Archive for the ‘Juno’ Category

Fox Searchlight Has Audiences And Oscar Voters Wrapped Around Their Finger

January 10, 2009

I’ve never tried to hide my love of the Walt Disney company. They are without a doubt, better than any other studio at marketing entertainment (Prince Caspian not included…) to their target audience of kids and parents. In this pursuit, no one can touch Disney. But when it comes to marketing quality movies to Oscar voters and film snobs, a different studio takes the podium. Fox Searchlight is second to none. For the past few years, they have been mastering a formula that takes small, artsy films and transforms them into solid box office performers. Slumdog Millionaire has already banked $31 million, and it’s got a lot more on the way. The Wrestler is currently sitting with $2 million out of just 18 theaters, and expansion is inevitable. Both films are garnering major awards attention, but Fox Searchlight isn’t rushing either of them into wide release just yet. Historically, that’s not what they do.

No, the studio prefers to take it time, letting their films build up some major buzz and steam, and gradually increasing the theater counts. Actually, this is a trend that has only developed in the last five years, but Fox Searchlight has quickly discovered that if they properly pace the release of their films, they can maximize both their box office and their Oscar potential. Remember, no matter how pretentious and “cultured” the Academy Awards become, box office absolutely matters for the nominated films, and Fox Searchlight is no stranger to having their films nominated for Best Picture. In 2004, Fox Searchlight helped Sideways earn $71 million. In 2006, they pushed Little Miss Sunshine to $60 million. And in 2007, they pulled off the incredible feat of getting Juno all the way to $143 million. Keep in mind, we have here one film about wine tasting, another about a dysfunctional family traveling to a child’s beauty pagent, and then one about a pregnant teenager. In terms of marketability, The Dark Knight these are not, and the fact that they were box office successes speaks highly of their quality and their distributor.

At this point, you could easily say, “Well, Fox Searchlight is just getting lucky,” but I really don’t think that’s the case. Not only must they take chances on amazing scripts to produce, but they must go to festivals and purchase the titles they would like to distribute, and this studio is better than any other and picking artistic movies that audiences truly connect to. Between Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Bend It Like Beckham ($32 M), and Napoleon Dynamite ($44 M), if there was one word that could describe all of these, it would be “heart.” These are movies with characters that people want to root for. They are underdog stories with real emotion, and there is nothing more attractive to American audiences than a good come-from-behind hero. It works out well for Fox Searchlight because their movies are still artsy enough to garner major awards, but they don’t have the dour, often grim, tone of other Oscar bait films. Their films are more accessible than something like There Will Be Blood or Babel, and their box office reflects this.

But it’s not just the releases themselves that push these films to financial success, it’s the way they’re released. Fox Searchlight doesn’t rush their films into theaters, and their movies certainly don’t open with a bang and then fade quickly. The way they make money is more of a slow-burn. Fox Searchlight loves to keep their films in limited release for a while, before launching them into wider play. Sideways sat in limited release for a whopping 14 weekends before playing in over 1,000 theaters. Little Miss Sunshine played in limited release for four weekends, and Juno‘s theater count stayed low for three. Slumdog Millionaire hasn’t yet played in more than 614 theaters, and it’s been out for eight weeks. Why does this make sense? Well, by keeping these movies in limited release, Fox Searchlights assures that buzz will percolate and venue averages will remain high, which persuades other theater owners to want the film playing in their own theater. Thus, when the film is ready to expand, there are many people who want to play it. But Fox Searchlight doesn’t stop there. Once their films initially move into wide release, they often continue to expand into more and more theaters. In fact, Juno increased its theater count six weekends in a row! After that, it’s a long road of small drops on way to profitability and awards show success.

And now to end this veritable love letter to Fox Searchlight, a suggestion: Please put Slumdog Millionaire into wide release. Everyone that sees this movie loves it, it has already been a great box office performer, and it’s winning awards. It’s been in 600 theaters for long enough, and you should strike while the iron’s hot! Start increasing it’s theater count, and watch the money roll in. Honestly, I am not going to be satisfied until this awesome film grosses at least $75 million. But I’m sure you already know that and are planning a major expansion. Otherwise, I’m taking back everything I’ve written.

Now to you: Are you as impressed with Fox Searchlight as I am, or am I simply lovestruck by their last few Oscar-nominated films? Which of them is your favorite?

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Weekend Fix: Fanboys And Girly Girls Run The Box Office

January 21, 2008

This weekend at the box office, 2008 continued to trounce 2007, thanks mostly to the huge debut of Cloverfield, and 27 Dresses‘ solid bridesmaid performance. Over three days, the Top 12 films earned a fantastic $131.8 million, which represents a 24% increase over last weekend, and an enormous 84% over the same weekend last year. This is made even more eye-popping when you factor in the holiday weekend. Over four days, the Top 12 churned out $157.2 million in ticket sales. Where did this box office surge come from? The fanboys.

Monster movie Cloverfield stomped onto the scene and claimed first place this weekend, grossing a huge $46 million over four days. The super-secretive Paramount picture proved that if a trailer can truly whet an audience’s appetite, they’ll show up to get their fill when it debuts. The fanboys (self-included here) have been raving about Cloverfield for months now, excitedly anticipating it in forums across the web. All that excitement translated into big box office for the J.J. Abrams produced project, which broke the record for best three-day opening in January, but I’m expecting Cloverfield to fall pretty quickly. Movies that appeal to the movie-geek community (still self-included) usually open big and fall fast. We saw it last month with AVP:R, and we’ll see it (to a lesser extent) with Cloverfield. The trend is already apparent in its opening weekend: After a $16.8 million opening day, the film fell 17% on Saturday, which implies front-loadedness. Still, with good reviews, a widely-appealing story, an $11,738 (three day) venue average, and an innovative spin on the monster movie, Cloverfield shouldn’t have much trouble crossing the $100 million mark some time in the future. In second place, the romantic comedy 27 Dresses earned about $1 million for each of the dresses in its title, garnering a sweet $27.3 million four-day gross. This is great news for both of the film’s leads, for Katherine Heigl’s star continues to rise, and James Marsden proved that he can open a movie as the romantic lead. The one-two punch of Cloverfield and 27 Dresses reminds me very much of June 30, 2006, a weekend when Superman Returns opened with $52.5 million, and chick flick The Devil Wears Prada came in second with $27.5 million. (Coincidentally, Prada and Dresses were written by the same woman, who must have a knack for penning girly movies that open well against action films.) After that weekend, The Devil Wears Prada ended up having way better legs than Superman Returns, finishing with $124.5 million versus Superman‘s $200 million, and while 27 Dresses probably won’t reach these heights (it will have trouble pulling in any men), I wouldn’t be surprised if it finished with a total very similar to Cloverfield‘s. Its three day per theater average of $7,442 is strong, and Fox has got to be happy with these results.

In third place, The Bucket List pulled in $16.1 million over the holiday weekend. Showing some fairly promising endurance, the three-day gross only fell 28% from last week, though the Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson comedy’s three-day venue average of $4,806 was just alright. Still, with $43.7 million after ten days, Warner Brothers’ The Bucket List is doing quite well, and that makes me pretty happy. Any time old actors can prove themselves at the box office, I’m thrilled. Juno, the little comedy that could, came in fourth place this weekend, grossing $12 million over the four day period. Over the three-day weekend, the widely released indie darling (finally) started to show some very slight signs of its age, dropping 27% and earning a $3,917 venue average, which is actually still fairly strong. Fox Searchlight has platformed Juno gradually with amazingly effective results. The teen pregnancy comedy has earned a tremendous $87.1 million over seven weekends.
First Sunday fell hard this weekend, earning just $9.4 million. Over the three-day frame, the “Hey, let’s rob a church!” comedy had a low $3,525 per theater average and fell an alarming 56%, which is pretty awful, since the four day weekend usually leads to soft declines. Still, ScreenGems (who reached a similar audience with last year’s This Christmas) will ultimately be pleased with First Sunday‘s performance. After two weekends, it’s earned $30.1 million.

In sixth place, Disney’s juggernaut National Treasure: Book of Secrets continued its great run with another $9.4 million over four days. This is and always was money in the bank for Disney, and after five weekends, the Nicholas Cage adventure film has earned $199.6 million.

Mad Money, the estrogen-heavy heist film starring Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes, and Queen Latifah, opened poorly, stealing just $9.2 million over the holiday weekend. Unable to convince many women to watch a robbery film, Mad Money lost most of its audience to 27 Dresses. The comedy earned terrible reviews and had a weak $3,022 venue average over the three-day weekend, and it should disappear from the Top 12 faster than some shredded money from the Federal Reserve.
In eighth and ninth place are constant companions Alvin and the Chipmunks and I Am Legend, respectively. The former held better than the latter, and Alvin scooped up $9.2 million, while I Am Legend earned $5.7 million. After six weekends, the CGI rodent comedy has earned $198.6 million, and the Will Smith apocalyptic thriller has earned $248.3 million.

Atonement held onto the tenth place spot, earning a $5.7 million in the holiday weekend after its Golden Globe win for Best Picture. Helped by its expansion into 1,291 theaters, Atonement increased 13% over the three-day weekend, and it earned a $3,687 per theater average. The period piece has been a great performer for Focus Features, and it will have no trouble breaking $50 million in the weeks to come. If it wins some Oscars (that is, if there are any Oscars this year…) it could go very far.
The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything managed to hang on to a spot in the Top 12 this weekend, earning $3.6 million over four days. The entirely overlooked Universal release from the VeggieTales has grossed a tiny $8.5 million after two weekends.
Providing a nice surprise at the end of the Top 12, There Will Be Blood earned $3.5 million. The Paramount Vantage film has received lots of awards attention for Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance, and with a strong $7,416 per theater average, it should be around for a good while. Thus far, in just 260 theaters, it has earned a very encouraging $8.6 million.

Top 12 for January 18-21

# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 Cloverfield $46,037,000 $46,037,000
2 27 Dresses $27,270,000 $27,270,000
3 The Bucket List $16,110,000 $43,669,000
4 Juno $12,000,000 $87,125,533
5 First Sunday $9,400,000 $30,066,000
6 Nation Treasure: Book of Secrets $9,359,000 $199,242,000
7 Mad Money $9,200,000 $9,200,000
8 Alvin and the Chipmunks $9,200,000 $198,580,181
9 I Am Legend $5,715,000 $248,292,000
10 Atonement $5,690,199 $32,815,005
11 The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything $3,631,400 $8,518,310
12 There Will Be Blood $3,541,000 $8,575,000

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Weekend Preview: Is Cloverfield The New Snakes On A Plane?

January 18, 2008

     Hey, fellow Box Office Junkies!  Sorry for the lack of posts this week- life’s been utterly crazy for the past few days, and I haven’t been able to update nearly as much as I’ve wanted to.  Luckily for you, though, everything is back on track today with this Weekend Preview.  I have to confess, because of the sheer amount of analysis that a certain monster movie has required me to do, I’m only going to be writing about the three new releases this week, but you can see my full Top 12 predictions at the end of the post.  Suffice it to say, January 2008 should remain very well ahead of January 2007 in this third weekend of the year.  Alright, let’s get started.
     Remember way back in 2006 when a little movie called Snakes On A Plane debuted?  You know, the one where Samuel L. Jackson yelled the famous line, “I have had it with these mother f***ing snakes on this mother f***ing plane!”  Greeted with an absolutely deafening amount of online buzz, from the moment Snakes On A Plane (Whoa- you can abbreviate with SOAP!) debuted its title, it had what seemed to be an endless legion of die-hard online fans who could not wait to see the movie as soon as it came out.  It was the first virally promoted film to take full advantage of the tech-savvy blogging community, as almost all the excitement and anticipation for SOAP came from the web.  Box office analysts were expecting a huge opening and a great box office total.  After all, we’d never seen a movie with this kind of online excitement behind it.

     Well, when SOAP finally debuted on August 18, 2006, analysts quickly realized that judging the movie’s potential success based on internet buzz was a mistake.  Snakes opened with a disappointing $15.2 million, and then went on to a totally underwhelming $34.5 million.  It was one of the biggest letdowns in recent history, based on the gigantic expectations.  How is this all relevant, you ask?  Well, the reason I bring this up now is that there is another film hitting screens today that has followed a very similar viral-crazed path of promotion: Cloverfield.
          The brain child of hotshot producer J.J. Abrams (the creator of the TV series Lost), Cloverfield is a super-secretive monster flick that’s been buzzed about since its very first trailer, which featured that glorious shot of the Statue of Liberty’s head falling onto the street in NYC.  Bloggers and fanboys have been raving for months anticipating the film, and awareness for Cloverfield is very high.  Judging by the apparent excitement on the web, it would seem that this mystery-monster-movie was poised to open with the kind of numbers that many people expected SOAP to start with.  But will it similarly disappoint?  I don’t think so, and here’s why:

     Cloverfield‘s marketing contains one essential ingredient that SOAP‘s lacked, and that is mystery!  People who went to see Snakes on a Plane got exactly what title said they would get: snakes on a plane.  Cloverfield, on the other hand, is totally mysterious.  What does this monster look like?  Is it anything like Godzilla?  How tall is it?  Does it get killed?  Does it destroy all of New York?  Why does it decapitate Lady Liberty?  Curiosity is going to drive a lot of people into the theaters this weekend, and it helps that Cloverfield is not so clearly a B-movie for geeks only.
     Also, Cloverfield is a proven formula with a slight tweak.  Special-effects-driven disaster movies have impressed time and time again at the box office (Jurassic ParkThe Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend to name a few), and Cloverfield‘s slight tweak of a familiar story should keep the crowds coming.  Also setting this film apart is its unique photography style.  Supposedly captured entirely on the protagonists home video, Cloverfield takes a page out of The Blair Witch Project‘s book with a shaky cam style.  Some critics hate this, but most are praising the film for the freshness it brings to the table, and it’s getting some very good reviews.  Personally, I think the shaky cam can get a bit annoying (Paul Greengrass, can we just watch Jason Bourne fight sometimes?!), but I appreciate the stylistic chance that Cloverfield is taking with it.  All of this is to say that I think that Cloverfield‘s opening (and the second weekend drop) is going to be big.  Launching onto 3,411 theaters, Cloverfield might find about $39 million in three days, and $47 million over the extended weekend (because of MLK Day), easily giving it the #1 spot.

     The other big opener this weekend is Fox’s romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which should do some very solid business with women this weekend.  Starring Katherine Heigl, who’s hot off her debut in Knocked Up, and James Marsden, who actually isn’t the third wheel here, 27 Dresses tells the story of a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times.  Just when it looks like her love life is hopeless, she suddenly finds herself falling in love with her own sister’s fiancee.  The story is a fresh one, and Fox, which has been pushing this film hard, has done a great job of selling the story.  It looks like the massive amounts of advertising should pay off.  Heigl, already popular with women because of her role on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, proved her comedic chops with Knocked Up last summer, and while 27 Dresses is not pulling in anywhere near the kind of reviews that that movie received, her rising star should help the romantic comedy debut well.  James Marsden has never carried a movie as a leading man, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.  In March 2006, the Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew McConaughey feature Failure To Launch debuted to $24.4 million on its way to a fantastic $88.7 million total, and it looks like 27 Dresses could surpass that performance.  Walking down the aisle in 3,057 theaters, 27 Dresses should earn about $27 million over the four-day weekend.

     And then we have Mad Money, the female heist film about robbing the Federal Reserve.   Proving that Hollywood doesn’t have any roles for older women, Mad Money stars Diane Keaton as a down-on-her-luck janitor at the Federal Reserve, who pairs up with sassy Queen Latifah and ditzy Katie Holmes to steal a huge load of cash that’s meant to be shredded up and recycled.  Critics are trashing the film (who would’ve thought that Katie Holmes could get an even more negative response for this than her role in Batman Begins?), calling it unfunny and implausible.  The excitement meter is very low for this one, and of the three leading ladies, only Keaton has any real drawing power.  The main problem for this film is that 27 Dresses will be the primary choice for women this weekend.  The aforementioned romantic comedy will provide direct competition for Mad Money, which is the first release for fledgling studio Overture Films.  Unfortunately, the young studio will probably be mad at how little money Mad Money makes.  Entering into 2,470 theaters, the female heist comedy might earn a small $8.5 million over the holiday weekend.
 
Predicted Top Twelve for January 18-21
1. Cloverfield – $47 million
2. 27 Dresses – $27 million
3. The Bucket List – $12.6 million
4. Juno – $11 million
5. First Sunday – $10.3 million
6. Mad Money – $8.5  million
7. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $6.7 million 
8. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $6.5 million
9. Atonement – $5 million
10. I Am Legend – $4.9 million
11. One Missed Call – $2.9 million
12. P.S. I Love You – $2.6 million

Weekend Fix: Bucket List On Top, First Sunday Strong

January 13, 2008

    Four new films opened this weekend.  Two did quite well, but two did quite poorly.  In the end, though, the box office this weekend was very healthy for January, which is usually a tragic month in terms of dollars.  The Top 12 films earned a nice $108.8 million, which represents an understandable 35% drop from last weekend, when many kids had not yet gone back to school.  Year to year, however, things looked much brighter, as the Top 12 were up 12% from last year’s frame, when dance drama Stomp The Yard led the charts with $21.8 million.

     Debuting in the top spot, The Bucket List reaffirmed that when it comes to the box office, going by the formula can be a good choice.  With a feel-good concept, an easily understood (and advertised) story, and some true blue film stars, The Bucket List was full of life, earning $19.5 million over the weekend.    The film’s entire advertising campaign was based around its two leading men, and in this case, the strategy proved very effective because these two men are movie stars, and not just celebrities.  Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are famous because of their film work- not because of tabloid fodder, and because of this, they can successfully open a film.  Consequently, stars like Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, and Angelina Jolie are inconsistent at the box office because people care more about their personal lives than their acting skills.  For The Bucket List, moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch Freeman and Nicholson interact, and there are very few actors who still have that kind of drawing power.  The Warner Brothers buddy comedy had a good, though unspectacular, venue average of $6,750.  Reviews largely criticize the film for being too schmaltzy, but audiences love cheesy, feel-good tearjerkers, and this could have some pretty good legs.  Based on the opening, I’m thinking The Bucket List might end its run around $80 million, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

     In second place, First Sunday opened with a very good $19 million, proving for the umpteenth time that the African American market is lucrative and underutilized by Hollywood.  The ScreenGems film starring Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan had a great $8,586 per theater average, which was the best in the Top 12.  Bad reviews didn’t have an effect on First Sunday‘s opening, and since it was targeted a young audience, their negative effect should be minimal; however, this is not to say it will endure for very long.  Movies that target African American audiences tend to have horrible legs at the box office, and I’m expecting this to top off at about $50 million, which would still represent a respectable total.

    Indie darling Juno came in at third.  The Ellen Page comedy that won no Golden Globes(!) pulled in a sturdy $14 million this weekend, giving it $71.2 million overall.  This total means that Juno is just $0.3 million away from passing Sideways as Fox Searchlight’s highest grossing film ever, and it should earn that title on Monday.  Though Juno expanded into 2,448 theaters this weekend, it dropped 12% from the last frame, but this is nothing to worry about.  In its sixth weekend, it still managed a very good $5,719 venue average, and the teen pregnancy comedy has a lot of life left in it.  According to last week’s poll, 20% of you think that Juno will not break $100 million, but I’m going to have to say that you are sorely incorrect.  It seems headed for a $120+ million finish.

     In fourth, fifth, and sixth, we have the big three holiday films that have dominated the box office (and this blog) for weeks.  Down 43% from last weekend, Disney’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets found another $11.5 million, giving it a strong $187.3 million after four weekends.  Meanwhile, Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks fell 41% to $9.1 million, which gives the rodent comedy a $187.7 million total after five weeks.  Also in its fifth weekend, Warner Brothers’ I Am Legend pulled in $8.1 million, a 48% drop.  With $240.2 million overall, I Am Legend is set to become Will Smith’s second-highest grossing film behind Independence Day ($306 million).
     In its second weekend, One Missed Call behaved exactly like most other derivative horror movies, dropping a large 51% to $6.1 million.  This drop was the steepest in the Top 12, which is not surprising given the reviews (it 0/53 with critics!).  The Warner Brothers film had a weak $2,737 per theater average, and it will disappear from theaters and memories in the very near future.  After two weeks, One Missed Call has earned $20.6 million.

     You know how I said that tearjerkers have great legs at the box office?  P.S. I Love You is a prime example of this.  The weapy Hilary Swank romance earned $5 million this weekend, down just 36% from the previous frame.  Its venue average of $2,155 is nothing to get excited about, but this is a Warner Brothers film that has done very well for itself.  After opening with an awful $6.5 million, P.S. I Love You has really caught on with audiences, for when it comes to romantic movies, reviews often don’t line up with the collective consciousness (case in point: The Notebook).  After four weekends, it’s pulled in a very solid $47 million.

     Back in ninth place, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything opened poorly with just $4.4 million.  With a low theater count of 1,337, and a low per theater average of $3,305, the VeggieTales picture will certainly finish below Jonah’s $25.5 million total, and it won’t last in theaters for long.   This is a disappointing start for the Universal film.
     Atonement expanded into 950 theaters this weekend, and it pulled in $4.3 million, down a small 15% from last weekend.  This Focus Features film has quietly earned $25.2 million so far, and its Golden Globe win for Best Picture on Sunday will certainly help it in the weeks to come.  (By the way, watch this this lovely interview from EW.com with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.  It’s nice to see actors who act to tell stories, not to get awards or fame…)
     Charlie Wilson’s War, the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts film that just didn’t quite click, fell 47% to $4.3 million this weekend.  With a low $1,775 venue average, Charlie Wilson’s War should start shedding theaters pretty quickly now.  The Universal film has earned a moderately disappointing $59.5 million after four weekends.

     In the number twelve spot, Sweeney Todd (which picked up a Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor award on Sunday) falls 39% to $3.4 million over the last three days.  With $44.1 million in four weekends, it will be interesting to see how much further the DreamWorks musical can go now that it has received some major awards attention.
    The final new opener, In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, debuted outside the Top 12 with a tiny $3.3 million, and a paltry $2,002 per theater average.  I’m rather proud of North America for its blatant rejection of Uwe Boll’s latest terribly reviewed film.  Though this will be his most unsuccessful film to date, I’m sure it will result in an even bigger budget for his next one…
     Next weekend should be very interesting.  We’ve got Katherine Heigl and James Marsden in the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, the uber-hyped old-school monster movie, Cloverfield, and the female heist flick, Mad Money.  Check back on Friday for the Weekend Preview.
Top 12 for January 11-13

# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 The Bucket List $19,540,000 $20,964,000
2 First Sunday $19,000,000 $19,000,000
3 Juno $14,000,000 $71,249,796
4 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $11,482,000 $187,295,000
5 Alvin and the Chipmunks $9,100,000 $187,740,479
6 I Am Leged $8,130,000 $240,234,000
7 One Missed Call $6,130,000 $20,642,000
8 P.S. I Love You $5,005,000 $47,008,000
9 The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything $4,418,785 $4,418,785
10 Atonement $4,299,670 $25,208,460
11 Charlie Wilson’s War $4,274,200 $59,498,270
12 Sweeney Todd $3,402,000 $44,070,000

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Friday Estimates: Not Kickin’ The Bucket Just Yet

January 12, 2008

     Friday Numbers are in, and it looks like I underestimated the power of two old-school box office heavyweights.  The Bucket List had a great Friday with $6.4 million, which should give the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson comedy a very respectable $19 million weekend, which is good for #1.  

     As for the rest of the openers, after a $6.2 million Friday, First Sunday looks headed for my prediction with $17 million through Sunday.  The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything had a poor start, earning just $1.1 million on its first day.  The swashbuckling vegetable film (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use…) should finish up with just about $4 million.  And in news that totally delights me, Uwe Boll’s latest film, In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, is flopping!  It earned just under $1 million on Friday, which should give it a horrible $2.8 million weekend and a spot outside the Top 12.  Moviegoers, I salute you.
Friday Estimates for January 11
1. The Bucket List – $6.4 million
2. First Sunday – $6.2 million
3. Juno – $4.6 million
4. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $3.3 million
5. I Am Legend – $2.6 million
6. One Missed Call – $2.2 million
7. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $2 million
8. P.S. I Love You – $1.6 million
9. Charlie Wilson’s War – $1.4 million
10. Atonement – $1.3 million
11. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything – $1.1 million
12. Sweeney Todd – $1 million

Weekend Preview: Will First Sunday Steal Box Office Crown?

January 11, 2008

Traditionally thought of as a dumping ground for Hollywood’s poorest titles, January is typically home to movies that studios have very little hope for. In terms of box office revenue, only September can rival the bad receipts that movies see in January, and this year, things won’t be too much different. Even with four openers, the box office will continue to rely on strong holdovers to keep 2008 ahead of last year.

I’m going to go slightly against the grain of most box office analysts this week, and predict that First Sunday will take the box office crown. Starring Ice Cube, Katt Williams, and SNL alum Tracy Morgan, First Sunday is a black church comedy (I say “black” both because of the African American cast, and its crime theme) that follows two men as they attempt to rob their church. It will have playability among black and (to a lesser extent) churchgoing audiences, which have proven to be very lucrative with the success of Tyler Perry. January has proven to be a very good time to release movies aimed at black audiences: In 2006, Big Momma’s House 2 opened with $27.7 million, and on this very weekend in 2007, Stomp The Yard earned a smashing $21.8 million. Not surprisingly, reviews are terrible, but they’re kind of a non-factor for a film like this. ScreenGems’ First Sunday launches into 2,213 theaters on Friday, and it might steal about $17 million over the weekend.

The Bucket List is not technically a new opener, but since it was only playing in 16 theaters last weekend, I’m going to count it as one. The story of two old men trying fulfill their life’s wishes before they die, The Bucket List stars screen legends Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Movies with two A-list, male actors usually do very well at the box office (see The Prestige, American Gangster, 3:10 To Yuma), but The Bucket List lacks an exciting punch, so its success will be more limited. This will play to a much older audience, who definitely read reviews, and the lackluster critical reception will hurt its chances at success. Still, the Warner Brothers feature with very likable leads is playing in a huge 2,895 theaters, and its sheer visibility will help it earn about $11.5 million over the weekend.

If you’re not an Evangelical Christian, you may not have heard of VeggieTales, a popular Christian-themed franchise that feature animated vegetables like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato. This weekend, VeggieTales presents The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, the second feature film after 2002’s Jonah, which was a modest success ($25.5 million) for such a small movie. Five years later, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything looks to match Jonah‘s success at best. Outside of its target audience, there has been literally no advertising for this film, which is strange to me, because with a family friendly story, it does have some crossover appeal. Also, it has the best reviews of the weekend, though that’s not saying much. Out in 1,336 theaters, the Universal kiddie-flick should just about match its predecessor’s numbers with a $6.5 million weekend.

The final new film of the weekend is In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. First off, does every film have to have a colon in the title these days? Between Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, I don’t know how many more punctuated titles I can take! Second, if you read my previous post about Uwe Boll, you know how unexcited I am for this video game adaptation starring the normally enjoyable Jason Statham. In The Name Of The King was originally supposed to debut in 2,500 theaters this weekend, but at some point during the week, 900 theater owners bailed out and decided not to play the film, which is a bad sign, and the Freestyle Releasing film was not screened for critics, which also does not bode well for it. Out in 1,605 theaters, Uwe Boll’s latest assault on the film industry might earn a truly terrible $3.5 million, giving it a spot outside the Top 12.

First Sunday‘s primary competition for the top spot comes from Juno. The indie comedy has enjoyed the #1 position for the entire week, and it expands even further this weekend into 2,448 theaters. It’s per theater average will dip a bit from last week’s phenomenal $8,239, but it should still be very strong. A $15 million weekend would give Juno a sensational $71 million overall.

The big three holiday films should continue to perform solidly. National Treasure: Book of Secrets might pull in $11 million over the next three days, for a $187 million total. I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks should each pull in about $9 million, for totals of $240 million and $189 million, respectively. Behaving oppositely, One Missed Call should crumble down to about $5.5 million, for a $20 million total.

Finally, this weekend Atonement boosts its theater count to 950, and a $6 million weekend might result, which would give the period piece just over $26 million overall. The Kite Runner and the Spanish film The Orphanage each expand into about 700 theaters, and while they won’t make the Top 12 this weekend, each could end up with some solid business in the weeks to come if they can win some awards.
Predicted Top Twelve for January 11-13
1. First Sunday – $17 million
2. Juno – $15 million
3. The Bucket List – $11.5 million
4. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $11 million
5. I Am Legend – $9 million
6. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $9 million
7. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything – $6.5 million
8. Atonement – $6 million
9. P.S. I Love You – $5.8 million
10. Charlie Wilson’s War – $5.5 million
11. The Water Horse – $4 million
12. Sweeney Todd – $3.7 million

Weekend Fix: Treasure Threepeats, Juno Exceeds Expectations

January 6, 2008

     The first weekend of 2008 got the year off to good start, continuing the solid weekend performances that the box office has had for the last three weeks.  Of course, the holidays are pretty much over now, and the Top 12’s box office fell an expected 27% from last weekend, but with only one new film opening, the Top 12 films still managed to gross a collective $123.9 million, which represents a great 19% increase over the first weekend of last year.

     For the third weekend in a row, National Treasure: Book of Secrets held the top spot.  The Nicholas Cage flick earned $20.2 million this weekend, off 43% from last weekend.  Playing in a whopping 3,762 theaters, Disney’s Da Vinci Code rip-off had a pretty good $5,376 venue average.  Probably because of its weak reviews and rehashed story, Book of Secrets hasn’t held up as well as the original National Treasure did, but it will still end up outgrossing its predecessor (I’m seeing a final gross somewhere around $220 million).  After three weekends, National Treasure: Book of Secrets has earned a nice $171 million.
     I Am Legend, Warner Brothers’ apocalyptic thriller starring Will Smith, continued to utterly dominate at the box office.  In its fourth weekend, the sci-fi action movie earned $16.4 million, a 40% drop from last weekend.  After its huge $77 million opening, I Am Legend has been quite leggy, and by next weekend, it will have tripled its opening.  In its fourth weekend, it had a sturdy $4,490 per theater average, which is great for a film of its age.  In 24 days it has grossed a phenomenal $228.7 million.

     The third place film is the real success story of the weekend.  Juno, which expanded into 1,925 theaters this weekend, earned a stunning $16.2 million over the past three days.  Word of mouth has propelled this indie comedy to its incredible level of success, and with an amazing $8,429 per theater average, Juno is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon (Vote on the poll to the right that asks if Juno can break $100 million).  Although many awards voters won’t admit it, a film’s box office definitely matters when it comes to choosing award winners, and Juno‘s setting itself up for some major victories in the coming months.  After five weeks Fox Searchlight’s feature has earned $52 million.
     Finally out of the top three, Alvin and the Chipmunks fell 45% this weekend to $16 million.  The rodent comedy had a $4,622 venue average, and it has earned $176.7 million overall.  The terribly reviewed children’s movie just won’t die!  Mark my words, if the Writers Guild of America weren’t on strike right now, Fox would already be in the stages of preproduction for a sequel, and with $200 million right around the corner, a new installment of Alvin will be cranked out as soon as possible.

     One Missed Call, the weekend’s sole opening film, debuted to an alright $13.5 million.  The Warner Brothers horror film, which could win an award for not receiving a single positive review, had a very front-loaded weekend.  With a $5.2 million Friday, One Missed Call could only achieve a 2.6 internal multiplier, which implies that it will have very short legs at the box office.  It had an okay $6,038 per theater average, which is not terrible, but certainly nothing special, and I’m guessing that One Missed Call will probably finish its run with a bad $30 million.  No one’s going to miss this one…
     In sixth place, Charlie Wilson’s War kept on redeeming its slow start.  Down 32%, Universal’s Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts political comedy grossed $8.2 million this weekend, giving it a fairly small $3,155 venue average.  Overall, Charlie Wilson’s War has grossed $52.6 million, and while this is lower than one would expect given the pedigree of its stars, it’s very good considering how poorly the film opened.  It could end with about $70-80 million overall.

     P.S. I Love You fell a tiny 14% to $8 million, as it continued its inexplicable endurance at the box office.  With a venue average of $3,244, P.S. I Love You isn’t breaking any records, but it is notable that the Warner Brothers romantic comedy did better in its third weekend than it did in its opening.  I guess word-of-mouth is good among teenage girls, who just love to cry at the movies.  In three weeks, Hilary Swank’s foray into female roles has earned a not-too-shabby $39.4 million.
     The Water Horse was back in eighth place this weekend.  The children’s fantasy has been utterly overlooked, and was down 31% this weekend, for a $6.3 million gross, and a low $2,269 per theater average.  In total, Sony’s The Water Horse has splashed up a disappointing $30.9 million after three weeks.
     Sweeney Todd looks to be following a very similar trajectory to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which finished up with $53 million.  This weekend, Dreamworks/Paramount’s slasher musical, Sweeney Todd, found another $5.4 million, a 34% drop.  It was a good decision to keep the theater count low on this one, as it still has a fairly good $4,323 venue average in its third weekend.  This should keep in theaters a while longer, and with a few awards, Sweeney Todd could become a bona fide success.  We’ll have to wait and see.  For now, the musical gorefest will have to live with its $38.5 million total.

     Taking a page out of Juno‘s book, Atonement also had a very successful expansion this weekend.  Moving into 583 theaters, Atonement increased 64% to $5.1 million.  Its per theater average of $8,790 was the best in the Top 12, which should merit further expansions in the future.  It remains to be seen whether Atonement can outgross director Joe Wright’s previous picture, Pride and Prejudice, which earned $39 million, but I’m thinking it should have no trouble doing so.  Thus far, the Focus Features film has made $19.2 million
     Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem deteriorated in its second weekend, dropping 58% to $4.3 million, proving that everyone who really wanted to see this has already done so.  The weekend gross gave Fox’s mindless action movie a wretched $1,624 venue average, and assured that it will disappear from theaters quickly.  So far, AVP:R has grosses $30.5 million, with about a third of that coming from its opening day alone.

     Rounding out the Top 12 is Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, which earned $4.2 million over the weekend frame.  The small MGM drama had an okay $3,291 per theater average.  With $22 million overall, The Great Debaters hasn’t performed spectacularly, but its done pretty well for a small film that had absolutely zero buzz going for it.  A few awards could help its cause tremendously.
     Next weekend brings four new films: the old-people laugher, The Bucket List, the Veggie Tales production, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, criminal comedy, First Sunday, and Uwe Boll’s latest (awful) video game adaptation, In The Name Of The King.  At this point, none seem to have real breakout potential, and the box office may be relying on holdovers for yet another week.  Check back next week for the Weekend Preview.

Top 12 for January 4-6

# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $20,225,000 $171,033,000
2 I Am Legend $16,380,000 $228,718,000
3 Juno $16,225,000 $52,031,842
4 Alvin and the Chipmunks $16,000,000 $176,737,736
5 One Missed Call $13,525,000 $13,525,000
6 Charlie Wilson’s War $8,184,070 $52,630,360
7 P.S. I Love You $8,015,000 $39,383,000
8 The Water Horse $6,300,000 $30,893,000
9 Sweeney Todd $5,400,000 $38,472,000
10 Atonement $5,124,297 $19,215,527
11 Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem $4,250,000 $36,820,839
12 The Great Debaters $4,245,000 $22,007,817

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Friday Estimates: Not Everyone Misses One Missed Call

January 5, 2008

     Well, it looks like the holidays are coming to an end. While the box office isn’t behaving especially poorly, everything except Juno, Atonement, and (based on low expectations) One Missed Call is just average or a little bit underwhelming.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets will lead for the third weekend in a row, and on Friday the treasure-hunters found $6.4 million. A $19 million weekend seems likely.
     One Missed Call and I Am Legend both pulled in $5.2 million on Friday, but they should finish about $3 million apart. One Missed Call, which now has some shockingly bad reviews, was marketed almost exclusively to teens.  It will be very front-loaded should finish with $13 million. I Am Legend, which has already proven its longevity, will pull in a much better $16 million.
     Juno continued to exceed its buzz, earning a great $5.2 million on Friday. The indie comedy can’t seem to do anything wrong during its run, and even in almost 2,000 theaters, it will have a very good per theater average of about $7,500! Look for a $15 million weekend.     Atonement also fared well in it expansion, pulling in a solid $1.5 million yesterday. It should slightly exceed my prediction of $4.2 million, setting itself up for a truckload of awards.
     Everything else performed pretty much as expected, so there’s not much to report, but to see the final weekend grosses, check back in tomorrow for the Weekend Fix.

Friday Estimates for January 4
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $6.4 million
2. I Am Legend – $5.2 million
3. One Missed Call – $5.2 million
4. Juno – $5.2 million
5. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $4.6 million
6. P.S. I Love You – $2.6 million
7. Charlie Wilson’s War – $2.5
8. The Water Horse – $1.9 million
9. Sweeney Todd – $1.8 million
10. Atonement – $1.5 million
11. Alien Vs. Predator – $1.4 million
12. The Great Debaters – $1.2 million

Weekend Preview: Will "Call" Hit Or Miss?

January 4, 2008

     In the first weekend of 2008, with just one new film opening, the box office will have to rely on holdovers to sustain the great grosses of the holiday season. Still, 2008’s offerings should have no trouble outgrossing 2007’s first weekend, when Night At The Museum was on top. This year, National Treasure: Book of Secrets should top the box office for a third weekend in a row, but Alvin and the Chipmunks could be some stiff competition. Newcomer One Missed Call hopes to break out, while Atonement and Juno receive major expansions.

     One Missed Call, a remake of a Japanese horror film, is the sole opener this weekend. With a story that sounds remarkably similar to The Ring (and every other techno-supernatural Japanese thriller), One Missed Call tells the story of a woman who hears her own death over her cell phone, and then must figure out how to prevent her inevitable fate from occurring. Released by Warner Brothers, One Missed Call hopes to garner some of the success that other early-January horror releases have seen. In January 2005, White Noise opened with $24 million, and in 2006, Hostel surprised with a $19.6 million opening. Unfortunately, in 2007, moviegoers firmly rejected new horror titles. Hostel: Part II, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Vacancy, Hannibal Rising, The Reaping, and The Mist all finished with less than $30 million, and the Japanese style of horror has been out ever since torture-porn came along (Though, judging by the failures I just listed, it looks like torture-porn is out too). Advertising has been solid, but the movie still looks terribly generic- And what do you know? It wasn’t screened for critics! Launching in 2,240 theaters, One Missed Call might find a small $8 million over the weekend.
     The first major expansion of the weekend comes with Juno, which almost doubles its theater count to 1,925 venues. The teen pregnancy comedy has been picking up steam at an almost exponential rate in the last two weeks, performing more like a studio release than an indie flick, and while the expansion will cause a decrease in the per theater average, Juno should still have a great weekend. With a $14 million weekend, the Fox Searchlight picture will be pushing a phenomenal $50 million. Suddenly, $100 million seems like a possibility!     With Juno acting like such a champ, its easy to forget about a film like Focus Features’ Atonement, which has been quietly performing very solidly in its own right. The Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan (whose being hailed the next Dakota Fanning) movie has already earned $14 million, and with awards on the way, it still has a lot left in it. Atonement expands into 583 theaters this weekend, and it should pull in about $4.2 million.
     Among holdovers, small 30-45% drops should be the case for most films. National Treasure: Book of Secrets should again be on top, and a 40% decrease will give Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer production about $21 million for the weekend, and $171 million overall. Right on its heels, Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks should have a smaller drop, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it even took the top spot. The Fox film should earn about $19 million in the next three days, giving it a $170 million running total. America, I hope you’re ready for sequels… In third, Sony’s I Am Legend will find an additional $16 million for a huge $227 million total.

Predicted Top 12 for January 4-6
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $21 million
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $19 million
3. I Am Legend – $16 million
4. Juno – $14 million
5. Charlie Wilson’s War – $8 million
6. One Missed Call – $8 million
7. P.S. I Love You – $6.1 million
8. The Water Horse – $5.5 million
9. Sweeney Todd – $4.6 million
10. Alien Vs. Predator – $4.5 million
11. Enchanted – $4.2 million
12. Atonement – $4.2 million

Friday Estimates: Treasure Tops Charts, Predator Becomes Prey

December 29, 2007

     Friday numbers are in, and the box office is thriving.  We’re headed for some very solid weekend totals based on these Friday results, and many holdovers will see increases in their weekend-to-weekend grosses.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets should hold onto the top spot this weekend, with a Friday gross of $12.2 million.  I saw this movie last night, and it was one of the silliest, stupidest, most preposterous, wildly entertaining movies I have seen in quite some time.  (Thank goodness Justin Bartha’s comic timing balances out Cage’s ridiculous maxims…) I let go of all my movie-buff pretentiousness, leaned back in my seat, and had a wonderful time.  It’s certainly family friendly enough to keep pulling in families, and it has the Disney brand name, so it should have a pretty good weekend multiplier.  Book of Secrets looks headed for a $40 weekend.
     Alvin and the Chipmunks flexed its box office muscle last night, holding off I Am Legend for the second place spot.  With $10.4 million, Alvin increased a great 24% from last Friday, while I Am Legend fell a small 16% to $9.2 million.  Fox’s rodent comedy should finish the weekend with about $33 million, and Warner Brothers’ sci-fi thriller might pull in $28 million.

     Also increasing from last weekend, Charlie Wilson’s War pulled in a solid $3.9 million, and with a probable $11 million weekend, the Universal political dramedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts is on its way to redeeming its slow start.
     Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem lost some major steam going into the weekend, placing fifth on Friday with $3.4 million.  It appears that the fanboys really did all see AVP:R on opening night, so this should have a pretty bad holiday multiplier.  Look for just over $9 million this weekend.
     Juno will pass the aforementioned alien thriller by the end of the weekend.  After earning $3.3 million on Friday, the Ellen Page comedy should earn about $10 million over three days.
     The Water Horse continued to behave exactly like the legend of the Loch Ness monster- except for a few witnesses, no one has seen it.  With $3.2 million on Friday, it could earn just under $10 million over the weekend, giving it a small $20 million overall.

     Among the rest of the films, P.S. I Love You did better than last weekend, with $3 million on Friday.  Sweeney Todd revealed some of its front-loadedness with an alright $2.7 million.  And The Great Debaters pulled in a small $2 million (though Enchanted did better with $2.3 million).
Friday Estimates for December 28
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $12.2 million
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $10.4 million
3. I Am Legend – $9.2 million
4. Charlie Wilson’s War – $3.9 million
5. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem – $3.4 million
6. Juno – $3.3 million
7. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep – $3.2 million
8. P.S. I Love You – $3 million
9. Sweeney Todd – $2.7 million
10. Enchanted – $2.3 million
11. The Great Debaters – $2 million
12. The Golden Compass – $1.5 million