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Weekend Box Office: Dolphin Tale Overtakes Moneyball in Second Inning

by Anthony D'Alessandro
October 2, 2011 4:33 AM
8 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

While it looked like Moneyball would assert its dominance over the weekend box office, another second weekender took the prize: Dolphin Tale. Again, the family movie pulled a bigger niche audience than too many competitors aimed at males and adults. Anthony D'Alessandro reports:

Another flood of wide entries fragmented Fall moviegoers this weekend. Warner Bros./Alcon's heart-tugging crowd-pleaser Dolphin Tale yipped up $14.2 million in its second session, overtaking Sony's well-reviewed Moneyball, which fielded $12.5 million. Both films generated warm buzz throughout the week, especially on Rosh Hashanah last Thursday when some schools were off.
Thompson on Hollywood
New product was powerless against these holdover faves. Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's cancer dramedy 50/50 survived with $8.86 million, while the Daniel Craig/Rachel Weisz spooky real estate vehicle Dream House was condemned with $8.2 million, and affable Anna Faris lost $5.6 million worth of chips in Fox/New Regency's What's Your Number? The biggest overperformer was Sony/Tri-Star's $2 million Christian cop drama Courageous, which broke out of the gates with Friday matinees and racked up $8.8 million, besting the studio's projections by 74%.

Summit's launch of 50/50 at the Toronto Film Festival spiked the film's profile in the last leg of its promo campaign, spurring laughs, tears and Oscar talk among fest-goers for Gordon-Levitt's performance. Seth Rogen is the marquee sell for this cancer dramedy, however, it registered the lowest opening of his career, falling below Judd Apatow ensemble Funny People (which bowed to $22.7 million thanks to Adam Sandler) and Kevin Smith's profane Zack and Miri Make a Porno ($10.1 million). On the upside, 50/50 was inexpensive at $8 million, but it grabbed a slim slice of its target younger demo: 65% were over 25. The film generated the best reviews among this weekend's openings at 92% fresh: audiences liked it too, giving it an A- Cinemascore. Word-of-mouth should carry this one to more robust grosses going forward.

Like many faith-based pictures, Tri-Star's cop drama Courageous was underestimated by Hollywood, coming in fifth while playing on 63% fewer screens than the weekend's widest release What's Your Number?. Similar to its handling of last spring's Soul Surfer, Tri-Star canvassed churches with advance screenings with this film by Alex Kendrick, who directed 2008's Fireproof which minted $33.5 million off a $500K budget. Even better, these films are resistant to poor reviews. Courageous earned a sour 45% among elitists, but an A+ saving grace from ticket buyers, many of them fans of the film's producers, the Sherwood Baptist Church. 53% of the audience was female, 77% over the age of 25.

Going in, the Universal release of Morgan Creek's Dream House looked gorgeous with a top-notch cast and shimmery cool blue autumn-toned cinematography. Anyone who doesn't use the internet wouldn't have known about it until late August when the trailer was tagged onto Colombiana. The disrepair in this bric-a-brac house could easily be re-titled M. Night Shyamalan's Amityville Horror. The one-sheet of two ghostly girls (who looked like cojoined twins) was both artsy and creepy, yet vague about the film's content. Smart-house crowds adore the heart-wrenching dramas of acclaimed Irish director Jim Sheridan, who directed In the Name of the Father ($25.1 million) and My Left Foot ($14.7 million). He reportedly clashed with Morgan Creek's Jim Robinson. The studio kept critics at bay. Such maneuvers can translate into solid openings, especially with fanboy films such as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($54.7 million) and Alien vs. Predator ($38.7 million). Morgan Creek thought they could hit a bow in the vicinity of $8-$10 million, but with this opening, it doesn't look like they're going to pay back the film's $50-million mortgage.

I had high hopes for Fox/New Regency romcom What's My Number? after reading Tad Friend's New Yorker profile on star Anna Faris, which pitched her comedy psyche against a sexually-bias studio system. Fox trailered this R-rated chick pic with the summer's naughty comedies like Horrible Bosses and picked the September release date where Reese Witherspoon launched Sweet Home Alabama in 2002 ($35.6 million), churning out both the highest live-action opening of her career and for the month. But not all September moviegoers prefer blondes and Number ranks as Faris' second-lowest wide bow of her career, after the disastrous spring fling Take Me Home Tonight ($3.5 million).

So what was lost in translation for Faris? Some of these bad-girl comedies aren't about bad girls at all. They're modern-woman relationship films posing as Hangover wannabes. Audiences have caught onto this, hence the depreciating grosses from No Strings Attached ($19.7 million bow, $70 million) to this summer's Friends With Benefits ($18.6 million, $55.82 million). If studios want to keep making R-rated women's fare, they need to top Bridemaids in the gross-out arena. One early sign that Number was in trouble came when Regency co-chairs Hutch Parker and Bob Harper announced they were leaving their posts at the end of August. Regency shelled out $20 million for the comedy, which grabbed a B Cinemascore and pulled 63% women and those over 25.

Elsewhere at the wickets, Relativity's Machine Gun Preacher gunned down $82K at 33 venues in its 15 market expansion to Boston, Washington D.C., Toronto, Chicago among several other cities. Current cume for the $25-million production stands at $140K in its second frame. The film played to the SAG Cinema Society this weekend to great applause. Film District's Drive drove outside the top ten perimeter with $3.3 million, down 42% with a $27.1 million running cume. Lionsgate's Warrior went down for the count with $475K off 707 locales, down 58% with a running cume of $13.1 million.

Top Ten Box Office Chart:


1. Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros./Alcon) $14.2 million down 26% in its second weekend at 3,515 theaters. $4,053 theater average. Domestic total: $37.5 million.
2. Moneyball (Sony) $12.5 million down 36% in its second weekend at 2,993 theaters. $4,176 theater average. Domestic total: $38.5 million.
3. The Lion King 3D (Disney) $11.1 million down 50% in its third weekend at 2,340 theaters. $4,725 theater average. Domestic total: $79.7 million.
4. 50/50 (Summit) $8.86 million in its first weekend at 2,458 theaters. $3,600 theater average. Domestic total: $8.86 million.
5. Courageous (Tri-Star) $8.8 million in its first weekend at 1,161 theater. $7,580 theater average. Domestic total: $8.8 million.
6. Dream House (Morgan Creek/Universal) $8.2 million in its first weekend at 2,661 theaters. $3,085 theater average. Domestic total: $8.2 million.
7. Abduction (Lionsgate) $5.65 million down 48% in its second weekend at 3,118 theaters. $1,812 theater average. Domestic total: $19.1 million.
8. What's Your Number? (20th Century Fox) $5.6 million in its first weekend at 3,002 theater. $1,865 theater average. Domestic total: $5.6 million.
9. Contagion (Warner Bros.) $5.04 million down 40% in its fourth weekend at 2,744 theaters. $1,837 theater average. Domestic total: $64.7 million.
10. Killer Elite (Open Road) $4.855 million down 48% in its second weekend at 2,986 theaters. $1,626 theater average. Domestic total: $17.4 million.


8 Comments

  • Shawn | October 2, 2011 12:00 PMReply

    Tom Rothman, as quoteed in the New Yorker piece, is correct. Statistically, the median number of sex partners an American woman has in her entire life is 3, though I've seen that number reported as 2 or 4 in other surveys. (Take these numbers with a small grain of salt.) The average is slightly under 9. Even today women speak ill of women whose count is closer to 5 hundred thousand than to 5 (we measure these things on a logarithmic scale). Women who have slept with more than 20 men are rare (less than one in ten), and in my experience women in this category often yearn for monogamy while recognizing that their promiscuity may be counted against them by suitors, and it is not uncommon to find such women wracked with self-doubt. In other words, there surely is an audience for this film with the number set at 20, but it is rather small. There is a double standard that audiences bring to the theater, but it can hardly be wished away. It must also be observed that tales of male prowess are easily exaggerated. The number of men with more than 20 sexual partners is actually less than one in three. Most men, like most women, have had just a few sexual partners in their entire life. Thus a great percentage of women and a smaller but significant percentage of men are going to have difficulty identifying with Ally Darling.

  • Ronald | October 2, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    Gosh, thanks Scott -- you so have the 411 to all talent agents and what they're thinking.

  • Problem | October 2, 2011 7:59 AMReply

    How many women in 2011 want to go see a movie that thinks sleeping with 20 men in over a 15 year span means that you have issues and will never get married? Not a very smart premise. Would men go see a movie that called them sluts for sleeping with 20 women in over 15 years? I still can't believe Ana Faris would deviate from her usual smart, feminist, raunchy comedy style and hit up some old fashion moralistic crap-trap. They just think women are going to sit there passively and take it as though we are back in the 1950's?

  • Scott Mendelson | October 2, 2011 7:32 AMReply

    FYI - Not all comedies are intended to be compared to The Hangover. Not all R-rated female comedies are intended to emulate Bridesmaids. And Bridesmaids didn't gross $170 million because of its 1 or 2 gross-out moments.

  • mary | October 2, 2011 5:37 AMReply

    Most of Morgan Creek's productions were bad, and it should be why "Dream House" is bad.
    http://www.imdb.com/company/co0033472/

  • mary | October 2, 2011 5:31 AMReply

    Summit had predicted "50/50" to gross more than $10 million in the opening weekend, so its opening is definitely a disappointment.
    http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/weekend-box-office-cancer-comedy-5050-takes-lions-dolphins-brad-pitt-31433?page=0,1

    That said, “50/50″ is really a tweener; its subject matter may be too serious for young audience, but its cast also doesn’t have enough adult appeal (another cancer dramedy "The Bucket List" did really well at box office, but "The Bucket List" has Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), and its critical reaction isn’t strong enough to support a platform release (“50/50″ received mostly negative reviews in New York).

    Still, 2458 theaters opening may be too wide for “50/50″. Summit may had better to save some P&A and just open this film in around 1200 theaters on a less-crowded release date. (“50/50″ budget is $8 million, but I guess this film's P&A cost is much larger than that.)

  • Kathrine | October 2, 2011 5:14 AMReply

    It was well known that Dreamhouse was in trouble when both its stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz reportedly hated the final cut of this film so much that they both refused to promote the film.

    http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Daniel-Craig-s-Dream-House-Trailer-Spoils-The-Entire-Movie-25784.html

  • Brandt | October 2, 2011 5:08 AMReply

    Bunraku and Margaret should have been released years ago and it is a disgrace that not only have they been needlessly delayed but they are both only getting a limited release. They both have stellar casts (Bunraku – Josh Hartnett, Ron Perlman, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson) (Margaret – Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Jean Reno) and shouldn’t go unnoticed by the public now that they have finally been released.

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