Weekend Box Office: 3-D Transformers 3 Breaks Records, Larry Crowne Fizzles

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by Anthony D'Alessandro
July 3, 2011 4:23 AM
3 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

The weekend box office brings back event 3-D with Michael Bay's Transformers 3's $372 million worldwide so far (UPDATE: six day worldwide total was $379 million), and puts major movie stars on notice that they'd better deliver high quality if they want to target adults: Tom Hanks may have bitten off more than he could handle by co-writing, producing, directing and starring in Larry Crowne, an old-fashioned romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts which has totaled just $13 million (UPDATE: four day total was $15.7 million). Anthony D'Alessandro reports:


Hauling a full tank of 3-D gas, Transformers: Dark of the Moon blew the roofs off multiplexes around the world with the third best bow of all-time with $372 million (UPDATE: six day total of $379 million); 71% alone came from the visual format’s hubs.  By the end of July 4th, Paramount expects Transformers 3 to mint $180.85 million domestically (UPDATE: $181.5 million including Tuesday night grosses), overtaking Spider-Man 2’s all-time Independence Day record ($180 million).
Thompson on Hollywood
Meanwhile, Universal was expecting an opening in the vicinity of $13 million for the Vendome-Playtone financed Larry Crowne, however, despite all the eggs that have been thrown at Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts over their dimming star wattage, this isn’t so bad.  Hanks and Roberts have done worse: Charlie Wilson’s War cost $75 million and opened to $9.7 million.  Cashing in on underserved tween femmes who have no patience for autos smashing into edifices was Fox's Monte Carlo with $7.6 million. 
 
Over the years the nature of sequels has changed dramatically.  During the days of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, sequels rarely bested the final tallies of their first chapters.  Third installments were known to perform slightly better than second installments.  As more franchises have flourished, that business formula has been erased.  The only truism is that tentpole sequel openings and cumes are wildly erratic.  At this point in time, Transformers 3 looks to be emulating a path similar to Pirates 3: the third sequel is besting the first's opening and running cume, but not the second. The key to sequel success lies in offering something more than predecessors. In the case of Transformers 3, it’s the immersive-buildings-falling-on-you 3-D.  
 
“You’re finding the public will pay for the 3-D upcharge for the right movie, done the right way,” asserts Paramount distribution exec Don Harris. Rival studios are thrilled at Paramount's good news because Transformers 3 is restoring the 3-D market.  “A lot of the turndown in 3-D stems from the fact that we haven’t been listening to what moviegoers want,” says one non-Paramount distrib suit. “They want more pie-in-the-face.” That's worth debating: they may want high-quality immersive 3-D.
 
Like Hangover 2, Transformers 3 reaped an enormous amount of free press from the moment it announced production; from the firing of Megan Fox to the hiring of British lingerie model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  But the Paramount marketing and PR staff worked overtime.  The May 6 trailer was downloaded more than 6 million times at iTunes in its first 24 hours.  There was a lavish Red Square Moscow premiere, uncommon for a major studio premiere, but a nod to the Russian subplot in the film--and the global box office. Paramount also sat Michael Bay down with James Cameron to proselytize on 3-D for the press.  Elsewhere, Shia LaBeouf has been a loose cannon talking about Fox flings and his detachment from Transformers 4--even earning a finger-wagging from former Indiana Jones co-star Harrison Ford.
 
While counterprogramming Larry Crowne wasn't a terrible idea, it did set Hanks and Roberts up as graying stars going against the VFX juggernaut. $13 million is not a horrible opening for a film that cost $30 million. The biggest challenge for Larry Crowne is that critics hate it at 35% rotten. Cinemascore is a B, slowing any kind of must-see momentum, with a majority adult turnout (females were 64%, 71% were over 50). It was apparent that Larry Crowne was risky from the moment it failed to land studio backing and was indie-financed instead. 

Hanks, like Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson and Paul Newman, is a national treasure.  His resume can afford these bumps and he’ll continue to work and resurrect himself.  Next up for him this fall is the 9/11-themed Sandra Bullock vehicle Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Given how Hollywood perceives aging actresses, it’s Roberts who needs to be careful with scripts.  Eat Pray Love ($80.5 million) was well-calibrated, marrying middle-age romance with literary best-seller.  Teaming up with Hanks after Charlie’s Wilson’s War was not the solution to buoy her career. Part of Larry Crowne's dysfunction was that some folks weren’t in stitches over an unemployed man.  
 
Rated PG, Monte Carlo did not pull as many of Leighton Meester's Gossip Girl die-hards as did The Roommate ($15 million opening) earlier this year, but Gomez’s tween Wizards of Waverly Place fans certainly showed. Monte Carlo reps an opening in sync with last summer’s bargain basement girlie flick Ramona and Beezus ($7.8 million).  Fox is certainly happy with an A- Cinemascore, not to mention this $20 million production, which has been in development since 1999, could have been more expensive: Nicole Kidman was originally attached, with Roberts and Reese Witherspoon as possible co-stars.
 
Holiday fireworks blasted for Green Lantern and Super 8 which both shot past the century mark, the latter on Thursday.

Here's the top ten holiday weekend box office chart:


1.     Transformers: Dark of the Moon $97.4 million in its Friday-Sunday weekend at 4,013 theaters. $24,271 theater average. Domestic total: $162.1 million.
2.     Car 2 (Disney) $25.1 million down 62% in its second weekend at 4,115 theaters. $6,103 theater average.  Domestic total: $116 million.
3.     Bad Teacher (Sony) $14.1 million down 55% in its second weekend at 3,049 theaters. $4,624 theater average.  Domestic total: $59.5 million.
4.     Larry Crowne (U/Vendome) $13 million in its first weekend at 2,973 theaters.  $4,372 theater average. Domestic total: $13 million.
5.     Monte Carlo (Fox/Regency) $7.6 million in its first weekend at 2,473 theaters.  $3,073 theater average. Domestic total: $7.6 million.
6.     Super 8 (Paramount) $7.5 million down 38% in its fourth weekend at 3,088 theaters. $2,429 theater average. Domestic total: $108 million.
7.     Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) $6.27 million down 65% in its third weekend at 3,280 theaters. $1,912 theater average. Domestic total: $102 million.
8.     Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Fox) $5.1 million down 50% in its third weekend at 2,861 theaters. $1,783 theater average. Domestic total: $50.1 million.
9.     Bridesmaids (Universal) $3.5 million down 33% in its eighth weekend at 1,389 theaters. $3,090 theater average. Domestic total: $153.7 million.
10.  Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) $3.44 million down 18% in its seventh weekend at 858 theaters. $4,007 theater average. Domestic total: $33.6 million.
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3 Comments

  • Anthony | July 4, 2011 3:31 AMReply

    Hey guys -- I have a different take on the majors than Mark Harris -- I think studios will spend to produce an original adult film. It's all a matter of risk vs. reward, and what they're willing to give up in terms of box office. It's risky to launch original fare during the summer -- for a couple of decades, it has never been a season for non-franchise concepts, and before a studio programs a film in the May-August frame, they need to make sure it's tracking appropriately (in pre-screenings, etc.). In addition, the smaller distributors, such as PolyGram/Gramercy in the '90s, always handled fresh vehicles, i.e. Usual Suspects. It's just weird that Universal wouldn't finance Larry Crowne -- it's not an offbeat film like Reese Witherspoon's diastrious "Penelope." Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts at $30 million seems like a safe investment -- but from Universal's pov, it's probably an even safer investment to simply handle its marketing/distribution.

  • Sergio | July 3, 2011 9:59 AMReply

    Crowne will do just under $17 million by Monday. Maybe it should have opened in April or May, but still considering the competition that ain't bad. Looks like it will do $40-45 mil and at least double that worldwide. Not bad for a film that cost only $30 mil to make. (I suspect it cost less since I sure didn't see $30 mil on the screen) And Eat Pray Love did $125 million overseas alone, so Crowne could do half than it did very well.

    But Mary has a very valid point. Studios really don't know how to make good simple films anymore. People are not going to spend money on a middling film aimed at older audiences. Even though they're more complicated and expensive to make, in a strange way it's much easier to make some clap trap like Transformers than a film that depends of a solid story, interesting characters and good direction

    And who in the hell are Selena Gomez, Leighton Meister and Emma Stone?

  • mary | July 3, 2011 6:35 AMReply

    "Larry Crowne was risky from the moment it failed to land studio backing and was indie-financed instead."

    The sutuation of "Larry Crowne" like most of adult-targeted films.....
    Even with the successes of "Inception", "The Town", "Black Swan", "The Lincoln Lawyer" and others, major studios still would not finance more adult-targeted films, because studios don't want to finance the films that need to be watchable to do business (like what GQ reported).
    Even Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden film couldn't get any upfront cash from a major studio (Sony/Columbia paid no upfront payment to acquire that film's U.S. distribution rights, even though Sony/Columbia will pay the P&A.)

    I agree with what David Poland; if a star can open films to over $10 million, then the star is an opener. At least both Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are still openers (some other stars like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Renee Zellweger and Meg Ryan are no longer openers). Like other openers, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts can still able to greenlight middle budget indie films.
    "Larry Crowne" will probably profitable for distributor Universal and financer Vendome Pictures (which probably recouped most of their investment from international pre-sales, if not all). Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are still having good careers considering their age.

    For "Monte Carlo", Fox very mostly hung the marketing on Selena Gomez; if Fox tried to sell Leighton Meester and Cory Monteith more, the film would do better at box office.

    By the way, I agree with what Vulture indicated: Leighton Meester focuses too much on playing conventional roles in mainstream films. (I think Emma Stone has the same problem.)
    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/02/the_star_market_leighton_meest.html

    Performers need to have more versatility to have better career longevity, especially actresses. Leighton Meester and Emma Stone may need to find their ways to shuttle between mainstream studio films and adult-targeted indie films.

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