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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (November 9-11, 2012)

2012 is still on a roll! After Wreck-It Ralph and Flight kicked off the month with terrific numbers, Skyfall, the latest installment in the 50-year-old James Bond series brought the box-office to new heights. The Top 12 accumulated around $162.6 million over the weekend, the highest total since The Dark Knight Rises’ opening in July. It also went up another 30.5% compared to the last weekend and a great 28.9% compared to the similar weekend last year when Tarsem’s Immortals conquered the top spot. Thanks to rather limited competition, many holdovers managed to hold well, helping to put the yearly box-office of 2012 5.5% ahead of 2011 and 1.3% ahead of 2010, the biggest year ever in terms of domestic box-office.

Undeniably the story of the weekend (and most likely of the entire month as well) is Skyfall. The 23rd entry in the British franchise based on the books by Ian Fleming opened to an unbelievable $90 million from 3,505 theatres, including $2.2 million it made from over 300 IMAX theatres which it hit on Thursday, preceding its nationwide release. Over the actual Friday-Sunday portion the film grossed $87.8 million, averaging $25,050 per theatre. The number not only gives it by far the highest opening weekend for any film in the franchise (even adjusted for inflation), but also makes it the 7th-biggest James Bond movie ever (unadjusted) by the end of its first weekend. The three-day opening weekend was 30% above the previous record-holder, Quantum of Solace, which bowed to $67.5 million back in 2008 and 115% above the opening of Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, Casino Royale.

Even though James Bond has always been a very known commodity, it wasn’t until Pierce Brosnan’s films as the British super agent that James Bond has once again become a consistently big box-office draw in North America for the first time since Sean Connery’s films in the 1960s. Goldeneye became the first James Bond-movie to cross $100 million in unadjusted numbers at the North American box-office and ever since then every single James-Bond movie outdid its predecessor. In particular there was a big jump between The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, Brosnan’s last film as Bond. Die Another Day finished with $160.9 million in 2002, making it the 5th-biggest Bond film ever adjusted for inflation back then. Four years later, Goldeneye’s director Martin Campbell reinvented the franchise with Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as Bond. This new take on the character and the series opened to less than Die Another Day, but garnered extremely positive reviews and was hugely embraced by the audiences, leading to a terrific multiplier and a total of $167.4 million, making it the biggest Bond ever. Two years later, Quantum of Solace outopened Casino Royale by almost $27 million, but finished with less than $1 million more, having displayed very disappointing legs that can only be attributed to increased frontloading due to the great reception for Casino Royale and the general disappointment of many moviegoers with the latest film. MGM’s financial troubles led to a hiatus of four years for the series and while many (including myself) expected Quantum of Solace’s mediocre WoM and the long break to take a toll on Skyfall’s opening, they obviously didn’t. On the contrary, the long wait apparently led to increased anticipation and Sony’s expert marketing campaign, an empty marketplace and the most successful James Bond-song in a very long time made the best case-scenario happen.  With Skyfall, James Bond has finally become a force to be reckoned with not just overseas (where it has grossed a superb $428.8 million so far), but domestically as well.

Early signs for the rest of its run are looking great as well. The film earned an “A” grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore and skewed male (60%) and somewhat older (75% of its opening weekend audiences were above the age of 25). The reviews are raving and it has shown no early signs of strong frontloading. In fact, its Saturday number represents an increase of 6.9% over its already massive $31.7 million Friday gross. For comparison: Casino Royale went up 4.6% whereas Quantum of Solace dropped 4.4%. This could be a sign of terrific word-of-mouth already materializing. Moreover, the move made a great $13.1 million from IMAX venues across North America. These will most likely play a role in the film’s longevity as well. Now I don’t expect the film to be as leggy as Casino Royale which would put Skyfall’s total at $362 million. Even the worst-case scenario, though, which would be Quantum of Solace’s terrible legs, puts the film above $220 million domestically. A middle ground is more likely Skyfall will be aided by the upcoming holidays, by its WoM, but also by the media frenzy it will most likely receive due to its strong start. Of course the upcoming The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be a huge success, but doesn’t change the fact that its focus is still rather narrow, whereas Skyfall will remain the must-see blockbuster until the arrival of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in a month. The Bourne Ultimatum’s legs is what I envision right now, putting the film well above $250 million and in the proximity of $300 million. It’s a pretty sure thing that if Skyfall comes close to $300 million, Sony will do anything in their power to make sure it passes the magic barrier. Right now, I see it landing somewhere around $270-$300 million.


Not particularly impressed by Skyfall’s arrival, Wreck-It Ralph remained relatively free from any competition in its second frame and had no trouble occupying the 2nd spot of the box-office with $33.1 million, down just 32.6% from its already strong opening weekend. After ten days, Ralph stands at $93.7 million, well ahead of all other non-Pixar CG-animated Disney efforts. The movie to beat here is Disney’s Tangled which took in a total gross of $200.8 million in 2010 after its Thanksgiving release. Wreck-It Ralph has yet another weekend of little competition ahead and should be greatly helped by Thanksgiving and, later, by Christmas. Whether or njot it will make it all the way to $200 million will depend on how well it’ll be able to co-exist with Rise of the Guardians which will open in two weeks and is the last major animated movie of 2012. Rise of the Guardians is being well-marketed by Paramount and has a strong Christmas-theme, making it a likely solid performer. However, I firmly believe that around this time of the year, the box-office can accommodate several family-oriented hits. A good example for that is 2004 when The Incredibles, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The Polar Express and Christmas with the Kranks all opened within the same month and yet all brought in good-to-great numbers. Whether Wreck-It Ralph will reach $200 million or not remains to be determined, but it should be a near-lock for $180 million at this point, looking at a $185-200 million finish when all is said and done. Either way, it’ll certainly end up as the most successful animated movie to be released on the first weekend of November since The Incredibles eight years ago.


Flight, on the other hand, took a harder hit at #3 due to Skyfall aiming at the same adult audiences. Dropping 39.4% from its splendid opening, the Denzel Washington-starring drama accumulated $15.1 million over its sophomore frame and brought its running total to $47.8 million, putting it around $6 million ahead of the November-released Unstoppable with Denzel Washington and more than $4 million ahead of Training Day. Both films went on to finish with over $75 million which is where Flight is heading for as well. It needs to be noted, however, that Paramount just added another 163 theatres for Flight this weekend, bringing its theatre count to just 2,047. Current plans are to expand it much further next weekend, probably putting it into more than 3,000 theatres overall which should ensure a great hold, even despite direct competition from Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Strong WoM (“A-“-CinemaScore) and awards buzz for Washington will propel the film to a total gross above $100 million. I see it topping out somewhere between $105-115 million, making it Washington’s fourth-biggest movie to date and yet another huge R-rated hit for 2012, given its modest $31 million production budget. Moreover, it’ll become Robert Zemeckis’ 10th feature to pass $100 million domestically. The movie is a huge winner for the studio, its star and its director.


Faced with direct competition for its adult moviegoers, Argo dropped a slot to #4 in its 5th weekend. A $6.7 million (down 33.9%) weekend take represents the film’s worst decline during its run so far. Not that it matters much, though, given the amazing durability Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort has shown thus far. The film’s running total amounts to $85.7 million – more than $5 million higher than The Town’s after the same time in release. Next weekend, the movie will face stiff competition courtesy of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. However, it will still cross $100 million before the end of the month and will most likely experience a second life at the box-office once strong Oscar buzz kicks in and the film will inevitably garner many major nominations. Even if it fails to win anything major, it should be able to find its way above $120 million and finish in the $120-130 million range, most likely making it one of the biggest, if not the biggest Best Picture nominee of 2012.


In a strange twist of events, Taken 2 defied all expectations, held on to the 5th spot of the box-office and eased just 32.4% despite Skyfall aiming for the very same PG-13 action-interested audiences. The only explanation that can be provided for this is that Taken 2 was probably able to benefit from many sold out showings by Skyfall and Taken 2 being the primary alternative for those who weren’t able to get a ticket for James Bond. After a $4 million weekend, the Fox action sequel brought its running total to $131.3 million, less than $15 million away from the first film’s final gross. After six weeks Taken 2 is tracking more than $13 million ahead of the first movie and it looks like it won’t very far from it at all when all is said and done. If Skyfall couldn’t put much of a dent in its number, then it’s unlikely that Lincoln and Breaking Dawn Part 2 will severely hurt it by competition. It will however suffer by losing many screens and theatres to the batch of upcoming wide releases over the next two weeks. Nevertheless, this terrific hold put Taken 2 well on its way to hit $140 million eventually and finish within $5 million of the first movie.


The 6th spot went to Here Comes the Boom which climbed three spots thanks to the lack of competition and delivered the 2nd-best hold in the entire Top 12. The Kevin James-starrer dipped 27.7% to $2.3 million, bringing its total to $39.1 million after five weeks. Despite this good hold, the film doesn’t have much gas left in its tank due to its relatively low per-theatre-average. It will soon vanish from most venues on its way to a final total of $44 million.


Cloud Atlas felt the effects of mediocre WoM kicking in full force in its third weekend. Down to #7, the ambitious sci-fi drama lost 53.1% of its audiences. It added $2.5 million to its total over the weekend, bringing the 17-day cume to $22.7 million – a pitiful number for the 102 million production. It will go on to finish with just $27 million.


Pitch Perfect climbed back into the Top 10 after two weeks at #11 with the best hold in the entire Top 12. Down a minuscule 18.3% it garnered $2.5 million over the weekend, showing the lack of films for female audiences in the marketplace. Most of the movies that are doing well at the moment (Skyfall, Taken 2, Argo and Flight) cater much stronger to male audiences. That will change next weekend with the arrival of the final Twilight movie, but until then it should have its last moments in the sun. Pitch Perfect’s running total stands at $59 million at the moment and should end up at $64 million by the end of its run.


At #9 The Man with the Iron Fists suffered the weekend’s worst drop, albeit not unexpected. The movie was always bound to be frontloaded and mediocre WoM isn’t helping either. A $2.5 million (down 68.5%) brought its 10-day cume to $12.7 million. It will wind up with around $17 million.


Hotel Transylvania rounded off the Top 10 with $2.4 million (down 46.7%) as it apparently continued to suffer the effect of Wreck-It Ralph’s release. After seven weeks, the animated breakout hit crossed the $140 million-mark and found itself with $140.9 million in the bank. As expected, the sequel has already been announced. It will find its way a $147 million total gross.


Paranormal Activity 4 dropped out of the Top 10 in its fourth weekend with a $2 million gross, down 52.5% from its last weekend. Its running total amounts to $52.6 million. It has become the 18th R-rated movie this year to cross the $50 million-mark. It’s also less than $2 million away from passing The Woman in Black’s total and becoming the highest-grossing straightforward horror movie of the year in North America, a feat that I think is achievable. It will finish its run with around $57 million in its pockets.


Sinister spent its 5th week in the Top 12, decreasing 47% to $1.5 million and it remained in the 12th spot in the charts. Sinister has made $45.1 million since its opening and while its chances to make it to $50 million are very slim now, it’ll certainly get close enough. I project a $48 million total.


The most interesting release outside of the Top 12 was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Disney released the 140-minutes Oscars hopeful into 11 theatres this weekend with plans to expand it to around 1,500 next weekend. The film made $0.9 million for an amazing PTA of $81,818. It’s the 2nd-best opening average for any movie in more than 10 theatres, behind Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, which averaged an incredible $104.025 per theatre from 18 locations. That puts Lincolns opening ahead of Black Swan, Up in the Air and Mystic River in terms of averages. It remains to be seen how well it’ll do in wide release, but any total below $80 million would be flat out shocking at this point.

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