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#1 ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Muscles $50M Weekend; #2 ‘Flight’ Soars To $25M With Low Theater Count; ‘The Man With Iron Fists’ Weak $8.2M

SUNDAY 7 AM, 6TH UPDATE (Top Ten grosses below) Total moviegoing this weekend is $138.3M, which is a healthy +21% from last year. The good news is that as Hurricane Sandy recovery continued, Saturday became a big attendance day. Going into this weekend, less than 100 movie theaters on the East Coast remained off the grid on Friday. But that number went down as the power came on. The even better news was that NYC biz in particular was very strong – despite continuing transportation problems but because of cabin fever. ”Clearly, folks need and have an escape valve from the misery of Sandy – namely the movies,” one top distribution exec tells me.

Overall weekend domestic box office was led by Disney’s well-reviewed 3D blockbuster Wreck-It Ralph (playing in  3,752 theaters) whose gross went up a huge +58% from Friday to Saturday for an expected $50.0M through Sunday. It’s the biggest non-holiday opening for a Disney Animation Studios title. Clearly here’s a brand new original franchise for the Mouse House. This action toon went into Friday accounting for 20% of all online ticket sales at Fandango and MovieTickets. Yet there was some flopsweat by Disney not just because of the storm variable but because family tracking has been unreliable of late. (Remember Frankenweenie, anyone?) “I think they’re going to get enough teens to supplement the family audience and pop a real number,” a rival studio exec told me ahead of time. Pic did. Audiences gave Wreck-It Ralph an ‘A’ Cinemascore which should bode well for positive word of mouth and playability through the Thanksgiving holiday as there is little family competition in the marketplace until then.  The toon infused from 30-plus years of video game history so target audience wasn’t just kids but also adults and game enthusiasts as well as males and females. (I always think the movie industry doesn’t understand how many gals play video games…) Fix-It Felix Jr classic-style game consoles toured the country, with stops at Comic-Con, gamer-focused events like Classic Gaming Expo and PAX Prime, as well as colleges, family events, Disney Parks, etc. The trailer debuted at E3 in June while the film itself had a strong presence at Comic-Con in July, including a Hall H panel with director Rich Moore and voice cast John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. As for its marketing campaign, Wreck-It Ralph had a huge Olympic integration, plus promotional partnerships with Subway, Nesquik, Gamefly, Netgear, Costco, and Lego. Global press junket in mid-October featured immersive experiences in the game’s worlds, followed by a special gaming press day in San Francisco in conjunction with Sega, Disney Mobile and Activision. The world premiere was held at the El Capitan Theatre on October 29. For animation fans and cinephiles, toon is playing in theaters with Paperman, a black-and-white 3D short film that features an innovative new hybrid of hand-drawn and CG animation.

Of course the Disney family fare swamped this weekend’s other newcomers which are debuting in only 1/2 as many theaters. But Paramount’s well-reviewed Flight (1,900 locations) enjoyed a +31% bump from Friday to Saturday and opened #2 with a surprise $25M this weekend. That’s enormous considering its medium theater count. Just think how many stars can’t even open pics to $20M with 3,000+ theaters. But Denzel Washington has a very loyal adult fanbase, and the pic from credited screenwriter John Gatins had good reviews despite (or because of) a bleak back half. Expectedly, movie  is very soft with teens. But it received an ’A-’ CinemaScore which will help keep it overperforming tracking and stirring Oscar buzz. It’s certainly been a while since director Robert Zemeckis had a hit like this. Even better for Paramount, which has only released one live action pic since May (Paranormal Activity 4), is the fact that Flight cost only $31M. “That was the ground rule that everyone bought into.” Paramount gave it a release pattern similar to its 2010′s The Fighter which had a similar budget, dark story and awards chatter. As for marketing, Paramount launched the Flight trailer in June on Prometheus. “Our strategy was to aim our efforts at sophisticated moviegoers and have a strong push for men and African Americans,” a studio exec explains to me. Flight campaign kicked off for all four presidential debates’ TV coverage. That early awareness stunt led to an exclusive promotion on CBS. A heavy African-American push was made on BET, VH1 and urban radio) as well as VH1′s Basketball Wives whose reality cast screened the film and waxed enthusiastically about Denzel in a promotional spot. Of course there were big sports buys and lots of media. Flight had its world premiere Closing Night of the New York Film Festival on October 14th. Then Paramount and EPIX hosted an encore presentation in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles with audiences on the West Coast participating in a Q&A with Zemeckis, Washington, Don Cheadle, and John Goodman. Denzel appeared on Letterman, and Zemeckis on Fallon, for the first time those shows ever broadcast without an audience. Zemeckis also traveled the festival circuit (Chicago International Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival). Online, Paramount utilized a Twitter Promoted Trend, reaching 39M unique users in one day then added heavy African American targeting.

With just a 15% drop in its 4th weekend, Ben Afflecks Oscar-buzzed Argo from Warner Bros was mixing it up for #3 and #4 with Universal’s The Man With The Iron Fists (1,868 theaters) whose meh reviews helped sink its debut to a disappointing $8.2M this weekend. But that’s a more optimistic number than other studios’ $7.6M. Pic ended up with only a ‘C+’ CinemaScore which hurt word of mouth: Saturday’s gross was flat from Friday’s. Featuring MMA personality Cung Le, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu and marking the directorial debut of RZA, he co-wrote with Eli Roth who also produced. But, c’mon, how many times have we seen hip hop artists crash and burn on their big screen projects? But not for lack of trying. ‘Presented by’ Quentin Tarantino, he was the film’s ‘creative godfather’ and marketed the fighting pic directly to the UFC homepage right in the wheelhouse of its target demo. Apparently, that’s a tiny number. Tracking was strongest with older males and ethnic moviegoers; exit polling showed the audience was 64% male vs. 36% female, and 47% aged 30 years and older vs. 53% under age 30. But grosses were on the low range of expectations. Good thing the pic cost only $15M.  Universal explains it gave RZA a chance based on his lifelong kung fu fascination after he served as an on-set apprentice to several filmmakers over the years. The studio calls it “a low-risk project that is more a labor of love for an arriving new film artist than a potential big moneymaker for the studio.” Strike Entertainment’s Marc Abraham and Eric Newman produced. On November 12th, Universal will begin rolling out the film out internationally where it might perform better. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Russell Crowe In ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’

By | Thursday October 18, 2012 @ 11:06am PDT
Mike Fleming

Russell Crowe is going in all different directions as he reengages in film starring roles. He’s playing Noah for Darren Aronofsky, is a corrupt ruthless mayor in Broken City and sings as Javert in Les Miserables. Perhaps no Crowe choice left people scratching their heads more than The Man With The Iron Fists, a kung-fu flick for Universal that stars RZA. I’m always hoping to see Crowe play characters as memorable as Bud White in L.A. Confidential, or Maximus in Gladiator, or Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider or John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. His turn as Jack Knife in Iron Fists seems more in line with his role in The Quick And The Dead, but it is certainly good to see Crowe slimming down and going after it again. There are few actors who bring such intensity and testosterone to the screen.

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’

By | Monday October 15, 2012 @ 3:09pm PDT

Here’s a spot for The Man With The Iron Fists, the kung fu actioner featuring Cung Le (highlighed here), RZA, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. It appeared today on the UFC homepage — right in the wheelhouse of the fighting pic’s target demo. Quentin Tarantino is presenting the pic, which RZA co-wrote with Eli Roth and directed. Universal releases it November 2.

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Red Band Trailer: ‘Man With The Iron Fists’

By | Friday August 17, 2012 @ 3:21pm PDT

Highly stylized The Man With The Iron Fists is directed by RZA who also stars and co-wrote with Eli Roth. “Presented by” Quentin Tarantino, the movie also features Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu as well as Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu and Pam Grier. Here’s the latest red-band trailer for the November 2 release from Universal:

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Comic-Con: Reginald Hudlin & RZA Team Up For Comic-Based Film Projects

By | Thursday July 12, 2012 @ 5:14pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Sources tell Deadline that the Django Unchained producer and The Man With The Iron Fists director/star last night finalized an arrangement to work together on a series of projects. While the projects are unnamed as of yet, the plan is for the duo to direct and produce a series of comic-related projects and possibly create their own company. At least one of those projects could be in the superhero genre, Deadline is told, based on Hudlin’s comic book past. The former BET President and House Party director wrote The Black Panther series for Marvel from 2005 to 2008.  The Black Panther, a modern day African chief and past Avengers member in the Marvel universe, has been rumored repeatedly as a possible upcoming feature as Marvel expands its successful onscreen properties. Hip hop star RZA’s feature directorial debut The Man With The Iron Fists was given a November 2 release date by Universal Pictures today. The martial arts film, shot in China, was produced by Quentin Tarantino from a script by Eli Roth and RZA. The former Wu-Tang Clan frontman took center stage on both sides of the camera in the film, which co-stars Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu and Pam Grier among others. RZA is repped by ICM Partners … Read More »

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Universal Dates Tarantino/RZA/Roth/Crowe’s ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’

By | Thursday July 12, 2012 @ 12:22pm PDT

Universal Pictures said today it will release The Man With The Iron Fists on Friday, November 2nd of this year. Produced by Quentin Tarantino and others, the stylized action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics is directed by RZA from a script by Eli Roth who’s also producing. RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang Clan and as one of hip-hop’s most dominant figures, is making his debut as a big-screen helmer, co-writer and leading man with cast including Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu as well as Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu and Pam Grier.

Related: Eli Roth In Talks To Direct Russell Crowe As Dracula In Warner Bros’ Thriller ‘Harker’

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’

By | Thursday June 28, 2012 @ 5:10pm PDT

Universal Pictures just sent Deadline this trailer with the description “Quentin Tarantino presents an action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics as interpreted by his longtime collaborators RZA and Eli Roth.” RZA makes his debut as feature director and leading man. Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu also star in “the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all.” Release date has not been scheduled.

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