Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Inception Dreams Big; The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a Nightmare

(Insert Keanu Reeves-sized “Whoa!” right here.)

A pretty spectacular movie opens at #1. You see critics profess “Best (insert catchy phrase here) of the summer” but rarely do the movies meet that criteria. Inception is an EVENT film in every sense of the word. It didn’t need a 3-D gimmick nor did its special effects supersede the quality ensemble of actors which, at last count, included two Oscar winners, a few more nominees and a couple of rising stars (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy) that should be commanding their own starring vehicles. With a hefty $160 million budget, the film took in a sizable chunk this weekend. It may not match the opening of Christopher Nolan’s last film (The Dark Knight took in $158.4 million in three days!), but $60.4 million for an original property is a damn good start. Word of mouth seems to be good for this one. Watching it again over the weekend with a new audience, I left the theater hearing people say “I loved it.” But will audiences be inclined to take the journey again in the coming weeks?

Typically, a new release will lose 50% of its audience in the second week and another 50% in its third week. If Inception follows a similar pattern, it will be difficult for the film to recoup its monstrous budget. Overseas it’ll perform strong, as Leonardo DiCaprio’s last four films have added at least $53 million and as much as $166 million to total box office. With the added enticement that Inception is a cerebral think-piece, rather than an average run-of-the-mill blockbuster, and the fact that it’s just a great movie, hopefully audiences will catch on.

Moving from first to second this week is Despicable Me, which had a slight, but predicted, drop in attendance. The drop was only 42% giving it a $32.7 million weekend. Aside from Toy Story 3, Despicable Me is the best bet for kids at the moment. It’s got the one-two punch of being animated and being in 3D. Most animated movies that have made it to theaters have at least looked good on a visual level, though after September’s Alpha and Omega I may eat those words. The kids were more inclined to see a bunch of deformed yellowish Chicken McNuggets, uh, I mean Minions than Nicolas Cage’s latest hairstyle. The man is Lon Chaney when it comes to coiffing his hair. Yielding only $3 million when it opened last Wednesday, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice finished with a meager $25 million after five days. Costing $10 million less than Inception and inspired by a sequence from 1940’s Fantasia, the movie is Jerry Bruckheimer’s second bomb of the summer. Prince of Persia has a decent shot of turning a small profit on home video, but it will be close.

Perhaps the problem lies with the target audience. If it’s a movie for kids, then why cast somebody who is of college age? Jay Baruchel, who earlier this year proved that he was in the same league as Alice Eve and voiced the protagonist in How to Train Your Dragon, seems too old to be an apprentice – but it worked out well for a guy named Skywalker. Had it been animated the film would have no doubt made at least $40 million this weekend. Bruckheimer, who is producing another Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, keeping Johnny and dropping Keira and Orlando, is in a creative slump. Obviously it was his late producing partner Don Simpson who had the cojones to make guy-idled pictures (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop). Come on, Jerry, show some testicular fortitude and make Apaches and Horse Soldiers already.

Seriously, guys, I need a shirt.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse passed $250 million domestic over the weekend, but its going to need help if it’s going to reach the $300 million mark. Overall, it needs another $225 million if it’s going to match New Moon‘s ungodly sum of $709 million. I still don’t get the love for the series or the vampire craze in general. (Pauses for dramatic effect.) Eureka! I got it. When girls drift off to sleep someone secretly implants the idea that they have to buy the merchandise, see the movies and cut ties with any friends who are either a member of “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.”

It may not reach infinity, but Toy Story 3 has become Pixar’s biggest hit in the U.S., surpassing Finding Nemo‘s $339 million haul. 3-D presentations no doubt played a role, but $630 million worldwide after five weeks is pretty impressive. With openings in the U.K. and France in the coming weeks look for the overseas totals to jump big time.

Adam Sandler knows his audience and his Grown Ups comedy is proving it. For the second consecutive week his comedy had the lowest percentage drop in the top ten. After four weeks it has made $130 million, about $33 million shy of Sandler’s biggest hit, Big Daddy. Looks like the waterboy is taking the failure of Funny People in stride, laughing all the way to the bank. Speaking of percentage drops, the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators lost 73% of its audience, making only $6.8 million. It’s made its $40 million budget back, but it won’t match the original’s U.S. haul of $59 million.

Also not meeting expectations for 20th Century Fox is Knight and Day. Nearing $80 million, the action-comedy should fall just short of Valkyrie‘s $83 million take. International performance is solid with $63 million so far, but don’t expect a figure greater than $160 million worldwide.

Taking a look at the arthouse circuit, where it is inhabited by New Wave intellectuals and other film snobs, films like the dark comedy Cyrus and The Kids Are All Right are performing well. Cyrus has reached $5 million on less than 500 screens. Kids had the largest per-screen average in the top 20 with $27k per and a $1 million total from its 38 screens. The Girl Who Played with Fire is at $2 million after two weeks, but it had a larger roll out than its predecessor The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has got quite a ways to go before reaching Tattoo‘s $9.3 million gross. ”

1. Inception – $60.4 million
2. Despicable Me – $32.7 million ($118 million overall)
3. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – $17.4 million ($25 million overall)
4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – $13.5 million ($484 million worldwide)
5. Toy Story 3 – $11.7 million ($630 million worldwide)
6. Grown Ups – $10 million ($129 million overall)
7. The Last Airbender – $7.4 million ($115 million overall)
8. Predators – $6.8 million ($40 million overall)
9. Knight and Day – $3.7 million ($69 million overall)
10. The Karate Kid – $2.2 million ($212.8 million worldwide)

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