Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to his 1987 drama Wall Street, turned out to be a worthy fall investment for Twentieth Century Fox, with a $19 million No. 1 win, easily earning Stone the biggest bow of his career (World Trade Center, another socially conscious event drama, grossed $18.7 million in 2006.) Warner Bros.’ $80- million 3-D CG owl-headliner Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole got its wings clipped in second place with $16.3 million, while Disney’s chick pic You Again failed to win hearts and laughs with a paltry $8.3 million opening in fifth.
In a box office age where superhero franchises rule, it’s rare to see a sequel to a 23-year old drama. It takes auteurs such as Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money) and Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather III) to pull them off; given inflation, making B.O. comparisons to the first installment is moot. By way of contrast, the first Wall Street bowed to $4.1 million at 730 venues for a final domestic cume of $43.8 million and a best actor Oscar for Michael Douglas’ portrayal of financial baddie Gordon Gekko.
After the Wall Street meltdown, Stone saw the wisdom of bringing back greedy Gekko, this time set against recession Wall Street, and added Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan (as Gekko's daughter) to lure millennials. Wall Street 2 cost a reasonable $
5070 million, allowing Fox execs to sleep soundly at night (after a dismal summer box office). The studio started building word-of-mouth for the sequel at Cannes in May. While there were Oscar whispers for the film (particularly Douglas), the studio opted to chase dollars over prestige, and did not book the film at fall fests (partly due to Douglas's current battle against cancer). Wall Street 2 earned 55% rotten on the Tomatometer, but 64% fresh among top-shelf pundits. Cinemascore is B-; adults repped 65% of all ticket holders. Male-to-female ratio was an even 50/50.
Holding its own with adults this weekend, Ben Affleck’s The Town dipped only 33% in its second frame with $16 million. However, the studio has been losing its grip on non-Harry Potter family fare, lavishing an exorbitant amount of money on risky properties. Legend of the Guardians is the studio’s third stateside kid title misfire, after bleeding red with the $85-million Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore ($43 million gross) and last fall’s $100-million Where the Wild Things Are ($77.2 million).
Though based on the notable Scholastic children’s book series, Legend of the Guardians proves that owls don't open movies (see New Line’s 2006 family comedy Hoot, cume $8.1 million). Attaching 300 director Zack Snyder to Guardians likely drove up the cost, as Warner Bros. faced off creatively with the director, who kept a somber tone. The pic pulled 54% women. Warner hedged its cost with co-financier Village Roadshow, but wound up shelling out $50 million in U.S. marketing.
3-D premium charges worked in Guardians' favor: 72% of all ticket sales were 3-D, and matinees saw a 53% spike in Friday-to-Saturday numbers. Many animated films hold well; Cinemascore gave the owls an A-, while critics were split at 50% rotten. Guardians wound up pulling more women (54%) than men.
Poor Kristen Bell. In the wake of her cult UPN TV series Veronica Mars, she clearly lacks movie marquee allure even among women, judging from Disney's ugly results on the $20 million You Again, which follows on the heels of another lackluster romantic comedy with the studio, When in Rome ($32.7 million domestic). Throwing Betty White into the You Again ensemble alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver didn’t move the needle much, although the movie skewed toward women over 25, 75%. Cinemascore was B+. Disney kept a tight grip on its ad spending. Critics flunked the comedy with a 12% rotten score.
Bell knows her own worth, however. She’s eager to bring Veronica Mars to the big screen, and is willing to plunk down her own money. Bell has already crunched the numbers and figures that the property’s fan base adds up to some 3 million people. She still needs to convince rights holder Warner Bros. that Veronica Mars the movie is a more worthy cause than CG owls.
Sony’s expansion of its microbudget teen comedy The Virginity Hit failed to arouse young auds en masse with $300,000 at 700 playdates. The Adam McKay-Will Ferrell production has been in limited sneak previous release over the last two weekends.
1. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox): $19 million in its first weekend at 3,565 theaters. $5,330 theater average. Domestic total: $19 million.
2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.): $16.3 million in its first weekend at 3,575 theaters. $4,569 theater average. Domestic total: $16.3 million.
3. The Town (Warner Bros.): $16 million down 33% in its second weekend at 2,885 theaters. $5,556 theater average. Domestic total: $49.1 million.
4. Easy A (Sony/Screen Gems): $10.7 million down 40% in its second weekend at 2,856 theaters. $3,746 theater average. Domestic total: $32.8 million.
5. You Again (Disney): $8.3 million in its first weekend at 2,548 theaters. $3,257 theater average. Domestic total: $8.3 million.
6. Devil (Universal): $6.5 million down 47% in its second weekend at 2,811 theaters. $2,305 theater average. Domestic total: $21.7 million.
7. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Sony/Screen Gems): $4.9 million down 51% in its third weekend at 2,642 theaters. $1,855 theater average. Domestic total: $52 million.
8. Alpha and Omega (Lionsgate): $4.7 million down 48% in its second weekend at 2,625 theaters. $1,790 theater average. Domestic total: $15.1 million.
9. Takers (Sony/Screen Gems): $1.65 million down 45% in its fifth weekend at 1,413 theaters. $1,168 theater average. Domestic total: $54.9 million.
10. Inception (Warner Bros.): $1.245 million down 37% in its thirteenth weekend at 907 theaters. $1,373 theater average. Domestic total: $287.1 million.