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‘Real Steel’ Bot-Battle Wins Weak Weekend; George Clooney’s ‘Ides Of March’ Distant #2

SUNDAY AM,  4TH UPDATE: Younger males used to be Hollywood’s target audience. But as I’ve been pointing out recently, they’re just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare fell short with young guys who stayed away from the malls. But would this troubling pattern continue into fall? It’s fuzzy so far. DreamWorks/Disney’s Real Steel required a mammoth marketing push to pump up mediocre tracking so it could dominate the North American box office all weekend. Grosses went up +25% from Friday to Saturday for a $27.3M opening weekend and an ‘A’ CinemaScore. Problem is Hollywood would have impressed if the result was $35M because of its family overlay and $110+M budget. By contrast, George Clooney’s newcomer The Ides Of March had only a $12.5M production budget after rebates. But this R-rated adult political thriller co-starring Ryan Gosling was hard to sell even for Sony Pictures. The pic eked out $10.4M, less than the modest weekend which Hollywood expected after it was a hit at both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Though well-reviewed, audiences gave it just a ‘B’ CinemaScore though those under age 25 bestowed a ‘B+’. The rest of the box office held well for an overall weak weekend.
Here are the Top 10 movies:

1. Real Steel (DreamWorks/Disney) NEW [3,440 Theaters]
Friday $8.5M, Saturday $10.8M, Weekend $27.3M, International $22.1M

This Shaun Levy-directed bot battle starring Hugh Jackman received a rare ‘A’ CinemaScore overall and ‘A+’ from moviegoers under age 25. But its awareness and wannasee going into this weekend concerned DreamWorks because, if anything of late, tracking has been overperforming box office, not the other way around. This was considered a crucial weekend financially for the rebooted studio. Sources told me as recently as Friday that Real Steel needed to make $125+M all in domestically to keep India’s Reliance funding on track (even though CEO Stacey Snider claimed the partnership is solid). But even though it placed #1, the $27.3M weekend opening (with $3.2 million from IMAX) is soft for the PG-13 father-son drama if it hopes to recoup its $110+M costs. Disney believes Sunday and Monday business could push the cume higher because of the Columbus Day holiday when one-third of kids are out of school. Which is why the pic was sold as feel-good family fare (Levy directed Night At The Museum et al) simultaneously with the Rocky With Robots rock’em-sock’em. Hugh Jackman stars as the relatable “everyman” — that is, if everyone had a hardbody and Sugar Ray Leonard as a boxing trainer — with Dakota Goyo plucked from thousands of 10-year-old boys who auditioned to play son Max.

The pic is based on the 1956 short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson, who seven years later adapted it for a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone starring Lee Marvin in a futuristic world of android combatants. John Gatins received screenplay credit with Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven getting story credit, and Don Murphy, Susan Montford, and Shawn Levy producer credit. Marketing was predictably omnipresent and expensive, including cast personal appearances at Comic-Con, CinemaCon, Super Bowl XLV, NBA finals and NFL fall games. Demonstrating the airline will do anything for a few bucks, Virgin America permanently branded its new Airbus A320 “Real Steel” and wrapped the plane with image from film. Extensive integration took place on ESPN including homepage takeover across all platforms the day before the film’s release. ESPN Deportes, Boxeo Telemundo sponsorship, Univision tie-in to Futbol Liga Mexicana, Solo Boxeo, and more were aimed at Hispanic audiences. Overseas, the pic made $22.1M as it rolled out to 25% of the international market this weekend including Jackman’s native Australia following a global press junket in Los Angeles, and international press tours in France, Russia, Germany, UK, Latin America, plus Toronto and Down Under.

2. The Ides Of March (Sony) NEW [2,199 Theaters]
Friday $3.4M, Saturday $4.2M, Weekend $10.4M

Let’s be honest: George Clooney can’t marquee a major movie anymore unless it’s an ensemble. But even though he’s only modest box office, Hollywood still wants to be in business with him and his classy low-budget films that get attention at awards time. So $11M-$13M grossing pics (his average without frequent co-star Brad Pitt) are acceptable as long as the production budgets stay in that range as well. Like The Ides Of March did. Sony Pictures acquired rights to distribute while the project was still in development. It’s based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, a writer who’d worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. It’s the first film with Sony since Clooney and his Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov moved from Warner Bros to Sony in 2009. The Ides Of March was fully financed by Cross Creek Pictures so Brian Oliver shares producer credit. Millimon’s first Farragut North draft came in so clean that Clooney and Heslov committed immediately. They re-wrote the script with Willimon and renamed it The Ides Of March, perhaps a too-obvious reference to all that Shakespearean plotting in Julius Caesar. Film had a 23% uptick from Friday to Saturday. Ultimately, Sony hopes the pic can do a 5X multiple because of word of mouth and the standout cast’s Oscar chances including Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood.

The film’s first trailer went up with Crazy, Stupid, Love in July. But the real buzz launched at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August, and built to the Red Carpet gala at Toronto. Nevertheless, marketing a political film from the liberal Clooney — especially when he’s director, producer, and writer — is a tough task in this deeply divided 2012 election climate. (Supposedly the script would have made it to the big screen sooner but it was deemed too cynical to release when President Obama first took office. Not so now…) Interesting how Ryan Gosling is featured more prominently on the one-sheet than Clooney even though George appeared on Time magazine’s cover in real life. This also explains why, in the TV ad, Sony took great care to barely show Clooney or even hint at the specific ideology behind The Ides Of March. (Like, duh.) The media campaign targeted adults of both sexes and its highlights included the Emmy Awards, new season primetime premieres, NFL fall games, and the MLB divisional playoffs. Trailers were aired during CNN’s Piers Morgan talk show as well.
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2011 Comic-Con: Which Film Will Deliver?

Deadline Comic-Con film correspondent Luke Y Thompson files:

If Comic-Cons can be said to have a theme, this year’s which began Wednesday is “free-for-all.” Usually, there is one property that is expected to dominate (IRON MAN and TRON LEGACY have been there, done that) and one that upsets (300, SIN CITY). This year, with AVENGERS unexpectedly not doing a presentation – though they have a giant set in the main hall with the logo for photo ops – it’s a wide-open field. TWILIGHT will of course be huge with a very particular segment of the audience, and Universal’s new SNOW WHITE may persuade those fans to stick around. REAL STEEL dominates the banners that hang from lamp-posts, and while that’s not doing a formal presentation either, Comic-Con attendees just might want to follow @realsteelmovie on Twitter. And maybe @RealHughJackman too.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE has the potential to be something truly nuts, but THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is a question mark. With a high-quality trailer already leaked, some of the wind is out of its sails. The trailer looks fine, and surprisingly Fincher-esque coming from the director of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. But it feels redundant: that same origin tale again, and so soon that there’s a disconnect – my eyes expect Emma Stone’s face to be Bryce Dallas Howard’s each time Gwen Stacy shows up.

Steven Spielberg is more of a draw than the movie he’s representing; ditto Patrick Stewart, but if we … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Real Steel’

By | Tuesday May 10, 2011 @ 12:09pm PDT

Here’s the new trailer for DreamWorks Pictures’ sci-fi actioner Real Steel, based on Richard Matheson’s short story. The robot-boxing tale is directed by Shawn Levy and stars Hugh Jackman and is set for an Oct. 7 release via Disney.

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DreamWorks Revs Up ‘Real Steel’ Sequel

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Disney doesn’t release Real Steel until Oct. 7, but already DreamWorks is getting the machinery moving on a sequel to the Shawn Levy-directed drama that stars Hugh Jackman. I’m told the studio has commissioned John Gatins, who scripted the first film, to start on the second installment. It’s unusual to see that occur so early, but I can recall it happening when Warner Bros commissioned a Hangover sequel after early tests showed the movie was going to be a big hit. Development on the sequel’s just getting under way, and deals will have to be made with Jackman and Levy. Gatins is repped by UTA.

DreamWorks has gotten strong response to internal screenings of the film, and at a CinemaCon presentation of footage in Las Vegas. The film is a Rocky-meets-Transformers tale of a prize fighter whose pugilistic skills are rendered obsolete when human boxers are replaced by robots. The fighter (Jackman) becomes a boxing promoter and finds a discarded robot that wins and wins. The fighter also discovers he has a 13-year old son, who comes along for the ride as the robot heads toward the top against scary competition. Read More »

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Fox Reunites ‘Real Steel’ Team Of Hugh Jackman And Shawn Levy

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has acquired an untitled action adventure pitch that will be scripted by Lost‘s Carlton Cuse for Hugh Jackman to star in and Shawn Levy to direct. Levy’s 21 Laps Entertainment banner will produce.

While Cuse has done uncredited writing on two Lethal Weapon sequels and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this is the first feature script he’ll write since Lost ended its run. Cuse was the drama’s longtime show runner and executive producer.

Levy and Jackman just teamed for DreamWorks in Real Steel, which Disney will release on October 7. Both have deep ties to Fox. Levy’s 21 Laps is based there, and Jackman’s Seed Productions had a Fox deal until he and partner John Palermo decided to split so Jackman could focus on acting. Jackman is currently prepping to star in The Wolverine, the sequel to the X-Men spinoff that is being directed by Oscar-nominated Black Swan helmer Darren Aronofsky. Levy directed Night at the Museum and Date Night at Fox. Fox prexy Emma Watts and Steven Puri are steering the potential tent pole for Fox with  21 Laps’ Billy Rosenberg and Dan Cohen. Jackman , Levy and Cuse are repped by WME.

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Hot Trailer: ‘Real Steel’

By | Thursday December 9, 2010 @ 12:31pm PST
Mike Fleming

DreamWorks has just released a trailer for Real Steel, the Shawn Levy-directed Hugh Jackman-starrer that will be released through Touchstone Pictures October 7, 2011.

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Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’ Shifts Dates

DreamWorks is moving Steven Spielberg’s War Horse from August to December 28 of 2011. Stacey Snider said today that after screening footage, the studio decided that it felt “like a holiday movie.” In other DreamWorks moves, The Help, starring Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard, has been dated for August 12, and Shawn Levy’s Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, will be moving from November 18 to October 7. Fright Night 3D, starring Colin Farrell, is now slated for August 19. Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t move, staying on July 29. The War Horse screenplay was written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis and is based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and the popular West End play. The War Horse shift puts it in direct competition with another Spielberg film, The Adventures of Tin Tin, from Paramount and Sony.

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