Box Office Recap: Ted on Top, Numbers Surge Across the Board

Things are looking bright in Hollywood, and not just because of pre-holiday fireworks displays. Seth McFarlane’s “Ted” is sitting pretty on the top of the charts after grossing $54.1 million, which makes it the biggest weekend ever for an R-rated original comedy (it beat out “The Hangover’s” $44.98 million debut) as well as the eighth best R-rated debut ever. The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and McFarlane himself, is the “Family Guy” creator’s first foray into feature films (how ’bout that for for alliteration?), and its success has many wondering why it took studios so long to give McFarlane a chance at the helm of a Hollywood project.

But “Ted” wasn’t the only triumph at the box office, as numbers surged across the board. The weekend’s top 12 films raked in a combined total of approximately $197 million, the highest weekend total ever in the month of June.

So how do we account for all this success? Well, two other new releases, Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper dramedy “Magic Mike” and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” had some relatively massive openings of their own, exceeding expectations and coming in second and fourth place with $39 million and $25 million, respectively.

It shouldn’t be discounted that a good portion of the summer’s blockbusters have targeted younger audiences. Just look this weekend’s third and fifth place finishers, “Brave” and “Madagascar 3,” each debuted at number one. But after animated films have ruled the box office for three straight weeks, the simultaneously successful releases of the R-rated “Ted” and “Magic Mike” serve as a good reminder that adults go to the movies too, and not just to sit in the AC and keep the damn kids quiet for 90 minutes.

I’m pleased to say “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” endured a larger than usual 63 percent slide this weekend, falling to sixth place and grossing just $6 million. The film’s now grossed a cumulative total of $29 million, and likely won’t make it past the $40 million mark, well below its budget of $69 million. Hopefully, studios will learn to leave our great historical figures alone from now on, unless Daniel Day-Lewis is playing them (“Lincoln” is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2012), or at the very least to leave vampires out of the picture.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” came back into view after falling out of the top ten last weekend. The film finally saw a nationwide release, adding another 459 theaters, giving it a total of 854, and came in seventh place with just under $5 million.

The weekend’s soft release was “People Like Us,” a drama starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. Early estimates had the film in tenth place, but more recent reports show it falling into eleventh. “The Avengers” took its place, moving up to round out the top ten. It’s likely to be the last time we’ll see those particular superheros there, but comic book fans need not fear. Peter Parker’s being rebooted, “The Amazing Spider-Man” comes out on July 3.

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. Ted, 1/3,239, Universal, $54.1 million.
2. Magic Mike, 1/2,930, Warner Bros., $39.155 million.
3. Brave, 2/4,164, Buena Vista, $34.011 million, $131.685 million.
4. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, 1/2,161, $26.35 million.
5. Madagascar 3, 4/3,715, Paramount/Dreamworks, $11.815 million, $180.012 million.
6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 2/3,109, $6 million, $29.034 million.
7. Moonrise Kingdom, 6/854, Focus, $4.926 million, $18.406 million.
8. Prometheus, 4/1,951, Fox, $4.921 million, $118.262 million.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman, 5/2,337, Universal, $4.498 million, $145.591 million.
10. The Avengers, 9/1,757, Disney/Marvel Studios, $4.421 million, $606.505 million.

  

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Bond is coming back; Soderbergh promises he’ll retire

In 1962, a bouncing baby franchise was born when superspy assassin James Bond did in the evil “Dr. No.” Now middle aged and needing a bit of exercise to keep its financial heart pumping after nearly five decades of very hard living, the Bond machine survived the end of the Cold War that spawned it, only to be stalled by MGM’s financial morass. Some thought, “It’s a 22 movie run, more if you count a few non-canonical Bond flicks, give it a rest already.” Today, however, Nikki Finke has word that Bond 23 is officially going ahead with star Daniel Craig and the long-rumored Sam Mendes in tow as director. You’ll have your next serving of Bond with your Thanksgiving turkey in November of 2012, assuming nothing untowards happens in post-production.

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In 1963, a bouncing baby human being was born in Louisiana. 26 years later, director Steven Soderbergh personally gave the modern day independent film movement one of its biggest kickstarts with 1989’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Now, he’s announcing officially that he’s packing it only two decades into a career that, at least in theory, could go another four or five.

Though Mike Fleming jokingly pre-accuses him of doing a Brett Favre, movie directors are not sports figures, and, to paraphrase Marcellus Wallace of “Pulp Fiction,” their asses really can age like a fine wine. John Huston, who led the kind of life that might have killed a lesser man in his forties, made one of his greatest films, “The Dead,” when he was pushing eighty and about to be dead himself. Old French New Waver Alain Resnais is scheduled to release a movie more or less to coincide with his 90th birthday, and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira released “The Strange Case of Angelica” in 2010, the year of his 102 birthday. (He’s supposedly working on another.) Almost no one, except Matt Damon, seems to be taking Soderbergh seriously about this.

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You know what, I’m on board with both moves. James Bond has become far bigger than any one set of filmmakers and, like Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and Mickey Mouse, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep on chugging along indefinitely in new incarnations. And, given how surprisingly good “Casino Royale” was, I’m willing to let the current James Bond team overcome the disappointment of “Quantum of Solace.” All I ask is for a little more of “From Russia with Love”-era Bond and a little less shaky-cam Jason Bourne.

As for Soderbergh, I’m a fan who admires the fact that he’s unafraid to take risks and make movies that, admittedly, sometimes kind of suck, but always in interesting ways. Re: his impending retirement, I’ve watched too many creators repeat themselves over the years to have anything but respect for his decision. I think it’s possible that we all have only so many stories to tell in a particular way and that, perhaps, when we feel we’re through telling them in one medium, maybe the thing to do is switch to another that might permit new stories to emerge. Later, if we return to the first medium, maybe we’ll then have a new story to tell, or at least an interesting new way to tell it. So, if Soderbergh just wants to spend his life painting, I say, “bless him.” If he gets the urge to start making movies again from time to time and unretires as many times as Frank Sinatra, that’ll be great too. The thing not to do is stagnate.

  

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* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feel  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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