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VA VROOM! ‘Cars 2′ Revs $68M Weekend; ‘Bad Teacher’ More Than Good For $31M

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.

1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M

Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.

But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”

Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.

2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M

Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)

Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.

Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden. Read More »

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FX Adds To Tentpole Pile, Nabs Rights To ‘Green Lantern’, ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’

By | Tuesday June 21, 2011 @ 2:21pm PDT

FX announced today that it has picked up commercial TV rights to two more box-office biggies: Warner Bros’ Green Lantern and Fox’s Mr Popper’s Penguins, which finshed No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the domestic box office race this past weekend. FX last week acquired rights to J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which finished No. 2 during its second frame for the weekend. The network has been busy buying up tentpole-type movies, already nabbing X-Men: First ClassThe Hangover Part II, Tron: LegacyThe Green Hornet, The RoommateJust Go With ItRangoBattle: Los Angeles and Thor.

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FALLING STARS REYNOLDS AND CARREY: #1 ‘Green Lantern’ Opens To Just $52.6M; ‘Popper’s Penguins’ Falls To #3 With $18.2M

SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Warner Bros’ 3D Green Lantern ($21.6M Friday, dropping -21% for $17.1M Saturday, and only a $52.6M weekend) underperforms, unable to meet even the studio’s lowered expectation for North America despite the higher 3D ticket prices. And Fox’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins ($6.4M Friday, up only +2% for $6.5M Saturday meaning it failed to get any significant kiddie matinee bump, and only an $18.2M weekend) falls to No. 3 behind Paramount’s holdover Super 8 which cast no stars moves up to No. 2. But these numbers also signal falling stars in Hollywood. Green Lantern had well-known actor Ryan Reynolds playing the superhero, yet won’t come near that other non-sequel Thor‘s recent $65.7M opening weekend for Marvel yet starring a complete unknown. Even though for weeks now, Green Lantern had been tracking better than Thor, which also was tasked with introducing a superhero to moviegoers. Warner Bros and DC Entertainment began freaking out Friday about the continuing negative buzz around Green Lantern especially the bad reviews.

This was fanned by rival studios looking at U.S. box office. Competitors also told me that the foreign day-and-date opening grosses were off to a “very soft start” in the UK, Russia, New Zealand, Asia, and some Middle East markets with an estimated $17M from 3,253 screens. They were right: though UK opened #1 with £2.6M (US$4.9M) from 907 situations. That’s less than this summer’s openings of X-Men: First Class, Fast Five, and Thor. And the Russia and South Korea debuts weren’t strong even though these territories usually love action movies, but Green Lantern couldnt even beat Super 8 in Russia.

Meanwhile, Mr. Popper‘s weak result demonstrates how Jim Carrey’s popularity keeps waning in live-action movies. His last films were Fun With Dick And Jane (2005) opening to $14.6M, and The Number 23 (2007) debuted to $14.3M and Yes Man (2008) which first released to $18.2M. (I Love You, Phillip Morris never received wide distribution.) That this latest grossed at all is due to the penguins, I’m certain.

The total moviegoing weekend ends up an estimated -22% from last year (when Toy Story 3 opened to $110.3M. The big qualifier for all the above is the Sunday drop for Father’s Day.

Full analysis below. Refined numbers in the morning. Here’s the Top 10:

1. Green Lantern 3D (Warner Bros) NEW [3,816 Runs]
Friday $21.6M, Saturday $16.8M, Weekend $52.6M

Warner Bros said it was very pleased with DC Entertainment’s Green Lantern 3D opening of $3.35M midnight showings from 1,810 venues, which bettered Marvel/Paramount’s Thor midnights ($3.2M from 1,800 locations) and were on a par with Marvel/Fox’s X-Men: First Class prequel midnights ($3.3M from 1,783 theaters). “It’s an excellent result setting up for a strong Father’s Day weekend at the box office,” a Warner Bros exec emailed me this morning. But it was all downhill from there. Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds (the romantic comedy lead voted People‘s Sexiest Man Alive) and directed by Martin Campbell (who rebooted James Bond with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale) opened in a wide but by no means record-setting release into 3,816 theaters, of which 2,711 were 3D. Hollywood estimated a North American weekend opening of at least the mid-$50M range with the upside as much as $60M-$65M-$70M if the fan boys went for it in 3D despite the poor reviews. The studio now can only hope for a big Father’s Day judging from strong results from past superhero films. Read More »

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Penguins Arrive For Meeting With Disney After Feeding On Fox’s Week-Old Sardines

By | Friday June 17, 2011 @ 1:31pm PDT

OK, that’s my caption. Surely, you can do better…

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Hot New Trailer: ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’

By | Tuesday May 24, 2011 @ 3:40pm PDT

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Chilly Trailer: ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’

By | Friday March 25, 2011 @ 10:01am PDT

Fox released the HD trailer for its Jim Carrey-starring tentpole, which is set for a June 17 bow.

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FOXY 2011 MOVES: ‘Rise Of The Apes’ Takes Thanksgiving Slot; ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ Set For Start Of Summer

Twentieth Century Fox execs today muscled their 2011 release schedule. First and foremost the studio’s big tentpole Rise Of The Apes moves from June 24th to November 23rd because there’s a Thanksgiving family film overload. This Planet Of The Apes origins story about genetic engineering is considered big enough to be informally nicknamed “Apetar

The studio has enough faith in Jim Carrey’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins to move this family film featuring Jim Carrey (back doing what his fans want him to do) from August 12th to the start of the summer on June 17th.

The Big Year, about the Bird-Watching Men Of North America (inspired by the book “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession” by Mark Obmascik) and starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson gets scheduled for October 14th.

The Jonah Hill “R”-rated comedy The Sitter moves from the heart of the summer on July 15th to August 5th.

Monte Carlo, the Selena Gomez/Leighton Meester starrer moves from July 1st to August 12th.

The Anna Faris “R”-rated comedy What’s Your Number? from New Regency changes release dates from April 29th to September 30th.

And, finally, the New Regency high-concept sci-fi fantasy about time as currency, titled Now and starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, moves from September 30th to October 28th.

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Jim Carrey Will Star With Penguins For Fox

Who doesn’t love penguins? Hollywood may not be sure how popular Jim Carrey is these days as a regular guy in live action motion pictures, but the world sure loves the little tuxedoed guys. Everyone from Jack Black to Owen Wilson to Ben Stiller  (with Greenberg filmmaker Noah Baumbach) has circled the project. But now 20th Century Fox has set Carrey in the film adaptation of everybody’s favorite kids’ book Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and I hear the studio got him cheap. John Davis is producing, Mark Waters (Mean Girls but also The Spiderwick Chronicles) is directing, with Jared Stern writing the latest version of a script by Sean Anders & John Morris.

Carrey should be able to play the part without masking his face, for once. The movie version takes the book into an upscale direction: a high-powered businessman suddenly inherits six penguins. As he gets acquainted with – and increasingly attached to – his winged roommates, Popper’s life quickly unravels: his swanky New York apartment is turned into a snowy winter wonderland, the deal he’s long been working on is derailed, and he almost lands in jail. ”But thanks to his new charges, Popper comes to understand the importance of family – human and otherwise,” according to the logline. However, the book, originally published in 1938 and written by Richard & Florence Atwater, tells the story of a modest house painter who receives a penguin in … Read More »

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