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Weekend Box Office: 'Sherlock' And 'Alvin' Underperform, 'Mission: Impossible' Scores In Limited Release

Box Office
by Gabe Toro
December 18, 2011 1:58 PM
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And the hits keep coming for this mediocre year at the box office. Or not coming, that is. After December began with the two lowest grossing weekends of the year, many predicted salvation from “Sherlock Holmes” and “Alvin And The Chipmunks.” Previous entries in their series’ grossed $524 and $443 million worldwide, respectively, so there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t bust that block. Particularly notable was how both the original 'Sherlock' and “The Squeakquel” opened within two days of each other, both grossing over $200 million in the States while “Avatar” was in theaters. Being upgraded from everyone’s second choice to the top attraction was meant to flatter everyone.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows” took this weekend, though looks like it will land in the vicinity of $40 million, a far cry from the first film’s opening take of $62 million. Warner Bros. clearly got cocky this time around, eschewing a major star for the pivotal antagonist role of Moriarty (Jared Harris got the call) and burying any sort of plot synopses, marketing the picture by relying on the pyrotechnics and the star power of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Consider the hiring of a “Sherlock 3” writer enormously premature, as this second go-round is going to need the heavy-duty repeat business the first one didn’t utilize in order to carry on.

Even with that massive first film take, it’s hard to say audiences were enthused about another 'Sherlock.' Downey is approaching Johnny Depp-territory as far as stretching his blockbuster shtick as far as he can go. Whereas Depp has the kid audience and the awareness of a couple of decades of solid filmmaking, Downey still hasn’t completely shaken his bad boy image, and there’s an entire generation who still thinks of him as his 1990’s itineration - which is to say, working intermittently and moving in and out of jail. Downey has nothing to worry about, and he’s got two more Marvel projects in the next two years, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the WB cools on a third installment. How about… “Sherlock Jr.”?

In recent years, this holiday period has boasted massive debuts from the likes of “Avatar,” “I Am Legend” and “Tron: Legacy.” Fox was hoping “Chip-Wrecked,” the third Chipmunks movie in five years, would open in a similar fashion. Instead, expect the kid-flick to earn $23 million, falling quite short of the second film’s $49 million take. Even with the added “Chip-Wrecked” premise, three “Alvin” movies in five years is an awful lot for even the most ardent fan. While this isn’t always the case when it comes to unwanted sequels, we’re willing to believe some just simply put their feet down and said no. Or raised the white flag. Or suggested they would call their lawyers.

Oddly enough, the biggest blockbuster success story of the weekend may be the lowest grossing of the three of them. Paramount made the risky decision to debut “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” on 425 IMAX screens, and the film earned a savage $31k per-screen average on its way to $13 million. Much of that no doubt comes from Batman fans, as the six minute “The Dark Knight Rises” teaser was attached to IMAX prints. Why Warner Bros. would attach footage of their most anticipated movie next year to a Paramount release on the same weekend they were releasing their own blockbuster, we’ll never know. Well, maybe we will know, when some WB exec writes a tell-all book about that time a Paramount suit pulled them out of a burning building, or helped them ditch a dead hooker. Hollywood - a place of magic.

'Ghost Protocol' may have done brisk business on IMAX screens, but we’ll see how it does on regular screens without the benefit of Batman. Though it certainly has the momentum, and already has grossed $68.2 million from 6079 thtrs in 36 mkts world so it's sitting pretty out of the gate. This was a franchise left for dead after part three, and the upcoming competition will be tough. “The Adventures Of Tintin,” “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “We Bought A Zoo,” “War Horse,” "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close" and “The Darkest Hour” all arrive in theaters next weekend when 'Ghost Protocol' goes wide.

Last week’s winners, “New Years’ Eve” and “The Sitter” took big hits, and look like they’re not long for the holiday marketplace. See you on cable, fellas! Also done is “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One,” which actually will not approach the $300 million the last two films earned stateside, though its worldwide numbers are already approaching $700 million. Every day is “Treat Yo’Self” Day at Summit.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some sort of Golden Globe bump, look elsewhere. “Arthur Christmas” was only barely lapped by awards fave “Hugo.” The Scorsese picture is going to seriously struggle to get to $50 million domestic. The news is worse for “Young Adult,” which expanded into 978 theaters after last weekend’s eight screen debut, scoring a dreadful $3.7 million. You can point to a lot of things, but this weekend, we’re gonna lean on Blame The Title. Meanwhile, "The Descendants” actually dropped out of the top ten. It’s week five, so Fox is going to be patient with 'Descendants,' as it's not yet on a thousand screens, but it’s not exactly scoring solid per-screen numbers.

In limited release, the biggest debut aside from "Mission: Impossible" went to "Carnage," which averaged $17k on five screens for an $86k gross. It failed to beat out current arthouse champ "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," which collected $452k in its second weekend at sixteen locations. Other indie releases include "My Week With Marilyn," which The Weinstein Company is expanding heavily, though the film only collected $586k at 244 locations. An expansion onto four hundred engagements approaches next weekend, though, at $6 million, it might be tough to see the film crack eight digits.

At fifty-one locations, "Shame" is still doing sturdy business, with a $305k take in weekend three, adding to a $1.3 million total. Also picking up steam is "The Artist," which collected $287k at fifteen locations and maintains a strong per-screen number. Meanwhile, feeble opening numbers greeted "Cook County" and "Corman's World." The films brought in $8.1k and $7k on five and two screens respectively. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. Robert Downey Jr.’s B-Level Franchise (WB) - $40 million
2. Alvin And The Chipmunks: Shit-Wrecked (Fox) - $23.5 million
3. Mission: Impossible Colon Movie Film For Theaters (Paramount) - $13 million
4. New Ear Sieve (WB) - $7.4 million ($25 mil.)
5. The Stander (Fox) - $4.4 million ($18 mil.)
6. The Twilight Saga: Part Four Part One Of Two (Summit) - $4.3 million ($266 mil.)
7. Young Adult (Paramount) - $3.7 million ($3.6 mil.)
8. Hugo (Paramount) - $3.7 million ($39 mil.)
9. Arturo Kwanzaa (Sony) - $3.6 million ($39 mil.)
10. The Muppets (Disney) - $3.5 million ($79 mil.)

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  • perry | December 19, 2011 1:10 PMReply

    Young Adult has only been in theaters for 2 weeks, hasn't even gas a wide release, and has already made 4 million. I wouldn't exactly go as far as saying things aren't looking good. Its budget was only 12 million. Once it go es wide it'll likely surpass that. Its only in 900 theaters.and it cracked the top 10. Judge quickly, do you?

  • john | December 19, 2011 11:59 AMReply

    No one thinks of Downey like that anymore. What a moron...

  • manonthemoon748 | December 19, 2011 3:31 AMReply

    I'm obviously not the first person to say this, but "The Dark Knight Rises" prologue only played on about 10% of the IMAX screens hosting "Ghost Protocol." It seems suspicious (or at least sloppy) to credit more than a sliver of that film's success to the upcoming Batman picture. Wasn't the official trailer attached to "Game of Shadows"? Does that account for its disappointing box office? Are people avoiding Sherlock Holmes 2 because they don't want to see the new Christopher Nolan trailer??? (No, of course not.)

    Credit where credit is due, guys.

  • mandie may | December 18, 2011 10:50 PMReply

    i think i am officially done reading any blogs by this writer. won't be surprised if tomorrow i open US weekly and see a picture of robert downey jr. with a tattoo of johnny depps face on his arm. you know, because he's soooooooooooooo emulating his career. paaah---leaaaaaaaase.

    and ps, all young adult needs to do is make more than 12 million (its budget) and it'll be a hit. it's already made 4 million and it hasn't even had a wide release yet. watch it NOT BE A FINICAL SUCCESS, bitch.

  • Brock | December 18, 2011 7:47 PMReply

    Well said, Mike. Tear this Playlist writer a new ***-hole. Well said. More proof that Playlist is all opinion and not facts.

  • Gabe Toro | December 18, 2011 9:41 PM

    Have you ever... read The Playlist?

  • Mike | December 18, 2011 7:17 PMReply

    This is a ridiculously uneducated article, as others have mentioned your random diatribe against Downey & your assertion that the Dark Knight prologue was much if a factor in Ghost Protocol's opening are without base. The per screen average of the 42 theaters the trailer played in (yeah, that's less than 10% of the 425 theaters the move was in) are available on other articles & they are not much higher especially considering these are much much larger film based IMAX theaters in major metro areas that consistently have the highest grosses throughout the year. As for Downey, where the hell did you get this dubious idea that Downey has a stated goal to be as big of a box office star as Johnny Depp? The man has cleaned his life up & is proud of that, and he's had franchise successes he never had before, other than that he's been in 3 movies since his renaissance one was a completely risky role playing comedy in black face, one a small real life drama, and the third an R rated dirty comedy, hardly a record of pandering to four quadrant audiences, and two out of three were big successes. As for the idea that he doesn't have the record of acclaim Depp has to fall back on? He was a teen heartthrob at the same time as Depp with a long list of acolades from his 90s work in movies like Chaplin, Short Cuts & Natural Born Killers. His "dark days" were only in the latter half if the 90s and he early years of the last decade, and then he still managed plenty of good reviews and awards for his role in Ally McBeal. Following that he turned in respected performances in well received films from noted directors like George Clooney, David Fincher & Richard Linklater. I'm in the 20 to 30 bracket you claim bears him ill will, and that's bull, all my friends enjoyed him in his franchises and Tropic Thunder & Due Date. The plain and simple reasons for its lower opening are these: the original opened over the much bigger box office Christmas weekend (this weekend is historically depressed) & the marketing failed to present the difference between this & the first film (the same thing that plagued the very well reviewed Kung Fu Panda 2).

  • Gabe Toro | December 18, 2011 9:51 PM

    Mike, you make a good case.
    However, the bottom line is that no one can really read or predict the box office with such certainty. No one saw such diminished Sherlock 2 business. No one knows if it will play through the holidays or not against such stiff competition.

    I'm not sure what you're implying, however, when you credit me with a "diatribe."
    I never sought to tear Downey down, but, look, Hollywood is competitive. There's a certain group of male stars angling to be the top A-Lister out there. It's what kept Sly, Bruce and Arnie from working together until The Expendables 2. These guys all want to be at the top. It's not ugly or vindictive, it's just business. Downey probably has nothing against Depp, but he wants to be a big star because he wants to be the biggest. Makes sense. Same goes for Will Smith, Matt Damon, and whomever else can be considered "bankable."

    Downey's well-liked by a lot of twenty and thirty year olds, and he's done SUPERB work in the last decade. But the nineties were a wash - you mention Chaplin and Short Cuts like they were video rental classics for people growing up. Great pictures, both of them, but niche titles to that demographic that's now aged. As for Natural Born Killers, it has its fans, but is Downey really beloved by them?

    If the Sherlock franchise ends and he leaves Iron Man, he'll be fine. But when a star doubles down on franchises like that, it becomes hard to not view them as the mega-blockbuster guy. The paychecks will be there, but they'll shrink. Without these franchises, he won't be in the discussion for Biggest Movie Star In The World any longer. Depp has less of a problem with this, since hitching a wagon to Pirates is STILL working, and because he has a backlog of nineties roles stronger than Downey.

    It's not about Downey's "downfall," but rather him slightly falling from the perch of Biggest Star In Hollywood to A Star Dependent On Franchises.

    And a terrific actor, it should be said. But that's not relevant to the conversation right now.

  • Mike | December 18, 2011 7:21 PM

    Oh, and his is the time of year where nearly all movies have long legs, just look at Yogi Bear that no one wanted last year, opened abysmally & wound up making nearly $100m in the US. If Holmes doesn't do well over the next two holiday weekends then you could talk about it being a disappointment, but even then it won't be due to this bizarro idea that Downey is disliked by 20 to 30 year olds.

  • Drake | December 18, 2011 5:50 PMReply

    Gabe, Young Adult will push through once Christmas hits. David Poland wrote up a great article on the box office earnings this weekend and his analysis of Young Adult's performance is a must read. People are going to initially write off YA's weekend performance, but it's the kind of film that gradually build momentum. Plus, WOM is pretty good. It's not going to match Reitman's other films, but keep in mind Young Adult was made on a 12 million dollar budget. It's needs only a MODEST shelf-life to earn back its budget and be considered a success. Please consider these factors before you write off a film.

  • KT | December 19, 2011 9:31 AM

    Or how about people stop catching feelings over what one internet writer says about a couple above average movies...

  • Gabe Toro | December 18, 2011 7:17 PM

    I don't understand how people get that I'm sounding the death knell for movies like this. Look, "Young Adult" expanded, and the numbers were shitty. Not a good sign, we can all agree. I didn't hypothesize beyond that. Nothing has been "written off."

  • Rhianna | December 18, 2011 7:03 PM

    Agreed. And just because a movies opening weekend numbers are not good, doesn't at all mean the film won't do buisness. Remember Avatar? It's numbers weren't that great. And Young Adult isn't even opening on enough screens to get it a GREAT weekend of opening numbers. Give it time to grow before you make crap write offs....

  • RJ | December 18, 2011 3:27 PMReply

    "Downey still hasn’t completely shaken his bad boy image, and there’s an entire generation who still thinks of him as his 1990’s itineration - which is to say, working intermittently and moving in and out of jail."

    this might be the dumbest sentence of box office analysis ever. find me one person who decided against seeing Sherlock Holmes 2 because RDJ was a "bad boy" in the 90s. That didn't hurt the first movie a few years ago, or the Iron Man movies, so its obviously not a factor in his box office at all any more and hasn't been for quite some time.

  • JP | December 18, 2011 4:08 PM

    Gabe, what are you talking about? Downey "thinks" he is on Depp's level? How would you have any idea what he thinks, or even make such a dumb statement?

    Sherlock Holmes 1 was a huge hit. So they made a equal that wasn't as successful as the first. It's pretty common. This generational theory of yours makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Bob | December 18, 2011 4:04 PM

    I disagree with you completely, Gabe. Robert Downey, Jr. has a tremendous background of quality performances from non-blockbuster films: Fur, Zodiac, and Home for the Holidays. Hell, need you be reminded of Chaplin, for goodness sake. All for adults! Robert Downey Jr. had the same career and similar brilliant, hardly acknowledged performances back before he became famous (for Iron Man) then as Johnny Depp once had before Pirates.

  • Chase | December 18, 2011 4:00 PM

    Sorry Gabe, I agree with RJ. Whenever I think of Robert Downey, I never think of his bad boy image. It came and went. People HAVE forgotten it...

  • Gabe Toro | December 18, 2011 3:49 PM

    That has to do with the longevity of his blockbuster career. Downey doesn't have the backlog of quality work for adults that Depp has, so when the blockbusters run out, he might have to scramble for challenging work that will still pay him. He doesn't seem like a "work for scale" type since "Iron Man." Downey spent the nineties in the wilderness. Ten years, and that generation is now hitting the ages of twenty and thirty. Depp will benefit from nostalgic audiences, Downey won't. The biggest problem with this is that Downey thinks, and wants to be, on Depp's level, and he's not.

  • kure | December 18, 2011 2:46 PMReply

    it takes a pretty damaged brain gabe,to think that mission will flop.especially now after weekend like this,and especially if you know(and you should know) that it took 68 mill overseas.
    also all that bullshit about robert and wb not doing sherlock 3??????????????????????
    just think before you speak.

  • Gabe Toro | December 18, 2011 2:56 PM

    I never said Mission: Impossible would flop.

    As for Sherlock 3, we'll see.

  • StephenM | December 18, 2011 2:45 PMReply

    Huh. I saw Sherlock Holmes and really liked it--thought it was better than the first one, in fact. Surprised it didn't do better business. The trailers were pretty lousy, though.

  • sara | December 18, 2011 2:40 PMReply

    i just want this twilightcrap ends soon...

  • smitch | December 18, 2011 2:13 PMReply

    but the The Dark Knight Rises prologue was only on 40 of 400 screens. I doubt the majority of grosses for mi4 are from batman fans as you suggest. If that is true, batman fans are nuts

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