By Gabe Toro | The Playlist October 16, 2011 at 3:40AM
You put out one remake of an '80s movie during a slow weekend, and it’s not a big deal. You put out remakes of two niche early '80s hits on the same weekend, and audiences get the message. This weekend was the clearest example yet of studios offering reheated product, one of which was remains in public memory as a punch line, the other as a cult classic that was ignored by critics and audiences upon its initial release. At least they weren’t expensive.
Holdover “Real Steel” grabbed the top spot with $16 million, edging the $15.5 million take by "Footloose." For Craig Brewer's film, it’s not much of an opening for such a massive marketing push, however, and there’s apparently disappointment over the number. Which makes no sense -- this film was engineered to be a big DVD sleepover hit with a sizeable theatrical appeal strong enough to score a double digit weekend. Paramount should have dialed back their expectations after Zac Efron turned it down the lead, only to see scores of semi-famous Efron-alikes also pass on the film, leaving the marketing heat to fall on unknown newbie Kenny Wormwald and country singer/reality show star Julianne Hough. Considering the premise is harder to swallow today than in ‘84 -- teens are forbidden to dance! -- this is a number to be proud of, provided the second weekend isn’t a catastrophic dropoff.
Speaking of catastrophic dropoffs, it’s worth saying about the last few slow weekends could be considered a strike against studios’ marketing departments, but not the movies themselves. The openings have been smaller, but there have been far less 50% drops for any recent films, suggesting that some of these films were staying alive on word of mouth. Even genre picture “Real Steel,” last week’s number one, lost less than half it’s opening weekend audience. Then again, that’s the only real good news for this picture, which still represented the steepest fall of any film in the top ten, and is looking like a pretty big money loser considering its massive cost. The good news is that currently the film is cleaning up overseas. The bad news is, this DreamWorks offering is going to need a lot more support than just being “big in Japan.”
“John Carpenter’s The Thing” remains a popular catalog title, but it’s never been quite the household title as fellow 1982 releases “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” or “Blade Runner,” the latter of which opened on the same day (man, what kind of double feature would THAT have been?). So it’s not a surprise that you’re working with not only a more obscure genre (shudder) brand, but also a pretty nondescript title, and you’re trying to launch without a single recognizable face in the cast or behind the camera, and you land with a seven figure thud. Even in an October currently starved for horror product, “The Thing” couldn’t find traction. Horror typically drops hard in its second frame, and next week brings “Paranormal Activity 3,” so this likely spells the end for this remake/prequel movie. “The Thing” wasn’t too expensive, but the budget approached $40 million, which is high for a horror picture, and the picture doesn’t look anywhere in the realm of profitability at this point.
The adults came out for “The Ides of March,” which posted a decent second weekend hold and crossed $20 million. It’s clearly the lead adult attraction right now, and with mature viewers not being served next weekend either, the film should have a solid third weekend as well. “Dolphin Tale” continues its solid run, currently approaching $60 million, while “Moneyball” posted the lowest audience drop of any picture in the top ten. Grossing over $80 million domestically will go a long way towards raising the film’s profile for an Oscar run. Because yes, sometimes it is a popularity contest, and Brad Pitt has what it takes to be Prom King. And in weekend three, “50/50” remains in the top ten, playing to a sizeable audience and threatening to cross $30 million domestically.
Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin are all stars, but A-Listers they are not. With the right marketing muscle, Fox could have gotten their bird-watching comedy “The Big Year” to a double digit debut, but the fact that they threw in the towel with a meager opening only slightly higher than 2,000 screens tells you how much they cared about this one. Fox did leave this middling product to die, but maybe there would have been more mileage with a different title. As a book, you can rely on word of mouth and an attractive jacket. But Martin, Black and Wilson work so often that none of their films are must-sees, so one sees a title that could be describing almost anything, and it’s immediately skippable.
Meanwhile, over at your local arthouse, Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In” made an impressive debut, taking in $230,979 with a $38,497 average on six screens. The numbers put it in league with "Volver," which wound up doing double-digit box office numbers so the future looks very bright for Almodóvar's twisted pic, and it ranks as the fourth best arthouse opening this year behind "The Tree of Life," "Midnight In Paris" and "Jane Eyre."
1. The One With The Wolverine Guy, But He's Not Wolverine (Disney) - $16 million ($51 mil.)
2. Loose Feet (Paramount) - $15.5 million
3. The Thingamajig (Universal) - $8.7 million
4. The Ides of March (Sony) - $7.3 million ($22 mil.)
5. Flipper 3D (Warner Bros.) - $6.9 million ($59 mil.)
6. The Team That Hated The Yankees (Sony) - $5.7 million ($58 mil.)
7. 50/50 (Summit) - $4.2 million ($24 mil.)
8. The Big Year (Fox) - $3.5 million
9. Courageous (Sony) - $3.4 million ($21 mil.)
10. The Lion King 3D (Disney) - $2.7 million ($90 mil.)