By Gabe Toro | The Playlist September 18, 2011 at 3:49AM
Right now, some jerk at Disney is finding a way to use the term “circle of life” to define how they can release “The Lion King” anytime, and it will always make money. A 3D re-issue of the film became the number one weekend attraction by a very wide margin with $29 million, a huge middle finger to those who claim audiences are looking for something “fresh” or “new.”
This is the biggest re-release since “Star Wars,” though the industry has to ask if this is a fluke or not. The kiddie market has been barren for the last few weeks, so some parents were likely starving for an entertainment option for their kids (here’s an idea: A LIBRARY). Still, this could be the beginning of a new revenue stream, as studios have openly discussed 3D updates to “Ghostbusters” and “Top Gun.” Could recycling popular catalog titles become the new practice after a summer filled with underperforming remakes and sequels? Is this a good way to get “Halloween” in cineplexes for Halloween? Are movies the new TV? And what is “The Matrix”?
Falling out of the top spot was “Contagion,” though the second weekend hold was fairly strong. The film is appealing to the adult market, so having legs isn’t entirely that strange. The picture is playing, and there’s no doubt the release date hit the sweet spot as it seems like the first real adult alternative in a number of weeks. The film might deflate in the coming weekend, but a $60 million plus total isn't out of the question.
Landing at #3 was “Drive,” which FilmDistrict somewhat accurately marketed as a boutique genre picture. A more established studio would have likely done a bait-and-switch and presented the Nicolas Winding Refn picture as another gearhead actionfest, but with a movie like this, it could have resulted in a boom-or-bust, and not these safer mid-range numbers. Upstart distributor FilmDistrict has opened all its films in this vicinity, and the titles thus far benefited from word-of-mouth to pull in surprising final grosses, but the somewhat-difficult “Drive” collected a C- Cinemascore this weekend. We’ll see if their wide release gamble of one very unusual movie pays off in the following weeks, though the film was budgeted within the $10 million range and isn’t likely a huge money loser.
“The Help” eased on down the lineup, showing vague signs of slowing down but still on the cusp of $150 million domestic. Media coverage has centered on the controversy, which places the spotlight on standouts, and likely Oscar players Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. And yet, is it possible co-star Emma Stone ends up getting the biggest career bounce out of the film’s success? Boys and girls, that’s called a “rhetorical question.” Next weekend brings an almost entirely male-dominated slate, so it would not be a surprise for “The Help” to flex its box office muscle again and possibly maintain three quarters of its take.
There were so, so, so many factors playing into the flop of “Straw Dogs,” most of which start at the title. Even fans of the original (who, very likely, made up less than one percent of this weekend’s audience) have a hard time remembering the significance of that name, so it might as well have been in Chinese for today’s market. Screen Gems knows how to market these low rent cheapies, but showcasing James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as your leads just screams 2004. The presence of Alexander Skarsgård certainly didn’t hurt, but even with its media exposure, the ratings for “True Blood” are, generously, in line with a mid-level broadcast program.
Mark this down as another disaster for The Weinstein Company. “I Don’t Know How She Does It” belly-flopped, its release seemingly cementing the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t nearly as big as her “Sex and the City” alter ego, which Carried (LOL) those films to massive box office tallies. They may have not taken a bath on “Apollo 18” but, along with “Scream 4” and “Spy Kids,” they’ve released some mid-to-low budgeted films where they were expecting at least twice as much from the grosses. Oddly enough, the studio’s biggest success might be indie acquisition “Our Idiot Brother,” which may not even pass $25 million domestic.
Ouch for niche sports offering “Warrior.” The picture lost less than half its small first weekend crowds, but it’s already being forgotten, falling behind geezer spy thriller “The Debt.” “Warrior” was looking like a possible Oscar performer, but the crowd-pleaser needed actual crowds to respond for the Academy to take notice, and that certainly didn’t happen thanks to the year‘s most dunderheaded ad campaign. “The Debt,” meanwhile, opened smaller than last fall’s Focus offering “The American” but is having much stronger legs, and should hit $30 million by next weekend.
It’s proven difficult to kill “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which Fox is trying to limp to a final tally higher than the 2001 'Apes' offering, while “Colombiana” has proven to be a decent-sized teaser for its eventual DVD/Blu-Ray release. And were you looking for somewhere quiet to do some thinking alone? You should have bought a ticket for “Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star,” which averaged a spectacularly awful $253 per-screen in its second weekend of wide release.
Indie theaters must have been starving for some Gerard Depardieu, as his drama "My Afternoons With Margueritte" grabbed $20k on two screens. It handily outperformed Gus Van Sant's "Restless," which only grossed $17k on five screens. On a quiet weekend for indie releases, the big winner remained "Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain," the standup doc that grabbed $1.1 million on only 230 screens, for a spectacular total of $3.6 million in two weeks. Meanwhile, microdoc "Shut Up Little Man" was a decent-sized winner in its fourth weekend, with $8.5k on two screens for a four week total of $14k. Strong business continued for "The Guard," which collected $389k in its eighth weekend for a $3.8 million tally, and "Higher Ground," which had a steady third weekend expansion for $120k and a three week $470k tally, though the per-screens aren't very strong in the latter case. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Kimba The White Lion 3D (Disney) - $29.3 million
2. Everyone Has Cooties (Warner Bros.) - $14.5 million (total: $44 mil.)
3. Drive (FilmDistrict) - $11 million
4. That's Our Sassy Black Maid! (Disney) - $6.4 million (total: $147 mil.)
5. Straw Dogs (Sony/Screen Gems) - $5 million
6. I Don't Know How What I Am Doing Here Huh What? (The Weinstein Company) - $4.5 million
7. The Debt (Focus/Paramount) - $2.9 million (total: $27 mil.)
8. Warrior (Lionsgate) - $2.8 million (total: $10 mil.)
9. Ape, Planet, Rise, Etc. (Fox) - $2.6 million (total: $172 mil.)
10. Colombiana (Sony) - $2.5 million (total: $33 mil.)