Check Out Our New Look

UPDATE: #1 ‘Megamind’, #2 ‘Due Date’, #3 ‘For Colored Girls’ All Meet Expectations; Long Lines And Sell-Outs For ’127 Hours’

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU: It’s the start of the Holiday Moviegoing Season, so celebrate! The box office sure is, because this wound up a record first weekend in November for North America with the $155+ million total of all the movies (not corrected for inflation or ticket prices) passing the Industry record of $153M set in 2003. But with all 3 big newcomers meeting their opening weekend expectations, where’s the fun for cynical me? Meanwhile, Sony Pictures had a great summer, Warner Bros led with a successful early fall, and now Paramount Pictures is showing strength: In the last 4 weeks, the studio has released 3 different films all at #1 and all opening over $40 million in 3 different genres. Here are what my sources say are Friday’s and Saturday’s Top Ten grosses with weekend and cume numbers:    

1. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) NEW [3,944 Runs]
Friday $12.5M, Saturday $20.6M, Weekend $47.6M   

DreamWorks Animation toons, like Pixar’s, do reliably strong box office, even on Date Night, with a big Saturday kiddie matinee bounce. So there was considerable surprise among rival studios starting midday Friday when newcomer Megamind 3D‘s grosses looked underperforming despite its “A-” CinemaScore, usually successful formula of hip pop culture references, a typically aggressive marketing push, and a giant release into 3,944 theaters with 2,634 of them 3D-equipped. It was as if life were imitating art, since Megamind is the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known — and the least successful. But the problem, it turned out, wasn’t the movie. Instead, I learned that AMC theaters was experiencing computing problems and had no grosses in the system, according to distributor Paramount. The studio knew the actual number would go higher: “There are no kids out of school. Looks like mid- to high-40′s, right where everyone expected,” a Paramount exec reassured me. And it has. It opened just ahead of the first 3-day weekend of the original Madagascar ($47.2M) which was only 2D and therefore had lower ticket prices, but also ahead of How to Train Your Dragon 3D which was regarded as weak because of its summer weekend gross of $43.7M. Megamind starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt turns the superhero genre on its head so, naturally, the promotional campaign kicked off with a giant superhero event at LA Live where the record was set for the most superheroes ever gathered in one location. There also was a big tie-in with the World Series that featured Ferrell disguised as a character that looked remarkably like Marlon Brando’s Jor-El from 1978′s Superman. There also was an outreach on MTV for under age 25 moviegoers with Megamind auto tunes.   

2. Due Date (Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros) NEW [3,355 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $13M, Estimated Weekend $33.5M   

Warner Bros’ Due Date, an unofficial reboot of John Hughes’ Planes Trains & Automobiles, opened this weekend almost exactly on target with what Hollywood expected from its wide release into 3,355 theaters. Audiences gave it a “B-” CinemaScore. The comedy starring Robert Downer Jr and Zach Galifianakis, who reteamed with his The Hangover director Todd Phillips, had been tracking on the high side of what an “R”-rated buddy comedy will do, and indeed Due Date fared almost exactly the same as The Other Guys starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg did in this genre over the summer. As usual, Warner Bros’ marketing czarina Sue Kroll promo’ed the heck out of the pic, with three different trailers and TV ads. The teaser trailer was launched with Inception in July, and the studio had a main trailer playing from September through release. WB capitalized on early opportunities with TV season premieres in September, and longer format media stunts (Downey singing “Looks Like We Made It”) that included heavy network, cable, NFL, Baseball/World Series, etc. There also was a strong WOM program that included military bases, college campuses, traditional radio, and national talk shows. As a result, Due Date generated well-balanced male and female support, capturing strong date crowd business, with its primary audience 17 and older. It also was one of those few R-rated comedy marketing that didn’t try to insult or gross out women. “The campaign sought to always capture the humor, but also ensure the tone was warm, likeable, even sweet at times — but always with outrageous comedy,’ a WB exec tells me. In the online/social media world, the studio used its existing Facebook Hangover fan page (8 million followers) to push Due Date content “giving us a much wider reach than we otherwise would have had to a perfectly targeted audience for the material,” the exec noted.   

3. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) NEW [2,127 Runs]
Friday $7.4M, Saturday $7.9M, Weekend $20.1M

Lionsgate’s For Colored Girls at first looked like the R-rated drama was wildly overperforming Friday for an estimated $28M from 2,127 theaters when the Tyler Perry-directed film was only expected to gross $20M, the equivalent of its budget. Then again, it receiced an “A” CinemaScore from audiences. ”It’s performing more on a par with Tyler’s other films,” an excited Lionsgate exec prematurely gushed to me that afternoon. But the weekend grosses were not the phenom first thought. Still, they met expectations and, ”between Tyler’s loyal female following and the cross cultural and multi generational appeal of the work, the opening weekend is feeling like we made this an event, going beyond the core African-American audience,” an insider tells me. With actresses including Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, and Kerry Washington, Perry gave each the poetic monologues dealing with love, abandonment, rape, Read More »

Comments 152

Walt Disney Studios Changing Head Flack

EXCLUSIVE: John J. Nicoletti is exiting as VP of Global Communications for The Walt Disney Studios and returning to flack for the Walt Disney Parks And Resorts. He’ll be replaced by Paul Roeder, a Walt Disney Studios publicist and disciple of chief Disney PR woman Zenia Mucha. “John realized he was in over his head in the movie division and wanted to go back to what he was doing before,” an insider tells me. Before joining the studio, Nicoletti served as director of external communications for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ Worldwide Public Affairs team.  Roeder was promoted by Mucha to manager in her corporate communications department and then to director. Early this year, she installed him at the studio under Nicoletti. Now he’s VP. So here’s what happened:

When Secretariat opened to disappointing box office on October 8th, I wrote what a “weak start” this was for Disney marketing under the new Rich Ross regime and that “no one’s impressed yet with Ross’ new marketing czarina MT Carney (who comes across as Ross’ Yes Woman, I hear)”. For reasons I don’t fully comprehend, my words made Nicoletti panic and, without obtaining approvals from Rich Ross or Zenia Mucha, he put Carney on the phone with two Hollywood news outlets on October 10th solely because they weren’t Deadline. Carney was supposed to only talk about Secretariat marketing and instead gave full-blown interviews. The next day, when both Mucha and Ross saw the Carney interviews, they were dismayed, to say the least. Nicoletti feared he would … Read More »

Comments (11)

BOX OFFICE GROSS: ‘Jackass 3D’ No Joke With $50M Weekend, ‘Red’ Strong #2

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Two movies roundly rejected by Hollywood, one for being too moronic and the other too moldy, led the North American box office weekend with a big $125M weekend overall:

1. Jackass 3D (Paramount) NEW [3,081 Theaters]
Friday $21.8M, Saturday $17M, Weekend $50M

As a studio exec joked to me Friday, “The Oscar race has been turned on its head”. That’s because Paramount’s Jackass 3D aimed at the youth market not only earned twice the gross of Sony’s Academy Awards-touted Facebook origins film starting its 3rd week Friday, but knocked it out of #1. Producers Johnny Knoxville’s and Spike Jonze’s stupid stunt pic directed by Jeff Tremaine earned a “B+” CinemaScore. Still the headline is that, despite the restriction of an “R” rating, it opened to a whopping Friday for the biggest single day ever in October because of the higher 3D ticket prices. That included $2.5M from midnight shows, also the most ever for October. Plus a healthy Saturday after the “first to see” subsided. Its $50M weekend take was the record for the biggest opening in the month of October (besting Scary Movie 3 which did $48.1M in October 2003 but was only 2D). Guess this shows Hollywood that movies don’t need a script and a plot, right? With a budget of only $20M, the studio would have been more than happy with the $30M weekend it expected from the higher ticket prices from the 2,452 3D-equipped locations. (The first 2D Jackass opened with a $22.8M weekend and the 2D sequel to $29M.) Believe it or not, I’m told the filmmakers debated whether or not shooting a film in 3D would mess up their comedic timing.

Exit polling showed the audience was 60% male, and 67% under age 25. Two of the biggest components of the Jackass 3D marketing campaign were premiering 10 minutes of 3D footage at Comic-Con via a mobile 3D screening room and the public spectacle of letting MTV’s Jersey Shore cast been seen watching and talking about the new film. There’s been relentless promotion by the Viacom sister company which first gave birth to the Jackass TV and movie franchise and even product licensing program (now featuring apparel, sunglasses, skateboards, even a Converse shoe, and hardbound book. As if Jackass fans read.) Last weekend, MTV marked the 10th anniversary of Jackass with 2 TV specials leading up to the film’s release: Jackass: The Beginning and The Making Of Jackass 3D featuring never-before-seen content from the gang: Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dynn, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Preston Lacy, Dave England, and Ehren McGhehey. MTV also showed the franchise’s humble TV origins back in 2000 before it became a pop culture phenom. (P.S. The Making of Jackass 3D contains a visual of Deadline Hollywood. I couldn’t be more proud)

2. Red (Summit) NEW [3,255 Theaters]
Friday $7.3M, Saturday $9.2M, Weekend $22.5M

Every studio passed on making the stylish PG-13 comedy Red aimed at the adult audience except for Summit Entertainment: now the Robert Schwentke-directed pic features Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis — some of them as past-their-expiration-date assassins. That’s surprisingly strong considering the over-the-hill stars and subject matter. But the pic received an “A-” Cinemascore and 73% definite recommend. Exit polling showed the audience was 53% male, and 58% over age 35. In pre-release screenings, I’m told the film played as a crowd pleaser by mixing the right amount of action with humor based on witty lines and deft timing. It was tracking across all quadrants with the strongest being male moviegoers over age 30. But that cast was the #1 reason people went to see the film based on the cult DC Comics graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Read More »

Comments 182

‘The Social Network’ Holds For #1 Again; ‘Life As We Know It’ Comes Close For #2, ‘Secretariat’ Comes Up Lame #3



 

 

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: The following are North American grosses for Friday and weekend and cumes. I won’t bother with a 4-day box office report because Columbus Day in the U.S. and Thanksgiving Day in Canada aren’t statistically significant. (Only 34% of America’s K-12 and 18% of college students are out of school.) Notwithstanding, Sunday will be a strong attendance day and Monday will just be a good day.

1. The Social Network (Sony) Week 2 [2,771 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $6.3M, Weekend $15.5M (-31%), Cume $46.4M

Hollywood could see this was shaping up as a really interesting Columbus Day weekend and a possible 3-way race between Sony’s The Social Network and Warner Bros’ Life As We Know It and Disney’s Secretariat. I was told that if any of these 3 movies could get over $15M, then that pic would win the weekend. But by Friday afternoon, Disney sources already were admitting to me that Secretariat was underperforming, so that pretty much dropped the horse out of the running for No. 1 even if it experienced good expansion Saturday. My box office gurus predicted correctly it should come down to the wire between Life and Social Network, and it did. Life pulled ahead on Date Night because of a higher theater count. But Saturday depended on “how many guys come along” to see Life, one studio exec told me. ”If it’s a modest females-only expansion to $15M, then Social Network has a real shot.” Sony was hoping … Read More »

Comments 173

Can ‘Secretariat’ Blindside Oscar Favorites?

Pete Hammond

This same time last year, no one was seriously considering the awards prospects of a little Deep South sports-themed movie called The Blind Side. Not even after I saw the film at a small screening on the Warner Bros lot and wrote in early November 2009 that I thought Sandra Bullock  would, against all expectations at the time, become a major Oscar contender. Instead, commenters and bloggers vilified my prediction. Of course, she not only went on to win, the film received a Best Picture nomination. Now everyone in Oscar punditry is looking for the “next Blind Side” with many eyes focused on the feel-good Disney sports drama, Secretariat that was sneaked last weekend to pump up word of mouth and tracking before its Friday opening. In many ways, the comparisons are apt. Both are true stories about one woman’s singular cause: taking an athlete  from rags to riches. In this case, though, that athlete is a horse and the woman is owner Penny Chenery played by Diane Lane who, unlike Bullock at this point, has already made several  potential Best Actress nominee short lists. And, with 10 nominees to pick for Best Picture,  the “Blind Side slot” for an old-fashioned feel-good movie the Academy falls for as much as the general public, even if critics don’t, is not out of the question for a crowd pleaser like Secretariat. Providing it is first able to achieve hit status at the box office. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating currently stands at 63% fresh and Roger Ebert has called it “a great movie” although the basic critical consensus is mixed, just as it was for Blind Side. Hip factor and critics aside though, the Academy has already shown a predilection for this particular type of “stand up and cheer” movie by nominating Universal’s Seabiscuit for 7 Oscars including Best Pic in 2003 and that was when there were just a measly 5 nominees.

Secretariat director Randall Wallace has previous Oscar experience: he was a screenwriting nominee for the 1995 Best Picture winner Braveheart and is not drawing comparisons. “The Academy has a mind of its own. It’s interesting the whole notion of what makes something Oscar-worthy,” he told me in a phone conversation yesterday. “I’m in the Academy and my criteria has to do with how it affects my heart and whether something is authentic. I don’t know whether Braveheart was thought to be a frontrunner or a dark horse, but you don’t make these movies with the idea of winning awards. You win awards for making a powerful movie.” Read More »

Comments 34

Oscar Contenders, Part 2: Now For The Hopefuls That Didn’t Hit Fall Fest Circuit

Pete Hammond

Passing the giant Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps billboard at the Pico Blvd entrance to 20th Century Fox, I noticed the words “Academy Award” prominently mentioned no less than five times. Academy Award Winner Michael Douglas. Academy Award Nominee Josh Brolin. Academy Award Winner Susan Sarandon. Academy Award Nominee Frank Langella. Academy Award Nominee Carey Mulligan. Not so subtly, making an early bid like this to find any way to associate the Academy Awards and an opening movie this time of year can be a smart marketing strategy. It’s a way to establish a new film as a contender amid the endless glut of generally still-sight-unseen Oscar wannabes.

With that in mind, I continue my rundown of award hopefuls. I started last week with an assessment of Oscar chances for the films that had just appeared at any or all of the three Fall Film Festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. I began that list with Friday’s New York Film Festival opener The Social Network. Now comes, in order of scheduled release date, the trickier proposition of forecasting the awards status of films that weren’t unveiled at a Fall Fest but will be opening before the end of the year:

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (Twentieth Century Fox – 9/24) On paper, with its timely theme, this is exactly the kind of popular drama with an Oscar-heavy cast and director that the 10 Best Picture nominations would tend to favor. Well-received in Cannes last May, it still  hasn’t generated  the kind of serious buzz which fall fest entries like Social Network, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan all managed. Oscar Chance: Bearish, since sequels rarely compete and Oliver Stone’s 1987 original received just a single nomination — and won Best Actor for Michael Douglas. His bigger-than-life Gekko remains its best chance to jump in the race, particularly with goodwill for the actor running high due to his cancer and memories of his acclaimed work in the indie Solitary Man still fresh from earlier this year. Never-nominated Eli Wallach, 95, might have had a shot for his small but indelible role. But he’s already getting an Honorary Oscar in November.

NOWHERE BOY (The Weinstein Co – 10/8) This story of the young John Lennon opened last Christmas in England and has already hit British Airways and Blu-ray but is craftily timed for U.S. release the day before what would have been the musician’s 70th birthday. Oscar Chance: Both female co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff were BAFTA nominees last season and might have a long shot in the Supporting Actress category if Weinstein does any sort of serious campaign for this.

SECRETARIAT (Walt Disney Pictures – 10/8) This emotion stirring crowd-pleasing story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and the woman who wouldn’t give up on him could appeal to the same feel-good contingent that made The Blind Side such a player last year. Oscar Chance: Diane Lane and John Malkovich could figure in acting races. While sound, cinematography, music, and Best Picture nominations are not out of the question. If 2003’s Seabiscuit, which landed 7 nominations including the big one back when there were only five slots, could do it, then it should be a breeze for this horse. But Disney has to campaign just as aggressively as Universal did back then.

COMPANY MEN (The Weinstein Co – 10/22) There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz on this John Wells written and directed title since it debuted to mixed reviews in Sundance. But this of-the-moment drama about the effect of corporate downsizing on three men has a strong cast that includes past Oscar winners Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. Oscar Chance: A longshot that needs to step up its awards game or risk downsizing to also-ran status against stiff competition.

WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (Samuel Goldwyn – 10/29) Fine acting from James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart highlight this drama about the effect that a young runaway has on a married couple. Oscar Chance: This quiet and effective drama was a Sundance success. But it’s likely to be more prominent at the Spirits than the Oscars.

FAIR GAME (Summit – 11/5)  The hot button Valerie Plame/CIA leak story gets the cinematic treatment from director Doug Liman. It played well to critics in competition at Cannes in May but has been dormant on the Fall Festival circuit. Oscar Chance: It has two stars, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who are usually Academy bait. But so far neither is generating much heat in the highly competitive lead actor and actress races. Perhaps that will change when the film gets its second shot at glory just after election day. Of course, Penn already has a couple of Oscars.

FOR COLORED GIRLS (Lionsgate – 11/5) Except for the trailer, no one’s really yet seen this Tyler Perry adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play with the longer title For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. But apparently Lionsgate has enuf confidence to push the release right up to the start date of the film industry’s official holiday movie season. Oscar Chance: Perry’s a cash cow for Lionsgate but he’s got no Oscar cred yet except for an AMPAS membership card. Last year, this distributor scored 6 nominations and 2 Oscars with  Precious (which Perry supported by lending his name). But can lightning strike twice?

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (Warner Bros – 11/19) The mega-box office Harry Potter series begins its wrap party with the first of a 2-part finale. Oscar Chance: These films are usually good for one or two technical nods but haven’t broken through into the marquee categories. If Harry has any shot at pulling a Lord Of The Rings-style victory lap, it’s probably with the more emotionally potent Part 2 which gets a July release.

THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Lionsgate – 11/19) Oscar-winner Paul Haggis co-wrote and directed this thriller about the turmoil in a couple’s life after the wife is accused of murder. Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, and Elizabeth Banks star. Oscar Chance: Although Haggis and Lionsgate last struck Oscar gold together with Crash, this one is said to be a strictly commercial bet with no similar awards trajectory. Read More »

Comments 23