Yes, no gigantic surprises as the combination of family appeal, outstanding reviews, good word of mouth, the 3-D inflationary spiral, and a sufficient number of theaters in which to milk it, made for a solid opening for the weekend’s most high profile new release. To be specific, as per Box Office Mojo‘s handy dandy weekend chart, the 3-D animated “How to Train Your Dragon,” netted an estimate of $43.3 million for Dreamworks/Paramount and enjoyed the highest per-screen average of any film released this week on more than one screen, and it was on 4,055 of them. It’s a result not far from what was expected earlier.
Some may find this a slightly below-par opening. True to form in the ever-spinning world of Hollywood PR, some executive for a rival studio complimented the film but told Nikki Finke it tracked badly — and some day I’m going to learn exactly what that means — because it “lacked comedy,” which confuses me deeply. I mean, the trailer made me laugh. I guess he means it lacked a poop-eating joke or something. Anyhow, Ms. Finke is quite correct that, given the good word of mouth and the coming school holidays it should enjoy “good multiples.”
Meanwhile, Anthony D’Alessandro, Anne Thompson’s resident box office guru, has this to add:
While some box office analysts are crying foul that this figure reps a paltry opening weekend, particularly for a 3D film saddled with an estimated $165-million budget, these claims overlook the fact that animation films are a different breed at the box office than run-of-the-mill features. Toons have longer legs, making anywhere from 30-35% of their total domestic haul in their opening weekend, whereas the average bow reps 50%.
In other words, do not cry for the filmmakers or Dreamworks. They’re going to do fine.
And, though their film is out of the top spot, neither should you shed a tear for Disney or Tim Burton even if “Alice in Wonderland” is out of the #1 spot. They had a terrific three week run at the top spot and this week’s second place estimate of $17.3 million is not too shabby either.
On the other hand, the melancholy clowns of “Hot Tub Time Machine” led by John Cusack, Rob Cordry, the always hilarious Craig Robinson, and Clarke Duke, could perhaps benefit from a bit of sympathy. The comedy from MGM, currently on the auctioneer’s block, earned an estimated $13.65 million.
It’s not an awful showing considering it was on over 600 fewer screens than “Alice” and there was no 3-D price bump. (Theaters don’t, thank the Lord, charge extra for scatological humor.) In fact, the per screen was less than $100 lower than its vastly more family-friendly competition. Still, for whatever reason “Hot Tub” was fairly pricey for a comedy with a budget of about $50 million. As usual, La Finke has the inside dope from…somebody.
Last week, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” scored an upset against the poorly reviewed star-driven action rom-com “The Bounty Hunter.” This week, they traded spots with “Wimpy Kid” dropping by a fairly average 54.8% to an estimated $10 million. “Hunter” held surprisingly well for a movie that everyone seemed to hate; it dropped only 40% and earned a very decent $12.4 million in its second weekend. As Nikki Finke pointed out, there isn’t much out there catering to adult women at the moment.
There’s been a lot of action this week in the limited release market. No one seems to be noticing it, but a movie that played on only one screen actually earned the week’s highest per-screen of $10,900, which might not be that big a deal. Still, given the fact that “Lbs.” has only been reviewed by six Rotten Tomatoes critics at this point and has done that well in one New York theater despite, I’m guessing, only local publicity, tells me that something may be up. The film deals with an addiction that impacts far more of us than alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes — that is to say food — and the lead actor actually lost truly significant weight while making the film. I’m thinking there may be some potential for this low-budget film to become “My Big Fat Geek Weight Loss Drama” or “Un-Super Size Me.”
Of course, even with a happy ending, it’s kind of the opposite of escapist entertainment for the 67% of us that are overweight or obese, yours truly definitely included. At this point, the film is only scheduled to play in three other East coast cities over the next few weeks. Given the rather dramatic story behind the film on the web site, I’ll be watching the numbers on this one.
As for indie films with more traditionally svelte casts, “Greenberg” did okay business in 181 theaters (up from three last week). It scored $1.058 million with a nice per screen average of $5,845. The movie most on my mind last week, “Chloe,” opened in 350 theaters in the U.S. and Canada and earned just a sliver over $1 million with a so-so per screen average of $2,863. As per indie box office observer Peter Kneght, it wasn’t a bad performance and was definitely a recent career best for Canada’s often elliptical art-house auteur, Atom Egoyan. But, given the presence of Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried — and a memorable nude scene between the latter two — well, you’d think sex would sell a bit better than that.