SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 3RD UPDATE: In terms of box office grosses but not necessarily box office quality, Summer 2011 roared in with overperforming hits like Fast Five and Thor and Bridesmaids, then gained steam with Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. But now it’s leaving with a whimper, not a bang. This was one of those weekends when studio executives didn’t even bother coming up with excuses about why their movies were stillborn. Instead they just held their heads and moaned. Anecdotal reports reaching me from all over showed that moviegoing redefined the terms “soft” and “flat”. As one studio exec told me, “It looks like a ghosttown in theaters.” And yet no less than four wide-release studio films opened Friday. There was some initial confusion over Top 5 order, but the movies sorted themselves out. DreamWorks’ holdover The Help (which needs none) started Friday as the No. 1 movie and ended that way Sunday to distributor Disney’s delight.
But there was widespread disappointing over the failures of Dimension/Weinstein Co’s Spy Kids 4D, Nu Image/Millenium/Lionsgate’s Conan The Barbarian, and DreamWorks/Disney’s Fright Night which wound up all bunched together between a dismal $8M and $11.5M behind another holdover, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Not surprisingly, Conan and Fright Night received only ‘B-’ CinemaScores while Spy Kids managed a ‘B+’. Focus Features tried but couldn’t get its romance One Day to do much but eke out an opening especially with that ‘B-’ CinemaScore. So now two more stars find themselves in trouble at the box office: Anne Hathaway and Colin Farrell. That’s after Ryan Reynolds and Tom Hanks crashed and burned as well. Who’s next?
1. The Help (DreamWorks/Disney) Week 2 1/2 [2,690 Runs]
Friday $5.8M, Saturday $8M, Weekend $20.5M (-21%), Cume $71.8M
Again, the continuing controversy over the black-white issues in The Help has people debating and, most importantly, buying tickets. Nothing like Internet chatter and watercooler talk to keep a small film like this #1. And the Oscar buzz is good for business, too. At least this overperforming pic lessens the sting of Fright Night tanking for DreamWorks. (Well, you can;t win them all…)
2. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) Week 3 [3,471 Runs]
Friday $4.6M, Saturday $6.7M, Weekend $16.3, Cume $133.7M
Look for lots of technical awards nominations for Apes as well as a big Fox push behind popular Andy Serkis for Supporting Actor.
3. Spy Kids 4D - 3D (Dimension/Weinstein) NEW [3,295 Runs]
Friday $4M, Saturday $4.4M, Weekend $12M
I don’t know how The Weinstein Co is going to stay on track with its reorganized finances if Dimension films keep bombing. The whole underpinning of the Weinstein Brothers’ success at Miramax was that Dimension threw off wheelbarrows of box office cash. No more. Here’s yet another unnecessary sequel not helped by its 4D gimmickry, Aroma-Scope schtick, or Robert Rodriguez. (See Robert Rodriguez On His ‘Spy Kids’ Stinker.) The Weinstein Co saw the handwriting on the wall and didn’t bother to brief the media on the film ahead of time. With a ’B+’ Cinemascore and exit polls showing that kids rated the film much higher than parents did (72 excellent and 90 in the top 2 boxes) the film should have done better especially with 3D’s higher ticket prices. But Spy Kids: All The Time In The World had 60/40 with 2D in terms of screens but only 54/46 in terms of business. (To give you some context, The Smurfs was 77/23 with 2D which is more in line with the family film trend). Dimension can keep making this sequel swill but until it comes up with fresh ideas for fresh films, then TWC could tank again.
4. Conan The Barbarian – 3D (Nu Image/Millenium/Lionsgate) NEW [3,015 Runs]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $3.8M, Weekend $10.5M
Lionsgate execs today are despondent as they try to figure out what went wrong. “It’s one of those weekends that gives me a stomach ache,” one Lionsgate exec told me Friday night. “It’s a headscratcher but it won’t kill us.” But they also know that with Carl Icahn back breathing down Lionsgate’s mane by buying up company shares, and the annual stockholders meeting scheduled for September 13th, this is a really lousy time for this secondary studio to have such a box office bomb. Over the last two weeks Icahn has acquired 756,840 shares in Lionsgate, growing his ownership to 33.2% from 32.6%, presumably in his so-far-unsuccessful effort to gift his son Brent with a Hollywood studio. Last year, Icahn tried but failed to seize control and, after a brief respite, he’s trying yet again all the while carping about Lionsgate’s profligate management and moviemaking strategy. Here’s more ammunition for him. First off, being in business with Avi Lerner’s Nu Image/Millenium film company is a dicey proposition at best. Especially when this Conan The Barbarian reboot cost nearly $90M, which makes this weekend’s opening disastrous even if Lionsgate’s exposure was mitigated by the co-production and co-release. Not even spreading the buzz that previous Conan The Barbarian Arnold Schwarzenegger was treated to a private screening and “really liked it” helped box office which didn’t come near even Lionsgate’s low-ball expectation of $15M from a wide release. Read More »