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‘Dolphin Tale’ Leaps ‘Moneyball’ To #1 But New Pics Weak: ’50/50′ #4, ‘Courageous’ #5, ‘Dream House’ #6, ‘What’s Your Number?’ #8

SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Still on vacation in a different time zone. That’s why I’m overdue on some autopsy reports I promised and haven’t yet delivered. I’ll release them Sunday. My sincerest apologies. (Unfortunately, I can’t get used to a definition of ‘time off’ that still makes me toil almost 24/7.) That said, the newest numbers have changed the Top 10 order yet again. (It was another confused weekend like the last one!) This crop of four freshmen failed to make much of an impression with moviegoers because holdovers still ruled the North American box office. But overall the weekend is up +10% from last year:

1. Dolphin Tale (Alcon, Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,515 Theaters]
Friday $3.4M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $14.2M (-26%), Estimated Cume $37.5M

Terrific hold as Alcon uncorks another feel good favorite. Dolphin Tale was up 88% from Friday night thanks to the saturday matinee bump. Now it’s placing above both films it trailed last week. But the cume is still lagging. And DreamWorks Animation/Paramount just pushed up the release of Puss ‘N’ Boots to October 28th — which will deprive Dolphin Tale of an extra week of alone time with families.

2. Moneyball (Sony) Week 2 [2,993 Theaters]
Friday $3.8M, Saturday $5.5M, Weekend $12.5M (-36%), Estimated Cume $38.4M

Excellent hold especially for a 2-quadrant pic. But Moneyball‘s cume needs more beer and peanuts to fatten.

3. Lion King 3D (Disney) Week 3 [2,340 Theaters]
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $4.4M, Weekend $11M, Estimated Cume $79.6M

Very impressive, still, for this juiced up toon as all releases pass Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo to become the 4th highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide. Snarked a rival studio exec, “I could have told them about that 2-weeks-only crap…” By the way, remind me to tell you about the months of meetings which Disney’s Frankeneisner led over the story problems posed by ‘lion cub incest’ for the sequel was released. Only on Dopey Drive…

4. 50/50 (Summit/Mandate) NEW [2,458 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $3.6M, Weekend $8.8M

The first thing to ponder about this male Terms Of Endearment is that James McAvoy was supposed to play the guy with cancer. Instead, Joseph Gordon-Levitt came in at the last minute. Now it’s hard to imagine this truthful dramedy starring anyone else. Levitt is really becoming one of the most interesting young actors around even if he’s not box office — yet. Summit Entertainment and Mandate Pictures gave 50/50 a surprisingly wide release this weekend: in the old days this pic would have been platformed so audiences could “find” it. But these days, with the skyrocketing costs of marketing, there’s simply no time or purpose to doing that anymore. (“It was always envisioned as a wide release picture as opposed to platform because of its playability,” an insider tells me.) Problem is, Summit thought the film would open around the low double-digits. Nope, despite an ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences. Summit says audience ratings & definite recommends were about 20 points above the norm, one of the
highest ever in the studio’s exit polling. More females (54%) came than males (46%). In terms of age demos: 83% were between the target audience of 18-49, 35% under 25, 57% under 30, 43% over 30. Studio sources claim the film’s negative cost is only $8 million. The question now is whether strong word of mouth will allow this pic to play for several weeks and end up with a decent cume.

As you must know by now, the screenwriter Will Reiser based the story in part on his own life, and filmmaker Jonathan Levine promoted not only the film and but also cancer awareness. Pre-release, 50/50 was tracking well with both male and females and with older and younger audiences showing interest. But the really downer disease just kept audiences away despite partnerships with national support groups like Stand Up To Cancer and Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong as well as regional orgs. Marketing-wise, the film at first was positioned as a broad Seth Rogen comedy (not another one!). But then the studio imbued it with the feel of a specialty film. TV buys focused on younger movie-goers first and then expanded to older males and females based on the evolved positioning. Summit began an extensive word-of-mouth screening program in early August and premiered it at the Toronto Film Festival to a standing ovation. Hey, don’t complain about Hollywood’s crappy movies if you won’t support the quality ones. I’m truly disappointed that this pic didn’t do better. It deserves to be seen.

5. Courageous (Sony) NEW [1,161 Theaters]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $3.2M, Weekend $8.8M

This movie was Fireproof 2 — only substitute fatherhood problems for marriage woes, and law enforcement officers for firefighters. Like most of these faith-based films, Sherwood Pictures’ Courageous was front-loaded because of pre-sales and church groups bussed to theaters. But Sony initially expected a better opening weekend even though it was playing in only half as many locations as the other major studio releases. Still, it made the best per-screen average and rated a rare ‘A+’ CinemaScore across the board with men and women of all ages. Opening weekend exits show the audience was fairly balanced in gender (53% was female) and the reach had a slightly older skew (77% were aged 25+). These pics cost next-to-nuthin’ — Courageous made back its $2 million production budget in its first day of release. Sherwood Pictures is based in Albany, Georgia, where moviemaking ministry Sherwood Baptist Church churns out these inspirational films aimed at Christians. Sony Pictures’s secular TV media was concentrated in outlets like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Hallmark Channel, TLC, Lifetime, and TV Land as well as more conservative-leaning outlets ranging from Fox News, CMT to Christian Broadcasting Network and Gospel Music Channel. The marketing budget was “modest and grassroots’. Like Fireproof (2008), Facing The Giants (2006), Flywheel (2003), the co-writers were Stephen Kendrick, who also produced, and Alex Kendrick, who also directed. They, along with producers Michael Catt and Jim McBride together make every movie decision at Sherwood where the four-man team also serve as pastors of the church. Fireproof opened as the No. 4 film in the nation this same time of year, eventually grossing $33 million theatrically. But it also starred former TV teen hearthrob Kirk Cameron, and Courageous was cast with unknowns.

6. Dream House (Morgan Creek/Universal) NEW [2,661 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.2M

Jim Robinson’s Morgan Creek shows yet again that it can’t make or market a movie to save its life. It can’t even handle publicity: MC’s morons apparently can’t find my email address because I’ve received nada from them about this opener. Then again the pic wasn’t screened in advance for critics — always an indicator of a stinker. Don’t blame Universal: it was just distributing Dream House. Morgan Creek paid for and did everything else. Badly. Directed by 6-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz, they all must have needed the payday because they’re way too major to do this critically-panned drivel from a script credited to David Loucka. Sheridan lived to regret it because he and the producers fought over final cut. No wonder none of the major stars publicized the pic. (FYI, Craig and Weisz met on location and later married…) Seriously, this derivative haunted house tale gives new meaning to the definition of derivative. Worst were those TV ads that stole scenes from The Shining. I think it’s high time that the distrusted and disliked Robinson switches professions and starts selling used cars instead of used movies.

7. Abduction (Lionsgate) Week 2 [3,118 Theaters]
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.5M, Weekend $5.6M (-48%), Estimated Cume $19.1M

You’ll be reading my mea culpa Sunday when I release my long autopsy report on this domestic bomb. (Though it’s foreign rollout is better so far.)

8. What’s Your Number? (Fox) NEW [3,002 Theaters]
Friday $2M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.6M

Anna Faris is the modern-day Goldie Hawn: it’s impossible not to like her. Unless you put her in a really lousy R-rated New Regency fully-financed movie like this that Fox surrounded with a muddled marketing campaign vascillating between a female-empowerment pic and a run-of-the-mill rom-com. Problem is, daters haven’t talked about their “number” since the mid-1980s when sexually-transmitted diseases were scaring the bejesus out of singles. Audiences gave What’s Your Number? a ‘B’ CinemaScore. Pic cost only $20M. Its cost to Anna’s career may be more. (I’d like to see Faris in that remake of Hawn’s Private Benjamin she was supposed to do for New Line. It earned Goldie a Best Actress Oscar nom.) Directed by Mark Mylod and produced by Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson with screenplay credit given to Gabrielle Allan & Jennifer Crittenden, based on the book 20 Times A Lady by Karyn Bosnak.

9. Contagion (Warner Bros) Week 4 [2,744 Theaters]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5M, Estimated Cume $64.6M

Let’s just say I spent my first day of vacation getting three kinds of flu shots after seeing this movie.

10. Killer Elite (Open Road) Week 2 [2,986 Theaters]
Friday $1.5M (-57%), Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $4.8M, Estimated Cume $17.4M

I’m not letting Open Road off the hook on this dead fish, either. Autopsy report coming Sunday, too.

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Beau Flynn Makes New First-Look Producing Deal At New Line

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After splitting up with Contrafilm partner Tripp Vinson in June following a decade-long partnership, Beau Flynn has formed a new company, Flynn Picture Co. He hasn’t strayed far from home. Flynn has made a two-year, non-exclusive, first-look producing deal with Toby Emmerich and New Line Cinema, which was home to Contrafilm for over seven years. Flynn is in the process of staffing up and has taken new office space in Hollywood. Among the pictures he’s producing: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson and Michael Caine for New Line and Warner Bros; Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton for Paramount; and the Anna Faris-Chris Evans-starrer What’s Your Number, the Fox/New Regency comedy that will be released Sept. 30. He’s also got the long-gestating Chris Hemsworth-starrer Red Dawn, which was made by MGM but which is closing on a new distribution deal.

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