Box Office Recap: It’s All the Same, Only the Names (from 3-10) have Changed

Last week, two new releases, “Madgascar 3” and “Prometheus,” occupied the top two spots on the domestic box office charts for the first time since April 22, when “Think Like a Man” and “The Lucky One” knocked out “The Hunger Games” after four weeks on top. This weekend, something else that hadn’t happened in some time occurred: the nation’s two highest grossing movies remained static. “Madgascar 3” and “Prometheus” remain cemented at the top of the charts with $35.5 million and $20.2 million, respectively. The last films to accomplish that feat: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” over the last two weekends of 2011, Dec. 23-25 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1.

Hair metal musical “Rock of Ages” came in third place with $15 million. Now, I could make that sound like a lot by pointing out that’s the sixth best opening of all-time for a musical and the third highest for a film adapted from the stage. But let’s be frank here, given the film’s prime summer release date, huge release (it played in 74 more theaters than “Prometheus” did in its first week), and most importantly its star-studded cast, “Rock of Ages” was a supreme disappointment. Seriously, this is a film with names like Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte, Eli Roth and of course, Tom Cruise in its end credits. It should have made more money.

So what was the problem? Well, as I hypothesized in my Box Office Preview, nobody, and I mean nobody likes hair metal, the genre this film was banking on. Kids don’t like it, of that I can assure you, and baby boomers were the ones telling their children to turn that garbage down during the lost decade that was the 1980’s. As I said on Friday, the target audience here was the tiny sliver of the American population that was both a teenager during the 1980′s and enjoyed the crap at the top of the pop charts at the time.

All that showed in the demographics. For some reason, whoever keeps track of this stuff divides the entire population of the country into only two groups: above 25 and below 25. Nearly 75 percent of the audience for “Rock of Ages” was in the above category, and females made up 62 percent. Those numbers are staggeringly skewed.

Unsurprisingly, the demographics for the weekend’s other new release, Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy,” were distorted in the opposite direction. Sandler, of course, is known for his high-brow humor, stuff like “If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.” That’s sarcasm folks. Anyway, 52 percent of the comedy’s audience was under 25, and 54 percent was male. I know that doesn’t sound like much after what you just read, but in general, that’s not an insignificant skew towards teenage boys. “That’s My Boy” came in fifth place with $13 million.

The remainder of the chart offered few surprises. Sandwiched between the two new releases, “Snow White and the Huntsman” made $13.8 million, and “That’s My Boy” was followed by “Men in Black 3” and “The Avengers.”

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” continues to chug along at the specialty box office. With nearly $2.2 million, the film moved into ninth place this weekend despite being shown in just 178 theaters (compare that to Rock of Ages'” 3,470 and tenth place finisher “What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s” 1,216).

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume
1. Madagascar 3, 2/4,263, Paramount/Dreamworks, $35.5 million, $120.451 million.
2. Prometheus, 2/3,442, Fox, $20.2 million, $88.858 million.
3. Rock of Ages, 1/3,470, Warner Bros., $15 million.
4. Snow White and the Huntsman, 3/3,701, Universal, $13.805 million, $122.602 million.
5. That’s My Boy, 1/3,030, Sony, $13 million.
6. Men in Black 3, 4/3,135, Sony, $10 million, $152.679 million.
7. The Avengers, 7/2,582, Disney/Marvel Studios, $8.848 million, $586.737 million.
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 7/1,184, Fox Searchlight, $2.2 million, $35.133 million.
9. Moonrise Kingdom, 4/178, Focus, $2.181 million, $6.779 million.
10.What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5/1,216, $1.33 million, $38.766 million.

  

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Does Nikki Finke know about this?

Just a bit of post-Halloween cheer directed in high style by Greg Nicotero with some fun cameos by Frank Darabont, Eli Roth, and comedy writer/stand-up comic Dana Gould as the Wolf Man. As you can read in the interview with Nicotero we posted Saturday, he’s the effects maestro responsible for the gore and what not on AMC and Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead,” which may be responsible for my either fleeing from the show out of my notorious squeamishness or becoming an alcoholic regular viewer. Fortunately, our own Jason Zingale is able to watch the thing stone cold sober, I believe, and just started blogging the show regularly.

As AICN’s Quint notes, Nicotero — whose responsible for all kinds of brilliant effects work in all kinds of movies and now on television — is the real deal when it comes to geekitude. We salute him.

  

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Not directed by Eli Roth, yet

From “The Man Who Laughed” to the Joker to “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” the uniquely frightening nature of circus clowns — whose supposedly laugh-inducing and harmless nature makes them all the more frightening to children of all ages — has been fodder for scares. If I’d known some of the talented amateurs involved in making this fake trailer, it’s possible I’d have tried to discourage them from attaching any famous names, but it obviously worked re: Eli Roth, and not for no reason. Take a look. This “Clown” wasn’t made by bozos.

H/t Cinematical.

  

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Weekend box office: Demons take robbers (maybe, kind of) in a photo-finish (updated — results reversed)

To be perfectly honest, this whole business of the box office horse race is a bit silly. Box office is not a zero-sum game and is probably a bit more like horseshoes than hand grenades. The success of one film doesn’t necessarily take that much away from the success of another. In this weekend’s case, people who felt like seeing an attempt at a stylish robbers-‘n-cops thriller were edged out very slightly by people who wanted to see another scary mockumentary. This weekend, the results are close enough that the “actuals” may be different enough from the estimates to reverse the #1 and #2 positions.

TakersTo be specific, the horror tale, “The Last Exorcism,” earned an estimated $21.3 million for Lionsgate, while the crime thriller “Takers” netted an estimate of $21 million. Aside from being extremely close, it’s worthy of a huge asterisk. As per Box Office Mojo, “Exorcism” was in 668 more theaters while Screengems/Sony’s “Takers” had the week’s highest per-screen average ($9,519). The heist picture had a budget of $20 million, extremely modest by contemporary studio standards, which means that it’s very much on its way to profitability. However, like prior horror mock-docs, “Exorcism” is by far the profitability king this weekend with an announced budget of $1.8 million. That’s enormously tiny in Hollywood terms and makes this a big win for producer Eli Roth, first-time feature director Daniel Stamm, and the screenwriting team of Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, whose unpromising looking upcoming ‘net-driven horny-teenager flick, “The Virginity Hit” got a certain amount of bloggy attention a while back.

On the bad news side for “The Last Exorcism,” Nikki Finke has noted that the film received a “D” from Cinemascore. She decreed, in typically blunt Finkian fashion, “they hated it.” Well, that seems a fair enough assessment, except that it might not be that simple. The ending has been generating a certain amount of complaints even from critics, who have been mostly supportive of the film. Clearly horror fans and others who plunked down $10+ more, however, may be feeling cheated and we have reports of audible responses from audience.

A friend and I have been having for decades having to do with mostly good movies with bad endings versus mostly bad movies with good endings and which are “better.” Perhaps like the critics who were kind to “The Last Exorcism,” I believe the journey is more important than the destination but, of course, it’s the destination you often remember most easily. I wonder if any of those D-graders had second thoughts on the way home as their immediate anger lessened and they remembered the “good parts” on the way home.

[UPDATE: Yes, that difference was small enough to be reversed. According to Nikki Finke and Box Office Mojo, the “actuals” have reversed the order of the this week’s top 2l.  “Takers” took $20,512,304 and is now #1, while now #2 “The Last Exorcism” received $20,366,613. That’s a difference of just over $145,691.]

In other news, the week’s #3 film was ‘The Expendables” with $9.5 million estimated in its third week. That expanded 3D only reissue of “Avatar” I spent time discussing on Thursday night turned out not to be monkey wrench to anyone else’s success. It only managed to get into 12th place, earning a decent but definitely non-blockbuster $4 million in about a third as many theaters as a typical wide-release.

Finally, the indie/limited release beat is percolating along nicely with good news for the first half of a fact-based French 2-part gangster thriller “Mesrine: Killer Instinct” starring the memorable Vincent Cassel. Meanwhile, my mild obsession with the success of “Get Low,” which continues to thrive, is mellowed by the knowledge that it’s not likely to match the years #1 indie so far, “The Kids All Right.” As usual, the details are available as handled very nicely by Peter Knegt over at Indiewire.

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening in

  

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Weekend box office: A crime caper, a demon (non) con, and some bulked up Na’vi head to the ‘plex

The good news is that it seems pretty clear that “Vampires Suck” will not be the #2 movie again this weekend. The not-quite-news is that, with the reign of “The Expendables” also almost certainly over, there is some real doubt about what will be #1 because of the special extended edition, all 3D, release of box office champion “Avatar” in over 800 theaters.

While Ben Fritz confesses to some actual confusion, jolly Carl DiOrio cautiously leans toward the heist thriller “Takers” to take the weekend with some amount in the “teen millions.” Although our own Will Harris found some things to like in a thoroughly mixed review, the thriller is being out-and-out bashed by many critics, with the consensus being that the film, which stars Chris Brown, potential A-lister Idris Elba, and “Avatar” leading-female-life-form Zoe Saldana (well, Will says she’s hardly there), is a tinsel-laden rehash or, as Cinemablend’s Josh Tyler puts it (via Rotten Tomatoes pull quote):

The logical result of watching Heat over and over and over until your brain burns out, and then wondering what it would look like if the whole thing were remade as a Smirnoff Vodka commercial.

Doing better critically is this week’s other new wide release, “The Last Exorcism.” Producer Eli Roth’s first foray away into PG-13 scares, the movie boasts a premise that actually threatens to justify one more shot at the increasingly large horror mock-documentary subgenre with a premise I know I’ve seen somewhere before in some form. It’s about an avowedly phony exorcist who opts to document his own con job only to find himself beset by…well, just guess. It’s a premise ripe for laughs and satire as well as scares and a majority of critics find this an auspicious debut for first time helmer Daniel Stamm.  There’s been some viral promotion for this film. Considering the style and the no-name cast, I’m sure the budget for this “Exorcism” was good and low and that’s nearly always a smart move, especially with an attempt at horror that’s more than just frightening.

One proviso, however. Most seem to agree that the ending is a let down. One thing about the most commercially successful entries in this genre, they might not have been great cinema in the usual sense, but they had wowser endings.

Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black In the indie world, the year’s next candidate for break-out film turns out to be “Get Low,” which will almost no longer be a limited release as it expands onto 570 screens. Yes, I’m one of the very few writers not to be the least bit charmed by the film. So, what’s the voice of one-almost-lone movie critic versus a wave of good reviews and enormous, well-earned goodwill built up by three great stars like Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray? Don’t answer that.

  

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