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'Man of Steel' Hits Its Marks; 'This Is the End' Is Counterprogramming Hit

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
June 16, 2013 2:12 PM
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'Man of Steel'
'Man of Steel'

Last week Steven Spielberg predicted that the movie business could soon implode-- speaking to film students at USC with George Lucas--should a handful huge-budgeted films flop at the same time. So far, among this summer's tentpoles, only Sony's "After Earth" faces a potential loss (full international returns not yet certain).

The second-best opening weekend of the year (and actually since last July), at a $113 million estimate, is exactly where "Man of Steel" should be, despite low-ball estimates prior to the weekend. Films that cost over $200 million are becoming common, and they need to open at the $100 million or better level to be guaranteed hits. Thus the media ballyhoo over "Man of Steel"'s success feeds into the inexorable studio push to focus on expensive, franchise films as their raison d'etre. Box office pundits leave out the fact that "Man of Steel" HAD to reach $100 million or better or it would be a failure.

No one is lavishing similar praise on the achievement of two standalone, non-franchise releases: "This Is the End" and "Now You See Me" both pulled audiences and competed well against the "Man of Steel" juggernaut. This should be another lesson learned, although it is a tougher one to recreate.

The success of "Man of Steel" brought the total for the top 10 to $195 million, way up from $110 million a year ago. This reduces the gap of the year to date total by a third (2013 now lags by a bit under $200 million, with the summer overall a bit up after a terrible first four months).

1. Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 55

$113,080,000 in 4,207 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $28,879; Cumulative: $125,080,000

Perfectly marketed, playing on built-in audience expectations and with producer Christopher Nolan participating (he worked closely with writer David S. Goyer), anything less than this super-gross would have been a problem.

With 3-D surcharges aiding the total (about 40% of the gross came from these locations), this is a new non-inflation adjusted record gross for a June opening (more tentpoles have delivered in May and July in recent years). Without premium 3-D Nolan's last two Batman films took in $158-161 million their first weekends; "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" releases, also 3-D, did $207 and $174 million, significantly more.

Warner Bros. wouldn't have made this film, with its $225 million budget before marketing expenses, with an anticipated opening gross any less than this. It was risky, after their Bryan Singer-directed "Superman Returns" failed to relaunch the franchise. Nolan's involvement added a darker tone to the project, and Warners go-to director Zack Snyder (R-rated "300" opened to $70 million in March, while "Watchman" and "Sucker Punch" were disappointments in relation to cost) aimed this mainstream commercial action picture at fanboys, if not critics.

Openings in 24 other territories -- most of the major ones still to come -- took in around $25 million, #1 for the weekend in all. Superman has never been as big a draw outside the U.S. as other comic-book characters, although Warners has pushed to change that. Unlike other recent blockbusters, international isn't dominating this story. Upcoming results will go a long way toward knowing what size of a hit this will be, though it looks like a profitable start to a multi-picture enterprise.

What comes next: This is unlikely to best "Iron Man 3" as top 2013 release, but should place in second or even third (look out for "Despicable Me 2").

2. This Is the End (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire grade: B+; Metacritic score: 68

$20,500,000 in 3,055 theaters; PSA: $6,710; Cumulative: $32,800,000

In its first five days, this all-star comedy from first-time directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (long time buddies and writing collaborators) has already grossed almost its entire production budget. Rogen and pals James Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel (veterans of previous Rogen-starring comedies like "Pineapple Express" and "Super Bad") all play exaggerated versions of themselves as they face the end of the world at Franco's Hollywood Hills home. The laugh-fest received better than expected reviews given its raunchy, over-the-top content, and joins "Now You See Me" as a better-than-expected non-franchise entry in the middle of release schedule packed with action and kids movies.

The gross on its own for the weekend isn't eye-popping (although the solid first two days makes the total so more impressive). The key here will be whether, having gained traction against "Man of Steel" (no easy task with that film grabbing so much attention) it can hold on with word of mouth and push its way towards a $100 million gross. There's also a question of how much international appeal this will have (this opened first in U.S./Canada, with staggered foreign openings over the next several months; it will likely score the majority of its gross domestically). But in the wake of the disappointing initial grosses for Sony's four times as expensive "After Earth," this marks a rebound for the studio.

This is Emma Watson's second opening of the weekend -- she is the lead in Sofia Coppola's limited opener "Bling Ring." And after Joss Whedon shot his "Much Ado About Nothing" at his house, setting this at Franco's residence suggests, if not a trend, at least a curious same-time coincidence.

What comes next: This is bigger than "The Internship," last week's comedy release, and comes two weeks before the more female-centric "The Heat," so it should have a shot at sustaining a run that could approach $100 million if enough word of mouth continues.

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  • Anne Thompson | June 18, 2013 12:22 PMReply

    Thanks for the catch. Fixed.

  • Ben | June 17, 2013 6:45 PMReply

    I just watched this movie it was dire. Hans Zimmer's score was the most unmemorable score I have ever heard. The camera work gritty? That means it was shaky and at times it you cant even tell what's going on except your head is hurting.

    If this is the future of movies lets hope it does collapse, because frankly these big budget movies are always a let down because the music always by the likes of zimmer who wouldn't know an epic score if you hit him round the head with it. People accept shaky camera work now because they are so used to found footage movies, but it is just plain uninspiring and plain amateurish work. Innovative, don't make me laugh, in this movie superman isn't unique he's a mishmash of every other super hero movie out there, certainly not worth the time or money I spent going to watch this trash.

    If big budge movies die out, its because the likes of Nolan and Zimmer should be making B movies because they just don't have the skills.

  • iwan | June 17, 2013 2:19 AMReply

    Why not make a superman movie superman returns, and that makes me even more disappointed because the faces and costumes are very different from the new superman superman existing

  • Derek | June 18, 2013 11:34 AM

    You messed up Danny and Jay's name. Danny Mcbride and Jay Baruchel, two separate people.

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