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Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Marley & Me' laps up jam-packed Christmas weekend with $51.7m opening, Dec. 26-28, 2008

Proving that movies really just might be recession proof, four of five major new releases debuted with more than $30 million from the Thursday-Sunday holiday frame, while overall the box office posted its second biggest weekend of 2008 led by a phenomenal opening from Fox's dramedy Marley & Me. Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories and Brad Pitt's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button battled it out for second place, while Tom Cruise's WWII drama Valkyrie opened better than expected in fourth.

With Christmas falling on a Thursday this year, studios packed in five major new releases to take advantage of the extended holiday weekend. But instead of cannibalizing each other, the marketplace proved to be big enough to accommodate at least four, with the biggest benefactor being the Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson starrer Marley & Me, which took in $37 million over the Friday-Sunday period and an incredible $51.7 million over the full four day holiday frame. For Fox Studios, the debut was an incredibly sweet way to end one of their most challenging years in recent memory. Averaging a whopping $10,632 in 3,480 theaters, the film adaptation of John Gorgon's bestselling book posted the second biggest opening of 2008 for Fox, behind only March's Horton Hears a Who with $45 million.

Marketed heavily everywhere as the crowd-pleaser of Christmas weekend, Marley & Me shrugged of mixed reviews to post a record $14.7 million Christmas Day bow, easily beating 2001's Ali with $10.2 million. The film had steady business the entire weekend with daily totals of $14.7m (Thurs.), $14m (Fri.), $12.7m, and $10.2m. With many Americans off of work for the remainder of the year, look for Marley & Me to potentially break $100 million domestic by next weekend.

Disney's adventure pic Bedtime Stories battled it out with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for the No. 2 spot this weekend, with the Adam Sandler pic edging Brad Pitt over the three-day weekend with $28 million to $27 million, and Button leading the four-day holiday frame with $39 million compared with Bedtime's $38.6 million. Shrugging off very poor reviews from critics, the Adam Sandler starrer averaged a strong $7,625 in 3,681 theaters.

If estimates hold, Brad Pitt's big budget epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will finish in third this weekend with $27 million and $39 million over the extended holiday frame. Budgeted at a staggering $150 million, the Paramount release averaged $9,036 in 2,988 theaters. Directed by David Fincher and co-starring Cate Blanchett, the film's totals were hampered a bit by the daunting 2 hour and 47 minute run-time. Nominated for five Golden Globes including Best Dramatic Picture, the film should see strong legs throughout the Awards season. Co-produced by Warner Bros., that studio will release the film on the international market.

Tom Cruise's well-received WWII drama Valkyrie debuted in fourth with $21.5 million over the weekend and $30 million since its Thursday bow, surpassing industry expectations. Despite the busy weekend the $75 million budgeted United Artists pic averaged a healthy $7,942 in 2,711 theaters. The debut was a big improvement from last year's flop Lions for Lambs, which debuted in November with just $6.7 million. It was Cruise's best opening since 2006's Mission: Impossible III debuted with $47.7 million, marking the beginning of the end of the actor's long relationship with Paramount Pictures.

Rounding out the top five was Jim Carrey's comedy Yes Man, which fell just 10% this weekend to $16.5 million. In two weeks the Warner release has grossed $49.6 million, but may have trouble sustaining itself long enough to break $100 million domestic.

The only new release this weekend failing to gain traction was Lionsgate's comic adaptation The Spirit, which debuted with just $6.5 million in 2,509 theaters for a very weak $2,593 average. Directed by famed graphic novelist Frank Miller (300, Sin City), the debut was clearly a major disappointment given the $29.1 million opening his 2005 hit Sin City opened with (Miller co-directed City with Robert Rodriguez).

Out of the top ten for the first time was Summit Entertainment's blockbuster Twilight, which took in $4.5 million over the weekend, pushing the $37 million budgeted pic's total to an amazing $167 million.

Thanks to four massive new Christmas releases, the top ten films grossed an estimated $172.9 million, up 9% from last year's comparable frame when National Treasure: Book of Secrets held on to the top spot with $36.7 million.

The numbers, Dec. 26-28, 2008

 THE TOP TEN Weekend Theaters Avg. Total Gross %+- Wks Distributor
1 Marley & Me $36,357,586 3,480 $10,448 $50,738,566 -- 1 Fox
2 Bedtime Stories $27,450,296 3,681 $7,457 $38,029,113 -- 1 Buena Vista
3 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button $26,853,816 2,988 $8,987 $38,725,647 -- 1 Paramount
4 Valkyrie $21,027,007 2,711 $7,756 $29,520,979 -- 1 MGM
5 Yes Man $16,657,046 3,434 $4,851 $49,798,560 -8.8 2 Warner Bros.
6 Seven Pounds $13,203,236 2,758 $4,787 $38,762,647 -11.1 2 Sony
7 The Tale of Despereaux $8,932,625 3,107 $2,875 $27,448,085 -11.6 2 Universal
8 The Day the Earth Stood Still $7,697,799 2,402 $3,205 $63,480,184 -22.2 3 Fox
9 The Spirit $6,463,278 2,509 $2,576 $10,305,501 -- 1 Lionsgate
10 Doubt $5,339,742 1,267 $4,214 $8,484,863 684.2 3 Miramax

Sunday, December 21, 2008

'Yes Man' tops weekend with $18 mil, Dec. 19-21, 2008

Three newcomers dominated the weekend before Christmas, led by Jim Carrey's latest comedy Yes Man, which took the top spot with $18.2 million. Will Smith's drama Seven Pounds debuted in second with $16 million, while the animated pic The Tale of Despereaux bowed in third with $10 million. Overall, the lack of a big opening from any of the newcomers and debilitating snow storms across the northeast United States led the top ten films to finish a whopping 46% lower than last year's comparable frame, when National Treasure: Book of Secrets debuted with $44.8 million.

Studios are holding off on their truly big guns until Christmas weekend (which starts this year on a Thursday), when five very big films vie for the top honors in a crowded weekend. Bedtime Stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Marley & Me, The Spirit, and Tom Cruise's Valkyrie all enter a crowded marketplace on Thursday, trying to make a splash in the final weekend of 2008.

Warner Bros.' Yes Man took the top spot with an $18.2 million debut, lower than industry expectations considering the film's ultrawide 3,434 theater release slate. Averaging a solid if unspectacular $5,288 per theater, the heavily marketed comedy finished better than Carrey's 2005 Christmas release Fun with Dick and Jane, which took in $14.4 million over its first weekend and $21.5 million over the four day Holiday frame. Reviews were mixed to poor, so the film will have to rely on strong and steady word of mouth to carry it through a highly competitive Christmas weekend.

Will Smith's latest drama Seven Pounds opened in second with $16 million, averaging $5,801 in 2,758 theaters. Budgeted at $55 million, the Sony release broke Smith's consecutive streak of eight No. 1 openings. Despite teaming up once again with director Gabriele Muccino, who directed last year's acclaimed The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds opened over $10 million lower than Happyness's $26.5 million bow. Pounds was hurt by being the worst reviewed of the new films, and will likely struggle breaking even domestic.

Universal's computer-animated family film The Tale of Despereaux debuted in thir with $10.5 million, averaging a poor $3,385 in 3,104 theaters. With its closest competition Bolt now in its fifth week of release, Despereaux should enjoy decent returns over the Holiday frame next week.

Last week's champ The Day the Earth Stood Still fell a whopping 67% in its sophomore frame to $10.2 million, giving the $80m Fox release a ten-day $48.6 million cume. Starring Keanu Reeves, Earth will likely fall short of its budget domestic with roughly $70 million.

Warner's hit comedy Four Christmases fell 41% to $7.8 million, bringing its four week cume to $100.2 million. At its current pace the $80 million budgeted pic should finish with $120 million domestic.

Summit Entertainment's blockbuster Twilight continues to show its appeal beyond its loyal hardcore fan base, falling just 34% to $5.2 million and bringing its five week cume to $158.5 million. Budgeted at $37 million, the Catherine Hardwicke directed pic has now amassed $210 million worldwide.

The numbers, Dec. 19-21, 2008

 THE TOP TEN Weekend Theaters Avg. Total Gross %+- Wks Distributor
1 Yes Man $18,160,000 3,434 $5,288 $18,160,000 -- 1 Warner Bros.
2 Seven Pounds $16,000,000 2,758 $5,801 $16,000,000 -- 1 Sony
3 The Tale of Despereaux $10,507,000 3,104 $3,385 $10,507,000 -- 1 Universal
4 The Day the Earth Stood Still $10,150,000 3,560 $2,851 $48,627,000 -66.7 2 Fox
5 Four Christmases $7,750,000 3,515 $2,205 $100,159,000 -40.7 4 Warner Bros.
6 Twilight $5,228,000 2,991 $1,748 $158,462,000 -34.2 5 Summit
7 Bolt $4,256,000 2,968 $1,434 $95,009,000 -43.0 5 Buena Vista
8 Slumdog Millionaire $3,150,000 589 $5,348 $12,134,000 44.8 6 Fox Searchlight
9 Australia $2,325,000 2,212 $1,051 $41,947,000 -44.2 4 Fox
10 Quantum of Solace $2,150,000 1,874 $1,147 $161,300,000 -42.1 6 Sony

Sunday, December 14, 2008

'The Day the Earth Stood Still' obliterates competition with $31m debut, Dec. 12-14, 2008

Facing an aging lineup of Holiday offerings, most of which have now been out between 3-5 weeks, Fox's big budget sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still blew away the competition with a strong but not overly impressive $31 million bow, averaging a strong $8,708 in a 3,560 theaters. Reportedly budgeted at $80 million, the remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic finished well below industry expectations given the soft competition and historically lucrative release date (last year's I Am Legend topped with a record $77.2 million), giving Fox a disappointing finish to one of their most challenging years in recent memory.

Starring Keanu Reeves, who landed a career best opening for a film without The Matrix in its title, the poorly-reviewed pic ranks as the second biggest 2008 debut for Fox behind March's Horton Hears a Who with $45 million. Earth edged 2005's Constantine, which netted the star a $29.8 million bow. The debut was well short of another high profile 2008 disaster pic Cloverfield, which debuted in January with $40.1 million. Critics polled by Rottentomatoes.com gave Earth a "rotten" 22% recommendation rating, which may have kept audiences at home this weekend. With audience feedback looking somewhat lukewarm, look for steep drops in the coming weeks.

One of the biggest surprises this Holiday season has been the superb staying power of Warner's Four Christmases, which fell another slight 21% to $13.3 million in second, bringing its three week cume to $$88 million. Starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, the holiday comedy has shrugged off extremely poor reviews and is on pace to become just the fourth film released in the past two months to break $100 million. Budgeted at $80 million, the film looks on pace to break $135 million domestic.

Summit Entertainment's smash hit Twilight continued is tremendous run at the box office, finishing in third with $8 million, down just 39% from a week ago. The studio quickly tried to put to rest mounting tensions from their dismissal of director Catherine Hardwicke from the studio's planned two sequels, naming Chris Weitz (Golden Compass, About a Boy) as the new helm. In four weeks, the $37 million budgeted blockbuster has amassed $150.1 million, and could reach $175 million by the end of its domestic run.

Disney's decision to tack on a new Cars Toons 3D short from Pixar to the beginning of Bolt proved to be a nice boost to the film's bottom line, as the family comedy fell a slight 23% to $7.5 million in fourth. In four weeks, the computer-animated pic has grossed $88.9 million, and should surpass $100 million before the New Year.

Fox's big-budget bust Australia slipped 39% to $4.3 million, rounding out the top ten. In three weeks, the $130 million budgeted epic has grossed just $37.9 million.

The spy actioner Quantum of Solace fell 44% to an estimated $3.8 million, bringing its domestic cume to $157.7 million. The film now ranks third overall among Bond films, behind only Casino Royale's $167 million and Die Another Day's $160.9 million. Internationally, the $200 million budgeted pic has grossed $357.9 million, bringing its worldwide haul to an impressive $515.5 million.

The only other wide release debut in the top ten this weekend was the family reunion drama Nothing Like the Holidays, which debuted with just $3.5 million in seventh. Released by Overture Pictures, the Spanish language release averaged just $2,095 in 1,671 theaters.

There was another wide release debut of note (barely), finishing in 16th place. Freestyle Pictures's computer-animated Delgo, a film nearly ten years in the making, debuted just $916,000, despite opening in a wide 2,160 theaters. The extremely dated looking and poorly-reviewed pic sputtered with a pathetic $424 per theater this weekend, which meant there was plenty of leg room in theaters for attending audiences.

Oscar hopefuls performed very well this weekend, with Focus Features' Milk seeing a 43% spike (thanks to 229 additional theaters) to $2.6 million, bringing its cume to $7.6 million. Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire took in $2.2 million, bringing its cume to $8 million.

The numbers, Dec. 12-14, 2008

 THE TOP TEN Weekend Theaters Avg. Total Gross %+- Wks Distributor
1 The Day the Earth Stood Still $31,000,000 3,560 $8,708 $31,000,000 -- 1 Fox
2 Four Christmases $13,270,000 3,540 $3,749 $87,972,000 -20.8 3 Warner Bros.
3 Twilight $8,000,000 3,649 $2,192 $150,095,000 -38.7 4 Summit
4 Bolt $7,506,000 3,133 $2,396 $88,891,000 -23.4 4 Buena Vista
5 Australia $4,285,000 2,703 $1,585 $37,883,000 -39.2 3 Fox
6 Quantum of Solace $3,800,000 2,635 $1,442 $157,668,000 -43.7 5 Sony
7 Nothing Like the Holidays $3,500,000 1,671 $2,095 $3,500,000 -- 1 Overture
8 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $3,250,000 2,768 $1,174 $170,006,000 -36.0 6 Paramount
9 Milk $2,636,000 328 $8,037 $7,630,000 43.7 3 Focus
10 Transporter 3 $2,249,000 2,541 $885 $29,275,000 -51.8 3 Lionsgate

Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Four Christmases' holds off 'Twilight' for top spot again, Dec. 5-7, 2008

Thanks to a very poor but unsurprising opening from the weekend's only wide release debut Punisher: War Zone, last week's festive champ Four Christmases maintained its hold at the top with $18.1 million. The hit teen vampire romance Twilight clawed its way to second place bringing its total to an incredible $138 million, while Disney's animated Bolt fell steeply in third to $9.7 million. Overall, the box office maintained its lead over last year's comparable frame, with ticket sales up 10% thanks to the strong holdovers.

With Holiday shopping appearing to be the weakest in decades it's all the more impressive that people continue heading to the cineplexes in large numbers. The biggest beneficiary has been Warner's holiday comedy Four Christmases, which topped the box office for the second straight weekend with $18.1 million. In just two weeks the $80 million budgeted Reese Witherspoon starrer has amassed $70.8 million, and appears to be a shoe-in to break $100 million by Christmas weekend.

Summit Entertainment's blockbuster Twilight held impressively in its third week of release, finding fresh legs with a 50% drop to $13.2 million. To date the teen vampire romance has grossed $138.6 million, making the $37 million budgeted pic one of the most profitable of 2008. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) and starring Kristen Stewart, the book adaptation should finish with roughly $165 million domestic. Overseas, Twilight has pulled in $21.3 million, with openings in the U.K. and other European markets still on the horizon.

After showing a fantastic hold over Thanksgiving weekend, Disney's computer-animated family film Bolt fell a surprisingly heavy 64% to $9.7 million, bringing its three week cume to $79.3 million. Despite strong reviews, the continued strength of Twilight appears to be hurting the toon's long-term prospects. Look for the big budget release to finish with a disappointing $105-115 million.

Fox's 2008 woes finished on a poetically sour note, as their big-budget epic Australia officially earned the title of "major flop." After a hugely disappointing opening weekend, execs pinned their hopes on strong word of mouth to carry the poorly-reviewed Baz Luhrmann pic. After a 53% drop in its sophomore frame to $7 million, it's clear the $130 million budgeted Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman starrer will fall well short of its monstrous budget in North America. In twelve days, the pic has grossed just $30.9 million, and the film will have trouble breaking $50 million domestic.

Sony's Quantum of Solace fell a steep 65% to round out the top five with $7 million this weekend. Despite opening bigger than any Bond film in history, the $200 million budgeted spy-actioner has not exhibited strong legs at the domestic box office, and may fall short of the $167 million total of 2006's Casino Royale, despite debuting nearly $27 million higher. The story is the same internationally, where the film has amassed a very impressive $340.6 million, but still off the pace of Royale's $426 million and $594 million global. Worldwide sales for Solace currently stand at $492 million.

Lionsgate's $35 million budgeted Punisher: War Zone debuted poorly in eighth place with $4 million, averaging just $1,595 in 2,508 theaters. The poorly reviewed actioner should see a quick exit out of the top ten.

The numbers, Dec. 5-7, 2008

 THE TOP TEN Weekend Theaters Avg. Total Gross %+- Wks Distributor
1 Four Christmases $18,180,000 3,335 $5,451 $70,843,000 -41.5 2 Warner Bros.
2 Twilight $13,200,000 3,620 $3,646 $138,555,000 -49.9 3 Summit
3 Bolt $9,696,000 3,516 $2,758 $79,281,000 -63.5 3 Buena Vista
4 Australia $7,000,000 2,721 $2,573 $30,869,000 -52.7 2 Fox
5 Quantum of Solace $6,600,000 3,423 $1,928 $151,468,000 -65.0 4 Sony
6 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $5,100,000 3,317 $1,538 $165,675,000 -64.1 5 Paramount
7 Transporter 3 $4,500,000 2,626 $1,714 $25,381,000 -62.7 2 Lionsgate
8 Punisher: War Zone $4,005,000 2,508 $1,597 $4,005,000 -- 1 Lionsgate
9 Cadillac Records $3,500,000 686 $5,102 $3,500,000 -- 1 Sony
10 Role Models $2,622,000 1,907 $1,375 $61,665,000 -49.5 5 Universal