Call this one a victory for Paramount, and a big one at that. “Super 8,” which opened to $37 million, was advertised with only the slightest of peekaboos, an ad campaign that played less coy and more stubbornly mysterious. While the film was pitched on the name of Steven Spielberg, the filmmaker has his name on a lot of projects annually, and the wealth of offerings has become so consistent that it no longer tilts the needle.
It may have been the involvement of J.J. Abrams who allowed the film to pivot from the maddening marketing to score blockbuster first weekend numbers. Is he a marquee guy? Some directors are able to sell a film based on name alone, but few can frequently debut to big opening weekend stats. That list currently includes the likes of Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Tyler Perry, Tim Burton and maybe Michael Bay. Can Abrams join this group? It’s certainly possible.
Paramount claims they were stingy on marketing this film, which seems unusual, considering the secretive campaign seemed like it was everywhere. But if this film has Amblin-style legs (and audience reports suggest it’s gone over well) then “Super 8” could possibly approach theatrical break-even numbers domestically. Of course, there’s also the chance that this thing collapses just like “Cloverfield,” which barely doubled its even-bigger opening weekend. If so, it’s not a black mark on anyone, as Paramount gladly foot the bill to stay in what some people would consider the theoretically-lucrative J.J. Abrams business.
Moving in on $100 million is “X-Men: First Class,” which took a second week tumble to fall out of the top spot. It looks clear that this film’s performance might mirror that of “X-Men” back in 2000, which opened at a similar gross and fell 57%. The 'First Class' slip is in the same ballpark, which is somewhat encouraging, as films were more frontloaded in 2000 and had less potential revenue streams. They also rode dinosaurs to work. It was an incredible time. Of course, “X-Men” went supernova on DVD, and the excitement regarding that film, the first of the major modern comic book blockbusters, is not like 'First Class,' yet another in a crowded marketplace of comic pictures. At least the fall is nothing like the mass exodus from the last two X-pictures, 'The Last Stand' and 'Wolverine.' Of course, those films were worse than the plague, so this makes sense.
Because comedies usually have stronger legs, the massive second-weekend post-holiday drop for “The Hangover Part II” was softened by a third week bounce. It’s likely the film does not match the domestic take of the first film (though it might be bigger internationally), but with $215 million in three weeks, it’s sure to end up as one of the year’s most profitable movies. There’s a chance 'Part II' could stick around for quite awhile, however, but there are two more R-rated comedies (“Bad Teacher” and “Horrible Bosses”) eager to steal the Wolfpack’s thunder.
Even with a decent audience hold, you can stick a fork in “Kung Fu Panda 2.” The picture is sustaining itself despite being the largest release in the marketplace, but the drops are too much to manage after the disappointing first weekend. These films are costly, and the studios make up the difference through ancillaries (particularly toys) but the movie’s performance with 3D-enhanced prices strongly suggests far less enthusiasm for the character this time around. Perhaps they were confused by “Chop Kick Panda.”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” continues to make an irrational amount of money, comfortably over $200 million domestically with $800 million global. The film hasn’t won Captain Jack many new fans (unless they like tired, uninspired slices of garbage -- which is possible), but the gross could reach the mammoth $963 million worldwide take of the third film. This franchise is definitely alive and kicking. Though expect the film to be lapped by “Bridesmaids,” which posted the lowest audience drop in the top 10. The picture crossed $120 million and has definitely connected with the audience, with the best legs of any summer release. Even if you aren’t a fan of the film, it’s a major victory to see a women-centric film that passes the Bechdel Test score so highly.
With one of the lowest debuts in the top 10, “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” flopped loud and hard. Relativity Pictures is still fairly new to the distribution game, and without an identity and with tons of capital, they are free to experiment a little, and that includes distributing this independently-financed kids film with no demographic appeal. Releasing posters that had the color of a child’s puke probably didn’t endear the film to anyone. The studio distributed a big hit in “Limitless” but the rest of their films were domestic non-starters. Nonetheless, this is a stinker of a performance from a film that isn’t making anyone bankrupt, so it’s pretty much a non-story. Perhaps all the kids were in “Midnight In Paris”? The Woody Allen comedy continued to expand, and with 944 locations, it may have been the lowest-profile film in the top 10. The grosses remain surprisingly strong for the film, which is poised to become one of Allen’s most successful, though Sony Picture Classics getting this film into slightly less than 1,000 theaters by week four is actually a faster expansion than the company usually utilizes. Still, one could argue the gradual expansion has greatly benefited the film, which should cross $30 million next weekend.
The biggest indie debut went to “The Trip,” which averaged $14k on six screens for $85k. It wasn’t the hottest film in arthouse theaters, however, as “The Tree of Life” threatened the top 10 on only 47 screens. Terrence Malick’s tone poem averaged over $18k-per-screen, the strongest of the week, for a $875k take and a three week $2.4 million total, with further expansion coming. Also strong on the indie circuit was “Beginners,” which brought in $255k on 19 screens in its second week for a $13k average.
Other indie debuts include “Bride Flight,” the foreign drama that scored $54k on 18 screens for distributor Music Box. Congolese drama “Viva Riva” also debuted from Music Box, with $10.3k on three screens. In a few minor indie milestones, “The Double Hour” finally crossed $1 million after nine weeks in release, while “Win Win” surpassed the $10 million mark. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Super 8 (Paramount) - $37 million
2. X-Men: Those Last Two Were Freebies (Fox) - $25 million ($99 mil.)
3. Bangkok Travelogue (WB) - $18.5 million ($217 mil.)
4. It’s A Goddamned Panda That Does Kung Fu (DreamWorks/Paramount) - $16.6 million ($127 mil.)
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Johnny Depp Got $55 Million For This Crap (Disney) - $10.8 million ($209 mil.)
6. Bridesmaids (Paramount) - $10.2 million ($124 mil.)
7. Judy Moody’s Summer Actually Blows (Relativity) - $6.3 million
8. Midnight In Paris (Sony) - $6.1 million ($14 mil.)
9. Thor (Paramount) - $2.4 million ($174 mil.)
10. Faster Than Five, Not Quite Six (Universal) - $1.7 million ($205 mil.)