‘Terminator Salvation’ Lackluster on Thursday

Terminator Salvation prepared for battle a day early with a solid but disappointing $13.4 million Thursday launch from 3,480 theaters. That’s slightly more than half of the $25 million opening day from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was unleashed on the same Thursday last year. Indy was able to surge to $126.9 million over the Friday-Monday Memorial Day weekend thanks to strong family support. If Salvation follows the same pattern, the weekend total would be a respectable $70 million. Unfortunately for the Christian Bale starring film, despite the kid-friendly PG-13 rating, families have another option this year in the form of Ben Stiller.

Warner Bros. had hoped to revive the fledging franchise after the disappointing showing of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. Salvation’s trailer debuted in front of another WB juggernaut, The Dark Knight, last summer, which also starred Bale. After all, Bale was a key component in the resurrection of the Batman franchise. Unfortunately, the franchise may have not been as popular today as WB had hoped for. “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was recently cancelled after struggling through two seasons on Fox.

As far as how the weekend should play out for the sci-fi action pic, Friday’s numbers should be about the same as Thursday. There should be a slight uptick on Saturday to about $14.5 million and then a 10% decline on Sunday for about $13 million. Monday should bring in an additional $10 million for a $51 million weekend tally and $64 million including Thursday. That would be a poor showing considering the $200 million price tag.

Another sequel will be released on Friday in the form of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian at a mega-wide 4,096 theaters. In addition to the excellent release date, the PG-rated comedy is the first major family film in nearly two months. The original opened during the month of December, a release date which doesn’t generally yield massive opening weekends but instead the holidays allow films to display long legs. That’s exactly what Night at the Museum did with it’s $250.9 million domestic total, which was more than eight times the opening weekend. That kind of longevity will not happen for the latest Museum, but a much larger opening will help it keep pace. Ben Stiller’s latest should debut to a nice $60 million four day start.

Meanwhile, Star Trek held extraordinarily well in the face of direct competition. The $3 million it earned on Thursday was only 4% lower than Wednesday. The only downside for the sci-fi reboot is the loss of most of its IMAX screens on Friday to Night at the Museum 2. Still, strong word-of-mouth should carry it to $30 million over the long weekend for a fantastic running total of $192 million.

Angels & Demons has been slipping at a faster rate than Star Trek during the week so it should end up fourth for the weekend. The $2.6 million tally on Thursday brought the opening week total to $60.1 million, which is 41% lower than its predecessor’s first seven days. No one was expecting Angels & Demons to earn as much because of a less appealing storyline and mixed reactions to The Da Vinci Code scaring away many moviegoers. The good news for A&D is the second weekend drop-off should be less severe. Look for $28 million over the weekend for $88 million in 10 days.

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo

‘Star Trek’ Blasts Off, ‘Wolverine’ Implodes

Star Trek was given a very warm reception in its nationwide launch. Since its Thursday night debut, the sci-fi reboot collected a galactic $79.2 million ($75.2 million Friday-Sunday) from 3,849 theaters. This is easily the largest start ever for the long running franchise, more than doubling the previous benchmark set by Star Trek: First Contact.

Instead of continuing with sequels, Paramount made a wise move by deciding to reboot the series. The franchise lost most of its popularity and cultural relevancy after Star Trek: Nemesis bombed with both audiences and critics seven years ago so the only real solution was to go back to the basics. It’s a strategy that has paid dividends to two other franchises, James Bond and Batman. Both of those franchises were recovering from audience and critical backlash before the studios decided to, in essence, start over. Batman and Robin is one of the most infamous bombs of all time, but Batman Begins rejuvenated the franchise, and its sequel,The Dark Knight , is the highest grossing film of the decade. Casino Royale, the Bond franchise reboot, was also a big success.

Star Trek broke a few records as well. It’s, by far, the largest opening ever for the second weekend of May. The industry typically avoids releasing high profile tentpole films on this weekend to give the other early summer films some breathing room. The conventional approach that Hollywood has taken in the past is to release a tentpole on the first weekend of May and then relatively inexpensive counter-programming on the second weekend of the month. Then, on the third weekend, another high profile tentpole is released because by that time the early May blockbuster has exhausted through most of its audience. 2007 is a classic example of this:

1st weekend of May 2007:
Spider-Man 3 (tentpole)

2nd weekend:
28 Weeks Later (counter-programming)
Georgia Rule (counter-programming)

3rd weekend:
Shrek the Third (tentpole)

The few times that Hollywood has broken this rule generally results in a dud as evidenced by 2000’s Battlefield Earth, 2006’s Poseidon, and last year’s Speed Racer. Judging by this history, it would seem as though Paramount took a huge gamble releasing Star Trek on this weekend. It turned out to be a smart move, though, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine evaporating quickly, and next week’s Angels and Demons will not be as potent as it’s predecessor.

The sci-fi epic broke also broke the record for the widest and highest grossing IMAX release in history. Its $8.5 million launch from 138 screens was enough to soar above The Dark Knight.

Star Trek should continue to live long and prosper in the weeks ahead thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and critical response. This is evidenced by its performance as the weekend progressed. Saturday’s take of $27.2 million was 1% higher than Friday’s $26.9 million, an impressive feat for a fanboy driven feature. Sunday was also strong with its $21.1 million tally, which was down only 23% from Saturday despite the male-skewing film going up against Mother’s Day.

Meanwhile, X-Men Origins: Wolverine took a hit from Captain Kirk and his crew with a 69% tumble for a $26.4 million second weekend. That’s the largest sophomore decline ever for the comic book franchise, but its $129 million 10 day figure is still strong considering most of the characters from the previous films are absent. This also allowed 20th Century Fox to produce the film for a much lower cost than X-Men: The Last Stand. Wolverine should finish with a solid $170 million, strong enough to ensure further spin-offs.

Taking advantage of Mother’s Day, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, dipped only 33% with $10.3 million raising the tally to $30.1 million. With little in the way of direct competition in the weeks ahead, the Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy should display some decent staying power.

Obsessed continues to perform strongly. Down 46% in its third weekend, the Fatal Attraction rip-off made $6.6 million and upped its total to an excellent $56.2 million. 17 Again, spent another weekend in the top five, with $4.2 million in its fourth frame. The Big-like comedy has collected $54 million.

Next Day Air failed to take off in its maiden voyage with a quiet sixth place launch. Opening in only 1,138 theaters, the Summit Entertainment comedy could muster only $4.1 million. Nevertheless, this was on the higher end of industry expectations.

In seventh, Paramount’s drama, The Soloist, held well with a 30% decline, but its $23.8 million total is far from impressive given its pedigree and budget. On the other hand, the distributor continued to see Monsters Vs. Aliens generating solid grosses. After seven weeks the 3-D animated film is still in eighth place and has rang up $186.8 million in ticket sales. A $200 million final total is not out of the question.

Earth became the highest grossing documentary since 2005’s March of the Penguins with its $2.7 million weekend tally, down only 39% in its third weekend. The total for Disney‘s nature film stands at $26.3 million. Rounding out the top ten is another Disney feature, Hannah Montana: The Movie with $2.2 million and an impressive $73.9 million.

In 11th, Fighting bagged $2 million, and it should finish with a nearly identical total to Never Back Down. In the number twelve spot, State of Play continued its steep decline considering its target audience and has only generated $34 million in 17 days. The Russell Crowe film joins the growing list of adult thrillers that have disappointed at the box office this year.

Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo

‘Fast and Furious’ a Speed Demon on Friday

Fast and Furious left even the loftiest of expectations in the dust with an absolutely staggering $30.1 million debut on Friday (with some reports as high as $32 million). This marks the largest opening day ever for any film during the industry’s off-season which runs from January-April and September-October. It also marks the highest opening day ever for a Universal Studios production, eclipsing The Bourne Ultimatum‘s opening day by 23%. Fast and Furious also blew past 2 Fast 2 Furious‘ opening day by 53%, the previous largest opening day of the franchise.

The fourth entry in the popular street racing franchise benefited immensely from reuniting all four of the principal cast members that powered the original The Fast and the Furious to a strong run in theaters back in 2001. The marketing team made this clear in their ad campaign and also wisely emphasized the high-octane races, which has consistently worked in the past.

There’s no doubt that Fast and Furious will be front loaded, but a weekend total in the $72-75 million range is still likely. That would be the largest opening weekend since The Dark Knight, even drifting higher than the vampire phenomenon, Twilight. We’ll know more on Sunday when the official studio estimates are released.

Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo

‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend

After a poor showing the last two weeks, four new star-powered films injected some much needed life resulting in one of the strongest holiday weekends on record at the box office.

Leading the way, Marley and Me beat expectations by a significant margin with a cheerful $50.7 million from 3,480 theaters since its Christmas Day debut; $36.4 million of that came from the traditional Friday-Sunday period.  The $14.4 million Thursday tally from the Owen Wilson-Jennifer Anniston collaboration was the largest Christmas debut ever, dethroning the seven year old record previously set by Ali.

Marley and Me is a bittersweet end to an otherwise dismal year for 20th Century Fox. The canine-featured comedy is the studio’s first real success since Horton Hears a Who!, which debuted over nine months ago.

Meanwhile, Paramount finished off a banner year with an impressive opening from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 4 day tally of $38.7 million ($26.9 million from Fri-Sun) from 2,988 theaters is the highest on record for a David Fincher direction and is one of the stronger starts for actor Brad Pitt as well. The story of a man who ages backwards is one of the higher profile contenders of the awards season, and audiences clearly responded well. With the combination of the holiday and awards season, Benjamin Button could enjoy a very leggy run.

Bedtime Stories, Adam Sandler’s first film under the Disney label performed within expectations with $38 million from a very wide 3,681 theaters since Thursday and $27.5 million over the weekend. The fantasy’s debut was slightly below Night at the Museum, a similar film from Christmas 2006 starring Ben Stiller, but holiday films targeting families typically have enormous multipliers so Bedtime Stories should end up being very profitable for Disney. The multiplier refers to the ratio of a given film’s total box office to its opening weekend. Helping matters is strong word-of-mouth despite the typically poor reviews that a Sandler film receives.

Valkyrie proved that Tom Cruise still is a bona fide star with a solid 4th place showing of $29.5 million from 2,711 theaters. It’s $21 million Friday-Sunday opening would have been enough for the top spot last weekend, which is indicative of how potent the new releases were. The World War II Nazi drama was a tough sell to moviegoers, which makes its debut all the more impressive.

>>No Holiday Cheer for ‘The Spirit’>>

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo & The Numbers

No Holiday Cheer for ‘The Spirit’

<<‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend<<

Not all of the new releases enjoyed a strong start. Debuting well back in 9th place was The Spirit which tanked with just $6.5 million from 2,509 theaters over the weekend and $10.3 million including Thursday. The debut was a mere fraction of the launches from Frank Miller’s previous efforts, 300 and Sin City. Even worse is the collapse of the film as the weekend progressed. It debuted with an already disappointing $3.8 million on Thursday, but it fell a disturbing 32% on Friday and continued to slide on Saturday and Sunday.

All of this happened despite a decent cast and an aggressive marketing campaign from Lionsgate, which has been suffering from growing pains this year in its effort to become a major studio.

Yes Man fared the best among last week’s trio of new releases with a 9% dip to $16.7 million, good enough for 5th. It’s $49.8 million 10 day haul is similar to Jim Carrey’s previous December comedy, Fun with Dick and Jane. Meanwhile, Seven Pounds continues to underperform for a Will Smith picture. It only dipped 11% for a $13.2 million weekend, but the running total of $38.8 million is well behind nearly every other film from Smith this decade.

In 7th, the computer animation, The Tale of Despereaux slid 12% for $8.9 million in its second weekend. The 10 day total stands at a modest $27.4 million for the Universal Studios production. The Day the Earth Stood Still continued to quietly fall with its 22% decline to $7.7 million. It’s 17 day total of $63.5 million is well below expectations, and $100 million is now likely out of reach for 20th Century Fox.

Rounding out the top 10th was Doubt, which expanded into wide release on Christmas. Over the weekend, the awards hopeful gathered $5.3 million from a modest 1,267 theaters resulting in a decent $4,214 per theater average. The total has risen to $8.5 million.

The high number of new releases and the passing of X-mas caused Four Christmases to fall from 5th to 11th. The Vaughn-Witherspoon comedy fell 37% to $4.8 million. After 6 weeks, the WB film has earned a strong $111.6 million and will likely finish with around $125 million. Twilight continued to display some staying power with a small 9% drop to $4.7 million, despite losing nearly 40% of its screens. With $167.3 million so far, the vampire romance stands a chance at becoming the highest grossing picture of the holiday season.

In 14th place but still very relevant, Bolt‘s $3.4 million was enough to push it past $100 million over the weekend. The Disney animation will likely finish around $115 million. Fellow November release, Quantum of Solace, finished in 17th with $1.4 million. The latest Bond film has shot up $164.3 million and will likely overtake Casino Royale to become the highest grossing film in the long-running franchise.

The expensive Fox dud, Australia, collapsed 50% to $1.1 million, mainly because of a severe loss to its theater count. With just $44.3 million domestically, the Nicole Kidman epic will need strong international performances for it to have any chance at profitability. Rounding out the top 20 was Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa with $923,018. Its solid $174.9 million total is the highest of the season, though Twilight will soon overtake it.

<<‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend<<

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo & The Numbers

Earth Gives Cool Reception to ‘Day’

The Day the Earth Stood Still, Keanu Reeves’ latest sci-fi film, posted a  disappointing opening week. It’s $30.5 million weekend bow from a mega-wide 3,560 theaters was enough for first place, but it was well below the record-setting $77.2 million debut from the Will Smith driven sci-fi, I Am Legend, from the same time last year. The underwhelming performance of Day caps off one of the worst years in 20th Century Fox’s long history, which includes a seemingly endless stream of duds. Even worse for Day is its weekday numbers, which have been fairly poor, even compared to its already lackluster opening. As of Wednesday, the total stands at $36.7 million. The good news is that films opening in December normally have better than average legs because of the holidays so a $100 million US total is certainly possible. The $80 million production budget is also fairly low for a tentpole release so profitability could still be in its future, eventually.

The other two wide release openers faired even worse. There wasn’t much Christmas cheer for Nothing Like the Holidays, which could not attract much of its Latino-targeted audience with $3.5 million and 7th place from 1,671 theaters for a poor $2,114 per theater average. It’s 6 day total is $4.4 million. Even with Xmas around the corner, the future is not very bright for the Overture Films production.

That performance feels absoultely gargantuan, though, compared to Delgo. The computer animation from rookie distributor Freestyle, opened in 18th with a pathetic $511,920 from 2,160 theaters. The per theater average of $237 is by far the lowest ever for a film debuting in over 1,000 theaters. Delgo has collected a meager $642,069 in 6 days, which is less than what award season contender, Doubt, has earned in its first 6 days, despite Delgo playing in over 100 times the number of screens.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

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‘The Wrestler’ Explodes On Wednesday

Darren Aronofsky has made a huge comeback with a spectactular opening day from his new drama, The Wrestler. On Wednesday, the Fox Searchlight feature opened to $46,928 from just 4 theaters for a $11,732 per theather average, or nearly quadruple the average posted by fellow Searchlight film, Slumdog Millionaire, on it’s opening Wednesday. Millionaire has grossed nearly $10 million so far in limited release. Wrestler’s opening day was driven by some of the year’s best reviews, which give high praise to Mickey Rourke’s performance and Aronofsky’s direction. Word of mouth appears to be stellar judging by its already high placement in imdb’s Top 250.

Going into the weekend the per theater average should exceed $70,000, which would be the highest of the year. As for its long term prospects, even in an increasingly crowded award season playing field, The Wrestler will easily make it into wide release. The box office performance could resemble or exceed last year’s late December Oscar contender, There Will Be Blood, which finished with an impressive $40 million.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

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