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Kagan: ‘Rio’ And ‘Fast Five’ Only Clearly Profitable Films In April With Summer Movie Profits Poised To Fall

Don’t be fooled by the headlines this summer that likely will focus on how strong movie ticket sales look compared to last year. Researchers at SNL Kagan predict that domestic box office for the period from late April to the end of August will be up 1.7% to about $4.2 billion. Not bad – especially considering that this year’s figure counts 42 releases vs. 45 last year — right? Not so fast. When Kagan looks at all sources of income including international sales, home video, and TV, it estimates that this year’s crop will generate $4.45 billion in profits on $12.3 billion in revenues. That’s down slightly from last year’s $4.49 billion in profit on revenues of nearly $13 billion. The forecast follows Kagan’s estimate that only 2 out of 16 releases in April clearly will be profitable: Fox’s Rio and Universal’s Fast Five. Three others could be profitable for distributors, depending on the terms of their deals with exhibitors: Universal’s Hop, FilmDistrict’s Insidious, and Summit Entertainment’s Source Code.

While the studios sort through their finances, theater chains will enjoy any uptick in summer sales. Box office revenues in the first quarter for the four biggest publicly traded chains – Carmike, Cinemark, Reading International, and Regal – dropped 17.2% vs the same period last year to about $803 million. Their concession sales were down 12.6% to about $337 million, although sales per customer rose 3.2% to $2.97.

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EASTER WEEKEND RISES: #1 ‘Rio’ Soars, #2 ‘Madea’ Mans Up, #3 ‘Elephants’ Steps Up



SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: Studios tell me this Easter Weekend began and ended with rain and storms in 2/3s of the U.S. and the first huge “up” weekend of $125M, which is +34% from last year. Twentieth Century Fox’s Rio 3D may be about a bird, but Friday and Saturday numbers showed “it’s holding like a rock,” a studio exec emailed me. Lionsgate’s latest in Tyler Perry’s franchise, Madea’s Big Happy Family, had the best per screen average of all the top-grossing pictures. This is, after all, Perry’s sixth cross-dressing film; still, the last one opened to a $41M weekend and the one before to $30M and this will be even lower by end of day Sunday. scoring an “A-” CinemaScore was Fox 2000′s Water For Elephants based on Sara Gruen’s best-selling book and written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Francis Lawrence. Clearly, the classy ad campaign was intriguing for adults who don’t rush out to see films, and for Robert Pattinson’s Twi-hards who do. But this beautifully filmed but searing drama was considered a hard sell. It was also a fine weekend for Universal’s holdover Hop from Illumination Entertainment after passing $100M. And Disneynature’s African Cats narrated by Samuel Jackson played well for a niche nature movie that truly deserves to be seen, as evidenced by its “A-” CinemaScore. Full analysis … Read More »

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‘Rio 3D’ #1 In US And Foreign With $168M; ‘Scream 4′ Whimpers; Weekend Up Overall

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 3RD UPDATE: After some initial uncertainty, this was indeed the comeback weekend that finally ended Hollywood’s extended 2011 slump at the North American box office. Because after a weak Friday, most of these pics grossed stronger on Saturday. The overall total is around $134 million, 11.7% ahead of last year’s $119M. Meanwhile, this weekend Twentieth Century Fox’s Rio 3D posted the best G-rated family pic opening since Toy Story 3, The Weinstein Co’s Scream 4 whimpered, Warner Bros’ Arthur slipped still more, FilmDistrict’s Insidious and Soul Surfer stayed strong, and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator debuted #9 in the Top 10 despite playing in only 707 theaters:

1. Rio 3D (Fox) NEW [3,826 Theaters]
Friday $10.2M, Saturday $17.1M, Weekend $40M, Global $168M

Twentieth Century Fox’s Latin-flavored toon Rio 3D already is #1 internationally with after opening in 92 territories and a premiere in Rio De Janeiro. With this weekend’s $53.5M earned overseas from 20 territories adding to its already $79.2M from 72 territories last week, plus domestic tally of $40M, its worldwide cume is now $168M. It finally opened in the U.S. and Canada Friday and earned a top “A” CinemaScore as well as the top spot. Made by Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha as a tribute to his hometown’s natural beauty and upbeat lifestyle, the bird flew past the studio’s mid-$30s target and even Hollywood’s $38M projections. With not many schools out Friday, Saturday’s kiddie matinees overperformed. Made for just a $90M budget because of tax breaks in Connecticut where Blue Sky Studios is based, the pic is playing … Read More »

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‘Hop’ Holds #1, Lame ‘Arthur’ Limps In #2

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: It was Russell Brand (Warner Bros’ Arthur remake) vs Russell Brand (Universal’s holdover Hop) atop this weekend’s North American box office. How often does that happen? My bet is: never again now that Arthur bombed. Hop still pops with an excellent hold (-42%) for the weekend that’ll stay strong through Easter. And remember, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment made this sweetie for only $63M. (You hear that, Jeffrey K and Pixar?) Best question for this weekend: Why did the comedies Arthur and Universal’s Your Highness open against each other? Here’s why: Uni originally dated it for last fall, “then we saw a void in the marketplace for a really raunchy R-rated comedy in April.” Then Arthur moved onto that date. Universal claims YH only cost $50M because of the considerable Irish rebate. And yet by Sunday morning, the holdover horror flick from the Paranormal Activity people, Insidious, which cost $1M — that’s right, $1M — had beaten it. But Friday grosses also contained a shocker: a double whammy of young female power given their pics’ middling releases that a lot of observers didn’t expect. Focus Features’ intriguing Hanna grossed better than what the studio expected for matinees and evenings even though its CinemaScore was only a “C+”. And Sony’s inspirational PG Soul Surfer during Friday stayed No. 2 from strength in the Bible Belt helped by American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. But it predictably lost steam at night, when the church buses went home. It earned a rare “A+” CinemaScore, which bodes well for word of mouth. Meanwhile, it’s yet another down moviegoing weekend overall, looking like $110M, or -9% from last year:

1. Hop (Universal) Week 2 [3,636 Theaters]
Friday $5.4M, Saturday $9.6M, Weekend $21.6M (-42%), Cume $68.1M

OK, I admit it: Illumination Entertainment’s Chris Meledandri had me at an Easter Bunner who poops jelly beans. Which is why I couldn’t believe Universal (aka The Bomb Factory) wasn’t shouting his big numbers on a cheap $63M budget and “A-” CinemaScore from the rooftops last weekend. (I’d asked the studio to help me get early numbers because I was undergoing surgery … They dropped the ball, which I guess is better than my doctors dropping the knife.) This weekend was completely different. Uni knew by midday Friday that Hop would be #1 again in North America and do well in still more international territories. Of course, Fox’s Rio began to hit overseas and showed tremendous strength. That’s shaping up as a worldwide battle between the two kid films for the Easter holidays. Then again, many territories don’t celebrate Easter with traditions like the Easter Bunny delivering candy. Hop was Illumination’s first live-action/animation hybrid film and very different in genre and tone from Despicable Me. And the fact that similar films like Yogi Bear and Marmaduke had not overperformed like the popular animated films released in the same time period made Uni execs guesstimate an only $30M opening weekend. The result was nearly $38M. Because family films tend to play well in holiday corridors, the studio now expects multiples of almost 4 and 5 times the opening because of rolling spring breaks in schools. But how young would Hop play? Marketing partnerships included Burger King, Hershey, Kraft and Bolthouse Carrots, and Walmart co-branded its in-store seasonal program with a movie property for the first time and featured massive and immersive signage in more than 3,000 stores as well as exclusive Hop merchandise. Interestingly, Uni is boasting that Hop’s success is ”a demonstration of how assets across the NBCUniversal and Comcast family can be leveraged to help create marketplace ubiquity.” Then how will the studio explain any future flops? Last weekend, Hop got off to a $7M start day and date in 26 foreign territories. This weekend, Hop grossed an estimated $5.9M in 32 territories for a total $15.1M. Pic still has 27 territories to open.

2. Arthur (Warner Bros) NEW [3,276 Theaters]
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $12.6M

This remake of the 1981 classic starring Dudley Moore was positioned as a broad comedy. Just two problems: this version wasn’t funny, and Russell Brand can’t carry a movie. Character actor in small doses, yes. Entire movie? Nope. Arthur was helpless to earn the $18+M Hollywood thought it would this weekend or even the mid-teens the studio expected. But not for lack of trying. “The director was making his film debut; the script was always going to be caught between homage to its predecessor and an attempt to make it pertinent to today; and people feel either hot or cold about Russell Brand,” one of the film’s insiders told me about the failure. “Everyone got involved with the movie knowing its pitfalls, especially the fondness with which so many people remember the original.” The ill-fated marketing campaign started with trailers on films ranging from Just Go With It to The Adjustment Bureau, with the main push coming from a very strong TV campaign that included high-profile sports, particularly NCAA playoffs & finals, and a strong network schedule including American Idol, The Bachelor finale and the Country Music Awards. Warner Bros tried to push what was, in the words of one exec, ”new and relevant” and create an event profile for the film. There really was genuine affection between Russell and Helen Mirren, and Brand did every bit of publicity asked of him (American Idol, Leno, Fallon, Conan, Lopez, Regis and Kelly) which may have been the problem, actually, since a little of him goes a long way. Frankly, it’s rare that even an unfunny Warner Bros comedy falls apart because the studio is such a marketing machine. But the Arthur remake did what the most cynical among us thought it would after seeing those unfunny trailers. Jeez, even Russell’s R-rated Get Me To The Greek opened to $17.5M, and Arthur is PG-13. It earned a “B” CinemaScore. With reshoots, rival studios claimed to me the budget was at least $85M, but an Arthur insider claimed to me: “It was budgeted at $40M and came in $900,000 UNDER … and that’s AFTER the re-shoots.” Nevertheless, marketers around town tell me that Warner Bros spent “a fortune” on advertising this past month especially during March Madness to reach out to males and on comedy sites like Comedy Central and Funny Or Die. The opening-week blitz also featured takeovers of sites like Yahoo, YouTube, Funny or Die, and MTV.

3. Hanna (Focus) NEW [2,535 Theaters]
Friday $4.1M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $12.3M

This is an overperformer considering the middling release. I always hear around Hollywood that women can’t carry non-franchise action movies unless it’s Angelina Jolie. Well, this little gal Saoirse Ronan upended those notions, especially by attracting a 53% male/47% female audience to what Focus Features positioned as an intriguing La Femme Nikita classed up by Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana. Grosses showed strength in major city markets as well as small towns in the South and Midwest. The PG-13 rating helped Hanna to compete aggressively in both these smaller regional markets and the suburbs. Based on a theater-by-theater breakdown, Focus found that Hanna is also playing well to African-American and Latino audiences. Specifically, 53% of the audience was under 30, and 64% under 35. Ethnically diverse, it was 43% Caucasian, 25% African American, 19% Hispanic, and 12% Asian. Tracking had indicated between $10M-$12M this weekend by both services NRG and MarketCast. Between pre-sales (Focus Features International sold major territories to Sony International at Cannes last May), finance deals and tax deals, there was no risk against domestic box office on this one. The trailer premiered during holiday play period and continued through last weekend with extensive in-theater exposure (standees, posters, digital one-sheets, static clings, concession program). That’s more marketing love than most of these smaller films get. Early clips sneaked at NY ComiCon with the cast participating in a Q&A panel. The film was screened early for online influencers among fanboy and fangirl sites. And at WonderCon in San Francisco, director Joe Wright with Saoirse spoke to a full house of 3,500. Teams on the ground distributed promotional items at SXSW, local concerts, highly trafficked retailers, college campuses, bars, clubs, salons, restaurants, gyms, etc. Broadcast media promotions included MTV, Bravo, FX, TNT, Sirius/Howard Stern and G4. The strong soundtrack featuring the Chemical Brothers included an exclusive ringtone written by the Chemical Brothers and iTunes album release.

4. Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict/Sony) NEW [2,214 Theaters]
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $4.6M, Weekend $11.1M

Coming in to this weekend, Sony thought it was releasing through TriStar an acquired micro-budget title from FilmDistrict that had “solid upside potential,” according to a studio exec. “If we do $10 million this weekend (or close to it), it would be a home run for Sony and FilmDistrict.” Mission accomplished. A strong Christian message sometimes works at the box office, sometimes falls flat. This one worked, helped by the strong appeal and personal promotion of American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. Soul Surfer played incredibly well all around the country as Sony had been screening the title aggressively — 350 previews — especially for church groups who arranged for buses to bring in audiences all day Friday. Which is why the movie was a surprise No. 2 all that day until nighttime fell. Exit polls showed 80% of the audience was female and 56% of the total men and women who went were under 25. It was directed by Sean McNamara, who also wrote the screenplay with Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk. the film is based on the book by Bethany Hamilton (the young surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack), Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. The film was marketed extremely well by FilmDistrict by emphasizing the upbeat, positive message although not overtly its religious undertones even though Soul Surfer is the only mainstream movie with a faith-based message during the Easter holidays. Key targets were tweens, teens and moms, and the film tracked well with these groups, and direct engagement was made with Underwood’s fan base, extreme sports enthusiasts and athletes who had overcome personal obstacles. Read More »

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Universal/Illumination Easter Bunny Film ‘Hop’ Springs 92 Promo Partners

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 7:53am PDT
Mike Fleming

When Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment launch the live action/CG-animated Hop in theaters tomorrow, the film will be aided by a total of 92 promotional partnerships and licensing deals around the world. Illumination Entertainment head Chris Meledandri’s recent addition of former Fox Animation cohort Gail Harrison to head Illumination’s creative shows how important marketing and sponsorships will be for his family films. It’s unclear at this point whether Hop will duplicate the success of Illumination’s first release Despicable Me, but you can’t say Universal hasn’t hustled, particularly with the breadth of tie-in partners it put together.

The biggest deals in the US include Walmart, Burger King, Comcast, Hallmark, The Hershey Company and Kodak. Walmart has made the film a big part of its Easter-themed retail effort, and Hop has offshore retailer deals with Target in Australia, El Corte Ingles in Spain, hmv in the UK and Jay Jay’s in South Africa. Burger King is slinging Hop toys with Kids Meals; Comcast is featuring more than three dozen segments of Hop content via its On Demand and online services; Kodak is selling Hop-themed products, and Lima Sky/Doodle Jump has a game app based on the film.

Among the other partners:

* Bokados (Mexico) – On-pack promotion on 3 million snack products supported with in store POS plus an outdoor, radio and TV campaign;
* Bolthouse Farms (U.S.) – Co-branded promotion on more than 20 million bags;
* Bakery Craft (U.S.) – Cake kits, cupcake rings and … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Hop’

By | Monday March 21, 2011 @ 4:47pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Universal Pictures has released a new trailer for Hop, the Illumination Entertainment CG/live action mix that opens April 1. The film is Illumination’s followup to Despicable Me.

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Universal Promotes ‘Hop’ Through Walmart, Lionsgate Taps Groupon To Sell ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’

By | Wednesday March 16, 2011 @ 8:08am PDT
Mike Fleming

Studios are getting more and more enterprising in promoting their films, online and on store shelves. Universal Pictures launched a retail program with Walmart tied to the Illumination Entertainment film Hop that will include Hop-themed Easter baskets and other holiday themed products.

Lionsgate claims to be the first studio to partner with Groupon. The goal is to sell tickets to the Matthew McConaughey-starrer The Lincoln Lawyer as it rolls out Friday. Groupon, which reaches 60 million online consumers, will sell tickets for $6 during a two-day online promotion. Groupon will also distribute a trailer for the film and an interview with McConaughey.

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Hot Teaser Trailer: ‘Hop’

By | Tuesday November 23, 2010 @ 2:36pm PST

The Universal comedy is scheduled for April 1st and features James Marsden as a slacker who accidentally injures the Easter Bunny (voiced by Russell Brand) and then takes him in. It’s from Illumination Entertainment, the team behind Despicable Me, and while there’s no story here, at least you get to rock out to Blur.

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Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Game Plan Includes ‘Despicable Me’ Sequel, ‘Minion’ Spinoffs, Dr. Seuss, The Addams Family

Mike Fleming

Film Review Despicable MeEXCLUSIVE: Three years ago, Universal Pictures brass wooed Chris Meledandri away from his president post at Fox Animation to start its first family film unit. Over the weekend, Illumination’s first effort, Despicable Me, nearly doubled Universal’s gross predictions for a $56.4 million opening. Suddenly, the Meledandri decision looks like one of the better ones made by NBC Universal in a good long time. The studio has reinforced that by making a full commitment to the venture. Illumination’s original co-financing game plan made by former chairmen David Linde and Marc Shmuger called for Universal to fund only half the operation and film budgets, and Illumination’s founder and CEO Meledandri raising the rest. meledandri_chrisBut that plan was delayed by the credit crunch. Then Universal chiefs Ron Meyer, Rick Finkelstein and Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley told Meledandri, in a decision that went all the way up to NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker, that they didn’t want to share and would fully fund him. Meledandri, who has autonomy but won’t make pictures that don’t excite the studio’s toppers, sparked to Uni’s financing plan because it incentivizes hustle to release and market the films. Despicable Me, for instance, was heavily cross-promoted in NBC-Universal platforms that included network, cable and theme parks.

The result is now a momentum changer for Universal on several fronts. Despicable Me ended a prolonged hit pic slump. It plugged the studio into a … Read More »

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