 18-49 demographics that was readily filled by the openers. When Ted was initially announced, a high-concept comedy about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, many (including myself) saw a mediocre box-office performance at best. However, the red-band trailer hinted at the film’s great appeal and Universal was at the top of their game with the film’s marketing. Besides, there hasn’t been an R-rated comedy since The Dictator in May and the controversial Sacha Baron Cohen film didn’t set the box-office on fire either. Essentially, there hasn’t been a big R-rated comedy since 21 Jump Street ($138.3 million) opened in March. Ever since 2005’s Wedding Crashers/The 40-Year Old Virgin breakouts, almost every summer season saw an R-rated comedy breaking out at the box-office (with 2006 and 2010 being notable exceptions). Ted seems to fit the bill this summer. Some are already labeling it as this year’s The Hangover. While it remains to be seen whether its cultural impact and its word-of-mouth are on the same level as The Hangover (that film’s opening-to-total multiplier would lead to a $330+ million total for Ted), it is certainly looking at good legs. These summer-released R-rated movies usually wind up with good legs. Horrible Bosses passed a multiplier of 4 last year and even the lesser-received Bad Teacher still almost hit 3.2. With no direct competition until the R-rated The Watch at the end of July, it should be among the few films to endure The Dark Knight Rises’ onslaught later this month relatively well. It should find itself among the 12 biggest R-rated movies ever in North America and finish with a terrific $185-205 million total by the end of its run. With its $50 million budget, it’ll turn into a very tidy profit for Universal.


As much as Ted impressed the box-office followers and industry experts this weekend, the #2 movie, Magic Mike, was no slouch either. The male stripper-themed comedic drama, starring this year’s breakout actor Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey amassed $39.2 million over the weekend for a $13,363 average from 2,930 venues. Warner Bros. bought the distribution rights for the film for just $7 million, meaning the movie is already a terrific success. It is terrific how huge this movie has become despite another R-rated film opening on the same weekend. The key here was the small overlap in target audiences. Whereas 57% of Ted’s opening weekend audiences were male, 73% of Magic Mike’s patrons were, unsurprisingly, female. When acquiring the movie at such a small sum, Warner must have known they’ve got themselves a winner. However even they couldn’t have anticipated such a turnout. Aggressive marketing for the film turned what could have come across as a sleazy niche product into a fun-looking sexy romp which became an opening day must see for groups of women (and gay guys), not seen outside of the Sex and the City and Twilight franchises. It became a phenomenon. Unfortunately, its opening weekend pattern also behaved like that of the aforementioned films. After a thunderous $19.4 million opening day, Magic Mike fell 41.5% on Saturday to $11.4 million. This drop is even higher than 34.4% for the first Sex and the City flick and in the realm of Friday-Saturday drops for the Twilight movies which all eased more than 40% on their first Saturday. It remains to be seen whether it can recover after this initial frontloading. Sex and the City and the first Twilight looked to have blown their loads opening weekend, but they stabilized later on and ended up with respectable legs. Magic Mike received solid reviews, but the “B” CinemaScore suggests that some audiences weren’t happy with the film being a darker and less funny affair than the marketing suggested.

Magic Mike is Stephen Soderbergh’s third movie in the span of just ten months, following Contagion ($75.7 million) and Haywire ($18.9 million). The director who is known for going back and forth between commercial project and more artistic fare might have landed his first $100 million hit since Ocean’s Thirteen five years ago. Magic Mike marks the biggest opening of his career, nearly tying Ocean’s Twelve. However, Magic Mike’s success is even more impressive (and important) for its star Channing Tatum on whose early life the movie is partly based. Tatum is having a year as good as any actor could ever hope with two $125+ million hits already under his belt (The Vow and 21 Jump Street). Given the initial frontloading and the film’s limited appeal (it is doubtful that it will cross over well to male demographics), it won’t reach these regions, but there is a good chance that the movie will rebound and thanks to strong summer weekdays still reach $100 million. Right now it is aiming at a $95-105 million total.


Last weekend’s champion Brave dropped to the third spot of the box-office this weekend. After adding another $34 million (down 48.7%) to its gross, the Scottish Highlands tale stands at $131.7 million after just ten days. Its decline is surprisingly strong given the absolute lack of new direct competition. It just goes on to show that the Pixar brand has become so popular by now that Pixar movies start to work similar to sequels at the box-office, at least in their initial few weeks. There is a certain degree of frontloading there, otherwise this drop is simply inexplicable, given the film’s good reception (“A” CinemaScore). The hold is similar to WALL-E’s second weekend hold. However, coming off a slightly bigger second weekend, Brave is still tracking $4.5 million ahead of WALL-E and $14.5 million ahead of Cars and Cars 2. Here’s hoping or the film to recover next weekend, even though The Amazing Spider-Man should target it more directly. Whichever way it goes, there is nothing to complain here over as the film is still a solid lock to pass $200 million before the end of its run. I’d say that it is headed for $235-250 million domestically.


Tyler Perry’s seemingly zillionth collaboration with Lionsgate occupied the 4th spot this weekend. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection is Perry’s fifth entry in the Madea series and it delivered $26.4 million from 2,161 theatres this weekend for an average of $12,193 per theatre. The opening is actually up a little from last year’s Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, which bowed to $25.1 million. As usual, the target audiences liked the movie, awarding it an “A-“ CinemaScore. Don’t expect the grade to translate into good legs, thougg. Tyler Perry has a very constant fanbase, but also a clearly defined one. Almost none of his movies have ever reached a multiplier of above 2.5 and certainly none of his Madea films ever even came close. However, it is his first film to open during the summer, so we’ll see how much summer weekdays will do for it. It should wind up somewhere around $55-60 million for its total, giving Perry his 8th $50+ million film and possibly making it one of Lionsgate’s all-time 10 biggest grosser (that would make it Perry’s fourth movie in their Top 10).


Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted surprised once again as it delivered the best hold within the Top 12 for a non-expanding movie. After a 40.1% decline, it dropped three slots down to #5 and collected $11.8 million over the three-day period. Its running total stands at $180 million which ties it almost exactly with the total gross of the franchise’s preceding film, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. It looks like the movie is fairly resistant to competition and WoM is still hot for it. Madagascar 3 is currently tracking $21 million ahead of the second film and more than $33 million ahead of the first. Within the next two weeks, the $200 million wall will fall, making Madagascar the biggest animated sequel outside of the Toy Story and Shrek series. With such a huge success to boot, ti shouldn’t take long until the release date for Madagascar 4 is set. The third movie is on track to a $210-215 million total.


At #6 followed the movie that suffered the worst drop among the Top 12 movies this weekend. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter dropped a harsh 63.2% to $6 million and stands at a meager $29 million after ten days. The R-rated double-whammy of Magic Mike and Ted simply destroyed the film which is now looking at a $40 million total when all is said and done.


Also suffering from R-rated competition, Prometheus dropped to #7 with $4.9 million (down 50.3%) in its 4th week. The movie brought its total cume to $118.3 million. It’s true that the film’s box-office didn’t live up to the wild expectations of movie fans who were hoping for another Inception on our hands. However, its likely $129 million final cume is also a very respectable number for a bleak R-rated hard sci-fi film. It will, however, need far more impressive overseas returns in order to have a sequel greenlit.


Rising three spots all the way to #8, Moonrise Kingdom re-entered the Top 10, increasing for the 5th time in a row. Wes Anderson’s whimsical comedy Moonrise Kingdom increased for the fifth time in a row as Focus Features finally gave the film a wide release, adding 459 theatres and bringing its theatre count to 854. This led to a 43.6% increase over the weekend. A $4.9 million weekend put its total at $18.4 million. What is impressive is that its per-theatre-average remained strong with over $5,000 despite the movie’s theatre count more than doubling. Focus must know by now that they’ve got a bona fide hit on their hands. It has already entered their all-time Top 20 at #19 and will inevitably break into their Top 5. Word-of-mouth on the film is great and it works perfectly as counter-programming to your usual summer fare. Moonrise Kingdom is certain to become Anderson’s highest-grossing film in North America since The Royal Tenenbaums over 10 years ago and quite possible his biggest film ever. Depending on how Focus handles it from now on (they definitely need to add another 300-400 theatres over the next two weeks), it has a good chance to end up somewhere around $45-55 million.


Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman ranked 9th this weekend as it lost 45.5% of its last weekend’s audiences. Snow White made $4.4 million this weekend, bringing its running cume to $145.6 million. The movie doesn’t have much gas left in the tank and The Amazing Spider-Man/Ice Age: Continental Drift should see it vanishing rather quickly with a $155 million final gross.


The 10th spot went to the unfortunate fourth wide opener this weekend, People Like Us. Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut garnered good reviews and a “B+” CinemaScore, but collected only $4.3 million from 2,055 locations (PTA of $2,095). There was simply no room for this family drama this weekend and it should succumb to competition for screens and theatres pretty soon, leaving the silver screen with around $11-14 million in its pockets.


The Avengers dropped out of the Top 10 in is 9th week, settling for #11 with $4.2 million (down 41.3%) and a $606.3 million total. There isn’t much left to be said about the film’s tremendous performance. It should quietly wrap up its run by the end of the summer with a total of $619 million in the bank.


Men in Black 3 rounded off the Top 12 with a $2.7 million (down 49.4%) weekend. Its current gross has reached $169.6 million and it will end up with $177 million when all is said and done.

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