Weekend box office: “Megamind” stops the “Unstoppable”; “Morning Glory” rises, but doesn’t shine

All us entertainment scribes — Anthony D’Alessandro most certainly included — are busting out their train metaphors and similes. In a very mild surprise according to some, but not all, of the conventional wisdom pre-weekend, the 3D animated “Megamind” hung on with the vigor of a locomotive in its second week and beat the runaway train thriller “Unstoppable” into the money station.

According to the mighty Box Office Mojo, the supervillain tale showed the long-lasting strength of animated family comedies. “Megamind” dropped a mere 36% in its second weekend, earning a very solid estimate of $30 million and change in its second week for Paramount/Dreamworks. Meanwhile, the all-star comedy, “Morning Glory,” proved to be a one very slow moving train.

Though it was not the #1 film this week, Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine actually came in pretty much where it was expected to, with an estimated $23.5 million for Fox. The good news is that strong reviews and a somewhat older-than-usual audience may well contribute to some strong legs. The bad news is that its $100 million budget — a big chunk of that no doubt coming from the stars and director’s paychecks (Washington reportedly nearly left the project because of salary haggling) — means it’s going to have to keep chugging for a while to be profitable.

This week’s #3 film was the star-driven comedy “Due Date,” which suffered a fairly average second weekend drop of 52.5% to earn an estimated $15.5 million. Fourth place was taken by another new wide release that was, actually, off to a very decent start relative to its budget. Although nobody seems to like the science-fiction destroy L.A. tale, “Skyline,” a whole lot, the $10 million dollar film made back its budget plus a bit extra, with an estimate of just under $11.7 million.

Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford in
It was not an exciting weekend for stars Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, and Diane Keaton. The not so well received “Broadcast News”-esque “Morning Glory” earned just a bit over $9.6 million for Paramount, which is a long way south of its $40 million budget. Also, “the nation’s #5 movie!” is not much of a come on for audiences.

Meanwhile in limited release, the IFC-released indie comedy first feature from 20-something Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture,” earned the week’s biggest per-screen average of $22,450. On the other hand, it was only on one screen. Somewhat more of a test was the 22 theater run of the Danny Boyle-directed James Franco endurance vehicle and near certain Oscar-nominee, “127 Hours.” It earned the week’s second highest per screen with $20,591 on 22 screens. If you don’t have a calculate handy that translates into an estimated total of $453,000 in its second week for Fox Searchlight.

  

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Weekend box office: “Megamind” rules the ‘plex, more or less

MegamindThe “divide and conquer” strategy for this weekend pretty much worked as planned. The cuddly supervillain-centric 3D animated comedy with an all-star voice cast from Paramount/Dreamworks “Megamind” underperformed slightly to come in at $47.65 million according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a couple million lower than the numbers bandied about earlier, but actually a few million above the opening of another Dreamworks Animation, “How To Train Your Dragon.” As Anthony D’Alessandro reminds us, that one had strong enough legs to carry it to a major success after an opening that was originally deemed very disappointing.

Next up was the heavily promoted Robert Downey, Jr./Zach Galifianakis vehicle, “Due Date.” The R-rated road comedy earned an estimated $33.5 million for Warner Brothers. It’ll be interesting to see if the lackluster reviews are reflected in less than awesome word of mouth and theatrical legs for the film. Nikki Finke reports that it got a decent B- from Cinemascore, but I remain eternally somewhat skeptical of those surveys.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis exchange bon mots in

The #3 film was Tyler Perry’s theatrical adaptation of a very non-Tyler Perry play, “For Colored Girls.” The heavy-duty drama earned true to Mr. Perry’s form with his traditional audience base, and generated an estimate of $20.5 million for Lionsgate. Say what you will about Mr. Perry, an adaptation of an acclaimed poetry-based play earning that kind of cash requires someone with his kind of populist sensibilities and appeal.

In the #4 spot, the age-spanning action-comedy, “RED,” continues to maintain its hold on the box office with an estimate of over $8.85 million for Summit. Last week’s Halloween #1, “Saw 3D,” had the expected big second weekend drop, plus a bit extra. It lost 63.6% for a Week 2 estimate of $8.2 million. “Paranormal Activity 2” is also dropping, but less dramatically (55.8%). It earned an estimated $7.29 million for Paramount in its third week.

Among limited releases, the four theaters showing Danny Boyle’s much discussed James Franco near-one-man-show, “127 Hours,” showed that audiences were willing to pay an arm, if not a leg, to see the fact-based ordeal film and things look promising for a wider release. It endured a spectacular per-screen average of $66,500 for a total of $266,000. Less stratospheric, but still healthy, was the 46 theater debut of the fact-based political ordeal drama, “Fair Game,” featuring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts as Bush-era National Security Council analyst Joe Wilson and his wife, spy Valerie Plame, who was very illegally outed by members of the Bush Administration. (Their defense: it was an accident. Woops.) It earned a per-screen average north of $15,000 and a total of $700,000.

fair-game-watts-penn

  

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“127 Hours” trailer — more than an endurance test

Considering it contains an hour long, dialogue-free sequence involving, at least some of the time, the main character graphically sawing off one of his own limbs, it would pretty much take a director of Danny Boyle’s proven audience-friendly abilities to make anything like a mainstream success out of “127 Hours.” It also probably helps that James Franco has been coming into his own lately as an increasingly likable and surprisingly funny screen presence. The trailer we posted here back in August, however, didn’t persuade me personally that watching the film would be anything but a test of my own squeamish-guy cinematic fortitude. This one, however, is a little different.


127 Hours
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H/t The Playlist. This is actually one of the best put together trailers I’ve seen in some time. Another testament to the “invisible art” of the film editor. It certainly sells me on why it was such a hit on the festival circuit.

I will add that another way to approach this kind of people-painfully-removing-their-own-limbs material that might have been commercially viable is as a low-budget ultra-gore self-torture porn shocker for the international midnight movie circuit. You could call it “The Human Pill Bug.”

If anyone actually makes that movie, I’m expecting royalties. (And, yeah, I know, ‘The Human Slug” would be more accurate as pill bugs actually have legs. I’m an entertainment blogger, not a entomologist, damnit!)

http://theplaylist.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-trailer-poster-from-danny-boyles.html
  

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Trailer time: “127 Hours”

Starting with the Black Knight scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the “let’s make sure we don’t accidentally get a G-rating” cantina sequence in “Star Wars,” not to mention largely offscreen bits that were nevertheless highly emotionally intense in movies like the Brian DePalma/Oliver Stone “Scarface” and Ang Lee’s underrated 1999 “Ride With the Devil,” it’s been kind of a long time since a single amputated limb has been considered extreme cinema. Director Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy may force us to reconsider that with “127 Hours.”

According to /Film, word has it that “127 hours” contains a solid hour of screentime without dialogue. If Danny Boyle doe his job right, I’m guessing even the most gleeful gorehound, might be taken aback by the crucial sequences in this film. In case you haven’t guessed already, it’s based on the real-life experiences of mountain climber Aron Ralston, played here by James Franco, who faced the ultimate survival challenge and won — but at the cost of having to remove his own arm.

Audiences who have no problem seeing people torn apart by bullets at the movies regularly squirm when we see an onscreen blood test or an actor playing a junkie pretending to shoot up. How will they react to a closer to real-time self-amputation? How will Boyle — not a particularly squeamish director by any means — deal with it? And what about my squeamish self? The MPAA R rating is for “language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images” which sounds relatively restrained and about par for the course, but who knows? Will anybody want to see this? Assuming it’s well received, what about the Oscar people? I have no idea how people will react to this one.

  

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Sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you? The “Never Let Me Go” trailer might put that into perspective for you

Think you’re in a pointless, no-win situation? Did you feel at school like you were just being prepared to put into the human meatgrinder we call the rat race? Well, you’ve got it easy, kid, compared to the strangely acquiescent students and alumni of Hailsham. I’d tell you more but I understand via Cinemablend’s Katey Rich and the novel’s very spoilery wikipedia entry that the arguably science-fictional premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize short-listed 2005 novel is kept somewhat hidden for a significant portion of the book. (It was revealed to me years ago, however, via book reviews and author interviews.)

That premise will also be revealed to you if you watch the intriguing trailer so, if you plan to read the book (which I think I might try to do myself, anyhow) you might want to hold off. I will say that the Japanese-English Ishiguro wrote the very non-genre “The Remains of the Day” and history and frustrated love seems to his favorite topics. This time, though, the history hasn’t been written yet.

Even aside from Ishiguro, this one has an intriguing pedigree. The adaptation is by novelist Alex Garland, who recently has turned to screenplays with “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” both directed by Danny Boyle, and the director is Mark Romanek. For some reason, I felt compelled to avoid his highly divisive 2002 thriller “One Hour Photo,” but he’s made some of the best videos of all time as far as I’m concerned, including the amazing and ultra-creepy “Closer” for Nine Inch Nails, the memorable “Criminal” for Fiona Apple, and “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s moving cover of a song by Trent Reznor. And, oh yeah, Carey Mulligan is in it. Does anyone not like Carey Mulligan?

  

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