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Weekend Box Office: 'Captain America' Is Number One, Because That's Just How America Does It

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 24, 2011 at 3:44AM

Marvel is doing the right thing with their superhero productions. They wisely didn’t break the bank after “Iron Man” did a little under $100 million in its opening weekend, instead opting for future adventures within their universe for around the same cost every time. Even with “The Avengers,” said to be the big kahuna in Marvel’s strategy, they kept costs down thanks to cheap multi-film contracts and economic micromanaging.
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Marvel is doing the right thing with their superhero productions. They wisely didn’t break the bank after “Iron Man” did a little under $100 million in its opening weekend, instead opting for future adventures within their universe for around the same cost every time. Even with “The Avengers,” said to be the big kahuna in Marvel’s strategy, they kept costs down thanks to cheap multi-film contracts and economic micromanaging.

Once you taste success, your investors do want a few more home runs, however. And Marvel will have to come to terms with the fact that none of their properties can match the four quadrant appeal of the “Iron Man” films, both of which easily crossed $300 million domestic. “Incredible Hulk” did enough to keep the character in circulation despite not necessarily producing a sequel, while “Thor” did similar numbers artificially inflated by 3D that still weren’t within spitting distance of the adventures of Tony Stark. Meanwhile, “Captain America” looks like it’s within that wheelhouse with its near $66 million weekend.

“Thor,” by the way, also has a sequel coming, although that has more to do with robust overseas sales than a solid American performance. We’ve yet to see if “Captain America” translates internationally, though most suspect “not well,” as it was defeated by "Harry Potter" in its opening frame. Still, domestically this was coming right after “Potter” and usually the movie that comes out a week after a record-breaking weekend faces an uphill battle scoring audience members who’ve already taken in their blockbuster quota for the month. Furthermore, this coming August is suspiciously light on blockbuster entertainments, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the well-liked WWII picture have legs. And if not, Marvel still has a pricey-but-effective feature-length trailer for “The Avengers” playing, so it wouldn’t be a total loss.

Somebody’s got that second weekend blues, and it’s the boy wizard. “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two” absolutely divebombed in its second session -- down a whopping 72% in its second weekend -- singlehandedly proving that the record-breaking weekend was a fluke caused by a core audience just desperate to wait in unmanageable lines to be one of the first people to see a teenager shoot lasers from a wand for the eighth time. There was hope that this film would be a $400 or $500 million grosser domestically, but that hope dies with this second weekend belly flop, though internationally, there will be plenty of muscle to get this over a billion. It’s only been two weekends, but stateside, this “Potter” adventure already ranks as the sixth highest grossing, though the 3D inflation may distort the franchise rankings when the final tally is realized. Remarkable that the fan base stayed so robust. Curious that it never truly expanded.

In the matchup of “Black Swan” costars, or “That 70’s Show” alumni, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher are the victors. “No Strings Attached” scored a solid $19.7 million in its opening weekend earlier this year, eventually registering a surprisingly strong $148 million global score, but he similarly-themed “Friends With Benefits,” with a nearly-identical ad campaign, looks to finish a bit lower in a more competitive frame. “Benefits” was the more expensive of the two films, and likely carried the bigger ad campaign, so chalk this up as a bit of a misfire, unless the film can pick up some solid second weekend ground.

Awful people continue to frequent “Transformers,” which became the highest-grossing film of the trilogy this weekend, but it also looks like it could potentially stall shy of the $1 billion mark worldwide, while “Horrible Bosses” has been a terrific performer despite a crowded marketplace. The film should easily hit $100 million in the coming weeks, and likely spur a bit of sequel talk. The strongest hold in the top ten belongs to “Zookeeper,” which is looking like a modest performer that, somehow, keeps Kevin James on the comedic A-List. Bankable is bankable, and even after that disappointing first weekend, the movie should wrap up with a solid box office score.

Cars 2” held sway over its stablemate, “Winnie The Pooh,” the latter which could not gain much second weekend support and will stand as one of the summer’s weaker wide release performers (read: biggest flat out bombs). Not so for “Bad Teacher,” which is completing its limp towards $100 million on a $19 million production budget. And completing its eleventh weekend in release is “Midnight In Paris,” still chugging along after becoming Woody Allen’s best domestic performer of all-time. Double-edged sword: we’re happy for Allen to have this success so late in his career. But does this put Owen Wilson back in the leading man rotation? Still, to be fair, he made for an surprisingly solid Allen surrogate in the picture.

In limited release, "Sarah's Key" scored the weekend's highest per-screen average, with $23k at each of its five locations for a $117k total. Fox indie "Another Earth" was a bit quieter, but still robust with $78k at four engagements. The drama "A Little Help" needed some with only $48k at twenty four locations, while "The Myth Of The American Sleepover" brought in $9k in a single New York City theater. The biggest indie winner of the season is most likely "Beginners," which slowly expanded and continues to do strong business in week eight, collecting $431k despite losing a number of theaters, barely dropping off from last weekend and bringing its total to $4.6 million.

Documentary "Buck" continued its healthy run, with $282k in weekend six and a $2.7 million total. Meanwhile, a surprising number of expansions occurred at your local arthouse, with "Snow Flower And The Secret Fan," "Beats, Rhymes And Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest," "The Trip" and "Tabloid" gaining more screens, though none have been doing particularly strong business. Surprisingly, the closest thing to an arthouse blockbuster is "Cave Of Forgotten Dreams." The Werner Herzog doc lost six screens this weekend, but business increased 25% from one week ago, bringing the doc's total to a healthy $5 million in thirteen weeks of release. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. "Captain America: The First Avenger" - $65.8 million
2. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - $48.1 (domestic gross: $274.2 million, worldwide: $834 million)
3. "Friends With Benefits - $18.5 million
4. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" - $12 million (domestic gross: $325.8 million, worldwide: $882 million)
5. "Horrible Bosses" - $11.7 million (domestic gross: $82.4 million)
6. "Zookeeper" - $8.7 million (domestic gross: $59.2 million, worldwide: $75 million)
7. "Car 2" - $5.73 million (domestic gross: $176.4 million, worldwide: $350 million)
8. "Winnie the Pooh" - $5.1 million (domestic gross: $17.6 million, worldwide: $24 million)
9. "Bad Teacher" - $2.6 million (domestic gross: $94.4 million, worlidwide: $152 million)
10. "Midnight in Paris" - $1.9 million (domestic gross: $44.9 million, worldwide: $78 million)

This article is related to: Films, Actors, Film Studios, Weekend Box-Office, Super Hero Films, Animated Films, Friends With Benefits, Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, Another Earth, Captain America: The First Avenger, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest, Marvel


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