Weekend box office: “The Roommate” leads dorm room-size grosses

It’s possible that somewhere, to someone, some PR flack or Sony/Screen Gems exec will tout this Superbowl weekend’s grosses for the very familiar looking thriller, “The Roommate” as some kind of triumph. After all, the film exceeded the high end of the guesses I mentioned Thursday night with an estimate of $15.6 million. That’s a not at all astonishing .6 million higher than anyone expected.

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I should add that that’s an estimate, and who knows how many young females may or may not escape the nation’s football obsession for what my old cinephile compatriot Keith Uhlich terms an “enjoyably trashy” film. Keith, writing for Time Out New York, was one of 36 Rotten Tomatoes critics to pay to get in to see the film over the weekend, and one of only two to have anything nice to say about it, backhandedly or otherwise.

Scrolling down a bit further on the Box Office Mojo weekend chart nobody, outside of some lower budget Oscar contenders, has much to be happy about. The James Cameron-produced 3D outing, “Sanctum,” came in pretty much as expected with an estimated and entirely lackluster $9.2 million for hit-deprived Universal. Now, if I was playing the expectations game the studio wanted me to play, I’d say it was a surprise winner because it beat the $6-8 million figure the suits were apparently low-balling with last week. In any case, none of that has any impact whatsoever on the film’s $30 million budget and the not small marketing costs. The critically dismissed watery cave thriller from Australia may do a lot better overseas.

Natalie Portman and Greta Gerwig in The #3 film was “No Strings Attached” which somebody likes, even if I didn’t. It held pretty decently for Paramount in its third week. Its estimate is $8.4 million, and I suppose a decent Superbowl Sunday is very possible for this very female-skewing entry.

As for the fourth and fifth place entries, Weinstein’s “The King’s Speech” is hanging in there, royally, with $8.3 million estimate; Sony’s “The Green Hornet” is still well short of making back its $120 budget with $6.1 million estimated for this week and a roughly $87 million total. I don’t usually talk that much about marketing costs, but it’s important to remember that they’re significantly larger than actual filmmaking costs and, for a movie like “Hornet,” undoubtedly enormous — though there’s always merchandising profits to consider.

Last week’s #1 God v. Satan thriller, Warner Brothers’ “The Rite,” sank down to cinematic purgatory this week with a larger-than-average 62.4% second weekend drop, earning an estimated $5.5 million and change in fifth place. The former #3 entry, “The Mechanic,” about a taciturn hit-man and his hot-headed protegee, endured a very typical 53% drop for the second week of an action film. It earned a not-so-killer $5.37 million estimate for the revived CBS Films, which is still waiting for its first real hit of this incarnation.

  

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A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Thanksgiving weekend box office: Harry Potter still rules, but “Tangled” keeps hope alive for Disney princesses

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint face the future in As we discussed on Thursday, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” would have had to suffer a truly enormous second weekend drop, or its nearest competitor would have had to be a HUGE over-performer, for it to come in at any spot but #1 this weekend. Still, these last five days were a bit more competitive than expected.

Over just this weekend (Friday-Sunday), the latest entry in J.K. Rowling’s enormous fantasy opus dropped by a hefty but not surprising 59.7% from last weekend with an estimate of $50 million and change for studio Warner Brothers, according to Box Office Mojo. Over at Anne Thompson/Indiewire land, Anthony D’Alessandro reports that the fantasy feature earned some $76.3 over the entire Thanksgiving weekend. (Nikki Finke has a slightly higher figure along with the predictable extra snark.)

Coming up a very healthy #2 was Disney’s “Tangled.” Reports of the death of Disney fairy-tale adaptations and princess tales may be taking a very Mark Twain-worthy turn. The 3D animated musical comedy, which is receiving hearty praise from critics and top grades from Cinemascore, earned a stellar $69 million estimate over the five day period and came within a hair’s breadth of the Potter-plex over the weekend with $49.1 million. Close enough that, when the actuals come out, it’s not impossible that “Tangled” could actually win the weekend. Of course, with this much money involved, neither film could possibly be termed a “loser.”

That, however, is not the case for the weekend’s other two new releases. The musical’s new lease on life took a small hit this weekend with a disappointing run for “Burlesque.” The poorly reviewed pic earned an $11.8 million weekend estimate for Screen Gems/Sony in the #4 spot after “Megamind,” and somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 million over the five day period, perhaps $7 million below the expected take. Still, D’Alessandro reports a very good Cinemascore rating, which may indicate strong legs or at least that people who really wanted to see a movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera got what they wanted.

Bringing up the rear after #5 “Unstoppable,” which is holding very nicely indeed in Week 3 with an estimated $11.75 for Fox, was Edward Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs.” How Nikki Finke could describe Zwick’s first attempt at a romantic comedy/drama, 1986 near-crime against humanity (and David Mamet) “About Last Night,” as “now classic” is a mystery to me. Less of a mystery is the fact that a poorly reviewed attempt at Oscar bait is a movie with no place to call home. So, those $9.85 weekend and $14.5 holiday weekend estimates are absolutely no surprise.

The Dwayne Johnson action fest “Faster” also lost its personal race this weekend, with a rather slower $8.7 and $12.2 million estimate. La Finke notes that the marketing budget on the film was kept modest (so that’s why director George Tillman, Jr. talked to me?) and, at least, CBS Films prexy Les Moonves seems committed to the long haul with his fledgling film company.

Meanwhile, in limited release-land, the big news was the big weekend for “The King’s Speech” which earned by far the weekend’s biggest per-screen average with a king-size $87,500 average on four screens. Considering this film is both reportedly extremely good, stars English actors portraying royalty, and from the Weinsteins, its heavy Oscar presence seems assured alongside “The Social Network” (which I finally saw last night and was absolutely floored by) and “The Black Swan” (which I haven’t seen yet, but seems to floor everyone who sees it).

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Box office preview: “Harry Potter” to smash strong competition like so many horcruxes

Even though we have four major releases hitting theaters tomorrow for this five day Turkey day weekend, I’m going to keep it short. Especially as, in some respects, this weekend is a foregone conclusion.

On the heels of its boffo $125 million opening weekend, Warner Brothers’ “Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows: Part One” would have to drop by what I’d think is an unprecedented percentage in its second weekend to get anywhere even close to the $40 million or so jolly Carl DiOrio expects for this week’s new CGI animated comedy based on the fairly tale “Rapunzel,” “Tangled.” The film, which Disney has seemed slightly nervous about, marks the final bow for the Disney princess brand and fairy tale adaptations for some time, we’re told, and the studio has been trying hard to sell it to males.

Though I might personally prefer my princesses 2D and traditionally animated, the tale has enraptured most critics and our David Medsker is rather sweet on it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it over perform — not because the people listen to critics but because the critics are (mostly) people. Maybe it’s a bit early to retire the whole fairy tale princesses thing.

Also looking strong and with definite female appeal — though plenty of PG-13 level under-clothed attractive women are on offer for ogling males — is the apparently deliberately hoaky musical, “Burlesque.” Though the film is getting some guilty pleasure semi-love from Jason Zingale, it’s not getting the guilt-ridden love of critics over all, not that it will matter for a movie, fans of Cher and Christina Aguilera and glitz will show. Fans of rom-coms, however might not show as  much for Edward Zwick’s attempt at something a bit more biting than the usual in the genre, Fox’s “Love and Other Drugs.” Any Oscar hopes for the Jake Gyllenhaal/Anne Hathaway pairer seem beyond remote in the face of unimpressive reviews. and I suspect this is the kind of movie that actually needs to be good to do terribly well. Still, the considerable charisma of its two stars and the lack of adult-skewing date-type movies might help it achieve its rather modest expectations.

Bringing up the possible rear, or maybe not, is the relatively lowish budget actioner starring Dwayne Johnson, “Faster.” Though I enjoyed interviewing director George Tillman, Jr., the movie has received little critical applause, not that it particularly needs it. It’s possible, however, that considering the lack of action-fare right now, males might want to smell what Tilman, the ex-Rock, and a strong supporting cast are cooking. I’m sure CBS Films would find that delicious.

Dwayne Johnson is going

  

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Weekend box office: “Avatar” gets the double three-peat; “Legion” ascends to #2

Do I even need to tell you that “Avatar” once again topped the weekend box office? Well, I’m telling you anyway. I’m also adding that, as per the good people at Box Office Mojo, it suffered only a very modest 15.9% drop from last week and made a healthy estimated $36 million over this weekend, topping the box office for the sixth time running. Moreover, Jolly Carl DiOrio reports that, barring worldwide calamity of some sort, as of tomorrow, James Cameron‘s science fiction adventure looks to beat the record of his “Titanic” and be the number one worldwide moneymaker of all time.

Meanwhile, Nikki Finke, never anyone’s cheerleader, is quick to remind us that the film is actually only the 26th most popular film of all time when you adjust for inflated ticket prices, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to adjust for population growth over the century or so history of the movie business. Still, a buck’s a buck and there’s no taking away from James Cameron’s achievement in connecting in an intense and emotional way to the masses and getting them to part with not too small sums of money in fairly hard economic times.

We do have a bit of a surprise in the #2 spot. If you were here for the weekend preview, you’ll perhaps guess that  I am slightly surprised that the killer-angels movie, “Legion,” managed an estimated $18.2 million for Screen Gems with a very good per-screen average of $7,351 (it was on about a thousand fewer screens than most of the other top pictures). It managed this despite about zero buzz and some withering early responses. I guess young men just wanted to see a movie about buffed angels killing people and each other.

I just wonder if any religious types will take notice of it now. I simply have a hard time imaging a movie about kick-ass emissaries of God fighting each other and slaughtering people not offending someone, but that’s just me. On the other hand, Paul Bettany’s career as well as that of its first-time feature director Scott Stewart would seem to be newly blessed.

Following Warner Brothers’ “The Book of Eli,” which endured a fairly typical drop of 48.2% percent in its second week for an estimated $17 million, was the movie I pretty much expected to be in the #2 spot, “The Tooth Fairy.” The family-factor failed to come to the rescue for the PG-rated Dwayne Johnson comedy vehicle, which managed a fairly soft estimated $14.5 million. Considering it’s budget was $48 million as opposed to the $22 million for “Legion,” it has to be something of a disappointment for Fox.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Still, that’s nothing compared to the drubbing the newly formed CBS Films took for the Brendan Fraser/Harrison Ford medical drama, “Extraordinary Measures.” A topical subject matter couldn’t erase the fuzziness pervading the film’s profile and came in at the #7 spot and made a matching $7 million in its first week. And here comes my obligatory medical metaphor….At this point, the prognosis for CBS’s movie foray might be a little shaky.

  

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