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Top Ten Weekend Box Office: Two Paul Andersons Rule UPDATED

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
September 16, 2012 12:58 PM
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'The Master'

Although the weekend's top ten grosses- totalling around $65 million--were a nice boost from last weekend's disastrous $45 million, they still represent a drop of more than 25% from the same weekend last year. Much of the difference comes from this year's 3-D Disney reissue falling short of last year's, but studios and theaters have reason to wonder when business is going to return to steadier levels.

Two different Paul Anderson are dominating the weekend. Paul W.S. Anderson is heading towards his 4th #1 weekend gross with "Resident Evil: Retribution," and even more impressively, achieving this over three different decades. Paul Thomas Anderson meantime is scoring a huge opening with "The Master," with the best ever (non-inflation adjusted) specialized platform PSA ($146,000) opening in five theaters for a three-day total of $730,000 (more details in Arthouse Audit).

Insurgent Utah-based Rocky Mountain Pictures fell out of the top 10, with its two releases, the ongoing “2016 Obama’s America” and the new “Last Ounce of Courage” both grossing around $2 million for the weekend, both in over 1,000 theaters.

The weak total is attributable more to the lack of strong new films over the last two weeks than the later holdovers. Several films declined far less than normal, suggesting that there is still a movie-hungry audience waiting to go out.

1. Resident Evil: Retribution (Sony) - NEW; Metacritic score: 46

$21,100,000 in 3,012 theaters; PSA: $7,005; Cumulative: $21,100,000

How many fifth entries of a series have been #1 for their opening weekend? Not that many. For genre films (horror, raunchy comedies), #5 often goes straight to DVD or cable. But not this franchise. Now in its 11th year, it's back for one more swing at bat, and so far, so good. The 20% decline from the opening weekend of "Resident Evil: Afterlife" two years ago is in line with fall-offs for a late entry.

The first four films have grossed nearly $700 million worldwide on combined production budgets under $175 million, a solid return although at the higher end for Screen Gems (Sony's genre production unit). #4 ("Afterlife") like "Retribution" was in 3-D, and by itself accounted for nearly more than 40% of the series' total previous grosses, primarily from foreign takings. The budget for this is reported to be around $60 million.

This is yet another #1 weekend for Paul W.S. Anderson, a capable director who despite a number of interesting films in various genres ("Event Horizon," "Mortal Kombat," "Alien vs. Predator" -- his biggest success, the most recent "The Three Musketeers" as well as now three "Resident Evil" titles) never has been perceived as an "A" lister. He never has made a $100 million domestic grosser, and works mainly in less critic-friendly genres, but he delivers the goods consistently. His continued success is notable in an era when often studios hire a first-time director with video or other non-theatrical credits who work for far less and are given much less freedom. Many of these soon disappear from the scene, while Anderson keeps returning with another hit.

For lead Mila Jovovich, this is her 5th #1 film (all "Resident Evil" films plus "The Fifth Element") as lead actress, which places her ahead of most of her contemporaries.

What comes next: Most foreign territories also opened this weekend (although several major European countries and Mexico will add on over the next few weeks), so this could be in profit very soon. And it seems likely this will not be the last in the series.

2. Finding Nemo 3D  (Buena Vista) - NEW (reissue)

$17,504,000 in 2,904 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,028; Cumulative: $17,504,000

Disney should easily make back the expense of converting this Oscar-winning Pixar classic to 3-D this weekend, and a nice profit above marketing costs with the rest of the run and worldwide. However, these conversions seem to be bringing diminishing returns. "The Lion King" in 3-D had an opening weekend gross of over $30 million a year ago, and "Beauty and the Beast" did $17,750,000 in January. Pre-weekend estimates indicated this would end up #1 for the weekend, with this now looking like it will fall somewhat short.

What comes next: "Ratatouille" will follow in 3-D.

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