A disaster film showed some fireworks at the weekend box office but not enough to make up for the damage many distributors have endured this year. Sony’s sci-fi invasion title Battle: Los Angeles easily secured $36 million at 3,417 theaters, showing that old tricks still work. Despite the gripes that this year has been plagued by bad movies and that the younger audience remains bored, Battle: Los Angeles, which is equal parts District 9 and 2012, proves that the masses are still suckers for formula. The film is a win on several fronts: first, it’s a cheap mini-tentpole at $70 million. Second it’s critic-proof, bucking its 32% rotten rating for respective A and A- Cinemascores among the under 18-ers and under 25ers. Lastly, Battle: Los Angeles bested its $35 million estimate. I Am Number Four was projected to win No. 1 over the Feb. 18-20 frame, Hall Pass beat Gnomeo and Juliet in its opening and Rango was estimated to post $50-$70 million during its first sesh.
Bowing to $14.1 million, Warner Bros.’ Red Riding Hood can’t be completely written off as a disaster given its bargain-basement $42-million budget. What it does show is that fangirls aren’t beholden to their auteurs like fanboys: many seemed not to care that Twilight-meister Catherine Hardwicke was behind this age-old fairy tale. However, the melodramatic concept put critics asleep; they gave it an 11% rotten rating. Aliens might be willing to travel to Earth to kidnap mothers in Disney’s $150-million child lit feature adaptation Mars Needs Moms, but audiences didn’t even travel two miles down to the road to the see the film which bombed in fifth with $6.8 million.
Blame it on motion-capture animation and 3D. James Cameron and Peter Jackson finesse this technology, but producer Robert Zemeckis's human-to-toon transformations are downright disturbing. When Disney decided to shutter his ImageMovers Digital label a year ago, that was a signal that the film would tank. The studio worked tirelessly to propel the unit’s previous $200-million 2009 entry A Christmas Carol to $137.9 million at the domestic B.O. after a lackluster $30-million bow. Many families opted not to shell out extra bucks for 3-D and went to Paramount/ILM’sRango instead, which has proved a crowdpleaser with a second place take of $23 million, down just 39%. Film reviewers also swayed mothers against seeing Mars with a 42% rotten on the Tomatometer. Those who showed up gave the film a B Cinemascore.
Sony’s No. 1 win with Battle: Los Angeles stemmed from a four-month plus marketing campaign which included a viral trailer and several haunting one sheets/ billboards showing a war-torn Santa Monica ravaged by a missile downpour. With the casting of Michelle Rodriguez and R&B singer Ne-Yo, the studio also hit respective Latin and African American demos with advance hip hop radio screenings and appearances backstage at the Grammys. Sony also used as a tie-in the 1942 anniversary of the Los Angeles UFO sighting, an event which literally generated a full military response back in the day.
The studio was jazzed by this film’s potential. Earlier this month, they promoted Sam Dickerman to executive vp production,
who was one of the film’s point development execs, and extended producer Neal Moritz’s first look deal. Why the excitement? Even if Battle: Los Angeles runs out of ammunition stateside, Sony has a ton of cash to look forward to overseas since foreigners love disaster fare. 2012 minted a foreign haul of $604 million – close to four times its domestic take of $166.1 million. Already, Battle: Los Angeles has cleared $16.7 million with mostly No. 1 bows overseas. 68% of those enjoying Battle: Los Angeles were men over 25 (55%).
Red Riding Hood drew 64% females, 56% under 24, as well as a B- Cinemascore, posing questions as to whether the female demo will be around in weeks to come. Warner Bros. employed a vivid poster campaign with a one sheet of a bird’s eye view of Amanda Seyfried's long red cape in the snow. The January release of a movie tie-in book hit No. 1 on the New York Times Children’s Paperback Bestseller list while Hardwicke has been working it at SXSW this weekend with directing tips on filming intimate scenes. Why didn’t this perform better? It’s not Twilight and the wolf isn’t Taylor Lautner. Luckily for Amanda Seyfried, she’s a rare bird who at 25 books big studio films and doesn’t get blamed for box office bombs. Many of her successes, including Mamma Mia! ($144.1 million) and Dear John ($80 million), stemmed from already established hit properties.
Box office continues to slide with weekend receipts of $126.5 million off 14% from a year ago’s take of $146.8 million. One distribution executive laments what many studio executives are feeling: “In a stronger marketplace, we would have done better.”
Here's the THR on which studios are scoring the big profits: the ones that own still-hot franchises.
Here's the weekend top ten chart:
1. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony): $36 million in its first weekend at 3,417 theaters. $10,536 theater average. Domestic total:$36 million.
2. Rango (Paramount/ILM): $23 million down 39% in its second weekend at 3,923 theaters. $5,876 theater average. Domestic total:$68.7 million.
3. Red Riding Hood (Warner Bros.): $14.1 million in its first weekend at 3,030 theaters. $4,665 theater average. Domestic total: $14.1 million.
4. The Adjustment Bureau (Universal): $11.5 million down 46% in its second weekend at 2,847 theaters. $4,025 theater average. Domestic total: $38.5 million.
5. Mars Needs Moms (Disney): $6.8 million in its first weekend at 3,117 theaters. $2,182 theater average. Domestic total: $6.8 million.
6. Hall Pass (Warner Bros.): $5.1 million down 42% in its third weekend at 2,555 theaters. $1,998 theater average. Domestic total: $34.9 million.
7. Beastly (CBS Films): $5.09 million down 48% in its second weekend at 1,959 theaters. $2,598 theater average. Domestic total: $17 million.
8. Just Go With It (Sony): $4 million down 38% in its fifth weekend at 2,398 theaters. $1,668 theater average. Domestic total: $94 million.
9. The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co.): $3.625 million down 42% in its sixteenth weekend at 1,768 theaters. $2,050 theater average. Domestic total: $129.1 million.
10. Gnomeo and Juliet (Disney): $3.546 million down 51% in its fifth weekend at 2,585 theaters. $1,372 theater average. Domestic total: $89 million.
Battle: Los Angeles
Red Riding Hood
Mars Needs Moms