Universal Studios Home Entertainment today filed suit against its former chief operating officer Thomas Emrey, alleging that he breached his contract and fiduciary duties when he took a job as CFO at DineEquity last month. The Glendale-based firm, which operates restaurant chains including IHOP and Applebee’s, was also named in the suit for aiding and abetting the alleged breach. Universal claims that Emrey was under contract through May of 2012 but announced on September 2 that he had a new job and stopped coming to work. Universal claims in the suit that Emrey knew he was leaving for months before he left, and knowingly exited the unit just as it was prepping for two major DVD releases, Bridesmaids this month and Fast Five in October. The suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.
In one of its biggest movie-acquisition deals in the last few years, USA Network has bought a package of more than 30 titles from Universal Pictures. Nine of them include network premiere rights, including Judd Apatow’s sleeper comedy hit Bridesmaids; the Fast & the Furious sequel Fast Five; the latest installment in the Meet the Parents franchise, Little Fockers; as well as the Matt Damon starrer The Adjustment Bureau. All four will debut on USA. There was some corporate synergy at work in making the deal, with virtually all other NBCUniversal TV networks contributing financially, including NBC, Syfy, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, Style, G4, Chiller, Sleuth and UniHD. In exchange, those nets get rights to some of the titles in the package. For instance, NBC has committed to airing Bridesmaids and The Little Fockers after their premiere on USA and has an option to pick up more. Syfy will debut two of the nine movies, to which USA is getting network premiere rights: Repo Man and Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take.
Mighty ‘Thor’ Hammers $242M Global Cume; ‘Fast Five’ $324M; ‘Jumping Broom’ $13.7M; ‘Something Borrowed’ $13.1M
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Welcome to the first of the big comic book-inspired movies on the Big Screen this summer, with Fox’s X-Men: First Class, Warner Bros’ Green Lantern, and Marvel’s Captain America to follow Marvel/Disney’s Thor distributed by Paramount. Total gross for all films is $161M but still off last year’s by 10% (when Iron Man 2 did $128M all by itself). Here are the following Top 10 North American grosses for Friday and Saturday and this domestic weekend in addition to international and worldwide cumes:
1. Thor (Marvel/Disney/Paramount) NEW [3,955 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.5M, Weekend $66M
International $176M, Global Cume $242M
Saturday brought in younger and family audiences to this latest in the Marvel Studios productions which earned a ‘B+’ CinemaScore overall, and an ‘A’ for ages under 18. Hollywood was predicting a $60+ million domestic weekend opening for Marvel/Disney’s Thor, with Paramount distributing. The PG-13 Norse God actioner had already made $133M from 56 territories so far with Finland and China opening this weekend. Now, in its second weekend of widespread release on the international circuit, Thor posted a formidable $46M from 12,476 positions in 60 markets for an overseas gross of $176M to date — or global cume of $242M outside the US and Canada — and in only 11 days has already outgrossed the final cume of X-Men 1, Fantastic Four 1 and the first Hulk movie from Marvel. In the U.S. and Canada, the film debuted as the No. 3 Marvel title — well ahead of X-Men and Fantastic Four and The Hulk, which all did around $55M, but nowhere near the $100M+ of Iron Man or Spider-Man. With Universal’s holdover Fast Five speeding to another strong weekend, Thor opened against such stiff competition, even with $3.25M in midnight box office compared with Fast Five‘s $3.8M midnights for its U.S. and Canada debut. But the Norse god took advantage of 3D’s higher ticket prices, including at 214 iMAX theaters domestically, for $6.6M and another 70 screens overseas. Reviews have been good, and British Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Aussie newcomer Chris Hemsworth in the title role of The Mighty Thor earned a 92% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The good-looking Hemsworth allowed for heavy PR to drum up appeal among women with his shirtless clip a popular choice for talk shows with large female audiences who also were targeted with a Royal Wedding blitz. To solidify male appeal, Paramount had spots during the Super Bowl and NCAA Basketball, the UFC Marathon and UFC Fight Night Live Premiere. And, to appeal to the feeble-brained, Thor ads aired on the finale of Jersey Shore.
Thor launched in 1962 and has endured for almost half a century across comics, toys, animated series, and now a movie. Like Iron Man, Marvel thought Thor deserved to be made in its own right and lends a long history to The Avengers. (Aka Marvel’s Avengers Assemble strategy. Expect to see agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., previously seen in the Iron Man movies, foreshadowing the coming of The Avengers). The challenge for Paramount was to market a reverse superhero story: a hero becomes a man. “Our challenge was to emphasize what was unique about his character and define him for audiences,” a studio exec told me. So the TV ads reminded: “The world has many heroes but only one is a God.” This epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard with the powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Thor was produced by Marvel wunderkind Kevin Feige, with Alan Fine, Stan Lee, David Maisel, Patricia Whitcher and Louis D’Esposito serving as executive producers from a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne and a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.
2. Fast Five (Universal) Week 2 [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $10.6M, Saturday $12.8M, Weekend $32.5M (-62%), Cume $139.9M
International $184.8M, Global Cume $324.7M
The -62% domestic drop was primarily due to the loss of all IMAX screens and large-format screens which had only been booked for one week. But abroad Fast Five is the No. 1 film in the world for the second week in a row and the biggest international weekend in Universal’s history. It continued its international rollout with No. 1 openings in 44 more territories this weekend for 58 total. Fast Five set records for the biggest opening of the Fast franchise, and was the biggest opening day and biggest opening weekend in Universal’s history in 12 markets, including Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, France, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam. International grosses were an estimated $86.6M at 6,979 dates in 58 territories and raised the international total to $184.8M. The worldwide total including the outstanding domestic box office of $139.9M will reach $324.7M today.
3. Jumping The Broom (TriStar/Sony) NEW [2,034 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $13.7M
Sony was only expecting TriStar’s Jumping The Broom this weekend to do somewhere between $8M to $10M on the film that was made for just $6.6M. Hey, if major studios keep making cheap movies like this that do double the predicted grosses, I’m going to have a tough time making fun of mogul tightwads. Pic received an ‘A’ CinemaScore straight across the board — women, men, all ages. “Exits show we hit our target as 70% of this weekend’s audience was female and 64% was over 35,” A Sony exec tells me. Aimed at older African-American women, the PG-13 film focuses on two “Uptown meets Downtown” families who meet for the first time at a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in what is billed as an ”insightful and inspirational” comedy. The key for Sony was reaching out to faith-based audiences. Bishop TD Jakes, who is a producer on the film, hosted screenings at religious conferences throughout the country. On the media front, Sony worked with TLC on special wedding programming and on tie-ins with Royal Wedding coverage in local markets. There also was strong BET promotion since both the director/executive producer of The Game, Salim Akil, directed the film, and a co-star of The Game, Pooch Hall, co-starred in this film as well.
4. Something Borrowed (Alcon/Warner Bros) NEW [2,904 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $4.9M, Weekend $13.1M
This run-of-the-mill rom-com based on the novel by the same title earned a ‘B’ CinemaScore: ‘B+’ among females, ‘C+’ males. Financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment (The Blind Side) with Warner Bros just distributing, the pic was counter-programmed against Thor and Week 2 of Fast Five and was always expected to open in the low teens. Luke Greenfield directed from a screenplay adaptation by Jennie Snyder Urman. Hilary Swank was one of the producers. Gee, Kate Hudson’s career looked interesting when she did Almost Famous. But a succession of mediocre romantic comedies like this one where two female frenemies fight over the same man (so anti-woman) have made her into yesterday’s news. Sad that.
5. Rio 3D (Blue Sky Studio/Fox) Week 4 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.2M, Cume $114.9M
6. Water For Elephants (Fox) Week 3 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5.6M, Cume $41.6M
7. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 3 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $3.9M, Cume $46.8M
8. Prom (Disney) Week 2 [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $794K, Saturday $960M, Weekend $2.4M (-49%), Cume $7.8M
9. Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 5 [2,010 Theaters]
Friday $590K, Saturday $850K, Weekend $2.1M, Cume $36.6M
10. Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil (The Weinstein Co) Week 2 [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $433K, Saturday $877K, Weekend $1.8M (-54%), Cume $6.7M
Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment and Participant Media platformed Mel Gibson’s comeback movie The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster in 22 theaters across the top ten markets in North America: weekend gross was $104K, with a paltry per theater average. Doesn’t bode well for pic which expands on May 20 and will be brought to Cannes.
Yowza! Universal is crowing that its Fast Five actual 3-day North American opening-weekend gross is higher than Sunday’s estimate. Specifically, the film opened with $86.198 million playing at 3,644 theaters this weekend….
‘FAST FIVE’ SPEEDS TO $165M Cume! Record Breaking $83.6M North American Weekend; Newbies ‘Prom’ & ‘Hoodwinked Too’ Bomb
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Here’s the latest news about the start of the Summer Box Office with its first official weekend totalling $145 million, +52% from last year. The 2011 box office slump is now officially history. North America’s #1 movie is Universal’s Fast Five whose weekend of $83.6M blew away the $71M opening weekend of fourquel Fast & Furious. Now, this 5th installment in the street racing franchise breaks the studio’s non-toon losing streak in recent years with a global cume of $165M in just 10 days of release internationally. But two other pics debuting this weekend — Disney’s Prom and The Weinstein Co’s Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil 3D – failed to connect with audiences. Here’s the Top 10:
1. Fast Five (Universal) NEW [3,644 Theaters]
Friday $34.4M, Saturday $30.2M, Weekend $83.6M
Even with a -13% drop on Saturday, which would be normal because its Friday’s grosses expanded by midnight showings, that’s still a bigger North American weekend cume for Fast Five than the top 2 openings this year combined (Rio $39M/Rango $38M). The film received an “A” CinemaScore and an “A+” from moviegoers under age 18. In terms of records, Universal is claiming: the biggest opening in Universal history (besting Lost World: Jurassic Park‘s $72.1M), the biggest opening of 2011 (besting Rio‘s $39.2M), the biggest Universal opening for 2011 (besting Hop‘s $37.5M), the highest opening for an April Release (besting Fast & Furious‘ $71M), the highest opening for the last weekend in April (besting A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s $39M), the highest opening for stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and producer Neil Moritz, and director Justin Lin. A lot of Uni execs are breathing easier today now that they’ve delivered a nice fat hit to their new Comcast overlords who must have been wondering if they’d bought a bomb factory instead of a movie studio. Fast Five opened first overseas 10 days ago and this weekend grossed a huge $45.3M at 3,211 dates in just 14 territories. That raised its early international tally to $81.4M. So now the worldwide total stands at a whopping $165M. The pic opened No. 1 in each of the 10 new markets. The openings are bigger than all the previous Fast franchise films. (Paramount opened Marvel/Disney’s Thor head-to-head against Fast Five in more than a dozen markets but not in the U.S. and Canada until next Friday. Of course, sequels do better overseas than in this country.) But even rival studios say Fast Five is on track for a $300M foreign and $500M worldwide finish. “Here’s what I’m most proud of: there is nothing obvious about what happened. No one can say of course every single decision how it was going to be made, how it was going to be cast, when it was going to be dated, how it was going to be sold, was very startegically thought out. There is no reason for the 5th movie in a franchise to have pulled off what this pulled off,” Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson told me this morning.
2. Rio (Blue Sky/Fox) Week 3 [3,708 Theaters]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $14.4M, Cume $103.6M
3. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry/Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,288 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $10M (-60%), Cume $41M
4. Water For Elephants (Fox 2000/Fox) Week 2 [2,820 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $4M, Weekend $9.1M (-45%), Estimated Cume $32.1M
5. Prom (Disney) NEW [2,730 Theaters]
Friday $2M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $5M
Usually, studios large and small boast about releasing $9 million budget movies because the upside can be huge even if majors spend at least $30M to market any film. But when it’s the first greenlit movie from Rich Ross as chief of Walt Disney Pictures, then the Prom bomb has the potential to humiliate. Disney expected a weekend opening of around $8M-$9M, and Hollywood about $10M. Nope. It was half that. Prom is one of four movies that was greenlit around the same time last year along with Pirates Of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides, The Muppets reboot, and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Only Prom didn’t have a box office pedigree, and I was bewildered why Ross wouldn’t make this little movie into a clone of the wildly successful High School Musical which Ross did at Disney Channel — complete with singing and dancing. (The sequel could have been Homecoming…) Nope. The Prom soundtrack featuring new and original songs by in-house Hollywood Records’ Allstar Weekend, Travie McCoy, and Neon Trees didn’t attract moviegoers. Nor did a young up-and-coming multicultural cast including Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) and Thomas McDonell who’s cast in the upcoming Dark Shadows but couldn’t match Zac Efron as a draw. Naturally, Prom‘s target audience was young female tweens/teens and its late April release was timed to U.S. prom-planning season. The Disney marketing machine leveraged third-party promotional support. But the pic, directed by Joe Nussbaum and written by Katie Welch, left the kids cold. ”We are going after a very specific market, and, if we can get that market and get films like this right, the upside represents an incredible opportunity,” a Disney exec told me before the movie opened. “When you have big budget tentpoles like Pirates, Oz, all the Marvel films, we need to have other types of films in the portfolio that have potential to make money with less risk attached.” Unfortunately for them, the ”Promb” puts more stress on the slate coming together now from Ross and his president of production Sean Bailey.
6. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil 3D (Weinstein Co) NEW [2,505 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4.1M
Of the locations where this fractured fairy tale toon based on Red Riding Hood is playing, 75% are 3D. But even those higher ticket prices couldn’t help The Weinstein Co save this sequel. The indie studio was expecting mid- to high single digits for the weekend, and it’s underperforming. As a source in film financing emailed me, “A huge turkey.” P&A was estimated at $36M, but Weinstein Conow tells me now that since Hoodwinked Too was a service deal for Kanbar just like it did on the first one, “we did not put up one dime of P&A on the movie”. How embarrassing for The Weinstein Co that this piece of crap is what it’s playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. Then again, it’s appropriate since that fest is crap, too — merely an excuse for Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal to phony up a film fest and sucker American Express.
Here’s the strange thing about IMAX these days: the large screen exhibitor reported terrible financial results for the first quarter although analysts were projecting it would continue to …
Universal Pictures has released its second trailer for Fast Five, a film that brings back the stars of the previous four films including original duo Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, and adds Dwayne Johnson for good measure. The film bows April 29.