Box Office Report for Feb. 3 - 5: Chronicle of a Box Office Take Foretold
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Buffeted by the Super Bowl mania, clement weather, a caucus in Nevada, and rather lame fare, weekend box office for Feb. 3-5 was adequate but uninspired, like its movies.
A kids' movie, Chronicle, from Fox, i.e., News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS) "won" the weekend the way the Giants beat the Patriots, by a few points. In second place was the The Woman in Black, from CBS Films, a subsidiary of CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), which had some interesting aspects to recommend it. Also-rans included The Grey, still holding strong from the previous week for Open Road Films, scion of Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and AMC Theatres. Another newbie, Big Miracle, from Universal, an offshoot of Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), made a weak showing.
Holding on in the lower top 10 spots were Underworld Awakening from Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment, hence of Sony; One For the Money from Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF); Red Tails from Fox, i.e., News Corp.; The Descendants from Fox Searchlight via Fox-New Corporation again; Man on a Ledge with its distributor, Summit Entertainment, still going head to head with its new boss, Lionsgate; and finally the arty tearjerker Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, from Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX).
First the numbers on the "losers."
Underworld Awakening added another $5.6 million to its coffers, declining 54.7% from its previous week, and dropping 442 of its screens. Roughly 200 people saw the film at each of its 2,636 screens over the weekend. Thus far it has made $94 million worldwide off of a $70 budget, with ancillary revenues still to come (and I'm still waiting for my inflatable Kate Beckinsale-Selene doll).
Lionsgate's One For the Money added $5.2 million, dropped 54.4% without losing any screens, and didn't seem to perceptively benefit from its collaboration with Groupon for cheaper tickets. Despite its star power in Katherine Heigl, if a movie looks like a TV show you'll probably wait to watch it on TV. Meanwhile, Man on a Ledge from Summit added even less ($4.5 million) off of a higher budget ($42 million). Together, the two movies have earned $34,368,000, arguably not enough to impress investors with Lionsgate's acumen in buying Summit recently. At the moment of this writing, Lionsgate has dropped from its comfortable $12 a share to $10.83. Meanwhile, The Hunger Games got a lot of eyes looking at its trailer during the Super Bowl, and the company still seems like a good investment – though its price-earnings ratio is a worrisome 54.15, up from 47 a few weeks ago. But more about Lionsgate in a subsequent post.
George Lucas might be disappointed at the reception of Red Tails, from Fox. A tale of the African-American fighter pilots in WWII, the film added only $5 million to decline by a further 51.8% and lose 226 screens for an accumulated $41.3 milliion (the film hasn't hit Europe or Asia yet). Frankly, it is easy to see why the film has declined steeply since its first weekend three weeks ago, probably due to "meh" word of mouth. Lucas may shield himself behind hints that studios are racist – he had to finance the long gestating project himself – but the film is childish in its politics and locker room boosterism, and in its clash of planes and boats makes it seem like a Star Wars beta.
Lucas's spirits might be lifted this Friday, however, when The Phantom Menace, the fourth or the first Star Wars movie, depending on how you are counting, is re-released in 3-D. Narratively, it is the weakest of the six films, and in parts badly cast, but its discreet parts may play better in the outreaching format.
Two best film Oscar nominations clung to the bottom of the top 10, The Descendants from Fox Searchlight, and Warner's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. After 12 weeks, The Descendants has gathered $65,523,000 domestic ($93.3 worldwide, almost the same as Underworld). This week it got another $4.6 million, dropping only 28.2% in attendance, perhaps by adding 37 screenings to its phalanx. In its seventh week, Loud has accumulated some $26 million, dropping 43.8% from last week and losing 125 screens. Its take was $3.9 million, which dissenters from its inclusion on the Oscar ballot might be gratified to view as a rejection of its sentimentality and derivative story. It's easy to think that its director, the British Stephen Daldry, is nominated whenever he makes a film so that the Academy can get into the Guinness Book of World Records for most consecutive best picture noms by one guy (all four of his films so far have been thus acknowledged).
Now for the big dogs.
Big Miracle is a longish if well-meaning tale about saving the whales. Based on a true event, and derived from Tom Rose's book Freeing the Whales, which told the tale of 1988's Operation Breakthrough, Big Miracle takes place in a small Alaska burg called Barrow where a news reporter (TV's John Krasinski) recruits an ex-girlfriend (Drew Barrymore) who is also a Greenpeace volunteer to help save a family of three gray whales ice-bound in the Arctic Circle. TV's Ted Danson is the film's oil baron villain who has a change of heart. Helmed by the uninspiring Ken Kwapis (Dunston Checks In, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, He's Just Not That Into You) the film made a soggy $8.5 for Universal on 2,129 (off of a $40 million budget). The Grey, meanwhile, also set near the Arctic Circle, held on for an additional $9.5 million in its third week, accumulating $34.7 million thus far just in the U.S.
The haunted house film The Woman in Black is an interesting case. It's made by Hammer Film Productions in England, a re-birthed version of the Hammer Films of yore, that brought us Christopher Lee as both Dracula and Frankenstein's monster (to Peter Cushing's Doc). The company was living but dead until Dutch producer John De Mol bought the studio shingle and its 300+ film catalog in 2007. Since then the company has produced a handful of pictures, including the American remake of art house hit Let the Right One In, and The Resident, a brownstone-bound "woman in peril" thriller starring Hilary Swank and Christopher Lee. CBS is handling distribution of the film in America and Alliance Atlantis (a co-producer) in Canada, plus about 40 other countries in other worldwide markets. Alliance Atlantis is a subsidiary of Shaw Communications (NYSE: SJR). The budget for the film is unknown, but making its debut in the States it has thus far made roughly $21,000,000 off of 2,855 screens (or $7,356 per screen). The film stars Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame as a young lawyer. In a hoary tale out of Bram Stoker, Radcliffe's character arrives in a small village called Crythin Gifford, which gives him a cold shoulder thanks to his mission, which is to settle the estate of a recently deceased woman in a large pile overlooking the town. Ghosts appear. Based on a 1983 novel by Susan Hill with a script credited to Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass), the film trots out every cliché it can think of, and perhaps creates new ones, but it does have a tone that harks back to Hammer's characteristic creepy pace. The film also stars Ciarán Hinds and Janet McTeer, who is nominated for an Oscar this year (Albert Nobbs).
Finally, Chronicle, from Fox, is another one of those "found footage" films like The Blair Witch Project, only this time the footage is "made" by three teens, who find a strange buried space ship (or something) that gives them telekinetic "super powers." Like Kick-Ass, Boy Wonder, and several other recent films, Chronicle also takes a Watchmen-style look at how superheroes would function in a real world. Here, one kid decides to go all Columbine on the high school peers who bullied him. With no name stars (the biggest star is TV's Michael Kelly, late of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and Person of Interest … Yeah, I didn't know his name, either), the film attracted viewers solely, it seems, through the force of interest in its story. That interest resulted in $22 million off of a $12 million budget, on 2,907 screens – or about 2,200,000 kids across America. The directorial debut of one Josh Trank, it was written in collaboration with Max Landis, who is untainted by the baggage carried by his father John Landis, who supervised the film during which the actor Vic Morrow was killed. Chronicle has yet to go worldwide, or bask in ancillary releases, but we will see how well the film does next weekend after the chattering class in high school cafeterias and tweets are done with it.
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