Every once in awhile, we look at the numbers and hope, pray that the weekend is emblematic of an attitude amongst the public. They’ve had enough, we predict, and moviegoers are no longer going to accept subpar product. This winter has led to that assumption being made repeatedly, as audiences have roundly rejected most of what the studios have served up.
That trend continued with the Christmas release of “Little Fockers,” which was expected to dominate the marketplace, but will only do numbers that suggest definite franchise fatigue. Nothing much happens in these pictures, but the cast sure isn’t taking anything less than top dollar to degrade themselves with the material. As a result, the second picture cost $80 million, and this film was headed over $100 million before the super-expensive reshoots that recruited the costly Dustin Hoffman into the fold.
It looks like “Little Fockers” is poised to pull in slightly more in its first five days than “Meet The Fockers” despite less seasonal competition. Cinemascore results suggested the audience thought this movie was focking shitty, so a $100 million total might be the endgame, even though plenty of undiscerning people will be off work next weekend. If international is half as receptive as they were last time (lest we forget, “Meet The Fockers” made over $500 million worldwide - taste the sadness), then a theatrical break-even is possible. But the lackluster reception to all the season’s biggest films suggest none of them will be around halfway through January to clean up versus the usual early-year offal.
Even with a film that rates as a slightly more esoteric crowd-pleaser, older audiences and families showed up for “True Grit.” If we were only looking at the three day, this would be the Coens’ biggest opening, surpassing the $19 million pulled in by the star-heavy “Burn After Reading.” It’s good to know that , if you remove art house masterpiece “A Serious Man” from the equation, this would easily be three straight $60 million grossers for one of the world’s most fertile filmmaking teams.
While this was definitely a premium item, films in the western genre always serve as a case study, since the most successful film of that breed in the new millennium remains “Brokeback Mountain” at $83 million. “'Grit”' can most assuredly eclipse the $58 million tally for “Open Range,” but what’s the endgame beyond that? Can 'Grit' be one of the few westerns that pulls in strong international numbers? When a film of a respectable budget opens to numbers and critical acclaim like this, the question becomes not will the movie become a hit, but will it be either a faint profit or a monster hit?
The writing’s been on the wall for “Tron: Legacy” for a long time, and this weekend’s anemic hold probably puts the kibosh on a domestic breakout. “Tron” will need to be an overseas monster to break even theatrically, and with less than $100 million after two weekends against only meager competition, that’s highly unlikely. The “Tron” franchise, dead at two movies -- unless the DVD’s are mislabeled “Call of Duty.”
The holidays brought out the Narnians as “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” saw a surprising holiday uptick from its second weekend. The 3D adventure kicked its way past the $60 million barrier, with $100 surprisingly still in play, though a $90 million final looks more likely. The hold was especially unpredictable in the wake of “Gulliver’s Travels” but there’s a chance that by the new year, screens for the Jack Black vehicle will be abandoned in favor of the Jesus Lion.
“Narnia” certainly took an ugly stick to “Yogi Bear,” which had a second week nosedive only softened by the holiday. This happens often: it’s called indifference. The WB will take a loss on this project, the rare holiday kiddie picture that doesn’t clean up, though it may survive by being a popular renter. Babysitting is overrated.
“Yogi” had to deal with Disney’s “Tangled” nipping at its heels, which drew avid family attention in its fifth weekend, close to eclipsing $150 and change. Like “Tron,” the Rapunzel fairy tale was far more expensive than it should have been, and like “Tron,” “Tangled” will have to depend on ancillaries. Unlike “Tron,” “Tangled” benefits from being a Disney Princess movie, and that merch tends to fly off the shelves quicker than a bendable, poseable Garrett Hedlund.
“The Fighter” and “Black Swan” continued to battle it out with the blockbuster big boys. Colorful competition, that is, with “Fighter” holding steady after a solid wide expansion last weekend, and “Swan” scoring similar numbers despite landing in nearly 1500 theaters. “The Fighter” could still achieve hit status, and it looks likely, but the per-screen for the Natalie Portman ballet drama certainly nosedived. It looked like a world-beater in arthouses, but the ballet picture didn’t necessarily lend itself to mainstream appeal, playing to quizzical mall audiences on its way to a so-so expansion weekend in comparison to previous sessions. Both can consider themselves winners for now, though they hope to persevere through the declining interest in the current box office breadwinners in the coming month.
Oh, and we think we mentioned that Fox released the big budget “Gulliver’s Travels” this weekend. Well, that happened. Good for… somebody. Fox volunteered to expel this stillborn from their gnarled womb with a short running time, allowing for multiple screenings, which was terrible for managers and employees who had to continue playing a terrible movie to empty theaters. The comedy broke pattern as the only wide release to open on Saturday this week, so the tally only covers Saturday and Sunday. Whatever the case, a terrible opening for a movie that probably cost Fox quite a bit, though not as much as what another studio would spend. This is Jeff Portnoy’s worst wide opening weekend since “The Fatties Fart Three.”
In the indie frame, Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" and Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist" had strong debuts. "Somewhere" took in a $142,257 gross over the three-day weekend, and $196,168 since opening Wednesday making for a $20,322 per-theater-average. Only on three screens starting Christmas day, "The Illusionist," grossed $50,628 on Saturday and Sunday averaging a $16,876 per screen. Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle “Country Strong" also opened in limited release on two screens and took in a $8,650 three-day per screen average. Not great, but the film could still perform well in the middle of the country when it hits wide release.
1. Little Fockers (Universal) - $34 million
2. True Grit (Paramount) - $25.6 million
3. Tron: Legacy (Disney) - $20.1 million ($88.2 million total)
4. The Chronicles Of Narnia 3D: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Fox) - $10.8 million ($63.9 million total)
5. Yogi Bear 3D (WB) - $8.8 million ($36.7 million)
6. The Fighter (Paramount) - $8.5 million ($27.5 million)
7. Gulliver’s Travels (Fox) $7.2 million
8. Tangled 3D (Disney) - $6.5 million ($143.7 million total)
9. Black Swan (Fox) - $6.6 ($29 million total)
10. The Tourist (Sony) - $5.7 million ($41 million total)