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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Some real March (Hare) madness for “Alice” box office: $116.3 million estimated!

If anyone out there still remembers my pre-weekend box office post, I was slightly bemused by predictions that Tim Burton and Disney’s spin on the two short pre-surrealist Lewis Carroll novels we know sometimes refer to as “Alice in Wonderland” would make upwards of $75 million. I didn’t doubt it, but I did doubt that the infamously hard to adapt, and emotionally cool (in a good way) stories would have ongoing appeal with the public, even as rejiggered by screenwriter Linda Woolverton. I still wonder about that, but can only be impressed by an estimated $116.3 million weekend estimate being reported by this morning by Box Office Mojo and everyone else.

Just for comparison, “Avatar” debuted with a mere $77 million, though it’s likely the grosses that weekend were depressed somewhat by the huge snowstorm then barreling through the East coast. In any case, the film showed remarkable staying power because on the odd fact that people were actually moved by it as well as being wowed by the visuals.  Still, this is amazingly strong business. As pointed out on the first first of a new series of box office reports by Anne Thompson, the showing of “Alice” is also well north of $102.1 million earned by “Iron Man” on its spectacularly lucrative opening weekend a couple of years back. As for the “why” of it, I think Ms. Thompson put fairly succinctly:

[The massive opening weekend success of “Alice in Wonderland”] proves yet again why studio marketers keep chasing the perfect match: branded family title + proven visual master + global movie star=blockbuster.

I still have my doubts on this having the long-term appeal of an “Avatar,” but we’ll just have to see how it holds up. Also, the accuracy of the estimates could be a hair or two off, given that today is Oscar day and that could make for a much slower than usual Sunday evening. I can say one thing for sure, those hoping for a break from 3-D movies are going to have to hope for a lot longer now.

Moving on to the #2 slot, it’s a long, steep drop from over $106 million to $13.5 million, but “Brooklyn’s Finest” nevertheless proved to be a pleasant surprise for still-newbie studio Overture Films, which managed to beat the still fairly strong “Shutter Island.” People like movie cops.

Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke in

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Just a moment for a quick programming note: In a couple of hours or so, I’ll be experimenting with this crazy new online thing all the kids are doing, and will be live-blogging the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.  Get out out the martinis and, with a little help from the miracle of DVR, we’ll have some bloggy fun. I’m actually thinking about breaking my usual “no cocktails until blogging/writing is finished rule” tonight, so the typos may really be flying!

  

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“Shutter Island,” “Cop Out,” and “The Crazies” mine money from mayhem for an R-rated weekend

Pretty much everything happened this weekend the way it was supposed to. As discussed here late Thursday (or very early Friday if you’re on the East Coast), Martin Scorsese‘s cop-psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” was expected to come in at the #1 spot after having a drop of something in the 50% range. Meanwhile, the new Kevin Smith-directed Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy-cop comedy, “Cop Out,” and the quasi-zombie horror remake, “The Crazies,” were supposed to fight it out for the #2 spot and do reasonably well. That’s precisely what happened.

As per the filmic bean coutners of Box Office Mojo,  “Shutter Island” suffered only a lower-than-usual 45.9% drop. It therefore stayed on-top with a healthy estimated $22.2 million for Paramount, which won’t hurt the Scorsese/DiCaprio brand any.

Tracey Morgan and Bruce Willis I thought “Cop Out” was, at heart, a moderately lousy movie but also had to admit to almost kind of enjoying a lot of it. That was a rave compared to most critics. Still, as I suspected, the movie delivered the cop comedy goods just enough to keep audiences coming  and it netted Warners a perfectly acceptable estimated $18.5 million in the #2 spot for a modestly budgeted ($30 miillion) comedy.

“The Crazies,” which actually got its share of decent reviews, scored a solid estimate of $16.5 for the weekend for Overture. That’s actually a bit better than it sounds for the George A. Romero remake, because it was in nearly 500 fewer theaters than “Cop Out” and its per screen was average was nearly $700 higher than the comedy. Also, with stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell presumably asking less upfront than Morgan and Willis, it’s budget was $10 million cheaper.

The highest per screen average this week was, as usual, for a limited release film. Still, considering that it expanded this week from four to 43 theaters this weekend and managed a really good $20,233 per screen, Roman Polanski’s political thiller, “The Ghost Writer” did very well for itself.

As for poor little “Avatar” it made only a measly $14 million estimated this week in the #4 spot. But do not cry for the Na’vi, it’s still on top in the international box office sweepstakes. Nor should you shed tears for Hollywood overall. As Nikki Finke points out, revenue is up, even if attendance is just a tad down.

http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2009/avatar.htm

  

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Weekend box office: “Cop Out” and “The Crazies” may duke it out for #2 (updated)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams in As far as I can tell and certainly the way THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio sees it, “Shutter Island” is likely to enjoy a second weekend atop the nation’s box office. Earning some $41.1 million last weekend, it would take a much bigger than average drop for it to be within range of the two new major films debuting this week, but then anything is possible.

And so it’s a showdown for the second spot between an R-rated violent horror remake and an R-rated and fairly violent if wacky homage, of sorts, to eighties buddy cop films. On his weekly video, DiOrio spectulates that either or both could make “mid teen millions or a little bit better.”

The first of these I saw myself last night. As you can see in my review of the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan vehicle directed — but not written — by Kevin Smith, “Cop Out“, I found the movie more bad than good. At the same time, I couldn’t deny that, as bad action comedies go, it was kind of fun. I have a feeling that audiences might be a bit less particular than me and since the movie delivers reasonably on laughs and moves along at a nice enough clip (Smith edited it himself), they may be more satisfied than not.  Still, my overall negative reaction puts me in line with the critical majority, with “Cop Out” netting a rather dismal 13% “fresh” reading on the Tomatometer, not that this kind of comedy has much to fear from critics.

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in

Interestingly enough for a horror remake, “The Crazies,” based on a relatively little seen personal favorite of zombie-master George A. Romero, is getting what are at least numerically better reviews on the Tomatometer than the original film. The new version, directed by Breck Eisner, previously something of a critical punching bag with “Saharaand “A Sound of Thunder,” is getting by far the best reviews of his career with a healthy 74% “fresh” rating. [UPDATE: I failed to double check this. Turns out long-time directorial hack Peter Hyams helmed the failed Ray Bradbury adaptation, so Breck Eisner doesn’t get the blame for that one since he was only an executive producer on the film. According to his IMDb page, Eisner was also a production assistant on “Tango & Cash” and I guess he shouldn’t get the blame for that, either.]

The original version only gets 60%, though a number like that can be misleading in that it doesn’t really measure a critic’s level of passion. Also, most of the top venues seem to have skipped reviewing it at all, so the results could be skewed here by reviews from horror-friendly venues. In any case, horror films are really not critically driven, but stronger-than-average reaction could still bring a few extra bodies into the theaters from folks who enjoyed Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s somewhat similarly-themed, critically praised disease/zombie hit, “28 Days Later.”

  

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“Shutter Island” hits big against soft competition

Leonardo DiCarprio in The latest from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio performed even better than the experts seemed to expect this weekend. The horror-flavored thriller Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island,” earned a very healthy estimated $40 million, about $10-15 million more than predicted. This will surprise some because the film was delayed from its original release date last year, which is usually considered not a very good sign. However, as Nikki Finke points out, it turns out to have been a very smart move by Paramount. To me, it’s pretty clear that the general artistic verdict on the film indicates that it wasn’t really Oscar material in any case, but the studio apparently saw the combination of well-known names that the audience trusts with the crime and horror genres could deliver some very nice bucks — if it debuted on a weekend with little in the way of fresh competition.

Taking a look at our handy-dandy Box Office Mojo chart, the competition really wasn’t very strong. Last week’s big winner, the critically drubbed “Valentine’s Day,” took a near nose dive and dropped by 69.5% apparently on word that it wasn’t very good and that V-day was last weekend. Still, $17.16 isn’t terrible box office for a second weekend.

Last weekend’s silver medalist, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” dropped by a more standard 51% percent, but $15.3 million was low enough to put into the fourth place spot. That’s just below, guess what, “Avatar,” still holding nicely with $16.1 million in its tenth week. Meanwhile, the cool-looking but apparently very creatively troubled “The Wolfman” dropped a pretty bad 68.7% in its second weekend to earn an unspectacular $9.8 million and change.

By far the biggest film this week in terms of per-screen average this week belonged to a thriller that is topical in more ways than one. “The Ghost Writer” deals with a writer working on a memoir by a former British Prime Minister accused of war crimes connected to torture, and it’s directed by Roman Polanski. That was controversy/notoriety enough for a solid $44,775 on its four screens. It will be adding a few more theaters next week.

theghostwriterpic6

<a href=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2010/the_wolfman.htm” target=”_blank”><img class=”photo_right” src=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/review_images/2010/the_wolfman/the_wolfman_5.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Benecio del Toro in ” width=”218″ height=”138″ /></a>
  

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