A British secret agent, an unlikely pair of friends and a kidnapped ex-CIA operative helped boost admissions for European Union films across Europe by 12% in 2012. Despite a drop in overall attendance, market share for Euro films jumped to 33.6%, the highest level of the 2000s so far. The European Audiovisual Observatory said today that Skyfall, a majority UK co-production, was the biggest draw with 44.38M admissions across the Union. It was followed by two French films: The Intouchables at 24.07M and Taken 2 at 10.43M. Receipts hit a record high of 6.47B euros ($8.47B) reflecting hikes in ticket prices and the increase in 3D movies. Admissions for U.S. films were up slightly to 62.8% but were still far off the 68.4% achieved in 2010. The top three Hollywood performers were Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.
EXCLUSIVE: Signaling an intention by EuropaCorp to ramp up Stateside production, principals Luc Besson and CEO Christophe Lambert have set veteran production executive and producer Lisa Ellzey to join EuropaCorp as executive vice president of U.S. Motion Picture Production. Ellzey, a Golden Globe and Emmy-winning producer, most recently was executive vice president of production at Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox. She will report directly to Lambert. I’ve heard EuropaCorp’s intention will be to generate as many as five film projects per year here when things get up and running. The company is very prolific from its base in France.
While the French film industry has recently been polarized at home – spurred on by a Le Monde editorial penned by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval – there was good news from abroad this morning. Foreign admissions hit a record high in 2012 with French films selling 140M tickets, an 88% uptick over 2011, for 875M euros ($1.17B) in receipts. Export body Unifrance says today that the figures for 2012 are doped by the extraordinary performance of a handful of films including Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s The Intouchables, Olivier Megaton’s Taken 2 and Oscar-winner The Artist, which rep 65% of overseas sales. Intouchables, which was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar but failed to make the final nominations, is the most successful French-language film ever internationally at 29.6M tickets sold while the Luc Besson-produced Taken 2 is the most successful French film ever outside the home territory with over 46M admissions. Other films hitting high marks abroad include Michael Haneke’s multiple Oscar nominee Amour, comedy Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia, Bibo Bergeron’s animated A Monster In Paris, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone and Pathé’s What’s In A Name. Western Europe consumed French films in record numbers and Asia had the strongest progression. North American audiences bought 32M tickets to French movies for a 45% jump on 2011.
Unifrance this week has been hosting the annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema which gives international buyers a look at upcoming French films on the slates of local sales companies. Next week, it will be back to business and to the debate over how French films are financed.
The goal is to inspire the estimated 16M people expected to receive a tablet, smartphone, smart TV or other connected device this Christmas to make the action film starring Liam Neeson the first one they buy. Fox Home Entertainment is releasing Taken 2 in its Digital HD format today, four weeks before it’s out on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. That’s the longest lead time any studio has provided for the online version of one of its films. (Prometheus, the first video Fox released electronically ahead of the discs, held the record at three weeks; others have had a two-week lead.) Fox also will launch its first broadcast TV promotion for an electronic sell-through title. The company plans to hawk the film on Christmas Day NBA games on ABC and ESPN, in addition to Google, IGN, Gamefly, YouTube, and other web destinations. The film, priced at about $15, is being sold at digital stores including Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and Apple’s iTunes Store.
I’m reading a THR piece reporting that Liam Neeson‘s Taken 2 paycheck is $10 million, up from the $1 million he received for the original. They’ve shortchanged the strapping Irishman on both counts. He’ll make more than double that when the film is done in worldwide theaters. I’ve heard Neeson got paid $12 million upfront for Taken 2, (he got $2 million for the first). And since that $12 million sequel paycheck was an advance against a comparable percentage of gross, Neeson stands to make a heckuva lot more for the special set of skills he possesses. The $45 million-budget sequel grossed $49.5 million in its opening weekend, and has already hit $117 million worldwide, according to Rentrak.
‘Taken 2′ Kidnaps Weekend For #1 & $50M As Moviegoers Return To Late Night Shows; Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’ Flops $11.1M
SUNDAY AM, 3RD UPDATE: This was a slammin’ weekend at the domestic box office turning around 6 weeks of sluggish grosses – with total moviegoing up +41% from last year. Here’s one reason why: I’ve learned that 20th Century Fox’s Taken 2 (3,660 theaters) is the first film that has performed normally for weekend late night shows since July’s Aurora shooting tragedy in a movie theater. “Great news for our film and great news for our industry as hopefully we can get back to some normalcy at the box office,” one Fox exec emails me. Action sequel starring Liam Neeson hit $50M despite Fox attempts to lowball expectations at around mid-$30sM. It’s now the 2nd biggest October opening weekend record (behind Paranormal Activity 3‘s $52.6M) but also the highest PG13 opener in October ever. ”Bryan Mills continues to have a ‘particular set of skills’ – namely kicking ass at the box office!” the exec gushed. On the other hand, Tim Burton’s flat 5th place Frankenweenie (3,005 theaters) got off to a “slower start than we would have hoped,” one Disney exec admitted to me, and never took flight. Audiences gave both newcomers a ‘B+’ CinemaScore which could help word of mouth. Meanwhile, Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania (3,352 theaters) mantained an amazing -36% hold from last Friday for #2. Universal’s small female college comedy Pitch Perfect (2,770 theaters) went wider and wound up with a new cume of $21.5M against its cost of only $17M. Meanwhile, with Columbus Day on Monday, total Sunday moviegoing should be bigger than normal.
The original Taken seemed an improbable hit: Liam Neeson wasn’t hot at the box office, director Pierre Morel came out of nowhere, and the action took place in ho-hum Paris for crissakes. But this sleeper didn’t suffer from political correctness. Instead it presented good vs evil as black and white without any grey area – something missing from films with more sophisticated storylines. Audiences responded to this uncomplicated thriller in droves for $145M domestic and $226.8M worldwide. Now they’re looking for more of the same in the sequel, and Taken 2 did an impressive $1.5M in midnight showings from 2,036 locations for the highest midnight number since The Dark Knight Rises. This time the director is Olivier Megaton, and the setting is far more mysterious Istanbul. Written again by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen, returning daughter Maggie Grace and wife Famke Janssen re-joins Neeson and this time together they fight bad guys. And, once again, Fox for both this movie and the first one pays a flat fee to Europa Corp for certain territories upon delivery. Otherwise Fox has all the world, excluding Eastern Europe, Middle East, Germany, France, Benelux and Scandinavia. Taken 2 already opened in Korea to an outstanding #1 on its opening day and unseated a blockbuster Korean film, Masquerade, distributed by CJ. The marketing campaign was pretty straightforward and fairly ordinary, relying heavily on Neeson who truly did anything and everything to promote the sequel. A fan event in New York at the AMC Empire on Monday sold out 2 theaters in under 90 minutes from launch on Eventful. It’s hard to find any TV show that Neeson didn’t do from Jim Rome, Leno, GMA, Live With Kelly, Ellen, Fallon, Daily Show, Watch What Happens Live, ESPN Carwash, and Inside The Actor’s Studio. ”Taken Tuesdays” on Facebook added new content every week. The Ultimate Fighters did sponsorships supporting the film through a high-profile match and fight clock branding, while Bellator Fighting Championship had sponsorship of the 2-hour largest Mixed Martial Arts tournament in the world.
Here we go again: another Tim Burton film that is underperforming at the domestic box office. This time he returns to his first stop-motion animation movie since 2005 when his Warner Bros’ toon Corpse Bride debuted DOA. But this 3D black-and-white film about a boy and his dog for Disney looks like a lot more fun, thanks to the screenplay credited to John August (who based his on Lenny Ripps’ script) and story and direction by Burton. Though it faces stiff competition from Sony Animation’s pre-Halloween family fare Hotel Transylvania. But Frankenweenie was never intended as widely popular family fare: it’s fanboy stuff. Which is why pic had such strong presence at Comic-Con. “The Art of Frankenweenie” exhibit began there and is touring Disney’s California Adventure before it travels to 7 countries. The film itself won’t roll out in most international territories until the next six months. Back at home, Frankenweenie integrated with Halloween events at Disney Parks. The world premiere was held September 20th on the opening night of Fantastic Fest, followed by an LA premiere September 24th at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre. Film was also the closing night film at the London Film Festival. Disney also had what it called “unparalleled partnership” with Apple to launch first-ever Disney Publishing digital book to use iBooks Author based on a film. (The e-book allows audiences to delve into the inspiration behind the film, from story concept to creation and execution, with photos, art, interviews, music, 3D characters, and more.) Games, apps, social media, IMAX, Subway in-store signage added to the marketing campaign which included a heavy rotation of TV ads – much bigger than the box office prospects of this Burton film warranted. Disney also pushed the official film soundtrack by frequent Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, plus “Frankenweenie Unleashed” inspired-by album. Voice talent included Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, and Winona Ryder. Besides Burton, Allison Abbate produced.
Here’s how my sources see the Top Ten for weekend box office:
1. Taken 2 (Fox) NEW [3,661 Runs] PG13
Friday $18.5M, Saturday $19.0M, Weekend $50.0M
2. Hotel Transylvania 3D (Sony Animation) Week 2 [3,352 Runs] PG
Friday $6.4M, Saturday $11.7M, Weekend $27.1M (-36%), Cume $76.8M
3. Pitch Perfect (Universal) Week 2 [2,770 Runs] PG13
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $5.9M, Weekend $14.6M, Cume $21.5M
4. Looper (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 2 [2,993 Runs] R
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.0M (-42%), Cume $40.1M
5. Frankenweenie 3D (Disney) NEW [3,005 Runs] PG
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $11.1M
Taken 2 reteams Liam Neeson and producer/co-writer Luc Besson from the first pic, which earned $145M domestically and $226.8M globally for Fox when it burst on the scene in 2009. This one sees the bad guys come after Neeson’s family (daughter Maggie Grace and wife Famke Janssen) after he killed one of the evildoers while rescuing his daughter in Paris the first time. Olivier Megaton takes over directing duties from original helmer Pierre Morel. Fox releases the sequel October 5.
Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, the man with a special set of lethal skills in Taken 2, and a trailer has been released overseas that shows no shortage of action. The first film, which recast Neeson as an action superstar, had a smart script by Luc Besson and Robert Kamen, and Fox released it at a fortuitous time. It came in the wake of the financial collapse on Wall Street in 2008, a time when people felt helpless to do anything but watch their investments crater. And then here was a guy in a desperate circumstance that most people would be powerless to stop, but getting his daughter back before she is sold as a sex slave is the one thing he can do well. Will the sequel have the same kind of resonance? Probably not. It looks a lot like the original premise, with revenge. But I can’t wait.
20th Century Fox has set A Good Day To Die Hard for a February 14, 2013 release, the highlight of several pictures the studio has just dated on its release calendar. Bruce Willis is set to reprise his role as John McClane in the John Moore-directed film, and casting is just getting underway for the role of his son, John McClane Jr, which has the agencies abuzz because of the opportunity for a young actor to make a mark.
Fox has dated the Liam Neeson-starrer Taken 2 to open Columbus Day weekend, on October 5, 2012; the Curtis Hanson-directed surfing film Of Men & Mavericks will open October 26, 2012 with Gerard Butler starring; the Billy Crystal/Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance will bow November 21, 2012 for Thanksgiving; Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters will open March 27, 2013, which is the Wednesday leading into Easter weekend; and Walking With Dinosaurs has moved to the Columbus Day weekend and will open October 11, 2013. The 3D film was originally scheduled to open December 20, 2013.
Jay Baruchel has joined Robert Pattinson in the David Cronenberg-directed Cosmopolis. Pattinson plays a financial wiz kid who puts his life in danger by betting his entire fortune against the yen on a tumultous day in the adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel. Baruchel plays the shy guy who founded the company, and who acts as the trader’s conscience. Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Mathieu Amalric and Sarah Gadon also star. Baruchel just wrapped Goon, which he co-wrote with Evan Goldberg, and starred in and produced. He’s repped by CAA and Thruline. …
Maggie Grace has wrapped up her deal with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp to reprise the daughter role alongside Liam Neeson in Taken 2, the film that Transporter 3 helmer Olivier Megaton is poised to direct. Grace just completed Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and Lockout, which Besson also produced, and which has been set for distribution with FilmDistrict. She’s repped by UTA and Global Creative. …
UPDATE: Liam Neeson and Luc Besson have come to a meeting of the minds and they have worked out the scheduling snafu that made him iffy for Taken 2. Neeson’s reps at CAA are now closing the deal for Neeson to reprise what has become a signature role. Production is now being eyed for year end or beginning of 2012. Neeson will stick to his plan to take the rest of the year off, after completing the Clash of the Titans sequel he’s shooting in London. He has been working almost nonstop, wrapping The Grey for Joe Carnahan and Battleship for Peter Berg.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE: A fascinating drama has been playing out over the past few weeks on Taken 2, the sequel to the surprise global hit film hatched by Luc Besson that reinvigorated Liam Neeson. I’m told Besson has teamed on a script with Robert Mark Kamen, and that he’s in talks with his Transporter 3 director Olivier Megaton to direct the sequel. But he has been dealing with a huge problem: Neeson has all but withdrawn from reprising his role as Bryan Mills, the retired government operative who in the 2008 original decimated the Paris underworld to free his kidnapped daughter. The reason isn’t money, but rather scheduling: Besson wants to shoot it this year and Neeson wants to take time off. Continuing without Neeson is hard to imagine, but I’ve heard Besson has gone as far …