Hooray for Hollywood, or something. The 2011 box office finally snapped out of its doldrums with more reheated crap, “Fast Five” opening to a spectacular-for-Universal $83 million. The car blockbuster’s weekend surpasses “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” as the biggest opening weekend in Universal history, and with spectacular overseas results, the film is poised to do upwards of $400-$500 million globally, topping the $353 worldwide take of “Fast And Furious,” the last film in the series.
And that’s pretty much the whole story here. Universal snaps a losing streak, and the braindead chase/race movie series gains perhaps another installment, serving as a nice meal ticket for plank of wood Paul Walker and Daddy Bear Vin Diesel, who either can’t get anyone to see their other projects, or is too bent on pedaling their unlikely vanity projects, respectively. But the film, a collection of explosions and fisticuffs with the bare minimum of story, is likely to be as top-heavy as the last film in the franchise, which opened similarly huge only to plummet by 60% against feeble springtime competition.
“Fast Five” is only the first in a summer movie onslaught, as the picture takes on “Thor” next weekend, another film tracking above $60 million. While the race thriller has outpaced its superhero competition as both films have hit overseas, the international appeal of the Rio-set sequel might dwarf the enthusiasm on these shores, as the picture showed a definite downtrend after Friday’s boffo $33 million haul. Audiences have supposedly responded generously to the crowd-pleaser, but the marketplace is sparse, explaining elevated awareness.
“Rio” easily passed $100 million for the weekend, though the film looks like its on the way out. The Blue Sky offering took a hit mostly because the 3D screens were surrendered for “Hoodwinked Too” (more on that later). “Rio” is going to remain the top family attraction for most of May, but every weekend brings a new 3D tentpole, so the chances of out-grossing the domestic numbers of “Robots,” the weakest performer in the Blue Sky stable, are stable but not entirely promising. These guys haven’t produced a loser yet, and international numbers are much stronger, but this is a fairly muted reception for a CG-toon.
Though Tyler Perry has built a cottage industry around his films, they remain opening weekend pictures, so it wasn’t a surprise to see “Madea’s Big Happy Family” crash and burn by almost 60% in weekend two. The luster is off the Madea character with the ceiling reached years ago, so the non-devoted are away that this is niche product. Perry rode the Madea train a bit too long, and with the failure to develop any other mainstream properties viable enough to lead a series of movies, the realization that Perry could only fluke-launch one character to pop-culture prominence would prove to be his undoing. Perry’s far from done, of course, and it trying to transition into the blockbuster world with “I, Alex Cross,” but if that picture fails, Perry might have to settle for making billions in television and not movies.
“Water For Elephants” held steady, providing the adult/elderly alternative. Hard to say the film is playing to young “Twi-hards” as well, since they roundly ignored Robert Pattinson in “Remember Me,” and it’s hard to see them going crazy for Reese Witherspoon when to that age group, she’s, like, ancient. They could be looking at $50 million domestic, which is unusually strong for a studio drama in April, so this is a boon for director Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend"), who keeps himself in consideration for a number of potential tentpole releases seeking directors with no obvious storytelling skill.
THUD and a PLOP for the weekend’s other two wide releases. Disney thought they had a hit on their hands with “Prom,” but it may have been too specific a demographic play. Young kids want to see younger kids (and animals) in action, and older kids at the “Prom“ age range have graduated to movies for adults. You know, like “Fast Five.” A film centered around a very specific rite of passage has to have universal appeal, and it didn’t play to anyone outside that narrow, fickle niche. “Prom” didn’t cost Disney much, so they’ll be fine once the DVD hits.
Not so for The Weinstein Company, who saw their long-shelved “Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil” debut to anemic opening frame numbers. Perception is everything for the Weinsteins, so they may not be bothered by the notion that people have been ready to ignore this film long in advance. But how’s this for perception: “Hoodwinked Too” is poised to register the worst-ever wide opening for a 3D picture. It was five and a half years ago that the original film grabbed over $50 million stateside, not the type of numbers that promise a brand-strength or interest in a franchise, so selling this movie as the continuation of a series and not its own thing was a mistake.
With the lowest drop in the top ten, “Soul Surfer” continued to bring in solid family audiences, and should round out at $40 million, though the rest of the top ten is clearly just product waiting to be escorted out of the marketplace by the summertime glut. “Source Code” is putting up solid numbers and should cross $50 million next weekend, while “Hop” fell off the Earth with a dismal post-Easter drop. Neither is as much of a success story as “Insidious.” By next weekend, Film District’s first-ever release will fall out of the top ten, though it’s also expected to hit $50 million domestically. With a budget of $1.5 million and solid receipts from international presales, the film is easily one of the year’s most profitable.
In semi-limited release, “Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night” registered feeble numbers. 875 theaters brought the low-profile release a $885k take, though this title seems like it was earmarked for bigger international grosses, as it's based on a massively popular Italian comic, and because Brandon Routh is HUGE in Bangkok. Werner Herzog's "Cave Of Forgotten Dreams" also debuted, grabbing $127k on only five screens, the week's best per-screen performer at $25k-per. "Exporting Raymond" had a wider berth, popping up on thirteen screens, though the film only managed $36k, while "Lebanon, PA" enticed $7k worth of moviegoers at two engagements. Support your local arthouse, boys and girls.
1. The Five Fastest (Universal) - $83.6 million
2. Rio 3D (Fox) - $14.4 million ($104 mil.)
3. Tyler Perry's Got No Problem Replicating Aunt Jemima Iconography (Lionsgate) - $10 million ($41 mil.)
4. Gatorade For Elephants (Fox) - $9.1 million ($32 mil.)
5. Prom (Disney) - $5 million
6. Hoodwinked Too: There Was A Hoodwinked One? (Weinstein) - $4.1 million
7. Shark Bait Girl (Sony) - $3.3 million ($34 mil.)
8. Insidious (FilmDistrict) - $2.7 million ($48 mil.)
9. Hop (Universal) - $2.6 million ($105 mil.)
10. Source Code (Summit) - $2.5 million ($49 mil.)