47 Ronin

A lot of people went out to see the movies with some doing better than others, an unexpected surprise here and there, a flop and one huge bust.

The battle for first place was between The Hobbit, Disney’s Frozen and Anchorman 2, and they wound up in that exact order, with Hobbit doing almost $30 million over the weekend, Frozen with $28.8 million and Anchorman 2 with just over $20 million.

Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which actually came very close to beating The Hobbit as the biggest grossing film on Christmas Day, did much better than even I expected, with $34 million so far since Xmas. A surprise, especially considering the film’s subject matter, its hard R rating and the fact the film runs just a minute shy of three hours.

The film has so far gotten a reaction from people split right down the middle, between those who absolutely love it (like me - possibly my favorite film of 2013) and who those who hate it, calling it self-indulgent, debauched and Scorsese simply recycling himself. We’ll have to wait and see how the film will hold up over the next few weeks, but it’s no doubt certain to do well overseas, considering both Scorsese and DeCaprio are big draws in foreign territories.

American Hustle is the third b.o. hit in a row for writer/director David O. Russell, with over $60 million so far, and Saving Mr. Banks improved sharply, opening in more theaters with $14 million for a $37.8 million so far. Ben Stiller’s remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has made a respectable $25 million to date, coming in at 6th place.

One surprise is that A Madea Christmas actually held on pretty solidly, dropping off only 11% compared to the previous week’s 50% drop off.

The big flop this Xmas holiday was the De Niro/Stallone/Kevin Hart comedy Grudge Match which pulled in $13.4 million, much less than anticipated. After some very positive test screenings, Warners was convinced they had a big hit on their hands and pushed up the film's original release date, from early 2014 to the Xmas holiday. Obviously it was a bad move.

And the Bollywood film I profiled last Sunday, Dhoom 3, continues to be a huge worldwide hit - the third biggest grossing Bollywood film to date  making, so far, $58 million, and it’s still scheduled to open in other foreign territories including Maldives, Rwanda, Egypt, Germany, Peru, Romania, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

(For the record the biggest worldwide Bollywood hit to date is 2013’s action comedy film Chennai Express, which grossed $60 million worldwide  - $11 million of that in the U.S. - a figure that Dhoom 3 will far and away surpass, making it the biggest grossing Bollywood film ever.

One very mild surprise was the $20 million weekend gross for 47 Ronin which was expected to do half that number. But that’s not enough to help the film becoming a huge bust at the box office.

The film, which was originally scheduled to come out in November 2012, went through endless rewrites and reshoots after the studio saw the original finished product and wasn’t happy at all.

In fact, there were so many delays and postponements during the reshoots that the film's promoted star (actually supporting player) Keanu Reeves actually had time to direct and star in another film, The Man from Tai-Chi, which was released a few months ago.

Most of the failure fell on the shoulders of  Russian director Carl Rinsch, who previously had only a three short films to his credit and yet Universal thought he was qualified enough to direct the huge samurai project originally budgeted at $175 million which later ballooned to $225 million after all was said and done. And the studio knew they had a loser on their hands since there were no advance screenings for the media. The first time I can remember when any film with that large a budget was not screened for the media beforehand.

Based on the famous Japanese legend Chūshingura, about a group of renegade samurai on a mission to avenge the death of their master, and which has been the subject of numerous previous Japanese films since silent era, and numerous TV versions, the studio thought there was a market for an oversaturated CGI’d version that veered from the story and with the added character of a half English/half Japanese ex-slave played by Reeves who is, of course, not in the original story.

Still Universal took the rare step, publicly declaring the film a box office bust, and wrote it off the books as a financial loss just the day after the Xmas opening day numbers came out.

Their decision to do that was also influenced by the fact that the film completely tanked in Japan (where they thought the film would do solid business) a few weeks ago. As a result, 47 Ronin is being called the biggest final flop of 2013, already an extraordinary year of huge financial flops such as The Lone Ranger, Ender’s Game, The Fifth Estate, R.I.P.D, among several others.

If you really want to see a film version of the legend, check out director Kon Ichikawa’s 1994 version, or Takashi Miike’s awesome 47 Ronin-inspired 2010 13 Assassins.

Meanwhile Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom has earned $4,731,000  on just 970 screens, and 12 Years A Slave is now at $37.8 million to date, and I’m still projecting a final gross of $46-50 million for the film.

1) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug WB $29,850,000  Total: $190,304,000 
2) Frozen  BV $28,845,000 Total: $248,366,000 
3) Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Par. $20,150,000 Total: $83,667,000 
4) American Hustle Sony $19,550,000 Total: $60,035,000  
5) The Wolf of Wall Street Par. $18,510,000 Total: $34,302,000 
6) Saving Mr. Banks BV $14,021,000 Total: $37,844,000 
7) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Fox $13,000,000 Total: $25,595,000 
8) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire LGF $10,200,000 Total: $391,124,000 
9) 47 Ronin Uni. $9,869,000 Total: $20,571,000 
10) Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas LGF $7,400,000 Total: $43,719,000 
11) Grudge Match WB $7,310,000 otal: $13,435,000 
12) Walking with Dinosaurs Fox $7,100,000 Total: $20,768,000