Weekend Box Office: Zack Snyder & Warners Get 'Sucker Punch' From 'Wimpy Kid'

by Gabe Toro
March 27, 2011 5:09 AM
12 Comments
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Demographics matter. You want to say, well, screw the numbers, let’s just make a movie for everyone! But considering the multiple sources of entertainment in our multimedia worlds, whatever doesn’t automatically turn us on will turn us off. Because of this, Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” turned people off. It was an action fantasia, a genre normally attractive to teenage boys, but it featured only girls, an immediate turnoff for that demographic. And it didn’t appeal to women, who noticed the marketing campaign centered around cacophonous violence and mayhem, not usually a drawing point for females. It wasn’t made for kids, but the heavily-CGI’d special effects made it look like a candy-coated kids’ entertainment to adults. Four quadrants, all disinterested.

Now “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” there’s a film that plays to certain demographics. Specifically kids, tweens and early teens who know the source material and had been marketed to extensively on cable networks. Here’s a KID’S movie, FOR kids, WITH kids. Hijinks and slapstick, etc. “Wimpy Kid” is a project with no illusions, the second part in what looks like a legit series, rushed out after the decent success of the first film a year ago, and designed specifically with the bottom line in mind. It cost zilch, and after the $22 million opening (roughly equal to its predecessor), a final domestic gross of $50-$60 million means Fox is going to party like a rockstar tonight. In case you were wondering, it’s entirely irrelevant as to whether it’s a good movie or not.

So, here’s what you can do: you can bemoan the death of originality. Few filmmakers have the clout to push an expensive, entirely original project without any names through the studio system. Zack Snyder, who previous adapted comic books and one horror classic, got his shot to make something that everyone knew would be a marketing challenge, but it would serve as a distinct experience for the audience, one that transported them to multiple worlds to see sights created through CGI imagery that, to many audience members, would be wholly new. A big-budget film based on no previous material and, ostensibly, geared to teens, was less-attended than a cheap-looking, low-budget children’s film off the assembly line.

Or, you can celebrate. Snyder, director of primitive, deadly serious blockbuster offal, got to make his definitive auteurist statement. And it was dismal, the enablers (Warner Bros.) now paying in full for this folly. “Sucker Punch” muddies the waters for similarly ambitious original films in the pipeline (and, in this case, it seems the word original should have quotation marks), some made by actual storytellers, and not commercial charlatans like Snyder, who earnestly believes the sledgehammer in his hand is some sort of societal microscope. It was a naked attempt to pander to an always-fickle fanboy audience, and another confirmation that said audience is exceedingly vocal, but fairly tiny in the grand scheme. Simply put, it was a nail in several coffins, some of which shouldn’t be shut. WB just became that much more nervous about 2012’s Snyder-directed “Superman.”

Somewhat surprisingly, muscular holds were posted by last week’s number one, “Limitless,” and the legal drama “The Lincoln Lawyer,” as people over twenty years old needed to see something. With this weekend’s numbers, “Limitless” has out-grossed all three of Relativity’s all-time domestic releases combined, and the film has a shot at scoring $60-$70 million stateside, surprising considering a PG-13 drug movie is kind of an anomaly. “The Lincoln Lawyer” is considerably behind “Limitless,” but the film boasted the week’s best hold, dropping only 22%. It’s too early to tell if this is going to be a significant over-performer, but Lionsgate knows full well that Matthew McConaughey’s lead character appears in several other books, suggesting the support is there for an Alex Cross-type franchise.

Rango” is now safely above $100 million, though in week four, the film is definitely on the low-end of CGI-toon performers. The film is the highest grossing 2011 release so far, and it’s a lock to cross $200 internationally within the week, but with a reported budget of $135 million (which some suggest is very generous), the film’s going to have to perform strongly on the home video market, since the merchandising and ancillaries aren’t exactly heating up. It’s not exactly “Mars Needs Moms,” but all involved were hoping for a warmer reception. For the record, if you told studio execs in early January that only one 2011 release would cross $100 million by the end of March, they would have started making significantly more affordable vacation plans.

Among alien movies, “Battle: Los Angeles” has out grossed “Paul” globally by more than a 2:1 ratio. And yet, “Paul” is the bigger winner. “Battle,” currently enjoying a healthy life overseas, won’t pass $100 million domestic and might even find difficulty cresting $200 global. “Paul,” however, has pulled in strong overseas receipts, and domestically it will be the biggest of the Simon Pegg-Nick Frost collaborations after this weekend. “Battle” was spearheaded by a massive global marketing campaign, whereas “Paul” was a cheap one-off paying unexpected dividends with a possible $70+ million international tally. “Battle” director Jonathan Liebesman was wise to immediately set up another tent pole (“Wrath Of The Titans”), but the studio takes some heat, considering it was originally looking like the year’s first big springtime blockbuster.

Warner Bros. saves face on “Red Riding Hood” considering the cost, though this is a misfire for all involved with the likely $40 million final. Meanwhile, “The Adjustment Bureau” closes out its theatrical run as a modest success, no doubt a big earner on the DVD market. It was able to leapfrog the disastrous “Mars Needs Moms,” which tumbled in weekend three after Disney definitively cut bait, shedding almost a thousand screens in an attempt to distance themselves from something that just did not work. If this were a western, “Mars Needs Moms” would ride back into town months later for revenge on the distributor that left him to die.

In indie theaters, "Win Win" expanded into twenty-three locations, garnering $471k, a solid $20k per-screen average. Again the week's best per-screen belonged to the doc "Bill Cunningham New York," which averaged $23k on three metropolitan screens, though it seems a bit NY-centric to be an expansion candidate. Julian Schnabel's "Miral" debuted, grabbing $65k on four screens, while French children's film "Mia And The Migoo" took home an impressive $17k on only one screen. Speaking of the French, Sony Pictures Classics has continued the slow rollout for "Of Gods And Men," and the Oscar nominee had its best weekend yet, a $370k tally at 120 screens bringing the film's total to $2.1 million. Support your local arthouse, boys and girls.

1. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Fox) - $24.4 million
2. Sucker Punch (WB) - $19 million
3. Limitless (Relativity) - $15.2 million ($41 mil.)
4. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) - $11 million ($29 mil.)
5. Rango (Paramount) - $9.8 million ($106 mil.)
6. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) - $7.6 million ($73 mil.)
7. Paul (Universal) - $7.5 million ($25 mil.)
8. Red Riding Hood (WB) - $4.3 million ($32 mil.)
9. The Adjustment Bureau (Universal) - $4.2 million ($55 mil.)
10. Mars Needs Moms (Disney) - $2.2 million ($19 mil.)

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12 Comments

  • CHW | March 30, 2011 2:00 AMReply

    Hey I have an idea for an original film in the underwear empowerment genre! OK you get a group of standard type real guys. Edward Cullen, Jacob Black, Mr Darcy, James Bond, Eric Northman etc, etc etc. now these guys go on a quest and they need to gather up things that would make them acceptable to women. So they each write a poem, make a delicious breakfast, obtain chocolate etc, etc, and then they work in a male strip club and spend the rest of the movie running around in dress shoes and men's underwear inspired costumes while the go on the next quest to present their quest items to the Goddess of the universe. Now this will be a men's empowerment movie and so men will go see it. OK can I have my $100 million to make my movie?

  • ASFan | March 29, 2011 10:10 AMReply

    CHW, by original they mean it wasn't based off of any previous material, which was pointed out.

  • CHW | March 29, 2011 3:22 AMReply

    Oh please! Sucker Punch was original?! Women didn't go to see it because it was loud and violent?!

    Women didn't go see it because it was another underwear movie. Female audiences do not want to see women through the distorted vision of male eyes and the underwear limited male imagination. Why doesn't Hollywood hold a writing contest for young girls where they can write their own empowerment. If you can see clear to remove the male requirement that everything happen while the females wear only underwear you would get some sell-able stories. This movie was a derivative sexist POS. Please could male film makers stop the lingerie empowerment campaign and give young women the empowerment to tell their own stories. Or maybe you like losing money.

  • Brody | March 28, 2011 8:12 AMReply

    It's almost April, and there still hasn't been a movie worth seeing in the theater (I did catch up on a few Oscar contenders from last year, and Uncle Boonme isn't playing near me, yet)...

  • DuluozGray | March 28, 2011 6:39 AMReply

    Paul is an enormous bomb. Lord knows what they spent on marketing, but it was A LOT. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing an ad for that crap.

    I don't like when Playlist acts like AICN and denies basic reality just cause they either liked the movie or have some weird, unknown personal stake in its success. This site pimped Paul forever, and it was a bomb, just accept it. No one cares about Simon Pegg or Nick Frost in America, only geeks and fanboys, and as we saw with Sucker Punch, they are a meaningless demographic that will do nothing for your movie.

  • ASFan | March 27, 2011 9:47 AMReply

    Actually Gabe, two films have crossed 100M: Rango and Just Go With It.

  • SK | March 27, 2011 8:19 AMReply

    Great points all around by Gabe Toro.

    I'm glad that a CGI Convention without any compelling story didn't get the thumbs up from audiences.

    I dont' think Diary of a Wimpy Kid will stick in anyone's minds, executives too, long enough to take room in the pipelines from imaginative ideas.
    For example, Limitless (even if not that great) has much more going for it than Sucker Punch.
    Huge robots and CGI action targeted at girls? No way, WB. Nice try attempting to "flip the script".

    $80 million for Sucker Punch is not Zack Snyder's fault, it's WB's. But they have the Harry Potter Endowment Fund to spend at will.
    But who can say what Zack Snyder will do with Superman. At this point, I couldn't care less about the movie.

  • John | March 27, 2011 7:32 AMReply

    WB should be much more nervous about Green Lantern then Superman. I think Superman will be pretty successful all things being equal.

  • Zack | March 27, 2011 6:45 AMReply

    "Inception" realized that too, which is why it kept switching up the rules when it felt like the stakes weren't high enough.

  • planetofice | March 27, 2011 5:57 AMReply

    Trent, I guess you didn't think the stakes were high in Inception either since it was all in dream right?

  • planetofice | March 27, 2011 5:56 AMReply

    nice pun in the title! you guys are brilliant

  • Trent. | March 27, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    Sucker punch was just an hard sell. Once it was revealed that everything you see was in her head how can you root or care about the character? Am I nervous about Superman, sure I am. But maybe Snyder will have it himself to do away with all the gimmicks and just make a serious super hero movie ala Batman begins and The Dark knight.

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