Weekend box office: “The Green Hornet” packs some financial punch; “The Dilemma” is problematic

Seth Rogen really is Yes, the Golden Globes are tonight, and I’m sure you’re all devastated to hear that I’ve had to can any thoughts of live blogging it tonight — I’ll barely have time to watch it much of it, and then with a heavy hand on fast-forward button.  On the other hand, Anne Thompson will be blogging and tweeting away, she promises. Also, the box office beat goes on and this week the masses voted with their wallets for the over-serious fanboy’s bane, “The Green Hornet.”

Apparently, while the character from an old-time radio show and short-lived television series is really not all that well known, something about the idea of spoiled rich brat Seth Rogen and his vastly more disciplined and smart employee/buddy kicking the bad guys’ butts in comical fashion appealed to the masses. Ironically doing much better than films that have been pre-praised by geeks that we can all name, “The Green Hornet” has earned an estimated $34 million for Sony according to Box Office Mojo.

Nikki Finke writes that that makes it one of the stronger January openings for any movie. On the other hand, because that’s who she is, she also reminds us that the film still performed softly in comparison to some of the higher figures that were being touted on Thursday night. Still, the long Martin Luther King day weekend has one more day and night on it, so there’s more green ahead for the Hornet, perhaps $40 million, La Finke estimates.

Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are on the horns of Despite a “high concept,” big stars, and a director whose name might actually mean something to what remains of America’s Mayberrys, “The Dilemma” only managed a squishy second place showing of an estimated $17.4 milllion this weekend for unlucky Universal. That is significantly lower than post opening weekends for movies starring Vince Vaughn or Kevin James.

There was something about this movie that people just didn’t want to see all that much and I kind of get that. The fact that critics at least were finding the movie surprisingly dramatic, could not have helped. As far as I can think, audiences never seem to respond well to a bait and switch even when the movie is actually good. On the other hand, “The Dilemma” cost maybe 50 percent of what “The Green Hornet” did — but was still expensive for a comedy at $70 million.

In the #3 spot, “True Grit” is holding up nicely and has passed the $125 million mark this weekend with an estimated $11.2 million for Paramount. #4 is an interesting semi-surprise: Weinstein’s “The King’s Speech” doubled the number of theaters it was in this weekend and made something like $9 million and change, just ahead of this year’s other big art house crossover, “Black Swan,” which grossed an estimated $8.1 million for Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, among limited releases my attendance at the junket for Sony Classic’s “Barney’s Version” seems to have awarded the film the previously non-existent Bob Westal bump, even if my review was mixed. It earned the nation’s highest per-screen average with a very respectable $17,925 in four theaters in L.A. and New York, for a total of $71,700.

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in

  

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Weekend box office: “The Voyagle of the Dawn Treader” and “The Tourist” on a dull trip

Things should perk up a bit at the box office next weekend with “Tron: Legacy” and “How Do You Know,”  but this weekend is proving to be a bust. As was just about certain on Thursday, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” came in on top, but that doesn’t mean the news is good.

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The estimate of $24.5 million for the weekend over at Box Office Mojo is more than $10 million shy of the low-end figures that jolly Carl DiOrio trumpeted and which sounded perfectly reasonable to me. Apparently, this series is not being greeted with anything like the same sort of loyalty a Harry Potter or “Lord of the Rings” receives. Just as apparently, Fox and Walden Media’s strategy of targeting those sometimes Harry-negative and nearly always C.S. Lewis-positive evangelical Christian groups didn’t do much. Sometimes people can tell when they’re being marketed to and they don’t always like it.

Even so, this series tends to do very well abroad. Also, as Nikki Finke mentions, the studio is banking on word of mouth to help smooth things over. I imagine the reason for that is the Cinemascore A rating mentioned by Anthony D’Alessandro. Fox’s decision to take this off Disney’s hands, while reducing the outsize budgets, may still prove wise.

It’s budget was a mere $100 million, about $50 million less than “Dawn Treader, and the difference between the prediction and the reality is not as enormous. However, this weekend’s #2 film’s grosses are not something that will put a spring in the step of Sony executives. “The Tourist” nailed an estimate of $17 million for the weekend, as opposed to the $20 million figure that was thrown out earlier. It might be a bit harsh for Nikki Finke to use the “tank” word, but expectations had already been tamped down hugely for a movie from a hot young director starring, pretty literally, the two most famous actors in the world.

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in

When a movie directed by a critical darling like Florian Henckel von Donnersmark (“The Lives of Others”) gets drubbed by critics the way this one has — and the Rotten Tomatoes “top critics” have been especially harsh — there’s more at work than the sophomore slump. On the other hand, “The Tourist” did nail a decent B from Cinemascore, for what that’s worth. We’ll see whether my glib line about this being a movie with a great pedigree that could turn out be just a dog applies to the worldwide box office over the long haul. Despite everything, this could be another “Knight and Day.” Unfortunately, a movie doesn’t have to be particularly liked by anyone to do well.

It’s award season and things are looking a lot more interesting right now in the world of limited release. The week’s highest per-screen average by far was at the four theaters showing “The Fighter.” Grosses for director David O. Russell’s apparent comeback after the box office failure of “I Heart Huckabees” averaged $80,000, for an outstanding opening weekend estimate of $320,000. It’s pretty clear that Paramount’s evident commercial confidence in this film was eminently justified.

Natalie Portman in Also doing amazing business, “Black Swan” enjoyed a boffo second weekend with an average of over $37,000 in 90 theaters. It was actually the #6 movie in the country while showing in only a tiny fraction of the theaters its competitors are playing in, and garnered an estimate of over $3.3 million. Considering the ballet thriller’s $5.6 total take so far, a budget of only $13 million, and the near certainty of multiple Oscar nominations, this could be the year’s sleeper cash cow. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will say that studios should never underestimate the cross-gender appeal of over-the-top melodrama and a bit of terror. Fox Searchlight was smart not to.

  

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Weekend Box Office: “Tangled” enjoying good hair and $ days, a “Warrior” doesn’t get its way, but “Black Swan” is no ugly duckling

Everything pretty much is working out at this weekend’s box office as was predicted Thursday night. The exception being that, as a whole, the post-Thanksgiving Day letdown may be slightly bigger than expected. To be specific, as prognosticators prognosticated, Disney’s “Tangled” led the box office derby.

Showing the usual strength of well-received family-animated comedies, the film formerly known as “Rapunzel” earned an estimated $21.5 million over the weekend. The less than thrilling news here is that, as calculated by Box Office Mojo‘s indispensable weekend chart, it suffered a rather larger than usual second weekend drop for its genre of 55.9%. Still, I’m guessing we can attribute some of that to the post-holiday doldrums.

Tangled up in Rapunzel

On the sunny side of the equation, the musical action comedy is already very close to the $100 million in its second weekend, and that’s never bad. On the other hand, the typically enormous CGI animation budget of $260 million makes that kind of number seem a hair less impressive. On the other other hand, when you consider not only the the worldwide box office, but the licensing, I think it’s fair to say that “Tangled” will be another profitable feather in the ever-more-humongous Disney cap.

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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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No surprise: “Alice in Wonderland” earns all the mad teaparty crumpets

Alice in Wonderland

There really isn’t that much to add to the news that, as reported by Box Office’s Mojo’s weekly chart, “Alice in Wonderland” suffered only a reasonably modest fall-off of 46.6% from its mega-boffo opening weekend, which meant that the latest from the Disney, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp marketing triumvirate earned a stellar estimated $62 million this weekend. Anne Thompson and her recently added resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alesandro, report that this is a record for a non-summertime second weekend for a film. It’s certainly not that different from the expectations I discussed on Thursday.

As for the newer releases, it was something of a rout. I  like D’Alessandro’s elegant description:

Four distribs attempted to counterprogram against the Disney title this weekend based on the misguided notion that Alice was strictly family fare.  However, rather than nipping away at Alice’s audience, Alice sliced off theirs.

“This is the quintessential four quadrant movie, playing to adults at one time of day, families at matinees as well as couples,” gloated Disney distribution president Chuck Viane.

In other words, it didn’t matter what age or gender you were this weekend, most likely your first choice was “Alice.” It also performed the rare feat of scoring both the biggest gross and, with the aid of those inflated 3-D ticket prices, the best per-screen average of $16,631.

Still, people did see other movies. The marketing for “Green Zonefooled persuaded enough viewers that it was similar to the wildly successful “Bourne” pairings of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to earn an estimate of roughly $14.5 million. That might not have been so bad if “Green Zone” hadn’t cost an exorbitant reported $100 million. Conservatives, who have roundly bashed the film as anti-American, will no doubt be claiming victory over the terrorist-loving communists of Universal.

I didn’t quite have the guts to come right out and say it, but I sort of suspected that the raunchy-but-romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” was being overly downplayed in some of the prognostication last week and I was right, sort of. The film failed to break into double digits, but its estimated $9.6 million take was enough to put it in the #3 spot for the weekend anyway. Considering that’s just under half the film’s budget, newcomer star Jay Baruchel may not be the year’s break-out comedy star, but he will live to be the girl-friendly geek, a funnier David Schwimmer, if you will, for another day. Indeed, the film seemed to do best with younger women.

I did come right out and wonder why anyone would want to see “Our Family Wedding,” a film which THR‘s Jolly Carl DiOrio seemed to think would do significantly better than “League” — despite being in significantly fewer theaters and, if most critics are to be listened to at all, sucking. My antennae were apparently a bit better than usual and “Wedding,” did, in fact, come in below the other new releases, and the fourth week of “Shutter Island,” to hit the #6 spot with a lackluster $7.6 million estimate for Fox Searchlight. Hopefully, the budget was nice and low.  The good news is that that Rotten Tomatoes rating I linked to above has actually climbed dramatically since Thursday, from an embarrassing 4% to a merely bad 18%.

Doing a bit better, though still no doubt disappointing Summit Entertainment, was the romantic drama “Remember Me” from director Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Hollywoodland.” Just enough young girls remembered that Robert Pattinson was the “Twilight” heart-throb to make the weepy with the widely derided ending an estimated $8.3 million in the #4 spot. Considering the armies of teen-and-tween-aged girls in love with Pattinson, it’s a result that seems almost as pale as the dreamy young Brit’s vampire make-up.

  

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