DreamWorks and Disney’s The Help and Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes are the only two August releases that can be sure of making a profit, although New Line’s Final Destination 5 could make it over the line, according to the latest monthly estimate from SNL Kagan. The financial analysis firm makes its projections based on a ratio that compares a film’s estimated revenue from all sources to the costs that Kagan can calculate — which don’t include distribution fees, overhead, interest, profit participation, and residuals. A movie with expected revenue 1.75 times higher than the known costs is projected to be a winner, while those with a ratio of at least 1.4 are on the bubble. The Help easily succeeds with a 3.09 ratio vs. Apes’ 2.49. Final Destination just barely makes the gray area with 1.43. But other major releases fall short including Focus Features’ The Debt (1.18), Sony’s Colombiana (1.06), and Dimension’s Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (0.97). The biggest disappointments by Kagan’s calculations are Disney’s Fright Night (0.44), Fox’s Glee The 3D Concert Movie (0.44), Lionsgate’s Conan the Barbarian (0.48), Universal’s The Change-Up (0.67), and FilmDistrict’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (0.71). Overall, last month’s 14 releases had an average ratio of 1.24, slightly below the 1.25 for 12 films released in August 2010 and 1.45 for the 14 films in August 2009.
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.
Deadline Comic-Con Movie Contributor Luke Y Thompson reports:
It’s the story every media outlet is dying to tell every year: “Comic-Con just ain’t what it used to be.” This year, however, the event — set for July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center — comes with some alarmist (and circumstantial) evidence: Warner Bros won’t be doing a movie presentation. Marvel Studios won’t be either, even though the tiniest teaser for The Avengers last year made for the most memorable panel. Disney initially appeared absent too. So what’s going on? Did the failure of Scott Pilgrim to triumph at the box office following a massive Con promotion last year leave studios leery?
Well, you’d think if that were the case, Universal would feel the most burned — yet they’re doubling down by holding the premiere of Cowboys and Aliens there, inviting many of the fans to attend; one would imagine the big names like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig will at least attend.
Disney, which now owns the Muppets and Marvel Studios, is likely saving those properties for its own D23 Expo in Anaheim toward the end of August. They are, however, bringing the DreamWorks pickup Fright Night to Comic-Con (in presentation and screening form) — notably, this is a movie that will open Aug. 19, the same day the D23 Expo begins, so it makes sense to hype it sooner. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are the big names attending; curiously, the publicity has consistently downplayed the presence of former Doctor Who star David Tenant, and he has not been mentioned as attending, though he’d be given a hero’s welcome if he did.
Warner Bros’ lack of a movie panel may largely be due to the fact that the next Superman and Batman movies aren’t ready to show much yet — Man of Steel star Henry Cavill will be there, but on behalf of Relativity’s Immortals (also Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke; director Tarsem Singh is not currently expected). Certainly WB is showing a ton of TV previews, but I’ll leave that to my colleague Gary Hodges to discuss. The biggest question mark in my mind is what Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly will put on the cover of their Comic-Con issue now: traditionally, it’s been a big reveal from a Warners movie.
The biggest name being batted about right now as a possibility is Steven Spielberg, to present footage from his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Certainly, a Tintin presentation would be wise, as the teaser has left many (myself included) highly skeptical. The fanbase needs persuading, and since it’s Spielberg, there’s probably at least one kickass scene that can get people hyped. But Paramount’s still playing things close to the vest — when I asked a publicist there about Comic-Con plans, I was told “It’s uncertain what or if we’re bringing anything.” That’s not a denial. And there has been talk of a Captain America screening — whether that translates into an actual panel is uncertain, as the regular press junkets and such will already be in full swing for the movie, opening that week.