After the monumental breakout by Taken 2 last weekend, the box-office continued its winning streak against 2011 for the 3rd weekend in a row. Even though none of the five newcomers managed to break out or even particularly impress, all did solid enough on their own to help the Top 12 reach a $120.7 million cume. The number represents a 9.1% decrease from last weekend, but at the same time it is still up an unbelievable 56.7% over the same weekend last year when Real Steel fended off weak openers in its second frame and remained on top. After a fairly weak start into the fall box-office season, 2012 now keeps increasing the gap between it and 2011 which is at almost 5% now. With given blockbusters like The Hobbit, Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph and the last installment in the Twilight saga ahead, we’re almost certainly looking at a record-breaking year.
Taken 2 has shown itself to be the prime example of a rift between film critics’ and audience’s perception. Slammed by the vast majority of the movie reviewing community, the movie not just opened to a terrific $49.5 million last weekend (3rd-best October opening ever), but it also scored a very good “B+”-CinemaScore, showing that the movie delivered pretty much what it has promised to the majority of audiences. In its second frame, it continued to defy the odds and despite hefty competition, likely frontloading and what some expected to be bad word-of-mouth (despite CinemaScore indicating the contrary), the film slipped “just” 55.8% to $21.9 million and easily maintained its top spot of the box-office. Liam Neeson’s revenge thriller amassed a total of $86.1 million over its first 10 days in release, tracking $32.5 million over the first film’s 10-day-cume. While the gap is certain to decrease very fast (remember, the first Taken dropped just 7.6% in its third weekend for $19 million), it is more than impressive that this sequel to what could have easily turned out to be a one-hit-wonder will so easily break the $100 million mark. In fact, it should pass the milestone some time next weekend.
Taken is a curious franchise, especially as it almost certainly never set out to be one. Luc Besson has been producing English-language Euro-actioners for years now and the only one that made it to franchise status was the Transporter series which made Jason Statham a bona fide action star. Most of Besson’s action films have been decent success stories, but also nothing to particularly brag about. They turned in a nice tidy profit, did well on home video and were usually forgotten shortly after their respective releases. Even the Transporter series has never even hit $50 million stateside. Other typical representatives of the Luc Besson Euro-action subgenre are Colombiana ($36.7 million), which was also helmed by Taken 2’s director Olivier Megaton, Kiss of the Dragon ($36.8 million) and Unleashed ($24.5 million). Then Taken came along, months after it has already seen a release in Europe where it did well, but also nothing particularly outstanding. Taken’s opening was great – with $24.7 million during its first three days it has already outgrossed several other Besson-produced films. But the true story followed when its legs kicked in. After its solid start, it went on to reach a multiplier of almost 5.9 and a final total of $145 million – an unheard of performance for a generic January-released action flick. It was a phenomenon that is still hard to grasp. It also reinvented the then 56-year old Liam Neeson as an action star, probably the highest age in recent memory at which an actor, previously mostly known for dramas, has been made a solid action hero. He has proven his draw in the genre with Unknown ($63.7 million) and The Grey ($53.6 million).
Taken 2 shows that the first film wasn’t a fluke. On a modest $45 million budget (which still seems high by the usual standards of Luc Besson), it is going to easily break past $100 million. The fact that its main competition next weekend will be an R-rated horror flick will only help as it can serve as a perfect “buy-ticket-for-one-sneak-into-another-film”-flick. In fact, after Alex Cross next weekend (which I don’t expect to be a major factor), there won’t be any PG-13-rated competition for Taken 2 until Skyfall’s arrival on November 9th. It looks like Taken 2 won’t fall that far behind the first film afterall with a $130-140 million finish looking likely at the moment. Given the overseas success as well 8where the film is experiencing huge increases compared to the first flick), it looks like Liam Neeson will be doing these films until he’s 75.
Ben Affleck’s third directing effort, Argo, was the most potent opener this weekend. With $19.5 million from 3,232 theatres, it delivered a solid $6,020 per-theatre-average. The opening is a tad behind The Town’s $23.8 million start, but it’s also almost as big as Gone Baby Gone’s domestic total ($20.3 million). One also has to admit that Argo’s plot about a covert CIA operation 1979 which involved a fake movie shoot, in order to extract six US diplomats from Iran is a harder sell than The Town’s Boston-set bank heist theme. While Argo’s Friday was less than impressive with $5.9 million, it stunned everyone by increasing 46.9% to $8.7 million on Saturday. What is even more impressive is that the film managed to score the rare “A+”-CinemaScore also received by WoM hits like The Help, The Blind Side and The King’s Speech. As expected, it skewed older, with 74% of its opening weekend audiences being above the age of 35. With this tremendous reception, raving reviews and the inevitable strong Oscar buzz for the film, it is certain to show some terrific legs. The Town’s multiplier puts its projected total at around $75 million. However, I assume that this will be a much bigger awards player than The Town, allowing for even better legs. Even $100 million is not out of question at this moment; however a more conservative (and more likely) projection would put it at $80-90 million.
The month’s first horror film, Sinister, is off to a good start. After having narrowly won Friday with $7.4 million, it settled for $18 million ad the third spot of the charts for the overall weekend. Its PTA came in at an impressive $7,126 from just 2,527 venues. Sinister is the third-biggest non-Twilight opener ever for Summit Entertainment, trailing only Knowing and RED. The opening weekend was not even close to the director Scott Derrickson’s own The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30.1 million), it still delivered the biggest opening for a straightforward horror film since The Woman in Black back in February ($20.9 million). It is also yet another example of the strength that R–rated movies have displayed all year long. While the critics have been relatively kind to the film, the audiences didn’t seem to have embraced it as much, giving it a mediocre “C+”-CinemaScore. The degree of frontloading it has shown over the weekend doesn’t bode well for the rest of its run and Paranormal Activity 4 will certainly hurt it badly next weekend. However, given the incredible $3 million budget, the Ethan Hawke-starrer is already a big hit for the studio and its $40-45 million total should be enough for the studio executives to start contemplating a sequel.
Sony’s Hotel Transylvania dropped two spots to #4, losing just 36.3% of its previous weekend’s audiences. In its third frame, the movie brought in $17.2 million and made it to $102.1 million after 17 days, making it the first movie to cross $100 million since The Bourne Legacy. Having withstood Frankenweenie onslaught last weekend, the movie is set for a smooth sailing through the next two weeks until Wreck-It Ralph will deliver it a fatal blow on the first weekend on November. Until then, however, I expect very good legs, ensuring that the film will at the very least pass $140 million. Right now, I expect a $140-145 million finish, making it the most successful animated film by Sony, beating out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million). With some luck, however, it still has a shot at $150 million. Given Hotel Transylvania’s success, but also Cloudy’s and Open Season’s, that September spot will probably keep getting booked by Sony Animation for years to come, as evidenced by the spontaneous move of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 to that date. Overall, this has been a great year for animated movies financially with three crossing the $200 million barrier (Brave, The Lorax, Madagascar 3) and another one making it past $150 million (Ice Age: Continental Drift).
The only somewhat disappointing opener this weekend was Kevin James’ newest effort, Here Comes the Boom. The comedy about a high-school-teacher-turned-MMA-fighter took in $11.8 million from 3,014 locations for a PTA of $3,921. That’s certainly not an absolute disaster given the $42 million budget but it’s also not the success that Sony probably hoped for. Ever since Kevin James delivered the trio of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry ($120.1 million), Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($146.3 million) and Grown Ups ($162 million), he couldn’t live up to the expectations of being a major draw in the comedy genre. The Dilemma flopped despite pairing him with Vince Vaughn, Zookeeper disappointed with $80.4 million last summer and now Here Comes the Boom will probably end up as his lowest-grossing film ever. Even though it scored a great “A”-CinemaScore it won’t end up with more than $37-42 million in the bank.
Continuing to display good WoM, Universal’s Pitch Perfect dipped 37.6% to the 6th spotnof the box-office, grossing $9.3 million over the three-day period in the process. The music comedy’s total stands at $36 million against a $17 million budget. After several well-received supporting turns in the likes of Up in the Air and 50/50, Pitch Perfect should finally solidify Anna Kendrick as a leading actress and hopefully give her more good roles in the future. So far the movie is holding up better than Easy A, another well-received comedy aimed at young females and starring an up and coming star (Emma Stone) Easy A went on to gross over $58 million which is what Pitch Perfect is aiming for as well at the very least. The combo of Alex Cross and Paranormal Activity 4 should hardly provide direct competition for the film, allowing for the legs to improve during its later run. Right now, I see it making it to $60 million before the end of its run.
Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie occupied the 7th slot of the box-office in its sophomore weekend. Down a solid 38.2%, the black ‘n white stop motion animation made $7.1 million for a total of $22.1 million after 10 days. Disney certainly hoped for more as Frankenweenie now looks certain to become Burton’s lowest-grossing feature since Mars Attacks! 16 years ago. In fact, with some bad luck, it could actually even finish below that ($37.8 million). At least its second weekend hold is better than one would expect given the usual tendency of Burton’s films being initially frontloaded due to his dedicated fanbase. It will find its way to around $37 million, marking 2012 a pretty bad year for Burton after Dark Shadows has already disappointed with a $79.7 million domestic total on a budget of $150 million.
The reviews for it might be astounding, but Looper’s legs don’t mirror that. The acclaimed time travel actioner dropped 48.8% in its third weekend, suffering the effect of two major R-rated competitors (Argo and Sinister). A $6.2 million weekend put it at #8 of the box-office and gave it a running total of $51.3 million after 17 days. Given the $30 million production budget, this is certainly nothing to complain about, but it is still somehow slightly disappointing that a film this acclaimed looks to wrap up its run rather quickly. It will drop out of the Top 10 within the next two weeks with major R-rated competition from Paranormal Activity 4 certainly not helping matters. Rian Johnson’s film will finish its run with around $65 million in its pockets. A solid number, but nothing close a a breakout many hoped for when the terrific reviews came in and the film opened slightly above expectations. Its opening weekend “B”-CinemaScore was the first indicator that things probably wouldn’t go as smoothly.
Martin McDonagh’s long-awaited follow-up to In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, opened to a meager $4.2 million from 1,480 locations at the 11th spot this weekend. It averaged $2,821 per theatre. For whatever unfathomable reason, CBS Films has decided that the best strategy for this dark quirky comedy would be a wide release right away. As one can see, this hasn’t really paid off. A movie like this needs to build WoM and expand more slowly. Now it will just vanish from most theatres within the next three weeks due to a disappointing per-theatre-average. Even great reviews and a solid “B+”-CinemaScore won’t help much here. Sure, it will surpass In Bruges’ $7.8 million (that film never went wider than 232 theatres!), but a $13-15 million total on a $15 million budget is hardly anything to brag about.
The expanded The Perks of Being a Wallflower ascended into the Top 10 this weekend at #10. As the film finally went semi-wide, it added 505 theatres bringing its total locations count to 726. The weekend gross rose 37.3% in comparison to last week, giving it a decent $2.2 million weekend and an average just below $3,000. Its current total is $6.1 million. Given this mediocre PTA, it is unlikely that the film will go much wider from now on. In contrary to Seven Psychopaths, this is a movie that probably should have gone wide right away during the slower weekends of September. It’s looking to finish with about $15 million in the bank.
Atlas Shrugged Part II opened just outside of the Top 10, at #11. Its $1.7 million opening was almost identical to that of its predecessor. The difference is, however, that the first film opened in just 299 theatres, whereas the second part was launched at 1,012 venues, giving it a miserable $1,725 PTA. Given the very likely frontloadness of the film, it will probably peter out with just around $4 million, falling behind the first flick.
End of Watch rounded off the Top 12 in its 4th outing. The cop thriller took in $1.7 million (down 57.5%), bringing its running total to $36.4 million. This is a great number, considering the $7 million price tag. Its legs have also been much better than those of comparable films like Street Kings or Brooklyn’s Finest. It looks to wrap up its run with around $39 million.