No need to cry for Harry Potter. With a lightning bolt scarred into his forehead, he’s already done enough crying. But this weekend I bet some of his loyal fans – would that mean they’re potheads? – were probably shocked that Harry wasn’t the most popular kid on the block this weekend. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I opened three weeks ago, it set records for the franchise taking in $125 million in a single weekend. But in the weeks since then the fantasy epic continues to drop hard. Last week it lost close to 61% of its audience. This weekend the number increased to nearly 66%. So what happened?
Two things: Walt Disney’s Tangled and the aftereffects of a weak November box office in terms of audience attendance.
Even if its $260 million production budget is a correct estimate, Tangled could have easily been dismissed by audiences. But a funny thing happened on the way to the theatre. With critical praise, the film was a few million away from upstaging Harry Potter at the box office in its opening weekend. So maybe Rapunzel was a week late in laying down her hair. She’s holed up in a tower without Wi-Fi, 3G or any electronics to speak of; it could have happened to anybody – getting the days of the week missed up and all. $96.5 million after two weeks against a franchise like Harry Potter is pretty impressive, but it will have to have serious legs (make that hair extensions) if it is to eclipse both its production budget and the costs of film prints and ads. The merchandising tie-ins will help in that regard, as will the eventual home video releases.
November was a bad month to go to the movies. Compared to last year, there was no big “event” picture like Roland Emmerich’s 2012 or surprises like The Blind Side. Without the arrival of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the month could have been the worst on record. Instead, its the worst November for the last fifteen years. And before you ask, fifteen years ago we got the films Casino, Goldeneye, The American President, and Toy Story, but also Total Eclipse, Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain and It Takes Two. (The biggest hit that month was the sequel about the detective that talks out of his ass when he wants to be obnoxious.)
An audience low was bound to happen sooner or later. Hollywood is all about the instant gratification in terms of theatrical releases. But that also means that some films get caught up in the box office onslaught, ultimately becoming casualties themselves. Success stories like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and There’s Something About Mary are rare. Both comedies never opened at #1, but in the case of Greek, through expansion it was able to get as high as second place (in its 20th weekend!). As for Mary, it was able to finish first in its eighth weekend of release. It’s a film that opened in mid-July and was able to generate so much word of mouth that by the first weekend in September it was able to gross two hundred thousand more than Blade, which was entering its second weekend of release.
Getting the bronze this weekend was $55 million musical that could have gotten a booby prize had it had a restricted rating. Of course, if Burlesque had denigrated itself from campy musical to campy striptease we may have not have had Alan Cumming’s single best line in the flick: “Is this a strip club? I should wash your mouth out with Jägermeister.” As Screen Gems costliest movie to date, not even Cher could turn back time to make this a bigger film. The studio, which specializes in the production and distribution of smaller movies (think $7 to $10 million), had its biggest fall on record by having three straight releases earn more than $57 million domestically. Burlesque won’t make nearly that, and it won’t even gather the same distinction that Showgirls got, bad as it may be. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to finish somewhere in between ‘girls and Chicago.
20th Century Fox took fourth and fifth place honors this weekend. Unstoppable continues to chug along in hopes of reaching $100 million. At close to $70 million after four weeks, another $30 million seems improbable. Maybe this is a wake-up call for studios to not let Tony Scott have $100 million to produce a movie. Have the suits at Fox not realized that Scott has only had three films in his career that grossed over $100 million domestically? And their returns is in direct relation with who was starring. Top Gun had a not-yet-crazy Tom Cruise. Beverly Hills Cop had Eddie Murphy who was arguably the biggest box office draw of the ’80s. And Enemy of the State had a guy that celebrated Independence Day with a close encounter and a year later made Men in Black fashionable again.
Love and Other Drugs may have been on the wrong side of critic approval, and also had the displeasure of playing opposite films like Harry Potter and Tangled, but this movie deserved better. Edward Zwick may not make great films all the time, but he doesn’t have a black mark on his record. Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway show great chemistry together in this adult romance. That’s adult romance, not romantic comedy. There is a difference.
Megamind and Due Date have been a part of my box office reports going on a month now. Five weeks in the top ten is good that they are still attracting viewers. But when each is playing at more than 2400 theatres, is it more to the fact that they are still attracting viewers or that there isn’t much competition at the box office? For Megamind, it is losing 3D screens and audiences to Tangled and Due Date, well it’s holding steady because it’s the only restricted comedy playing for mass audiences.
The only new film in wide release this weekend was The Warrior’s Way. Costing upwards of $42 million, this just looked bad from the get-go. And with no screenings for critics, that’s pretty much the death knell in a studio having no confidence in a release and would rather not go to the expense of having screenings so critics can give it a bad grade.
Looking at films in smaller release, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan has been generating Oscar buzz for star Natalie Portman, and in its first weekend of release the film opened in 14 theatres and earned $1.4 million, or an average of $77,444 per location. Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours continues its expansion by adding 140 new locations this weekend. The film made $1.6 million. I Love You Phillip Morris the comedy that has been in a distribution mess for several months finally got a national release. The comedy, which made $113k at six locations, is based on the 1980s and 1990s real-life story of con artist, impostor, and multiple prison escapee Steven Jay Russell played by Jim Carrey. I finally had an opportunity to see the comedy. While flawed, Carrey’s performance as Steven Jay makes it worth a watch. And the ingenious cons he does just so he can live an affluent life or be with his darling Phillip Morris (as played by Ewan McGregor) are pretty fun to boot. Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things, inspired by the life of Robert Durst and the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, opened at two locations and made $40k in the process. Finally there is Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. This film that played that his year’s Fantastic Fest isn’t your ordinary St. Nick story. Playing at a single theatre, it made $9,500. Ho-Ho-Ho.
Box Office Estimates taken from
1. Tangled – $21.5 million ($142 million worldwide)
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – $16.7 million ($713 million worldwide)
3. Burlesque – $6.1 million ($27 million overall)
4. Unstoppable – $6.1 million ($69 million overall)
5. Love and Other Drugs – $5.7 million ($22.6 million overall)
6. Megamind – $5 million ($137 million overall)
7. Due Date – $4.2 million ($91 million overall)
8. Faster – $3.8 million ($18 million overall)
9. The Warrior’s Way – $3 million
10. The Next Three Days – $2.7 million ($18 million overall)