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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (August 17-19, 2012)

Discussing last weekend’s box-office results can be done from two different perspectives. On the one hand, we’re dealing with a fairly strong weekend in August. Even though the Top 12 cume of $127.3 million was down 4.3% from last weekend, it was still up a great 20% from the same weekend last year when The Help rose to the top in its sophomore frame. On top of that, seven movies managed to gross more than $10 million over the weekend with an eighth coming within less than $1 million of the number. The last time seven movies made more than $10 million over a weekend was on the most recent New Year’s weekend. On the other hand, one can’t shake off the slight sense of disappointment with the weekend’s openers, most of which seem to have opened below expectations. It was just such a great mix of new films entering the market and yet, none of them managed to break out or, in the case of The Expendables 2, even meet the expectations. There was a lot of money to be spread last weekend, but none of the films got a particularly large chunk of it. Even though the openers didn’t explode, the holdovers were still hurt badly with only two in the entire Top 12 dropping less than 50%.


The Expendables 2 won the box-office throne with ease, but its $28.6 million opening weekend came in well below general expectations. The Lionsgate film averaged just $8,662 from 3,316 locations (Lionsgate’s 2nd-widest opening ever). As expected it skewed older and mostly male with 65% of the audiences being above the age of 25 (only 60% for the first movie) and 63% being men. Though it is the 2nd-biggest opening for a movie with Sylvester Stallone in the leading role (behind the first movie), the 2nd-biggest opening in Simon West’s career (behind the first Tomb Raider film) and of course one of the biggest openings ever in the careers of everyone else involved except for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, it still fell short of The Expendables’ opening by a considerable amount. The first movie opened to significantly worse reviews two years ago and yet raked in $34.8 million in its opening. What was even more impressive about the first Expendables movie is that after its solid start and the expected second-weekend 50+% tumble, it recovered quickly and boasted solid legs until the end of its run, finishing with $103.1 million and a multiplier close to 3. It became only Lionsgate’s second movie at that point to pass the $100 million threshold and since then only The Hunger Games made it past there as well.

Many thought that the good legs meant good word-of-mouth. That, combined with expanded roles for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as well as the addition of Jean Claude van Damme and Chuck Norris was supposed to ensure that the sequel would at least match, but more likely outopen its predecessor. Even if it wouldn’t outgross the first film in total, it seemed like a sure thing that the first three days would be bigger. However, bigger star power and a bigger budget couldn’t help The Expendables 2. Even though its opening is another good addition to the success of R-rated movies this year (it’s the 13th $20+ million opening for an R-rated film in 2012), overall it is plain disappointing. With the movie being a sequel, it is almost a given that legs won’t be as good as the first time around, but even with the first film’s legs it’d just make it to around $85 million, below its $90 million budget. How come the movie opened below expectations? There are various minor reasons which, when combined, probably hurt te movie. First of all, there is still the aftershock of the Aurora shooting. According to a recent poll 17% of the surveyed people are still reluctant about going to the movies. Now granted the teens and female audiences make up a large chunk of that, but the effect is still in place. Moreover, even though not overtly reluctant, it’s not hard to imagine that some audiences might just subconsciously be turned off from a movie featuring guns and violence as heavily as The Expendables 2. That is certainly not the only reason, though. Even though Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy are PG-13 and didn’t exactly set the box-office on fire, they still made sure that action-thirsty audiences have been served well recently. In particular The Bourne Legacy which, like The Expendables 2, skewed rather old satisfied a lot of demand. On top of that, even though The Expendables 2 has more big names to it, the first movie could hugely benefit from the novelty factor of bringing well-known action stars together in one movie.

However, not all looks grim for the ensemble actioner. First of all, the response to the movie seems to be more positive than to the first, by critics as well as by audiences which awarded the movie an “A-“ CinemaScore (as opposed to the “B+” for the first). The movie’s 2.7% decline on Saturday also signifies smaller frontloading than expected. Keep in mind that the first movie dropped 10.7% on its first Saturday. Furthermore, The Expendables 2 will face hardly any direct competition next weekend, possibly allowing for a softer-than-normal drop. Overall, it should still be good for a $70+ million finish, ending up somewhere in the $70-80 million range and making it the 15th R-rated $50+ million movie this year. Now whether that is enough for a third round of the Expendables will depend on overseas returns, but first signs are looking good.


The Bourne Legacy relinquished its top spot to The Expendables 2 after a 55.3% drop to $17.1 million and a $69.6 million total after ten days in theatres. The hold is in line with the drops of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum which both fell more than 50% on their second weekends before stabilizing later in their runs. However, due to a significantly smaller opening, it is tracking around $29 million behind the former and $62 million behind the latter. It remains to be seen whether mixed WoM will hurt its later run. The Expendables 2 doesn’t have the same rating as The Bourne Legacy, but on the other hand both are movies skewing towards older men, so the opener certainly played a part in Legacy’s sharp decline. With only three weak openers next weekend, it should be able to recover and hold well over the Labor Day weekend. It’s September when its final fate will be determined. It’ll depend on whether it can play well outside of the summer season. All signs point towards the film ending up as the lowest-grossing entry in the Bourne franchise, though there is a small chance left that it’ll outdo the $121.7 million unadjusted gross of The Bourne Identity. Right now, however, it looks more like a $110-120 million finish for it.


Focus Features’ second wide animated release ParaNorman, opened at #3 over the weekend, collecting $14.1 million from 3,429 theatres for a PTA of $4,108. ParaNorman scored the best reviews among the weekend’s openers, but the weekend number is not much to write home about. ParaNorman is not only Focus Features’ widest opener of all-time, it is also their first movie to be released at over 3,000 locations. Yet it scored only the 3rd-biggest opening for the studio (behind Burn After Reading and Coraline). Admittedly, it had to directly contend with the opening of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, also aimed at family audiences. Moreover, the main plot about zombies attacking a town might have turned off some cautious parents. Nevertheless, for a 3D animated movie entering a marketplace mostly devoid of family-oriented features, this star is a letdown. It particularly pales to the opening of Coraline which was made by the same production studio, Laika. Coraline was also a dark and not easily accessible movie and yet it brought in $16.8 million in its opening weekend from just 2,299 locations and finished with over $75 million (Focus’ 2nd-biggest film to date). It goes without saying that ParaNorman won’t be getting anywhere near these heights. The movie scored a solid, if unremarkable “B+” CinemaScore and its per-theatre-average was the wors of the four openers last weekend, even though it had the advantage of the 3D premium. With no family-oriented competition until Finding Nemo 3D in mid-September, legs should be solid, but I can see The Odd Life of Timothy Green and the older holdovers benefitting more from that. It should settle for $50-55 million by the end of its run, making it one of Focus’ five biggest films ever. However, unlike their usually cheaper films, ParaNorman carries a rumored $50-60 million price tag.


Warner Bros.’ Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis-starrer The Campaign slipped two spots to #4 and added another $13.1 million (down 50.6%) tom its gross, bringing its running total to $51.4 million by the end of its second weekend. The number is nothing to scoff at and with little competition over the next weeks, it is destined to stabilize and pay well throughout September. The film’s 2nd-weekend hold is very much in line with the drops of Will Ferrell-starrers like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (-53%) and The Other Guys (-51%). Each of these films easily passed the opening-to-total multiplier of 3 and The Campaign shouldn’t have issues managing the same. It will play particularly well over the Labor Day weekend which has shown itself to be very kind to family movies and R-rated comedies in the past. At this point, a $100 million total still cannot be ruled out or confirmed, but a $90+ million finish is extremely like. It should leave the theatres with something around $90-100 million in its pockets.


Sparkle can be counted as another slight disappointment this weekend. The #5 movie made $11.6 million over the Friday-Sunday period, averaging $5,189 from 2,244 theatres. A decent nu,ber for a urban-oriented music drama, but considering that the movie features the heavily marketed final role of singer/actress Whitney Houston, many expected a better outcome. The movie also had a much worse internal weekend multiplier than The Expendables 2. With 74% of the audience female and 62% above the age of 35, the movie hit exactly its expected target audiences, though it most likely won’t expand beyond that. Given its $14 million production budget, it is a given success, but somehow still feels like more could have been in store. It earned a glowing “A” CinemaScore, but I assume that it won’t help much against its natural frontloading. I project a $30-37 million total before it leaves the big screen. With no other urban-oriented movies around and the free press it got thanks to Houston's untimely death, it is surprising the number isn't higher.


The Dark Knight Rises dropped three spots to #6, but still managed the 2nd-best hold in the entire Top 12, dipping just 42% to $11 million for its best hold so far. The comic book adaptation’s impressive total already stands at $409.8 million after five weeks. At this point it is getting harder and harder to complain about a movie that is making such tremendous numbers, but fact remains that it is performing slightly below original expectations and greatly below the revised expectations boosted by The Avengers’ breakout. Yet the movie wrote history, if not for itself, but for the year overall. It surpassed The Hunger Games’ current total ($407.7 million) for the #2 spot of the year and became the third movie this year to pass $400 million. This has never happened before. What’s even more amazing is that with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we might actually have four $400+ million grosser this year. The Dark Knight Rises itself currently occupies the all-time #12 position, ready to burst into the Top 10 within the next couple of weeks. The movie still has the MUST-SEE movie status of all the films out there right now which will keep it afloat throughout September as well. The movie’s currently more than $61 million behind its predecessor after the same amount of time, but it is also still on track to pass Shrek 2’s domestic total and finish at the all-time #7 with $445-450 million in the bag.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green bowed to $10.8 million at #7. It averaged $4,166 from 2,598 venues over the three-day weekend. Since its Wednesday opening the Disney film starring Jennifer Garner has bagged $15.1 million. Considering that the expectations towards this film have been the lowest among all openers, the start is certainly more than solid. With a modes $25 million budget to boot and the Labor Day weekend as well as no competition ahead, this will turn into a bona fide success for Disney, especially given the film’s low profile. The great “A-“ CinemaScore certainly will help its longevity as well. We’re looking at a $40-45 million finish here, similar to Peter Hedges’ last film, Dan in Real Life ($47.6 million).


Hope Springs might have dropped four spots to #8 and missed the $10 million mark, but it still delivered the best hold of all widely playing holdovers. After a 37.8% drop, it grossed $9.1 million over the thee-day period for a cumulative 12-day total of $35.1 million, already surpassing The Iron Lady’s $30 million, for which Meryl Streep has won her third Oscar. The hold is even better than the second weekend drop of Julie & Julia, though it is still tracking well behind it in total. With little direct competition ahead, good WoM and Meryl Streep’s huge appeal to older audiences, this will hang in there for a while and end up with $71 million when all is said and done.


Hit hard by the arrival of the strong duo of ParaNorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days suffered a harsh 52.1% drop to $3.8 million and the 9th spot of the box-office. Its running total stands at $38.7 million after 17 days on release. It is still tracking just around $6.5 million behind the second movie. Thanks to strong summer weekdays, it manages not to fall further behind it. With the Labor Day weekend still ahead, it should almost certainly be able to narrow the gap and maybe even catch up to the second film’s $52.7 million total. Either way, it looks like a $50 million finish is back in play after the underwhelming opening. Right now, I see a total gross of $51 million, but if it manages better-than-expected holds over the next two weeks, then it won’t end up as the series’ lowest-grossing installment afterall.


The Total Recall remake rounded off the Top 10 with a pathetic $3.5 million (down 56.7%) weekend for a $51.8 million total after 17 days. The movie lost over 1,100 theatres last weekend and will keep shedding screens and theatres like crazy over the next weeks. It will end up with around $60 million in the bank, or around half of what the original Total Recall did 22 years ago.


Down to #11, Ice Age: Continental Drift lost another 52.9% of its audience, but it also crossed the $150 million mark after a $3 million weekend. It stands at $150.2 million now with not much more to come. It looks like $161 million will be its final number.


At last, the R-rated breakout comedy Ted continued its great run with another $1.5 million (down 52.1%) collected in its 8th weekend. Its running cume is at $213.1 million. With the Labor Day weekend still ahead, it looks good for a $219 million total by the end of its successful run.


Also noteworthy last weekend: the 13th-biggest movie of the weekend, 2016 Obama’s America managed the unlikely. After adding 109 theatres, the right-wing documentary brought its theatre count to 169, but instead of the film’s PTA dropping a lot, it actually increased from $5,202 to $7,365 leading to a $1.2 million weekend gross and a $2.1 million total to date. The movie will be adding another 400 theatres next weekend. F played right, this has the potential to cross $15 million.

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