It was another horrendous weekend at the summer box office with the top ten films totaling $120 million, off 25% from last year’s post Memorial Day frame. Last weekend's bad Feng Shui continues to pervade the multiplex.
Distribution execs often say that post-holiday weekend numbers are sluggish, but that excuse won’t work this time: in recent years the weekend after Memorial Day has been strong. If the film is there, the audience will queue, whether it’s a tentpole like the all-time record holder for this session, 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($93.7 million), or a frosh family title such as last year’s Disney/Pixar title Up ($68.1 million).
This weekend studios unleashed four wide releases, an abnormal amount for the first week in June. When this happens, too many studios spoil the openings, because each distrib’s bow undermines the competition. Execs can argue that each title was catering to a different crowd, but it’s still a lackluster opening.
Whenever there’s a perceived strong Memorial Day holdover heading into June, studios typically counterprogram with niche-audience releases, as they did in 2007 when Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End played strong into its post-holiday frame. Studios saw this coming and loaded the schedule with three new titles geared toward specific demos.
Months ago, the studios were not forecasting that Shrek Forever After would top this weekend with $25.3 million off 4,386 sites: they figured that Sex and the City 2 would prevail. But it opened poorly and slid 59% for fifth place showing. (Oddly, SATC 2 is performing better overseas, outpacing the first film; the worldwide total is $163 million.) Even so, Universal’s latest Judd Apatow-production Get Him to the Greek drew a modest $17.4 million at 2,697 in second place. At a cost of $40 million, the raunchy R-rated comedy will make money for the studio (and financeers Relativity and Spyglass Entertainment). However, Universal has seen far better numbers for its early June summer comedies: 2006’s The Break-Up and 2007’s Knocked Up respectively opened to $39.2 million and $30.7 million.
While the studio has set a precedent for a comedy bow in the first frame of June sleeping its way past $100 million, Universal sees the B.O. trajectory for Greek on par with such cult comedies as its 2008 spring predecessor Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which bowed to $17.7 million and totaled $63.2 million, and Paramount’s I Love You, Man which opened to $17.8 million last year and ended its domestic run at $71.4 million. Overall Cinemascore for Greek is B with a B+ among core males which counted 53% of its audience. 55% of Greek’s moviegoers were under 30, with 45% trending older.
Not unexpectedly, given that Lionsgate didn't screen Killers for critics, the Katherine Heigl/Ashton Kutcher action comedy earned lousy reviews (Tomatometer: 12% Rotten). In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Lionsgate said that in order for the film (which unaccountably cost $75 million, the highest budget in the company's history, they claim) to be profitable, it needed to break past $20 million on its opening weekend. A weak opening estimate of $16.1 million from 2,859 venues won't help the company in its fight against dissident stockholder Carl Icahn. Both of Killers’ leads have seen better bows during summer; Heigl with Knocked Up and Kutcher with What Happens in Vegas ($20.2 million). Killers earned a B Cinemascore with 62% of tickets sold to females. Under and over 25 was split 50/50. Lionsgate went in the summer because the multiple for a romantic comedy can be three times its opening, as opposed to other times of the year. Not this time.
Fox/New Regency’s $50-million kidpic Marmaduke was no box-office wow, barking up $11.3 million at 3,213. The studio saw far better returns on its talking-cartoon/live action films Garfield (2004) and 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks, which both charted $20-million-plus over three days. Look for Marmaduke to exceed its domestic performance abroad: Fox’s previous two Garfield films grossed over $100 million overseas, outperforming their stateside totals. Overall, Marmaduke bested Fox’s projections, earning a B+ Cinemascore with 57% of its ticketholders under the age of 25. Typically, family films open modestly and often hold well.
While it's trending on Twitter and generating great buzz among cinephiles off strong reviews, Warner Bros. Splice, a Sundance acquisition by Joel Silver’s Dark Castle label, wasn’t expected to scare up any wondrous B.O. receipts at the onset of the weekend. But the smart horror film’s estimated three days of $7.45 million at 2,450 far exceeds industry projections of $5 million. Expect WOM to grow on this one. IndieWIRE reports the indie box office.
Top Ten Box Office Chart:
1. Shrek Forever After (Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $25.3 million down 42% in its third weekend at 4,386 theaters. $5,768 theater average. Domestic total: $183 million.
2. Get Him to the Greek (Universal): $17.4 million in its first weekend at 2,697 theaters. $6,460 theater average. Domestic total: $17.4 million.
3. Killers (Lionsgate): $16.1 million in its first weekend at 2,859 theaters. $5,631 theater average. Domestic total: $16.1 million.
4. Prince of Persia (Disney): $13.9 million in its second weekend down 54% at 3,646 theaters. $3,800 theater average. Domestic total: $59.5 million.
5. Sex and the City 2 (Warner Bros.): $12.65 million in its second weekend down 59% at 3,445 theaters. $3,672 theater average. Domestic total: $73.4 million.
6. Marmaduke (Fox): $11.3 million in its first weekend at 3,213 theaters. $3,517 theater average. Domestic total: $11.3 million.
7. Iron Man 2 (Paramount): $7.78 million down 53% in its fifth weekend at 3,007 theaters. $2,588 theater average. Domestic total: $291.3 million.
8. Splice (Warner Bros.): $7.45 million in its first weekend at 2,450 theaters. $3,041 theater average. Domestic total: $7.45 million.
9. Robin Hood (Universal): $5.1 million down 51% in its fourth weekend at 2,599 theaters. $1,975 theater average. Domestic total: $94.3 million.
10. Letters to Juliet (Summit): $3 million down 49% in its fourth weekend at 1,962 theaters. $1,529 theater average. Domestic total: $43.3 million.