It’s important to remember that the weekend estimates I report every week on these box office wrap-ups are just that, estimates. “Actuals” come out later in the week and, if there’s a really significant difference I might mention it, but there rarely is.
Nevertheless, considering that I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, West coast time based on material that was largely written some hours ago, there’s obviously some element of the unknowable, and when the week’s top two films are separated in the current estimates by only $225,000, a reversal is far more likely than usual. However, thank God, this isn’t an election and “almost” here counts even more than in horseshoes and about the same as in hang grenades. For the studios and the filmmakers, the point is to make money, not so much to best the competition.
And, in that sense we certainly had more than one winner this weekend as the non-3-D, and therefore more reasonably priced, “Date Night” most certainly won the day in terms of keisters-in-cushions and also, as of now, cash in hand. As per the mighty Box Office Mojo weekend estimate chart, the Steve Carrell/Tina Fey zany action rom-com earned an estimated $27.1 million for Fox while being seen on about 425 fewer screens than its main competition. Also, since it’s budget was a relatively modest $55 million, not counting the film’s heavy promotion, it will go into the black relatively quickly as well, which should please the bean counters.
UPDATE: Late last night, Nikki Finke had word that the estimates for Sunday’s take were looking significantly off. Today, THR/Jolly Carl DiOrio tell us the current revised estimates has “Titans” collecting $26.7 million and “Date Night” a lower than previously mentioned $25.2. These are, still, however, estimates and not “actuals.” Nevertheless, they are likely more accurate.
“Clash of the Titans” dropped 56% in its second week, not great but hardly unusual these days. It garnered a not-at-all shabby estimate of $26.875 million for Warner Brothers, no doubt with some major help from the dollars generated by it’s hugely criticized 3-D retrofit.
Coming in almost as close behind in the #3 spot was Dreamworks and Paramount’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which not only benefits from being a family film in 3-D but it’s also this odd creature of a film that people actually admit to liking. The animated fantasy-action comedy dropped by a miniscule 12.6% in its third go-round and made a healthy $25.35 million. It appears headed to quickly match its $165 million production budget — an amount that not so long ago would have been considered truly enormous. Fortunately, for the money guys and filmmakers, this dragon has legs to match its powerful wings.
Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too” dropped by a huge 62.5% in its second week and hit fourth place with an estimate of $11 million for Lionsgate. Perry’s audience’s behavior seems to mirror the way they see his plays, which tend to have very short runs — only one night in most cities. He’s already made plenty. With a cumulative take of $48 million so far, he has already well on his way to trebling his $20 million budget.
The only new film other than “Date Night” to have a significant release this week was Vivendi’s “Letters to God,” a heart-tugger about a child with cancer aimed at the Christian market. The movie did manage to crack the top ten, but with only $1.121 million for an unimpressive per-screen average of $1,250 in 897 theaters. That, I think, is a disappointment even by the standards of its market.
In other indie-news, the biggest per-screen average of any film this week was, as usual, for a well-reviewed exclusive engagement. In this case, that would be $11,400 for the exclusive New York City showing of “Everyone Else,” a German relationship drama set in sun-drenched Sardinia. Despite a sexy ad campaign aimed at both genders, it’s being tagged as an “anti-date movie” by Indiewire and others for its all-too realistic look at a shaky new relationship,.
“When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors” made by indie stalwart Tom DiCillo (“Living in Oblivion”) also did very well in a “DIY” release. It earned over $65, 000 from eight theaters, for an average of over $8,000 per theater, which may be “respectable” and not spectacular, but it’s still higher than the vast majority of widely marketed and advertised major studio releases.
Another movie about a seminal band I find more interesting historically than musically, “The Runaways,” debuted in many cities this week, adding 102 screens but managing only an unexciting $470,000 with a $2,304 per screen average. That’s despite a cast that includes a Kristen Stewart and a suddenly almost-grown Dakota Fanning.