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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: Originals and Innovative Marketing Rule UPDATE

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
September 30, 2012 12:50 PM
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Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake in "Trouble with the Curve"
4. Trouble With the Curve (Warner Brothers) Week 2 - Last Weekend: #3

$7,530,000 (-38%) in 3,212 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,344; Cumulative: $23,726,000

"Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood's last film as star, fell only 25% its second wide weekend (after opening to much more than double what "Curve" did on its way to a stunning $145 million domestic gross). However, a 38% second weekend drop is better than average, indicating at least some good word of mouth.

What comes next: Eastwood's last three films as a director (without him as an actor) grossed between $32-37 million, which this likely reaches or slightly surpasses. But three of his last four as an actor grossed over $90 million (going back to "Space Cowboys"), so at age 82 his appeal as a star is on the wane.

5. House at the End of the Street (Relativity) Week 2 -  Last Weekend: #2

$7,154,000 (-42%) in 3,083 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,320; Cumulative: $22,225,000

A not bad second week drop for a horror film that is pulling audiences thanks to lead Jennifer Lawrence.

What comes next: After "The Hunger Games" and with "Silver Linings Playbook" opening soon, we won't be seeing Lawrence in a film like this for a long, long time.

6. Pitch Perfect (Universal) NEW - No Cinemascore; Metacritic: 65

$5,200,000 in 335 theaters; PSA: $15,560; Cumulative: $5,200,000

An extraordinary opening for what could be the sleeper of the year. Opening in targeted theaters, particularly in areas with college audiences and aimed primarily at females (74% of the audience), this comedy about an a capella national singing competition had an amazing PSA and a #6 position with only 335 theaters. Not only does this compare well with "The Master," it also beat the PSA of the expansion of "Perks of Being a Wallflower" (which did a strong $11,150 in 102).

Most films that platform this well come with a festival/review/awards pedigree and older audience appeal. Though the reviews came in mildly favorable the NY Times buried its mixed take among its "also opening" group). Universal found alternative marketing to reach its audience, with an emphasis on on-line outreach and advance screenings.  (There was no display ad in yesterday's LA Times, a close to unprecedented marketing decision). Yet the film performed, big time.

This is the first feature film for director Jason Moore, who was Tony-nominated for "Avenue Q" and also has TV experience. Three years after her Oscar nomination as a young executive in "Up in the Air," Anna Kendrick heads up the cast here as a college freshman. She also stars in well-received hit "End of Watch."

Actress Elizabeth Banks and her husband Max Handelman made up 2/3s of the producing team along with Paul Brooks ("Because I Said So"). Banks joins a growing trend of actresses stepping up into producing and/or writing, a significant development this year.

What comes next: This expands to 2,800 theaters Friday, with this week meant to establish word of mouth in advance.This unusual release pattern could become a model for future films - it effectively serves as a full week of sneak previews. It was risky, but if "Picture Perfect" turns into a hit expect to see selected films take this route.

7. Finding Nemo 3D (Buena Vista) Week 3 - Last Weekend: #4

$4,066,000 (-58%) in 2,639 theaters (-235); PSA: $1,541; Cumulative: $36,475,000

After lagging far behind the performance of "The Lion King 3D" last year its first two weeks, this actually will have a smaller third weekend falloff, but its gross is still much weaker (on its way to a reissue gross of $94 million, "King" still did over $10 million its third weekend).

What comes next: A total reissue gross of about half of "The Lion King."

8. Resident Evil: Retribution (Sony) Week 3 - Last Weekend: #5

$3,000,000 (-55%) in 2,381 theaters (-635); PSA: $1,260; Cumulative: $38,700,000

Another big falloff in a crowded genre film market, but Sony is not unhappy.

What comes next: This has already grossed over $100 million in the rest of the world.

9. The Master (Weinstein) Week 3 - Last Weekend: #7

$2,745,000 (-37%) in 856 theaters (+68); PSA: $3,207; Cumulative: $9,633,000

A modest falloff (with additional theaters coming on) for Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed drama, only two weeks after its huge platform openings. The weekday grosses last week were promisingly consistent (which suggested sustained interest and good reaction). But the PSA here for the quality of theaters this is playing at suggest that this is not in for a long run with major new openings in October. The initial gross (before a planned wider reissue around nominations) looks like it won't pass $20 million.

What comes next: Major critics' groups support in December (which is quite likely) will be needed to help reinvigorate this later on.

10. Won't Back Down (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 43

$2,700,000 in 2,515 theaters; PSA: $1,070; Cumulative: $2,700,000

Surrounded by controversy because of its perceived anti-teacher's union story line, this inner city story of parents fighting for their children's education flopped despite a cast including Viola Davis in her first lead role since "The Help."

Financed by Walden Media (which also backed the education documentary "Waiting for Superman," and whose films usually target middle-America and families ("Chronicles of Narnia," "Bridge to Tabitha," "The Water Horse"), this had a production budget of just under $20 million.

What comes next: Unless word of mouth kicks in quickly, this will quickly disappear.

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