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International Box Office Update: Iron Man No. 1 In 2013 With $1.2B Global Take, Best Gross for Marvel/Walt Disney Studios which Tops $3B For First Time; Fox International Down 14% In 2013 But Still Grosses $2.33B; ‘Hunger Games’ Heading Over $400M

Iron-Man-3UPDATE, 1:54 PM: surpassing $3B (specifically $3.013B) for the first time in its history. Bouyed by the Marvel franchise Iron Man 3 which took in $806.3M (almost double of its domestic take), the animated Monsters University with $476.4M, and Thor: The Dark World with $4.26M, Frozen which bowed late in the year and has racked up $267.3M in only six weeks’ time, and Oz The Great and Powerful ($258.4M), Disney has emerged as No. 2 in overall market share worldwide, under Warner Bros. Iron Man 3 was the number one film in the marketplace internationally and if you add in its domestic gross of $409M, it was a cash cow of $1.215B and the highest grossing film of 2013. It is also the No 5 film of all time globally. Its opening alone was $174M this summer. Universal International’s hit of the year was Despicable Me 2 which grossed $553.2M which helped rocket the studios’ total international cume to $2.258B. The animated franchise grossed a total of $921M globally for the studio. The other titles helping to push Universal into the record books was Fast and Furious 6 which grossed a total of $550M and About Time which has pulled in $65.9M in foreign territories. Read More »

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Disney Sets New Global Box Office Record

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 10:23am PST

Related: ‘Thor: The Dark World’ Scores Superhuman $109M Overseas, Boosts Disney To Another All-Time Int’l Record

BURBANK, Calif. – November 12, 2013 – Today, The Walt Disney Studios will break its previous global box office record of $3.791 billion, set in 2010.

“With incredible results from our Marvel, Disney and Pixar brands, this is a phenomenal achievement and we still have seven weeks and three exciting films to go this year,” said Alan Bergman, president, The Walt Disney Studios. “What all of our films have in common is not only quality but great characters and universal stories that connect with people around the world, which is so important to us.”

In July, Disney was the first studio to reach the $1 billion domestic box office milestone for the year, a threshold it has achieved for eight consecutive years. In August, in record time, Disney reached the $2 billion international box office threshold for the fourth year in a row, and in early November the studio surpassed its previous all-time international box office record of $2.302 billion, also set in 2010.

The announcement comes as Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues to dominate the global box office. The film opened domestically November 8 with $85.7 million and has earned $348.5M million worldwide since beginning its international rollout October 30.

Read More »

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Hollywood Pics Pack UK Soundstages As Space Crunch Starts To Squeeze

Next year, Bond 24 and Star Wars: Episode VII will be shooting Walther PPKs and brandishing light sabers at Pinewood Studios outside London. That’s a lovely image for fans, and Pinewood bean-counters. But with Hollywood increasingly queueing up to shoot in Britain, and Pinewood’s application for expansion having been thwarted twice in the past year, a capacity crunch is coming to the UK at light speed — and some potential big-ticket tenants already have been turned away.

Among the films currently shooting at Pinewood are frequent client Disney’s Cinderella, QED and Sony’s Fury, and Fox’s Exodus. The new Star Wars installment is settling into its offices on the lot ahead of shooting in early 2014. Over at nearby Shepperton, Marvel currently has Guardians Of The Galaxy, with The Avengers 2 gearing up. Also there is Disney’s Into The Woods. Leavesden, the Warner Bros facility the studio acquired in 2010 and in which it invested £100M after shooting all eight Harry Potter movies there, is hosting Ron Howard’s Heart Of The Sea and Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The J.K. Rowling-penned Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is expected to shoot there when it goes. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

By | Thursday July 11, 2013 @ 10:18am PDT

Yesterday we got the first image of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks. Today, we get the first trailer. Hanks plays Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson plays prickly Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, in the true story of how the ultimate classic made it to the screen. John Lee Hancock directs the picture that also stars Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Baker. Saving Mr. Banks goes out via Disney on December 13 in limited release and goes wide on December 20.

Trailer: Saving Mr. Banks on Disney Video

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DreamWorks’ ‘Fifth Estate’ Release Date Shifts Month; ‘Delivery Man’ Moved To Nov.

By | Monday May 20, 2013 @ 6:21pm PDT

Disney announced today that the release date for DreamWorks’ Wikileaks movie The Fifth Estate has moved to October 11, more than a month earlier than its initial November 15 date. And Delivery Man has moved to November 22 from its initial date of October 4. With the shift, Fifth Estate avoids Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, Fox’s thriller The Counselor and Universal’s comedy/drama The Best Man Holiday and faces Sony/Columbia’s drama Captain Phillips, Fox’s horror pic Haunts and Film District’s thriller Old BoyDelivery Man now goes up against Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Paramount’s Nebraska.

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‘The Avengers’ Marketing Chiefs Assemble For New Golden Trailers Nod

By | Wednesday May 1, 2013 @ 5:38pm PDT

Avengers, Golden Trailer AwardsIf your trophy show is going to inaugurate its first new category since the Clinton administration, not a bad idea to dole it out to the third-biggest film of all time. Deadline has learned exclusively that the Golden Trailer Awards will lay its spanking-new Top of the Box Office prize for the year’s top-grossing film on the marketing superheroes behind Disney/Marvel’s superflick The Avengers. The trailer-topped statuette will go to Walt Disney Studios’ Asad Ayaz, SVP Marketing, Live Action and Marvel, and John “Ibby” Ibsen, SVP Creative Film Services. While saving the world, The Avengers made off with $1.51B worldwide last year, beating the No. 2 title, Sony’s Skyfall, by more than $400M. The 14th annual Golden Trailers — which honor achievement in movie marketing, including film trailers, posters and TV spots — will be handed out Friday at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Rob Schneider and Aisha Tyler are your hosts.

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CinemaCon: Disney’s Vegas Act Includes Johnny Depp And ‘Lone Ranger’ Footage

Pete Hammond

Alan Horn today made his CinemaCon debut in his new capacity as Chairman of Walt Disney Studios hosting a long three hour presentation that was a slide show highlighting the studio’s entire slate for the next two years. It included Johnny Depp and a first look at 20 minutes of new footage plus a trailer premiere from Disney’s expensive summer western The Lone RangerFor Marvel, Horn said Robert Downey Jr really delivers in the May 3 release of Iron Man 3 – but not about the ticketing dispute which Deadline scooped between Disney and some some theater chains like AMC. Horn also hyped the November 8th release of the sequel Thor: The Dark World, plugged Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014), and mentioned future offerings Guardians Of The Galaxy, Antman and the sequel The Avengers 2. For Pixar, he gushed about their success rate and quoted from Pixar chief John Lasseter: “Quality is the best business play. I always give him credit for that phrase.” Pixar’s Monsters Inc sequel Monsters University was shown in its entirety with director Don Scanlon telling exhibitors, ”You are one of the very first audiences to see it.” Judging from the reaction during the screening, they seemed to like it. Horn intro’ed toons like Pixar’s The Read More »

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UPDATE: Disney Confirms Layoffs At Studio Following Internal Review

By | Wednesday April 10, 2013 @ 9:25am PDT

UPDATE, 9:25 AM: Disney has just released a statement confirming our scoop about job cuts at Walt Disney Studios, which are now underway.

As part of an ongoing review to ensure that the Studios’ operational structure and economics align with the demands of the current marketplace, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our staffing levels in several divisions of the Studio.

PREVIOUS, MONDAY AM: Disney shares are trading around their all-time high. But Wednesday looks like the day Disney will drop the ax for its expected layoffs. I have learned that about 150 people at Walt Disney Studios will receive pink slips. Sources say the cuts will come from across all of Disney Studios businesses, including the music and NYC-based theatre departments. At this point it looks like a one-time round of layoffs, but an overall reorganization affecting other divisions is planned for later this year and that could include more cuts. They’re coming as a result of an internal review ordered late last year by CEO Bob Iger and CFO Jay Rasulo to pinpoint superfluous positions and increase efficiency. But the company is already doing well with mega-blockbusters including The Avengers. Net profits for the fiscal year that ended in September increased 18% to $5.7 billion on revenues of $42.3 billion.

Related: Disney Fiscal Q1 Earnings & Revenues Beat Expectations Read More »

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Disney Studios Ups Jamie Voris To Chief Technology Officer

By | Tuesday November 6, 2012 @ 8:44am PST

BURBANK, Calif. – November 6, 2012 – Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios, announced that Jamie Voris has been promoted to Chief Technology Officer for the Studio, reporting to Alan Bergman, President, The Walt Disney Studios. Effective immediately, Jamie will oversee the development and implementation of technology strategies and innovations that broadly support The Walt Disney Studios and its business objectives.

Read More »

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Disney Passing $1B Domestic Box Office

By | Sunday July 8, 2012 @ 8:40am PDT

Disney The benchmark was helped considerably by mega-blockbuster Marvel’s The Avengers and its domestic haul of $611.1M. So Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures will pass $1 billion in domestic gross today, becoming the first studio to reach the milestone this year. This is the fastest Disney has ever reached the billion dollar mark (188 days), beating the previous studio record of 210 days set in 2010. This also marks the 16th time in the last 19 years (and the last 7 years in a row) that Disney has acheived this.

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Alan Horn Named Disney Studios Chief

By | Thursday May 31, 2012 @ 12:17pm PDT

UPDATE: This statement from Warner Bros chairman and CEO Barry Meyer just came across:

“Alan was a terrific partner in every sense of the word,” said Barry Meyer, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. “He has a profound understanding of the filmmaking process as well as the ability to bridge the creative and business sides of a studio. He’s been a part of some of the most popular films produced in the last decade, and we’re very happy for him. All of his colleagues at Warner Bros. wish him the best.”

BURBANK, Calif. – May 31, 2012 – Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced today that Alan Horn has been named Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios effective June 11. Horn will oversee worldwide operations for The Walt Disney Studios including production, distribution and marketing for live-action and animated films from Disney, Pixar and Marvel, as well as marketing and distribution for DreamWorks Studios films released under the Touchstone Pictures banner. Disney’s music and theatrical divisions will also report to Horn.

Horn has been a prominent figure in the film and television industry overseeing creative executive teams responsible for some of the world’s most successful entertainment properties including the Harry Potter film franchise and the hit television series Seinfeld among others.

“Alan not only has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in the business, he has a true appreciation of movie making as both an art and a business,” said Iger. “He’s earned the respect of the industry for driving tremendous, sustained creative and financial success, and is also known and admired for his impeccable taste and integrity. He brings all of this to his new role leading our studio group, and I truly look forward to working with him.”

“I’m incredibly excited about joining The Walt Disney Company, one of the most iconic and beloved entertainment companies in the world,” said Horn. “I love the motion picture business and look forward to making a contribution as part of Bob Iger’s team working closely with the dedicated and talented group at the studio.”

Horn was most recently President and COO of Warner Bros. Entertainment where he had oversight of the Studios’ theatrical and home entertainment operations, including the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Premiere (direct-to-platform production), Warner Bros. Theatrical Ventures (live stage) and Warner Home Video. During his 12 year tenure, Warner Bros. Studios was the global box office leader seven times.

Read More »

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Disney CEO Wants Studio To Address “Inconsistent” Results In Live-Action Films

By | Wednesday May 30, 2012 @ 10:36am PDT

Disney MoviesNo word yet from Bob Iger about who might run Walt Disney Studios after Rich Ross was pushed aside as chairman last month. But the CEO told the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference today that his film strategy is “clear.” It includes two animated films a year, one from Pixar and the other from Disney. Soon it could increase to two Pixars and one Disney. In addition, “we intend to make two Marvel films a year and that slate is well defined” for the next few years. Iger says that while “we’ve got a business that has done well on the animated and Marvel front,” the live-action films “have been inconsistent, this year in particular” with a disaster in John Carter and mega-hit with The Avengers. He’ll want the studio’s new management to address that. But Iger’s still keeping expectations modest. “We’re not in the business of making 24 films a year, or more than that.”

Related: Why Rich Ross Was Fired At Disney: What Does It Say About Bob Iger’s Leadership?

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Disney Struts Its Stuff To Exhibitors: CinemaCon

By | Wednesday April 25, 2012 @ 11:10am PDT
Pete Hammond

Despite being forced to face theater owners in the wake of Rich Ross’ exit last week, Disney pulled out their usual showmanship and unveiled a slate of high-profile movies. The studio didn’t miss a beat during their 2 1/2-hour CinemaCon presentation Tuesday night. In fact, the whole thing was similar to what the studio did in August at D23 in Anaheim. The only thing missing was the host — Ross. On Tuesday, it was distribution EVP Dave Hollis who handled the duties, deftly promoting the Disney “brands” with equal enthusiasm for their association with Marvel, DreamWorks and Pixar in addtion to the studio’s home-grown product. In fact, I lost count over how many times the phrase “we’re excited” was used by all of Tuesday’s participants in describing the future films from the Mouse House. And even though Hollis took time to highlight Disney’s recent slate, there was no mention at all of John Carter (the film that prompted a $200 million writedown for the company) — and quite frankly the Caesars Palace Colisseum exhibitor crowd didn’t seem to care. They were hyped that, studio upheaval or not, things were business as usual.

Related: Pixar Sets 3 Original Toons; Disney Confirms ‘Muppets 2

In addition to making news with some formal film announcements — like the official “green” light given to The Muppets II via a funny appearance from Kermit (riding in on a plywood horse as The Lone Ranger) and Miss Piggy both jockeying to be cast in upcoming Disney tentpoles — each division got their turn to show off its stuff.

The show began with an extended 3D clip of blockbuster-in-waiting The Avengerswhich Hollis said was opening in 10 markets today before hitting North America on May 4. Marvel’s Kevin Feige came out for a brief rundown of future Marvel/Disney projects including Thor 2, set for November 2013; Iron Man 3, with new director Shane Black, scheduled for May 2013; and Captain America hitting theaters on April 4, 2014. Read More »

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Why Rich Ross Was Fired At Disney: What Does It Say About Bob Iger’s Leadership?


“It was a very difficult decision. Very. But his team lost faith in him. The town, as you know, never wanted him to succeed. And it was just the wrong fit,” a Disney insider tells me, explaining Walt Disney President/CEO Bob Iger’s decision announced today to fire Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross. Iger began discussions several weeks ago with Ross to end his tenure. But, after 2 1/2 years in the job, Ross’ own slate of movies had not even bowed: Peter Hedge’s The Odd Life Of Timothy Green (August 15th), Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (October 5th), Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful (March 8th, 2013), Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp under the Jerry Bruckheimer banner (May 31st, 2013), Maleficent (March 14th, 2014) starring Angelina Jolie. The rest of Disney’s release slate consist of Pixar/Walt Disney Animation, Marvel, and DreamWorks pics. Disney strenuously denies there are any problems with Ross’ upcoming films. Instead, insiders strenuously complain about Ross’ personality:

“He had an ‘awareness’ issue,” a Disney source explains to me. “Sometimes people, when they’re put in a different place, they manage it well. And sometimes they don’t. It has nothing to do with the slate of his upcoming films. They’re fine. It’s just about leadership and management. Rich didn’t make the transition. He got caught up in the trappings of the job rather than the specifics. What it became about was we saw him making stupid mistakes. Focusing on things that were not important like parties and celebrities. People that were doing business with us in the film business not only internally but externally were complaining that they were having a hard time doing business with him.”

Rare indeed is the movie mogul who isn’t arrogant. But as much as Ross’ style and substance were the problems, and of his own making, so was his situation, which wasn’t. Because the Walt Disney Studios has become unmanageable. Among Ross’ most vocal detractors were Disney’s mega-shareholder Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Pixar/Walt Disney Animation Studios  chief creative officer and mega-exec John Lasseter, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and DreamWorks mega-filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. The fact is that these powerful personalities — oh, hell, let’s call them what they are: major-league pricks — have come together in one place making so many demands on the parent studio that it’s hard for anyone who finds himself nominally in charge able to keep them all satisfied. Interestingly, Ross’ predecessor, the famously people-pleasing Dick Cook, did for a time and maybe could have continued well into the future. But Iger fired him, too.

Ross arrived at a watershed time for the studio: shortly after Iger entered into the 2009 deal with Marvel. The comic book, TV, and film entertainment company’s Israeli owner Ike Perlmutter is not just a notoriously tough custumer but a budget-obsessed megalomaniac besides a recluse. He has taken control of Disney’s consumer products division already (firing here, fixing there), and my sources tell me he is making Iger’s life miserable with back-seat managing of everything, especially Walt Disney Studios. (“Iger has real problems with Ike. That’s the real story,” one of my insiders tells me. ”Bob thought he could handle him. But Ike is uncharmable.”) Lasseter had the full force of then mega-stockholder Steve Jobs behind him, and singlehandedly caused the film studio to back the loser live action picture John Carter. DreamWorks, of course, drove two Universal and Paramount crazy with their constant complaining before it started to give Disney the same mistreatment beginning in 2009 and continuing through War Horse. Meanwhile, Jerry Bruckheimer’s films were falling out of favor at the box office. Now Bruckheimer is pissed that, after all the hits he’s delivered in the past, under The Lone Ranger‘s ‘favored nation’ deal negotiated with the studio to deflate a bloated budget, he (+ Depp + Verbinski) get paid big bucks only when Disney recoups.

And then there is Iger himself, infamous for firing top executives just when they’re about to turn their divisions around. Read More »

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Related: Why Rich Ross Was Fired At Disney: But Does This Say More About Bob Iger’s Leadership?

BREAKING… Below is what fired Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross just sent to his staff, followed by a statement from Disney Chairman Bob Iger. But make no mistake about it: Ross did not simply decide to step down – he was fired. He was named Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios on October 5, 2009. Previously, he’d been the very successful President of Disney Channels Worldwide overseeing global hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. His ouster now ends his 15+ year Disney career which included one of the most public and worst film failures in Hollywood — John Carter, a $200M writedown for the Walt Disney Co:

Disney Rich Ross FiredFor the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.

I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else.  But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me.  For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.

It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.


Statement from Bob Iger, Chairman/CEO, Walt Disney Co

Bob Iger StatementFor more than a decade, Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching  franchises that generate value across our entire company. 

Read More »

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Investors Assess The Damage From Disney’s ‘John Carter’ Debacle

By | Monday March 19, 2012 @ 3:37pm PDT

Disney John CarterDisney‘s $200M write down for John Carter appears to be the biggest loss to date for a single film — exceeding the inflation-adjusted $147M deficit from Cutthroat Island, the 1995 film that starred Geena Davis and proved to be the last straw for Carolco Pictures which went out of business. But investors are just beginning to wrap their minds around how serious the debacle is for Disney. The loss far exceeds analyst forecasts of about $100M to $150M. John Carter Write DownOn Wednesday, Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible said that “the impairment may not be as bad as feared”: He estimated $53M, with $180M only in a “worst case scenario.” Miller Tabak & Co analyst David Joyce also was surprised by Disney’s new figures. He expected the Studio unit to lose about $37M in the current quarter; Disney now says the loss could go as high as $120M. Joyce just shaved 2 cents off his earnings forecast for the fiscal year that ends in September, bringing it down to $2.99. While the Street is clearly disappointed, it isn’t stunned. Disney shares are down less than 1% in after-hours trading. At the end of the day, the Studio just accounts for 16% of the company’s revenues and 7% of its profits. Proving that hope springs eternal, Joyce says he believes “investors will look forward to the summer franchise … Read More »

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$101.2M Worldwide: But ‘John Carter’s $30.6M Weak Domestic Weekend Lags #1 ‘The Lorax’; Eddie Murphy Bombs Again

By | Sunday March 11, 2012 @ 11:24am PDT

March 9-11 Weekend Actuals

1. The Lorax (Illumination/Universal) Week 2 [3,746 Theaters] PG
Friday $9.6M, Saturday $17.9M, Sunday $11.4M, Weekend $38.8M (-45%), Cume $121.7M

2. John Carter (Disney) NEW [3,749 Theaters] PG13
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $12.3M, Sunday $8M, Weekend $30.2M

3. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,055 Theaters] R
Friday $4M, Saturday $4.4M, Sunday $2.7M, Weekend $11.1M (-47%), Cume $39.7M

4. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 3 [2,951 Theaters] R
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.1M, Sunday $1.9M, Weekend $7M (-49%), Cume $56.1M

5. Silent House (LD Entertainment/Open Road) NEW [2,124 Theaters] R
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $2.7M, Sunday $1.3M, Weekend $6.7M

6. A Thousand Words (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [1,890 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.7M, Sunday $1.5M, Weekend $6.2M

7. Safe House (Universal) Week 5 [2,144 Theaters] R
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Sunday $1.2M, Weekend $4.8M (-35%), Cume $115.6M

8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [2,478 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $866K, Weekend $3.8M (-36%), Cume $117.5M

9. This Means War (Fox) Week 4 [1,949 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $846K Weekend $3.8M (-33%), Cume $46.9M

10. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,525 Theaters] PG
Friday $874K, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $1M, Weekend $3.6M (-45%), Cume $90.6M

9TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM:  Disney just released international figures from 55 territories, representing about 80% of the foreign market where John Carter was released this weekend. It opened to $70.6M. Combined with its domestic cume, the 3D sci-fi epic has now made $101.2M. “John Carter opened in Russia on March 8, and had the highest opening day in Russian cinema history and went on to be the #1 opening weekend of the year,” the studio said “John Carter was the #1 U.S. film in all of our major opened markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.” Globally, IMAX’s box office take this weekend was $9.5M, with Russia the standout market. (3D-crazy China opens March 16th.) IMAX accounted for 64% of North American business in 3D, or $5M, and its 289 domestic screens represented a disproportionate 17% of the film’s overall GBO. Exit studies confirmed that IMAX’s core audience of fanboys were the film’s most supportive audience.

8TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM:  So 2012 keeps posting strong box office, and this weekend’s $140M is up +8.6% over last year. Universal’s $70M-budget holdover Dr Suess’ The Lorax is a huge #1 again. But Disney’s 3D sci-fi newcomer John Carter finished a feeble #2 considering its whopping $250+M cost. Friday’s domestic box office numbers for director Andrew Stanton’s actioner came in even weaker than predicted but rival studios tell me the loincloth epic experienced an unexpected double-digit bounce on Saturday. Clearly word of mouth, like the ‘B+’ CinemaScore from audiences, is helping although reviews were decidedly mixed. Only Monday actuals will confirm whether Disney got its “miracle” and John Carter‘s North American box office opening this weekend had a ’3′ in front of it. But that still means a massive $100+M writeoff for the parent company if this dismal opening affects the new pic’s international fortunes. The studio’s Prince of Persia, for instance, opened similarly weak in North America, then made up its domestic deficit overseas. Disney made a gigantic worldwide day-and-date push for John Carter and says Russia was especially ”very strong”. “We have some good starts in Europe, with some softer than we hoped. A few Asian territories are strong where this type of film plays well,” an exec tells me.

To summarize: this flop is the result of a studio trying to indulge Pixar… Of an arrogant director who ignored everybody’s warnings that he was making a film too faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first novel in the Barsoom series “A Princess of Mars”… Of the failure of Dick Cook, and Rich Ross, and Bob Iger to rein in Stanton’s excessive ego or pull the plug on the movie’s bloated budget … Of really rotten marketing that failed to explain the significant or scope of the film’s Civil War-to-Mars story and character arcs and instead made the 3D movie look way as generic as its eventual title… Disagree all you want, but Hollywood is telling me that competent marketing could have drawn in women with the love story, or attracted younger males who weren’t fanboys of the source material. Instead the campaign was as rigid and confusing as the movie itself, not to mention that ’Before Star Wars, Before Avatar‘ tag line should have come at the start and not at the finish. But even more I think John Carter is a product of mogul wuss-ism as much as it is misplaced talent worship. More detail to come.

Disney wasn’t the only studio mourning. Eddie Murphy has yet another bomb in DreamWorks/Paramount’s A Thousand Words which received a ‘B-’ CinemaScore. “A Thousand Words is the last live action movie to be released by Paramount that was produced by Dreamworks,” the studio made a point of telling me. Directed by Brian Robbins, the PG-13 comedy (with a zero score on Rotten Tomatoes) demonstrates the tragic degree to which reviewers and audience have deserted Eddie Murphy. Paramount marketing targeted a 4 1/2-week campaign to reach all African American adult audiences and older women. But I found that the spots never explained the movie’s premise adequately. On the other hand, no one cared. The trailer debuted last November. Lots of TV and radio were bought for female-oriented programs as well as high-profile NBA games. A week-long BET promotion released this past week along with promotions on Lifetime and Comedy Central. Paramount also made use of Tyler Perry’s popularity by piggybacking with his cable show House Of Payne and movie opening Good Deeds. Individual TV shows included BET’s The Game, VH1′s Basketball Wives, E!’s Khloe and Lamar and Ice Loves Coco. There was a “best of” Eddie Murphy content piece, with slideshows and additional videos. “With the scale of all partners combined, these placements potentially reached an audience of over 97 million monthly unique visitors online,” an exec tells me. Eddie himself did an extensive publicity campaign for the pic. And yet the movie tanked. Where Eddie’s career goes from here will be debated. He should have hosted the Oscars. Now he really needs to go back into television…

Open Road made a point of telling me it was only distributing the R-rated horror pic Silent House as “a service deal for our friends at LD Entertainment (formerly known as Liddell Entertainment”. Embarassing that audiences gave the genre film Silent House the dreaded ‘F’ CinemaScore. The film was budgeted at under $1M and and acquired by LD Entertainment at Sundance 2011 where the indie remake of the acclaimed ultra-low-budget Uruguayan film La Casa Muda (based on true events) premiered. In 2003 directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau enjoyed huge success with the low-budget thriller Open Water. Genre movie fans take their horror seriously.

Here’s the Top 10:

1. The Lorax (Universal) Week 2 [3,746 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $19.3M, Weekend $39M, Cume $121.9M

2. John Carter (Disney) NEW [3,749 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $12.3M, Weekend $30.6M

3. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,055 Theaters]
Friday $3.9M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $11.5M, Cume $40.1M

4. Silent House (LD Entertainment/Open Road) NEW [1,890 Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $7M

5. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 3 [2,951 Theaters]
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7M, Cume $56.1M

6. A Thousand Words (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [2,124 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $6.3M

7. Safe House (Universal) Week 5 [2,144 Theaters]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $4.9M, Cume $115.7M

8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [2,478 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4M, Cume $117.6M

9. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,525 Theaters]
Friday $850K, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $3.6M, Cume $90.7M

10. This Means War (Fox) Week 4 [1,848 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $#1.6M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $46.8M
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‘John Carter’ Tracking Shockingly Soft: “Could Be Biggest Writeoff Of All Time”

By | Thursday February 16, 2012 @ 8:48am PST

John Carter Movie ReviewsHollywood is in a tizzy over the early tracking which just came online this morning for Walt Disney StudiosJohn Carter opening March 9th. “Not good. 2 unaided, 53 aware, 27 definitely interested, 3 first choice,” a senior exec at a rival studio emails me. Another writes me, ”It just came out. Women of all ages have flat out rejected the film. The tracking for John Carter is shocking for a film that cost over $250 million. This could be the biggest writeoff of all time.” I’m hearing figures in the neighborhood of $100 million. And the studio isn’t even trying to spin reports of the 3D pic’s bloated budget any more.

Now, to be fair, this very soft tracking has been expected. The studios’ private reports have shown for some time very soft awareness and very little wannasee. So what’s Disney’s explanation? “It’s the last leftover from the previous regime of Dick Cook,” an executive who works for successor Rich Ross reminds me. “We’re not running away from the movie. Our job is to sell it.” Then again, Cook also left Ross Alice In Wonderland to sell, too, along with other hits and a few misses. Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Ricky Strauss Picked As New Walt Disney Studios Worldwide Marketing Chief

By | Friday January 13, 2012 @ 10:31am PST

EXCLUSIVE: This was the coveted Head Of Worldwide Marketing job for Walt Disney Studios which MT Carney just exited and all of Hollywood was speculating on her replacement. I’ve learned the outside-the-box winner is Ricky Strauss, the 16-year Sony Pictures veteran and most recently Participant Media’s man behind The Help for DreamWorks and Disney. I expect an announcement to be made later today. The long-time motion picture production and marketing exec joined Participant Media in March 2005 as President. In his post, he presides over all of Participant’s feature film production, acquisition and marketing efforts, as well as its television and publishing activities. In 2011 besides The Help, Participant had Steven Soderbergh’s box office hit Contagion for Warner Bros. Prior to joining Participant, Ricky ran his own film and television production company, Ricochet Entertainment, where he executive  produced The Sweetest Thing, starring Cameron Diaz, among other projects. Before Ricochet, Ricky served as SVP of Production at Sony, where he developed and supervised film projects for the studio. From 1988 to 1997, he served as an advertising executive at Columbia Pictures, creating award winning ad campaigns for many feature films. Meanwhile, the LA Times engaged in a ridiculous speculation game and failed to include Strauss on a usual suspects list.

UPDATE: Here’s the official Disney announcement:

BURBANK, Calif. – January 13, 2012 – Rich Ross, Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, announced today that Ricky Strauss has been

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