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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (October 19-21, 2012)

The 2012 box-office is on a roll as it managed yet another win against 2011! In an interesting turn of events, even though none of the two wide openers managed to impress, their narrow focus allowed for most holdovers to experience terrific holds, thus resulting in a Top 12 cume that is pretty much exactly on par with the previous frame and 10.7% above the same frame last year when Paranormal Activity 3 has opened to much more impressive numbers than its sequel this year. Overall, the Top 12 amassed around $121 million for the fourth weekend in a row above $100 million. That’s just enormously impressive for October. There is one more quiet weekend ahead until Wreck-It Ralph hits to what most expect to be terrific numbers.


As it used to be a yearly Halloween tradition before with Saw, it has become one with Paranormal Activity. Alas this year saw the release of the 4th installment in the hugely successful franchise. Paranormal Activity 4, however, opened well below its both predecessors, grossing just $29 million from 3,412 theatres for a per-theatre-average of $8,501. The opening is a far cry from last year’s $52.6 million bow by Paranormal Activity 3 and even almost 29% below the opening of the first sequel. In fact, Paranormal Activity 4 made barely more in its first weekend than the third film did opening day ($26.3 million). What comes even worse is that the audiences hardly liked the film, awarding it a “C”-CinemaScore. Coupled with the franchise’s worst reviews, it is unlikely that the film will stick around for long.

This sort of franchise fatigue was to be expected, it just comes as a surprise after the humongous, record-breaking $50+ million opening of the predecessor. As far as box-office patterns go, Paranormal Activity is an unusual franchise. The first film was a true sleeper hit. Budgeted at just $15,000, it took in $107.9 million at the domestic box-office. The first sequel saw numbers dip to $84.8 million. The third film, however, rebounded and passed $100 million again, topping out at $104 million. These are huge numbers for an R-rated horror series, making Paranormal Activity an even bigger franchise than Saw ever was and the biggest horror franchise since the original Scream trilogy. It took six movies for Saw, however, to dip dramatically at the box-office. The fourth and the fifth movies, while finishing with much less in total than its two predecessors, still managed to open to $30+ million each. It was the sixth Saw film that stunned everyone by opening to less than $20 million (ironically, it was the first Paranormal Activity that most likely cost it a large chunk of audiences back in 2009). In Paranormal Activity’s case audiences might just be fed up with more and more questions and few answers by now. Unless the series’ rating switches to a PG-13 next year, we’ll likely see yet another big dip in grosses next year. Still, budgeted at a mere $6 million, Paranormal Activity 4 is already a hit (and unsurprisingly got the fifth movie greenlit for next Halloween already). It is also yet another addition to the large number of R-rated hits this year. I see it finishing with around $55-58 million at the box-office, meaning that it could still be the year’s biggest straightforward horror film (unless you count Prometheus which I wouldn’t). Things certainly need to pick up for the next installment; otherwise I see the gross dipping below $40 million next year.


The real story of the weekend is Argo. Ben Affleck’s third directing gig shocked everyone by dropping mere 15.5% to $16.4 million (and staying at the 2nd spot of the box-office). After ten days, the thriller stands at $43 million at the North American box-office, trailing The Town by less than $6 million, while coming off a stronger weekend. Whereas $100 million seemed like an outside possibility last weekend, its chances have hugely improved after this tremendous hold. In fact, this is the 2nd-best second weekend hold ever for a movie in more than 3,000 theatres that was not inflated by some holiday weekend or similar circumstances (only behind Puss in Boots’ second frame). Facing relatively little direct competition next weekend and enjoying out-of-this-world word-of-mouth (remember, it scored an “A+”-CinemaScore!), there is ab great chance that it will top the box-office in its third weekend. From now on, Ben Affleck should be a big household name among directors. With the awards season still ahead, who knows how far it can go, especially if it manages to snatch some important wins along the way? Right now, it should find itself on track towards a $115-130 million finish, provided it can hold on to its theatres long enough to develop this sort of legs. Either way, it seems like we’re looking at the 6th R-rated $100+ million grosser this year and Warner Bros.’ first big hit since The Dark Knight Rises.


The third spot went to Taken 2, which dipped two slots from the box-office throne and lost 39.4% of its audiences in the process. The film continued to defy terrible reviews and passed $100 million on its 16th day of release. A $13.3 million weekend pushed the running total of Liam Neeson’s action sequel to $105.8 million – still around $28 million ahead of the first film. That was the point when Taken’s amazing legs really kicked in, so the gap will be decreasing very fast, but it is still amazing that, all things considered, Taken 2 was able to gross over 70% of the first film’s total in less than three full weeks. With a production budget of just $45 million, the movie is a tremendous success for Fox and will probably warrant at least two more sequels. Next weekend it should benefit from the complete lack of direct competition and the weekend after it will face two R-rated and one PG-rated release, meaning it might be just one of the two PG-13-rated movies in the entire Top 10. It won’t be until Skyfall that Taken 2 will be hit hard by direct competition. Taking that into account, it looks like the movie will wrap up its run with $135-140 million, grossing more than 90% of the first film’s total.


Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania held on to the 4th spot of the box-office and continued to make up for Adam Sandler’s recent boy-office letdowns. A $13 million (down 24.6%) fourth weekend led to a running total of $118.5 million. For a movie that barely anyone expected to break $30 million opening weekend, let alone crush the September record and make more than $100 million in total, it is doing just splendidly. With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million) three years ago and now Hotel Transylvania, Sony Animation has finally established itself as a strong animation studio. Hotel Transylvania has another very good weekend ahead of itself until Wreck-It Ralph will cut into its numbers and Rise of the Guardians will finish it off a few weeks later. It’s going to end up with around $145-150 million.


Alex Cross, the third adaptation of James Patterson’s successful novel series about the eponymous detective, disappointed at the 5th spot, bringing in just $11.4 million over the weekend from 2,539 venues. It averaged $4,489 per theatre. The opening is below the previous two Alex Cross adaptations (both starring Morgan Freeman in the role) – Kiss the Girls ($13.2 million) and Along Came a Spider ($16.7 million) – and that unadjusted for inflation. There is no chance Alex Cross will even get close to the unadjusted totals of those films which grossed more than $60 million each. Alex Cross is a great example of how much a miscast part can hurt a movie. It was an interesting and maybe even brave career move for Tyler Perry to take the part of Cross. After his Tyler Perry-brand films, he wanted to branch out at some point and try something serious. However, it was most likely his very well-known brand that actually cost the film a lot of audiences. Fans of Patterson and the Alex Cross series did not accept Perry in the title role, whereas the film also managed to alienate the usual Tyler Perry fans, so that the flick opened worse than any movie Perry has ever starred in. Still, looking at the weekend’s audiences, it is clear that among those who dd come to see the film, Tyler Perry’s fans prevailed. Around 60% of the audiences were female, 68% above the age of 35 and a stunning 74% African American. While the audiences awarded the film an impressive “A”-CinemaScore (in stark contrast to the scathing reviews it has received), it won’t help the film’s legs much. Tyler Perry’s flicks usually receive good or great CinemaScores, yet tend to be very frontloaded. Thus, I don’t expect a run akin to a typical adult-oriented thriller, but more akin to Perry’s films. Therefore, a total of $25-30 million should be in store. Given the $23 million budget, not a disaster, but hardly what Perry and Summit Entertainment had hoped for.


Another Summit Entertainment film is faring much better, though. Thanks to Paranormal Activity 4 not breaking out like its predecessor, Sinister managed not to drop like a rock in its second weekend. Instead it made another $8.8 million for a total of $31.7 million after 10 days. Sure, its 51% decline was still by far the worst in the Top 12, but given its mixed WoM and huge direct competition, it could have been much worse. The film placed 6th on the weekend. With Silent Hill: Revelation 3D next weekend, it will face yet another challenge. Either way, however, with a $3 million budget it is already a big hit for Summit and after less than two full weeks their 7th-biggest non-Twilight film. While it may fall short of $50 million, a $47 million total is noting to complain about either for this R-rated horror film.


Benefitting from the lack of competition and great WoM, Here Comes the Boom dipped just 28.9% to $8.4 million and settled for the 7th spot this weekend. After 10 days, it stands at $23.1 million. It should have a smooth run ahead, unless it loses screens and theatres too fast, but it still stands as a disappointment for Kevin James and will end up as his lowest-grossing film at around $42 million.


Pitch Perfect dropped two spots down to #8, but delivered a formidable 27.1% drop in its third weekend of wide release. A $6.8 million weekend take pushed its running total to $45.5 million, meaning that it is still well on track towards $60+ million. I expect the flick to have a very smooth sailing all the way until the final Twilight movie hits, targeting its young female audiences. Still, I total gross around $61 million is to be expected, making this $17 million feature a big success.


Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is still hanging in there, but things aren’t looking too good for it overall. The 3d stop motion flick garnered $4.3 million (down 38.6%) at he 9th spot this weekend, but its total is still just at around $28.2 million, making it a definite failure for Burton. This will top out with about $36 million. I expect another good weekend, followed by sharp drop-offs facing competition and losing theatres.


Looper could finally stabilize and manage a respectable drop this weekend. Down to #10, it decreased just 32.2% to $4.2 million and brought its total to $57.8 million after 24 days on release. Given its R-rating, the film is doing really well, having already become the 12th-biggest R-rated movie of the year. It is also tracking around $13 million ahead of the PG-13-rated, thematically somewhat comparable Source Code. Yet with all the hype and raving reviews, one can’t help, but feel a little tiny bit disappointed with its likely $68 million total. In particular after its opening, I expected no less than $75 million.


Even though Seven Psychopaths dropped out of the Top 10 to #11 this weekend, it still delivered a terrific hold, dropping just 21.6% in its sophomore weekend to $3.3 million. In 10 days it has collected $9.2 million, more than In Bruges’, the director’s previous feature, $7.8 million total gross. Now it does have the potential to break past $20 million now. However, I think it simply won’t be able to hold on to enough theatres facing new releases long enough in order to achieve that. Therefore, the more likely outcome is a final cume around $18 million.


At last, The Perks of Being a Wallflower rounded off the Top 10, staying pretty much flat from the last weekend (it actually increased 0.1%) despite adding just 19 new theatres. A $2.2 million Friday-Sunday cume pushed its running total to $9.1 million and set the film on course towards a $18-20 million finish, depending on how long it’ll stay in theatres.

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