Weekend box office: “The Roommate” leads dorm room-size grosses

It’s possible that somewhere, to someone, some PR flack or Sony/Screen Gems exec will tout this Superbowl weekend’s grosses for the very familiar looking thriller, “The Roommate” as some kind of triumph. After all, the film exceeded the high end of the guesses I mentioned Thursday night with an estimate of $15.6 million. That’s a not at all astonishing .6 million higher than anyone expected.

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I should add that that’s an estimate, and who knows how many young females may or may not escape the nation’s football obsession for what my old cinephile compatriot Keith Uhlich terms an “enjoyably trashy” film. Keith, writing for Time Out New York, was one of 36 Rotten Tomatoes critics to pay to get in to see the film over the weekend, and one of only two to have anything nice to say about it, backhandedly or otherwise.

Scrolling down a bit further on the Box Office Mojo weekend chart nobody, outside of some lower budget Oscar contenders, has much to be happy about. The James Cameron-produced 3D outing, “Sanctum,” came in pretty much as expected with an estimated and entirely lackluster $9.2 million for hit-deprived Universal. Now, if I was playing the expectations game the studio wanted me to play, I’d say it was a surprise winner because it beat the $6-8 million figure the suits were apparently low-balling with last week. In any case, none of that has any impact whatsoever on the film’s $30 million budget and the not small marketing costs. The critically dismissed watery cave thriller from Australia may do a lot better overseas.

Natalie Portman and Greta Gerwig in The #3 film was “No Strings Attached” which somebody likes, even if I didn’t. It held pretty decently for Paramount in its third week. Its estimate is $8.4 million, and I suppose a decent Superbowl Sunday is very possible for this very female-skewing entry.

As for the fourth and fifth place entries, Weinstein’s “The King’s Speech” is hanging in there, royally, with $8.3 million estimate; Sony’s “The Green Hornet” is still well short of making back its $120 budget with $6.1 million estimated for this week and a roughly $87 million total. I don’t usually talk that much about marketing costs, but it’s important to remember that they’re significantly larger than actual filmmaking costs and, for a movie like “Hornet,” undoubtedly enormous — though there’s always merchandising profits to consider.

Last week’s #1 God v. Satan thriller, Warner Brothers’ “The Rite,” sank down to cinematic purgatory this week with a larger-than-average 62.4% second weekend drop, earning an estimated $5.5 million and change in fifth place. The former #3 entry, “The Mechanic,” about a taciturn hit-man and his hot-headed protegee, endured a very typical 53% drop for the second week of an action film. It earned a not-so-killer $5.37 million estimate for the revived CBS Films, which is still waiting for its first real hit of this incarnation.

  

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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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Box office preview: “Season of the Witch” to lose to “True Grit” or “Little Fockers”

January is traditionally the month when the studios release their weakest films and the first weekend after New Years is traditionally one of the softest of the year. So, if ever an adult western from with a slightly dark and offbeat cast to it could be the #1 movie in modern America, this would be the time. Still, it might be a game of inches as Paramount’s “True Grit” will be up against the declining but still popular “Little Fockers” from Universal and one major new wide release with limited prospects.

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman in

As per Box Office Mojo, “Season of the Witch” will be opening in over 2,800 theaters this weekend. It’s a blend of action and dark fantasy starring a downcast Nicolas Cage and the very cool Ron Perlman, who I had the pleasure of interviewing this week. If anyone reading my review thinks I’m being a bit hard on it, they should be aware that this film is probably one the worst reviewed films in some time, getting a terrible 3% “Fresh” from Rotten Tomatoes. However, a closer look shows that it’s not so much a film that everyone hates as a film that no one cares to recommend.

The creepy actioner is the maiden voyage as a distributor for Ryan Kavenaugh’s very busy mini-studio, Relativity Media, and it is expected to make as much $12 million or so according to THR’s Pamela McClintock (where are you jolly Carl DiOrio?) and Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times, though somewhat less seems entirely possible. What the film has going for it is a very low budget for an action flick these days, just $40 million.

Another entry, “Country Strong” is expanding to about 1,400 theaters this weekend, but hopes for this musical drama are modest indeed, though fans of country singer Tim McGraw and actress Gwenyth Paltrow should account for something. It’s going to be that kind of a weekend.

  

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Box Office Preview: “Little Fockers” to top “Tron: Legacy” and “Gulliver’s Travels” opens, but, come on, “True Grit” is here. Yee-haw and Merry Xmas.

I could almost end this pre-Christmas Weekend box office preview with the overlong headline above. Nevertheless, I’ll fill in the blanks a little.

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller face off over

For reasons known only to the masses of this nation’s moviegoers and the strange gods they pray to, the third film in the saga of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his oh-so-hilariously quirky family and in-laws, is expected to top the weekend handily. That seems especially so in the wake of the soft opening last weekend of “Tron: Legacy.”

The nation’s critics, however, will not be pleased. My esteemed colleague/boss, the usually gentle and kindly Will Harris, lost all his holiday cheer and did not spare the rod on “Little Fockers.” He’s hardly alone. Especially for a film with some of the biggest stars of the last forty years in supporting roles, it’s getting absolutely abysmal reviews. A rare exception among the Rotten Tomatoes pull quotes is one of my favorite critics and cinephile bloggers, Glenn Kenny. Glenn admits to having very low expectations and laughing a few times. He went on to rave that the film is “not particularly excruciating” and only 90 minutes long.

As for the cash predictions, it’s not Christmas without jolly Carl DiOrio, who I assume is vacationing this week while Pamela McClintock is pulling b.o. oracle duty at The Hollywood Reporter. She tells us that the magic number over the long holiday weekend is $60 million for the “Little Fockers.” With Ben Fritz of the L.A Times also taking some time off it appears, Daniel Frankel of The Wrap adds that “Fockers” could make as much as $70 million for still somewhat beleaguered Universal. With this many stars, I guess it’s possible people will be fooled persuaded into paying $10 or more a head to see it. And, with the diversity of ages, it should prove that folks from 1 to 92 apparently can’t get enough of poop jokes.

Jeff Bridges takes aim at the box office in Vastly higher up the cinema chain of being, if vastly lower on budget and with only two megastars in tow, “True Grit” will do its best to restore the box office luster of the classic western to our movie screens. It’s apparently an unusually straightforward film for the Coen Brothers, who re-adapted the poignant and funny novel by Charles Portis that was previously filmed back in ’69 by Henry Hathaway with a certain former Marion Mitchell Morrison in the role of irascible, trigger happy Rooster Cogburn. Since it’s the Coens, naturally, the reviews are as rapturous as those for “Fockers” reviews are heinous. Our own Jason Zingale’s sincere but qualified praise seems almost a pan by comparison.

There seems to be a consensus that $20 million for Paramount will be the weekend take for the tale of retribution in the badlands. That’s not bad for a film that cost a relatively modest $38 million (“Fockers” is another $100 million comedy.) Still, can’t hope rooting for a Western to do even better.

Apparently wishing to avoid getting completely ignored in the wake of the other two openers, the  Jack Black vehicle, “Gulliver’s Travels,” will be opening Friday, not Wednesday, to modest expectations. Considering the film allegedly somehow connected to a literary classic by Jonathan Swift had one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen, that seems fair.

Those wanting to flee the loudness and crudeness of mainstream cinema this weekend may check out “The King’s Speech,” which is expanding into 600 theaters on much Oscar buzz as is the way of the Weinsteins. Or, if they live in a very big city indeed, the debut in limited release of the latest from the arty and gentle Sofia Coppola and Focus Features, “Somewhere.” As in “somewhere there’s a movie about family won’t rely primarily on scatological humor.”

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Box office preview: “Unstoppable”? Perhaps

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Apparently Tony Scott and Denzel Washington enjoyed making their underground run-away train thriller, “The Taking of Pelham 123” so much, they decided to turn around and make an above-ground run-away train thriller. Not everything would be the same. This time Chris Pine would be in tow instead of John Travolta. Another difference is that, this time, the critics are majorly onboard as well, which may or may not indicate that “Unstoppable” will do better over the long haul than its sister film.

Both of my usual b.o. gurus are suggesting a low-to-mid twenties opening for the thriller from Fox, but there is still some daylight between them. Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times is expecting a tough race for the #1 spot with last week’s big winner, “Megamind,” which grossed over $46 million.  The Hollywood Reporter’s Carl DiOrio, who remains jolly even while his intro music grows oddly sinister, seems more sanguine that the amped-up train ride will do better. However, Fritz may be on to something considering that family animated films have proven to be leggy in the past and that a decline of significantly less than 50% seems very possible. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Unstoppable” overperform.

Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford wonder: What's the story?There are two other major releases this weekend, but neither of them really seems to have much oomph behind them. True, jolly Carl is fairly high on “Morning Glory.” It’s a sort of update on “Broadcast News” minus the critical acclaim putting 32 year-old beauty Rachel McAdams alongside 60-something icons Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton. My money is on Ben Fritz’s take, which is that it’ll be fortunate to break $10 million. Exhibit A is that the comedy from Paramount actually opened yesterday and hasn’t shown much life.

Coincidentally, $10 million is the reported budget for the effects-heavy science-fiction tale being released by Rogue and Universal, “Skyline.” The few critics who’ve seen it mostly agree that all the film really has to boast of are the effects. Fritz thinks it’ll do about the same as “Morning Glory” — though obviously from a younger and more male demographic. Since that amount is also roughly its budget, however, this film may just be a success.

Debuting in a fairly aggressive 41 screen limited release is the latest documentary from Ondi Timoner, who made the excellent “DiG!” and “We Live in Public” both of which never really got much distribution. This time, however, her film is getting some critical flack, not too surprising considering it’s kind of an anti-“An Inconvenient Truth” and features a maverick scientist who isn’t exactly a climate denier and who isn’t coming from a politicized perspective, but who does insist that all the global warming fear is just plain overdone. That is no majority scientific opinion. Entitled “Cool It,” it’s so far been ignored by far-right film blog Big Hollywood, which can only be a good sign.

Another film we all might be hearing from later on is the award-winning festival-friendly first feature from Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture.” It’s a comedy, but I don’t find this trailer funny so much as aggressively quirky and mildly annoying, perhaps because of the deliberately flat performances of the nonprofessional cast. On the other hand, I sort of dig the look of the thing. See if you disagree.

  

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