By Anthony D'Alessandro | Thompson on Hollywood June 12, 2011 at 4:52AM
As Paramount labored to both downplay expectations and build up word-of-mouth via advance sneaks, Super 8 exceeded box office predictions and got off to a strong start. Anthony D'Alessandro reports:
Super 8’s projector bulbs burned brighter than expected as Paramount’s sci-fi drama bested its lowest box office estimates by 52% for a wondrous weekend estimate of $38 million. Concern that J.J. Abrams’ cinematic love letter to Steven Spielberg would bow to dismal results provoked Paramount to hammer the film’s critical acclaim into gold by unspooling the film on Thursday at 300-plus sites (including 239 IMAX hubs) via a Twitter promotion. One couldn't expect record grosses from a limited release: thus Thursday’s $1 million take amounted to cherries on Paramount’s sundae.
More box office analysis, Weekend Top Ten Chart and Super 8 reviews and trailer are below.
However, Spielberg-Abrams-philes arrived Thursday in varying amounts depending on the location: In New York, there were tumbleweeds at morning shows, however, at the Hollywood Arclight evening screenings, there was so much jubilee, you would think a parade had rolled into town. In addition to the free popcorn and Super 8 giveaways, the ArcLight had a DJ spinning tunes and even set up tables outside the Cinemarama Dome for those feasting off the ethnic food trucks which pulled up for the screening. Any argument that Paramount kept the lid on Super 8 is bogus: Abrams and Spielberg were on tap for several Q&As and at the last minute, the studio caved in to peer pressure and released a clip revealing the Super 8 alien..
Super 8 earned a B+ Cinemascore, with 29% of the under 25ers loving it with an A-. 71% over 25 gave it a B; 56% of males gave it a B+, as did 44% of females. The studio has been countering a wild set of numbers floating around the web about Super 8’s production spend and P & A expenses. The official word is that the total was $75 million, however, many industry execs observe that production and marketing could have amounted to as much as $145 million.
Super 8’s first weekend wound up looking better than Spielberg’s somber summer sci-fi fare, i.e. Minority Report ($35.7 million) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($29.4 million). Paramount compared the numbers to District 9 ($37.4 opening, $115.6 million domestic), which makes sense, as that was another uniquely-marketed summer sci-fi sleeper. Super 8’s bow is the lowest among J.J. Abrams’ credits, but that’s no surprise as the film marks an original entry in his directing filmography comprised of franchises: Star Trek ($75.2 million bow) and Mission: Impossible III ($47.7 million). Super 8 is a few feet below the bow of producer Abrams’ previous secretive monster mash Cloverfield, which drew $40 million over the Friday-Sunday portion of the 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. period.
Relativity Media’s release of Smokewood Entertainment’s $20 million kid lit adaptation Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer chalked up $6.2 million, slightly besting its $6 million forecast. Film marked a service deal for Relativity and the studio has been telling everyone that this number makes the film profitable across Pay TV, Netflix and home entertainment streams. Cinemascore registered a B+ with an A- from those under 18. Relativity pushed the girl-pic at the L.A. Times Festival of Books and even tried to counter critical backlash by revealing that President Obama’s daughters requested a print of the film. But the moppet pic gave critics poison ivy at 13% rotten.
Elsewhere, X-Men: First Class posted the second best sophomore hold of the series (X2 fell by 53% in its second frame). Fox’s senior v.p. of distribution Chris Aronson exclaimed: “Word of mouth has taken over for a quality film. We remain bullish.” With a stateside cume of $216.6 million, Warner’s Hangover 2 is clicking ahead of part one by 41%.
On the indie side, Sony Pictures Classics took Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris wide from 147 to 944 screens, which continued to pull adults with a strong $6.1 million take, up over one fold from last weekend, with a cume of $14.2 million, coming into the top ten chart in eighth place. Allen's biggest hit since 1986 could play through the summer.
The Weekend Box Office Top Ten:
1. Super 8 $38 million in four days, $37 million in its first weekend at 3,379 theaters. $10,950 theater average. Domestic total: $38 million.
2. X-Men: First Class $25 million down 55% in its second weekend at 3,692 theaters. $6,310 theater average. Domestic total: $98.9 million.
3. The Hangover Part II $18.5 million down 41% in its third weekend at 3,675 theaters. $5,034 theater average. Domestic total: $216.6 million.
4. Kung Fu Panda 2 $16.6 million down 30% in its third weekend at 3,929 theaters. $4,234 theater average. Domestic total: $126.9 million.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $10.85 million down 40% in its fourth weekend at 3,433 theaters. $3,159 theater average. Domestic total: $208.8 million.
6. Bridesmaids (Universal) $10.2 million down 16% in its fifth weekend at 2,922 theaters. $3,475 theater average. Domestic total: $123.9 million.
7. Judy Moody and the not Bummer Summer (Relativity) $6.27 million in its first weekend at 2,524 theaters. $2,483 theater average. Domestic total: $6.27 million.
8. Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) $6.1 million up 122% in its fourth weekend at 944 theaters. $6,511 theater average. Domestic total: $14.2 million.
9. Thor (Paramount/Marvel) $2.37 million down 44% in its sixth weekend at 1,782 theaters. $1,330 theater average. Domestic total: $173.6 million.
10. Fast Five (Universal) $1.7 million down 46% in its seventh weekend at 1,329 theaters. $1,290 theater average. Domestic total: $205.1 million.
Super 8, Paramount | Dir: J. J. Abrams; Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso | indieWIRE http://www.indiewire.com/film/super_8/ | TOH! Review Round-Up | Spielberg & Abrams, Q & A.