Box Office Report for Feb. 10 - 12: A Vow to Remember
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With a romantic holiday in the offing and no major sports event, Hollywood got some of its box office mojo back. If last week was a Super Bowl Sunday that may have put a dent in theater takings, then Feb. 10-12 was payback, as females across the nation dragged their boyfriends to The Vow, to the tune of $41.7 dollars at 2,958 screens. If the average ticket price is $10 dollars, that's about 4.1 million people, or 2.085 million weeping women and 2.085 million stoic men replaying the fourth quarter in their heads.
The Vow is the second strong opening in as many months for Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) via Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. Its earlier Underworld: Awakening was the another surprising hit for the franchise whose popularity surprises everyone except 35-year-old guys with a "thing" for Kate Beckinsale in tight leather catsuits. Ask these guys what the film's plot is, and they probably couldn't tell you. Nevertheless, they shelled out $130 million worldwide so far for the film, which opened in the U.S. on Jan. 20.
The Vow, meanwhile, is a Valentine's Day tale about a young arty Chicago couple, Leo (the ubiquitous Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams), who are involved in a car wreck. After she awakes from a coma, Paige cannot remember the last four years of her life, i.e., the years spanning her marriage to Leo. Her inability to recognize Leo as her spouse delights her Leo-disapproving parents (TV's Jessica Lange and Sam Neill), and the beau Paige does remember (Scott Speedman) returns to the picture. Fortunately everything works out, though that is not always the case in these films that form what you might call the Nicholas Sparks genre (The Notebook), of which Ms. McAdams (A Walk to Remember) and Mr. Tatum (Dear John) are both veterans. The film is also preoccupied with memory in the manner of the Drew Barrymore vehicle 50 First Dates ($193 million worldwide) and the more grim Memento ($25.5 million way back in 2001, but surely much more than that post-DVD sales and rentals). As it happens, though, The Vow is based on a true story, the experience of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. Ms. Carpenter in fact never did recover her earlier memories but the couple is still together as of this writing. In essence, The Vow exploits the popular teen girl fantasy of being pursued by multiple suitors, a circumstance that found its most recently profitable vehicle in the Twilight series.
It will be interesting to see how the forthcoming This Means War fares. This McG film features two men (heartthrobs du jour Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) vying for the affections of a desirable female (Reese Witherspoon), but this is a Spy vs. Spy case with Ms. Witherspoon's character oblivious to the IEDs going off around her. We doubt if this conflict will resolve or evolve into a Design for Living type situation.
Anyway, The Vow is directed by one Michael Sucsy whose experience is on the production side of the movie business (prod. assistant, mostly). Mr. Sucsy is also credited with the script. He also directed the HBO dramatization of Grey Gardens, which won a couple of Golden Globes. But don't get too excited over his unexpected box office acumen. His next film is Rosaline, for Fox Searchlight, scion of News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS). Based on a novel by Rebecca Serle, it's another romance, though more serious sounding (suicide pacts are involved). The cast is basically unknowns, at least as of now, and the producer is the dread Shawn Levy, he of the Night at the Museum movies and Real Steel. This ex-actor has developed a Midas touch, to the extent that Steven Spielberg is sniffing around him, but at the expense of shallow, uninteresting, disposable "entertainment." Also, The Vow cost some $40 million to make, so it is imperative that it not fall too much this following weekend. Tuesday will be a telling day, box-office wise.
In the number two slot is Safe House, the Bourne-esque spy chase tale with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds (who flips between comedies and action films). The film took in a close $39.3 million dollars at 3,119 venues, or for an average of $12,600, slightly lower than The Vow's. This men-on-the-run tale has Washington as the oddly named Tobin Frost, a traitorous spy who has been off the grid for years, and Reynolds as Matt Weston, the minor CIA functionary who, like Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor, gets pulled into action when the safe house in South Africa (the new go-to location for movie making) hosting Frost is raided by killers. Not only is the film edited by Bourne's Richard Pearson, but it is also shot by that franchise's Oliver Wood, so you won't be surprised if it evokes memories of the better Bournes. If only this film also had John Powell's terrific percussive score from that series. Director Daniel Espinosa is surprisingly from Sweden, which is the go-to place for directors these days. If you are thinking of plowing money speculatively into a film, make sure it is being shot in JoBerg under the helm of a Swede. Safe House comes from Universal, which scored with Contraband ($64,642,825 over about four weeks), but flopped with Big Miracle (see below) and distributed the cost-ineffective Tower Heist ($146,546,570 worldwide off of an estimated $75 million budget). Universal is affiliated with NBC and GE under Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA).
Drawing only about half of its competitor's box office was Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($27.6 million at 3,470 screens off of a $23 million budget). This is the follow-up to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth ($231 million worldwide, so a sequel was probably mandatory), but with mostly new people. That film coasted on the flush following of Brendan Fraser at the time. This one is directed by Brad Peyton, whose previous directorial experience was Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore ($10.4 million worldwide, but it is big on DVD), and the carry over from the original is Josh Hutcherson, as the Tintin-esque main character who seems to have an unending fund of relatives and step-dads with whom to search the world for oddities. In this case it is step-dad The Rock, who is making a career out of revivifying franchises (he is also in Fast and Furious and the forthcoming G. I. Joe entry) – which is better, I suppose than his kids' film phase. Journey 2 is from Warners, or rather Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). It's biggest film of the last few months was December's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ($504 million worldwide). The film also features Luis Guzmán, singer Vanessa Hudgens, TV's Kristin Davis, and a Walking Dead cameo from Michael Caine. What it doesn't seem to feature is much of Jules Verne, the fascinating French science fiction writer whose works "officially" inspired the tale.
The only other "new" film was Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 3-D, which added $23 million to its mere $922 million take worldwide take starting in 1999 (what must Martin Landau and Barbara Bain be thinking now?). In case you've forgotten, this is the one with Jar Jar Binks, and the hooked-nosed floating junk salesman. The film, as per usual, is distributed by Fox in the United States. George Lucas backed the movie himself, and unfortunately Lucasfilm Ltd. is a privately held company.
From last week Chronicle added $12.3 million ($40.2 million total), Hammer Films's The Woman in Black added $10.3 million (for $35.5 million total so far), The Grey added $5.08 million (bringing it up to $42.8 million), Big Miracle, the whale film, got a paltry $3.86 million (but bringing it to $13.2 million), Oscar favorite The Descendants also added $3.5 million (for $70.7 so far) and finally Screen Gems' other film, Underworld: Awakening added $2.5 million to its overall take ($58.9 million).
Now onward to next week(!), and This Means War, from Fox, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance from Columbia (Sony).
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