Kids sure do love these CGI ‘toons. “Madagascar 3D: Europe’s Most Wanted” took over the box office for a second straight week, handily defeating holdovers and two new big releases despite falling off a bit heavier than your usual kids’ flick (41.1%). Having grossed $120 million domestically so far, the film is certainly playing up to expectations, currently performing in the vicinity of the previous installment. And it had better -- next week, the Pixar beast looms, with “Brave” taking both the family audience and a number of those 3D screens.
The “Madagascar” films are typically a little more frontloaded than other animated fare, mostly because these films aren’t exactly cultural touchstones, so this second week drop is not unprecedented. One could point to the fact that with inflated 3D prices, it should be clobbering the second film’s take, until you realize that worldwide, this is going to be the biggest entry in the franchise yet. International audiences keep these animated films in business -- last year, “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Cars 2” both severely underperformed domestically compared to their predecessors despite 3D prices. But overseas, both heavily outdrew the first films in those potential series‘, "Cars" going from $461 million to $559 million and 'Panda' hitting $665 million after the original's $631 milllion. There’s not many negative ways you can spin this -- CGI talking animals produce mad cheddar.
So, ”Prometheus.” Yeah. This is a knee-jerk answer, but it’s the appropriate one: word of mouth got to them (see the fairly steep 60.4% drop in ticket sales from last weekend). The end of “Prometheus” promises a severely hard sci-fi sequel, a super-hard sell, and it doesn’t look like this audience is interested at all. With strong international results, this will put the picture in the “win” column for all involved, if maybe after what’s sure to be a DVD bonanza. If you don’t think fans won’t want to pour over Ridley Scott’s gorgeous interplanetary vistas and Damon Lindelof’s idiot prose on Blu-Ray, you’ve underestimated how some people build their home theaters based around movies that look great, rock the speakers, and otherwise aren’t worth revisiting all that much. Ridley Scott long boarded the escape hatch to this particular franchise, and is already knee-deep in “The Counselor.” Guy probably doesn’t even remember what this movie was supposed to be about anymore.
Curious that “Rock Of Ages” and “That’s My Boy” matched up against each other this weekend. In many ways, they’re diametrically-opposed offerings. The former, which seems to appeal primarily to girls, is a PG-13 jukebox musical starring a number of familiar faces. The latter, more male-centric, is a bawdy R-rated film with little else to offer aside from easily-packaged superstar Adam Sandler. And yet, both have seemingly Teflon movie stars ('Ages' featuring Tom Cruise), both trade heavily on '80s nostalgia, both featured box office megastar Will Forte (jk), and both seemed like supremely tacky insta-hits without a lot of lasting appeal. “That’s My Boy” even begins by playing Def Leppard’s “Rock Of Ages.”
'Ages' had “Hairspray” as a measuring stick, given that both were Broadway adaptations with big stars from Enemy Of Cinema Adam Shankman. “Hairspray,” which opened to $27 million, boasted a catalog of decent songs, a more attractive cast of hotter names, and looked cheery, bright, and full of energy. “Rock Of Ages,” which was advertised to look like it’s entirely set at night, and mostly in dank, dingy bars, promised karaoke versions of songs that were jokes back then, and are now reduced to late night TimeLife advertisements. People can be undemanding on the Great White Way, but for a $10 movie ticket, they don’t need to hear not-radically-different versions of disposable songs from the likes of Bon Jovi and Journey sung by a second-rate cast.
About that: “Hairspray” not only featured a teen sensation (then-scorching Zac Efron), a well-loved (and musically-trained) veteran (Christopher Walken), and a crowd-pleasing turn by a Scientologist (John Travolta in drag). “Ages” boasts the young Julianne Hough (doesn’t move the needle), a long-haired Alec Baldwin (definitely not musically trained) and a genuinely weird, off-putting turn by another famed Scientologist (you know) that seemed like it was partially hidden from ads, with his name in small font, his face obscured. Why not -- it’s not like he’s coming off a film that just made almost $700 million worldwide, right? The accumulation of stars means nothing in regards to this film‘s failure, as these faces didn’t have much to gain from this (save for Diego Boneta -- nice knowing you), though this probably kicks Mr. Shankman down a notch or two.
The failure of “That’s My Boy” is slightly more surprising. There was the implication Sandler had lost a bit of his audience after his last two films -- “Just Go With It” was still a hit, though not to his usual standards, and “Jack And Jill” immediately earned the ire of his longtime fans despite being only slightly less tolerable than “Big Daddy.” An R-rated film that should, theoretically, play to a fan base that has aged out of his sometimes family-friendly material (sarcastic quotations needed?) may have been the right move to bring in fans he had previously alienated. Not to mention there was the holiday connotation that releasing a film centered on fathers and sons (with the synergistic casting of Andy Samberg) would do huge business on Fathers’ Day weekend.
But sometimes you lose an audience, and you don’t get it back. While Sandler’s fan base was never the discerning type, their stubborn refusal to follow him on his many experiments (“Reign Over Me,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “Funny People”) suggests an eventual full rejection of his usual broad material would be swift and merciless. “That’s My Boy” may have featured Sandler playing older, and it may have had that R-rating, but it didn’t look any different than his usual material. And the outright rejection of “Jack And Jill” (which must be word of mouth and critical reception, as it still made $150 million global) likely means there are some fans out there that are not coming back. But Sandler is nothing if not shrewd -- he’s currently filming a sequel to his massive hit “Grown Ups,” which should allow him to blend in with a very high profile, recognizable supporting cast. If this weekend estimates are correct, "That's My Boy" will beat "Little Nicky" to become worst Sandler live-action comedy opening since his career took off in 1998.
“Snow White And The Huntsman” continues to play, though it appears to be easing up to a relatively dispiriting final tally domestically around $140-$150 million. That sort of gross is sequel territory for a cheaper film, but given the budget on this is $175 million or so, you wonder if Universal’s crowing about a part two is just to save face. Overseas tallies remain strong, if not entirely robust, so Universal isn’t exactly spitting out teeth like they were after “Battleship” ran its course, but these results don’t excite anyone.
Same for “Men In Black III,” which is close to surpassing the gross of the first film worldwide. An impressive feat, until you consider the massive backend that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will take with them, not to mention the overages of a runaway production with a completely unmanageable budget (said to be north of $250 million). With the numbers being thrown around, a conservative estimate says a break even theatrical point would be between $600-$700 million, which is before considering what gigantic portion of the gross is taken home by Big Willie Style. Jaden’s karate lessons don’t pay for themselves. It makes one think just how massively lurcrative these movies could be if there was even a modicum of fiscal responsibility on the front end.
As far as wide releases in the top ten, the smallest percentage drop again (less than a quarter) belonged to “The Avengers,” likely because of repeat viewers. The success of “The Avengers” benefited from two factors. One was that plum summer opening slot, where it absolutely pulverized box office records. The other was a weak summer slate thus far, the landscape littered with bombs, with summer moviegoers likely opting for another ride on the “Avengers” merry-go-round instead of the punishing volume of “Battleship” or the see-it-at-home-ness of “The Dictator.” The legs the film has shown in its later weeks are impressive, and the film could still be performing strongly as it heads over $600 million domestic within the next two weeks. Who needs the “Spider-Man” or “X-Men” franchises anyway?
The two indie hits of the season thus far have proven to be “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” The former had already been a smash overseas ($115 million worldwide) before its gradual American expansion, and it’s winding down its run with a shot at $40 million domestic, more than solid when you consider it’s a small indie set in a distant country starring a cast so old they might as well be Engineers from “Prometheus.” 'Moonrise' continues to play strongly despite being on less than 200 screens, though there’s the hope Focus Features can get it out to a wider release because, hey, great movies deserve to be seen by more people. Get on that, guys.
1. Madagascar 3D: Your Kids’ Babysitter (Paramount/Dreamworks) - $35 million ($120 mil.)
2. Ridley Scott’s Life, The Universe, And Everything (Fox) - $20 million ($88 mil.)
3. Jukebox Hell (Warner Bros.) - $15.3 million
4. That’s My Boy (Sony) - $13.1 million
5. Snow White And The Chutzpah (Universal) - $12.9 million ($122 mil.)
6. Men In Black III (Sony) - $10.2 million ($152 mil.)
7. The Avengers (Disney) - $8.6 million ($586 mil.)
8. The Best Kinky-Ass Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) - $2.2 million ($35 mil.)
9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus/Universal) - $2.1 million ($6.7 mil.)
10. What To Expect Whe- Oh, This Is Still Playing? (Lionsgate) - $1.3 million ($39 mil.)