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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (March 1-3, 2013)

Another weekend of 2013 passes and this year keeps losing ground on 2012 and that even before The Hunger Games hit the screens last year, delivering a $400+ million gross, unheard of for a March release. Despite four wide releases, among those a $195 million 3D tentpole, the Top 12 amounted to just $92.8 million, up only 5.1% from last weekend and down an abysmal 39.1% from the same weekend last year when Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opened to terrific numbers on top. Even more worrisome is that we’re dealing with the worst Top 12 cume in March since 2009. Only one single movie delivered a $10+ million gross over the weekend, with the Oscar movies being the only real standouts at the box-office. By now we have fallen 12.8% behind 2012 and the gap will keep getting bigger at least until mid-May as nothing should be able to match The Avengers and The Hunger Games in the first half of this year.


The top spot went to Jack the Giant Slayer, which gathered $27.2 million from 3,525 locations for a per-theatre-average of $7,717. Of that gross, 58% came from 3D showings (including the 12% that came from IMAX screens). That’s hardly anything to write home about. Bryan Singer’s popular fairy tale’s adaptation cost Warner Bros. an incredible $195 million to produce (and that not even including marketing costs). Thus it is already fair to label Jack the Giant Slayer as this year’s John Carter (which grossed $73.1 million on a $250 million budget last year). John Carter opened higher than Jack the Giant Slayer, with $30.2 million in its first three days, but struggled in the long run, failing to reach an opening-to-total multiplier of 2.5. First signs indicate good-to-very-good word-of-mouth for Jack the Giant Slayer as it scored a “B+”-CinemaScore from its audiences over the weekend and a particularly impressive “A” among those under the age of 18. However, as good as it may sound, the latter audiences didn’t make up the majority of the film’s viewers this weekend. Around 56% of the film’s audience was older than 25 and 55% were male, suggesting that the film didn’t appeal as much tom family audiences as Warner Bros. probably hoped for. One of the reasons for that is most likely the film’s PG-13-rating, making it unsuitable for the youngest in the audiences. Another is WB’s muddled marketing, never making it clear whether they were aiming for a family-oriented flick or more serious fantasy fare.

Either way, all the positive WoM among younger audiences won’t help as they’ll likely flock to Oz the Great and Powerful next weekend. In what seems like a major scheduling error, WB put its (clearly lower-profile) fantasy film a weekend before the release of Disney’s new fantasy adventure. I guess it all comes around. Last March, it was Disney suffering with John Carter, this year, they’re the ones looking to end up triumphant as Jack the Giant Slayer will probably behave similarly to Hellboy II: The Golden Army in its second weekend when it faced The Dark Knight and fell 70% despite good reception among audiences. While fate might be not as harsh to Jack, there is no denying that Oz will put a great dent in its audiences and it might never get a chance to recover.  Even in the best-case scenario, the flick will land in the $65-75 million range. Only humongous overseas numbers can now save the film from being the second financial failure Bryan Singer has directed for Warner Bros.


The second spot went to last weekend’s winner, Identity Thief, which added $9.7 million (down 30.8%) to its gross and became the first movie of 2013 to pass the $100 million barrier. In its first 24 days on release, Identity Thief has collected $107.4 million for Universal. In this rather gloomy first two months at the North American box-office, Universal has been the sole bright spot, having landed the two biggest hits of the year so far. Aside from Identity Thief, the studio, which is coming off its biggest year ever, released Mama, the Jessica Chastain-starring horror flick that currently stands at $70.9 million, making it the biggest non-sequel horror flick since the first Paranormal Activity back in 2009. Identity Thief similarly performed well above all expectations and is currently tracking around $11 million ahead of director Seth Gordon’s last effort, Horrible Bosses. Horrible Bosses went on to finish with $117.5 million and so far Identity Thief has been showing off considerably better legs. It helps that despite being an R-rated movie in a marketplace overcrowded with R-rated films, it was still one of the few comedies around. It also helps that Melissa McCarthy is currently one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood popularity-wise, still stemming from her great success with Bridesmaids. What is particularly impressive, though, is that Identity Thief wasn’t noticeably by the arrival of 21 and Over, another R-rated comedy. Possibly that was because 21 and Over’s partying theme was aiming for younger audiences than Identity Thief. At this point, Identity Thief looks likely to hit at least $130 million and wind up with $130-135 million before the end of its run. It certainly sets the bar high for all the other R-rated comedies to be released this year.


Settling for #3, 21 and Over bowed to an unremarkable $8.8 million from 2,771 venues, averaging $3,159 per theatre. It was the 8th-biggest opening ever for its distributor Relativity and given the $13 million price tag, it certainly won’t be a flop for the studio, but in direct comparison to the very similar Project X, it clearly draws the short straw. Project X opened to $21.1 million on the very same weekend last year and went on to gross more than $50 million. Right now, 21 and Over (which made in its opening weekend only slightly more than Project X did in its first day) might not even match Project X’ opening with its total gross. As indicated by the meager Saturday increase of 1.1%, the film looks to be somewhat frontloaded. Its young audiences (73% younger than 25) also makes it a likely candidate to have short legs. The “B”-CinemaScore indicates average WoM and with its unimpressive PTA, it will start losing screens and theatres rather quickly. At this point, a final cume around $20-22 million should be expected. So why did this perform that much worse than Project X? For one, Project X was helped by the gimmick of being the first major “found footage”-comedy to hit the theatres. On top of that, the marketing pushed the association with the Hangover-movies as Todd Phillips was the film’s producer. 21 and Over, on the other hand, always seemed like your typical run-of-the-mill R-rated comedy about debauched youths with no particular hook.


Summit Entertainment’s Snitch dropped 41% to #4 in its sophomore frame and brought in $7.8 million over the three-day period. After ten days the thriller starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has accumulated a total of $24.5 million. It’s a decent number given the $20-22 million production budget and while it is certainly not a major hit by any means, it certainly does show that its leading star has some drawing power to boot. In just ten days, the movie handily topped the running totals of other tough-guy-flicks such as Broken City or The Last Stand. Dead Man Down will provide some direct competition for adult audiences next weekend, but its R-rating will lessen the effect as Snitch is PG-13. If all goes as expected from now on, Snitch should find its way to a solid $40 million total. That certainly bodes well for the success of the upcoming franchise movies G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Fast & Furious 6, both starring The Rock.


Opening at #5, CBS Films’ The Last Exorcism Part II drew $7.7 million from 2,700 venues for a $2,862 PTA. The follow-up to the 2010 horror hit The Last Exorcism (then released by Lionsgate) made less from Friday to Sunday than the first film did in its opening day ($9.4 million). It should come as much of a surprise, though. The Last Exorcism was a major hit, grossing $41 million on a $1.8 million budget, but it was reviled by its audiences that awarded it a “D”-CinemaScore. Three years later, it is hardly a sequel anyone really cared about – as seen by its opening numbers. Yet, with a $5 million budget, it will once again prove to be a lucrative investment. WoM won’t be on its side once again, as audiences liked this film (that ditched the “found footage”-angle in favor of a more traditional approach) only slightly more than the first one and gave it a “C-“-CinemaScore. I expect it to disappear from screens very quickly, collecting no more than $15 million in the process. While it won’t lose the studio money, I still wouldn’t count on The Very Very Last Exorcism being released in theatres anytime down the road.


Escape from Planet Earth fell down three spots to #6 and dipped a decent 38% to $6.6 million. The film’s 17-day-total stands at $43.1 million. Obviously the 3D-animated film was hurt somewhat by the arrival of Jack the Giant Slayer, but next weekend, it’ll face real menace from Oz The Great and Powerful, which will almost certainly crush it beyond the point of recovery. Nevertheless, a total above $50 million still seems very likely. I see it winding up with $51 million in the bank.


The success train of Nicholas Sparks keeps rolling. Safe Haven slid down to the 7th spot of the charts in its third weekend, dropping 39.9% to $6.3 million. It brought its running total to $57.1 million after just 18 days in theatres. The Julianne Hough/Josh Duhamel-starrer is tracking a great $9 million ahead of last year’s Sparks-adaptation The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron. The Lucky One went on to finish with $60.5 million, a number that the $28 million-budgeted Safe Haven will eclipse next weekend. It is especially impressive if you consider that Safe Haven has much less starpower as none of its leads is similar to Efron in popularity. In the end it was the clever scheduling move to release it on Valentine’s Day that will make it one of the highest-grossing Nicholas-Sparks-flicks to date. Tracking mere $2.6 million behind A Good Day to Die Hard, it is also a near-lock to overtake the action sequel pretty soon and thus pull an upset that almost no one thought likely. Safe Haven is on track to end up with $69 million.


Even though Silver Linings Playbook won just one Academy Award at last Sunday’s Oscars ceremony (for Jennifer Lawrence as Best Actress), this much publicized win and the coverage of the film during the ceremony looks to have helped the Weinsteins’ release a lot. The movie stayed almost even with last weekend, decreasing miniscule 0.5% to $5.7 million and dropping just one spot to #8 this weekend. This way, the dramedy starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro alongside Lawrence delivered the 16th-biggest 10th weekend gross in wide release ever, ahead of leggy hits such as Lincoln, There’s Something About Mary and Jerry Maguire. So far the movie has made $115.3 million, becoming the 7th-biggest R-rated release of last year with no signs of slowing down. With the home video release not due for more than a month and the Jennifer Lawrence hype as strong as ever, the movie should enjoy a healthy run at the box-office over the next few weeks. The film is now on course towards a hugely impressive $132 million finish. With The Hunger Games and the X-Men franchise, Jennifer Lawrence will have six $100+ million movies to her name by the end of next year.


A Good Day to Die Hard lost more than one fourth of its theatres this weekend and unsurprisingly dropped a harsh 55% to $4.6 million, which was just enough for #9 of the weekend. The movie has grossed $59.7 million thus far and it does not appear like it will go much further. The film is tracking $40 million behind Live Free or Die Hard and keeps pulling much worse numbers. Within the next three weeks, it will leave most domestic theatres. I expect it to end up with $67 million by the end of its run – almost exactly half of what Live Free or Die Hard made back in 2007!


Dark Skies rounded off the Top 10 with $3.5 million (down 57.6%). The $3.5 million-budgeted horror-thriller made around $13.4 million in its first ten days and it will shed screens and theatres like crazy starting next weekend. It will leave the theatres with $17 million in its pockets.


Summit’s zombie romance Warm Bodies dropped out of the Top 10 in its 5th weekend, decreasing 46.6% to $2.6 million. The movie pushed its total above $60 million to $61.9 million, making it a bona fide hit on a $35 million budget. It will go on to make $66 million in total. The studio can certainly pride itself on the movie achieving a great 3.2+ multiplier and making around the same in theatres as Jack the Giant Slayer will – without the help of 3D too!


Life of Pi might not have won the Best Picture award at the Oscars, but it is still seen by many as the biggest winner of the Oscar night, winning more Oscars than any other film this year (four), including a surprise win for Ang Lee (Best Director). Thus it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the movie increased a terrific 48% to $2.4 million this weekend and climbed back into the Top 12 at #12. The studio added just 54 theatres to the film’s theatre count, meaning that it averaged an incredible $3,795 per theatre in its 15th (!) week on release. That was the best PTA for any movie playing in more than 600 theatres this weekend except for Jack the Giant Slayer. Even though the film’s DVD/BluRay release is approaching, it is more than likely that Fox will give it another expansion thanks to these great numbers. Like Hugo last year, this movie could still play well in theatres even if available on home video, as Life of Pi is widely hailed to be a tremendous theatrical experience due to its visuals. So far the movie has made $117 million, but it is now looking good for at least $125 million before all is said and done. This also means that six of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees will end up with a $120+ million domestic gross.


As for other Oscar flicks, Argo added 183 theatres, bringing its theatre count to 985 and increased 15.1% on the strength of its Best Picture win. An additional $2.1 million over the weekend brought its total to $132.7 million, putting it ahead of Warner Bros’ The Departed, another Best Picture winning October-release that got out of the gate stronger than Argo. That speaks volumes of Argo’s longevity as The Departed itself is already considered to be a leggy hit. Argo is currently looking at a $138 million total. That means a multiplier higher than 7! Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty won (as expected) nothing major, just an insignificant Sound Oscar. Thus it dipped 41.7% to $1.3 million, bringing its running come to $93.6 million. It is going to get very close to $100 million and yet, I see it missing out with $97 million by the end of its already good run. Having won merely the expected Best Actor award as well as the insignificant Oscar for Best Production Design, Lincoln could hardly benefit from the Oscars, especially given how huge the film already is. Dropping 33.5%, it narrowly missed out on $1 million this weekend and pushed its current cume to $180.1 million, A total around $183 million should be in store for it. Django Unchained, on the other hand, added 324 theatres (more than any other Oscar flick) and went up 0.5% to $1 million. So far, the two-time Oscar-winning film has grossed $160.3 million and it is looking at a $164 million total now. Les Misérables lost almost a quarter of its theatres, but still dropped just 9.9% following its three Oscar wins. After $0.6 million over the weekend, it stands at $147.6 million. I believe it will eventually crawl to $150 million. At last, Amour doesn’t seem to have been helped at all by its Best Foreign Language Film win as it decreased 34.9% in spite of not losing any of its theatres. So far, the movie has made $5.9 million and should make it to $8 million in the best-case scenario.


Also of note: The Weinstein Company finally expanded the WoM success Quartet from 356 theatres to 725. Following this expansion, the movie’s weekend gross jumped 58.2% to $1.8 million (enough for #14 this weekend). Its total gross stands at $11.2 million now and I believe it still has enough gas left in the tank to crawl to $20 million.

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