Inside Pulse Box Office Report: The Expendables Challenges The Other Guys, Eat Pray Love for #1

This weekend moviegoers unleashed the badass from within.

There was a sibling rivalry at the box office this weekend. Eric Roberts squared off against his little sis, Julia. Lucky for Eric, he had some help. Sylvester Stallone and his Expendables soundly defeated Julia Roberts’ estrogen enforcement squad of Eat Pray Love. Both also outdistanced themselves from the quirky and offbeat Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. For studio Lionsgate, it means they can open something to huge numbers that isn’t part of the Saw franchise or a Tyler Perry movie. Yeah, Kick-Ass opened at #1 in the spring, but only a few hundred thousand over How to Train Your Dragon. Actually, earlier estimations had Dragon as the top money earner that weekend until the final numbers came out. Most of Lionsgate’s studio competitors have brought in more money, but Unviersal’s earnings came at the expense of financial duds like Green Zone and The Wolfman. I bet some Universal suit is breathing a sign of relief after Despicable Me became a hit.

The Expendables‘ $35 million opening isn’t all that surprising with the amount of advertising Lionsgate has been doing for the release. With ads that spotlight the Planet Hollywood team of Stallone-Willis-Schwarzenegger, that was a much easier sell than focusing on say UFC figther Randy Couture or former NFL player turned actor Terry Crews. As Stallone’s biggest opening of his career, that’s a telling sign of how much an action movie like this was warranted. As I said in my review, the public is turning apathetic towards actors and pretty boys playing tough. They want the Real McCoy. They want heroes who have names like Cobra and Matrix, and not somebody who has to hide under a mask or use an alias. Maybe Matthew Vaughn is on to something when he says that the comic-book movie bubble will burst sooner rather than later. Maybe The Expendables will usher in a return to more bad-ass action heroes.

With its #1 opening, Sylvester Stallone has made Hollywood history. He has become the first actor to have a movie open at #1 in five consecutive decades. Think about that for a minute. Five decades. If you want a breakdown of his films that have opened at the top of the list, here you go (in chronological order):

Rocky II (June 15, 1979) – $6.4 million
Rocky III (May 28, 1982) – $12.4 million
First Blood (October 22, 1982) – $6.6 million
Rambo: First Blood Part II (May 22, 1985) – $20.1 million
Rocky IV (November 27, 1985) – $20 million
Cobra (May 23, 1986) – $12.6 million
Oscar (April 26, 1991) – $5 million
Cliffhanger (May 28, 1993) – $16.1 million
Demolition Man (October 8, 1993) – $14.2 million
The Specialist (October 7, 1994) – $14.3 million
Cop Land (August 15, 1997) – $13.5 million
Antz – voice (October 2, 1998) – $17.2 million
Driven (April 27, 2001) – $12.1 million
Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (July 25, 2003) – $33.4 million
The Expendables (August 13, 2010) – $35 million

When The Expendables opens overseas it will surely explode as foreign audiences still love the rough and tough action heroes. And don’t discount sequel talk with its opening figure. If Lionsgate says yes and Stallone and the rest are the gang are amped all you need to do is add some more badasses and an even greater threat. Besides, sequels are supposed to be bigger than their predecessors, right?

As counter-programming to a summer full of action movies, animated hits and whatnot, Eat Pray Love was a travelogue that women wanted to see. It was a based off a book that many of them had already read and it starred one of the biggest female stars on the planet, Julia Roberts. Well, she was at one point. Julia of late – and by of late I mean seven years – has relied too much of co-stars to help boost the box office earnings. The last movie she starred in where she was the central character was Mona Lisa Smile back in 2003. Yeah, it’s been awhile. It wasn’t a hit. Her last hit of any substantial amount was Erin Brockovich, the film that also earned her a Best Actress Oscar. Eat Pray Love will probably have some legs at the box office, now that the summer blockbuster season is winding down. Sony Pictures is probably hoping it will hold on to female viewers like Julie and Julia did last year.

With testosterone and estrogen occupying #1 and #2 for the weekend, Universal’s comic adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World just didn’t register with audiences. With Peter Travers misusing the phrase “game changer” as he praised Edgar Wright’s action comedy for Rolling Stone, it’s easy to see why a film like this got lost in the shuffle. Scott Pilgrim is about teens but its focus seems geared for twenty-somethings who grew up on Nintendo and can recite the “Contra Code” verbatim. Today’s youth probably has no clue what the Contra code is. Perhaps the public is too tired of Michael Cera. Or maybe Cera’s fanbase was just too preoccupied with catching up on facebook and figured they’d wait to see him in The Social Network in October. Wait, that’s Jesse Eisenberg who some people mistake for being like Michael Cera, when in fact it is Michael Cera trying to be like Jesse Eisenberg. Cera may have been in an Oscar winner, but Eisenberg shows more diversity in his filmography.

Scott Pilgrim was strongly received by critics, scoring 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and 68 on Metacritic (not as good as Wright’s Hot Fuzz which has an 81 rating), but the audience just didn’t buy into the concept. At the very least it could have pulled in some of the Twi-hards because of Ramona Flowers’ first evil ex, who looked like a goth pirate. And the Glee fan base would have been musically inclined for the indy rock music. Universal should have just focused half the trailer on Chris Evans who is by far the biggest name in the cast.

Edgar Wright’s comedy couldn’t even beat The Other Guys in its second weekend and Inception which has $247 million after five weeks. The Other Guys has the potential to pull in a comfortable $100 million and could go as high as $120 million. Sony Pictures, knowing that Will Ferrell has little to no drawing power overseas, would be happy with a final number with at least nine digits. With Inception, Warner Bros. may have to settle for a final number of around $280 million domestic. I do not think it can make it to $300 million.

Good grief does Despicable Me have some legs. For all the crappy returns that Universal has had this year, this is their one, big shining moment. $222 million after six weeks, that’s crazy. Crazier is thinking that the animated hit may overtake Scott Pilgrim to stay in the top five. While Despicable Me chugs along, teens decided they’d rather step off than step up to see Step Up 3D again. I smell this series will either take a break or follow Bring It On in having all the sequels be direct-to-DVD.

Salt is Sony’s fourth hit of the summer and there’s talk of a sequel. Though that will all depend on how it does internationally. Already it has collected $62 million in foreign grosses versus $103 million domestically. No James Bond, Jason Bourne, or any other super spy series in the marketplace means there is a void to be filled. Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible IV with Tom Cruise comes December 2011, but is that too long a wait?

Had Robert Downey Jr. been there to tell Steve Carrel to not go “full retard” for Dinner for Schmucks maybe it would have done better business. Instead we have Carrel, who we can see on The Office for free and Paul Rudd who really can’t carry a film, but can fit in well in an ensemble piece. Rounding out the top ten is Cat and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. After three weekends it has amassed $35 million versus an $85 million budgets. Whoops.

Not in the top ten discussion talk, but probably more memorable than anything that was in spots 6-10, is Toy Story 3. In eleventh place it has passed the $400 million mark and in the process became the most successful animated film of all time. Inflated ticket prices and 3D surcharges be damned, this is pretty noteworthy. Overseas it is just $60 million away from hitting $1,000,000,000.00. If that’s too many zeroes for you, here it is in abbreviated form: One Billion.

At your local indie theater, The Kids Are All Right loses 164 screens and finishes with $1.3 million. Animal Kingdom opens on seven screens and collects $64,100. Get Low expands to 27 more locations and brings in $387k in its third weekend. After 21 weeks, Anchor Bay Films decided to add a single screen to City Island‘s release. It made $3,300 from 8 screens.

1. The Expendables – $35 million
2. Julia, Julia, Julia – $23.7 million
3. Gator and Yankee Clipper – $18 million ($71 million)
4. Inception – $11.4 million ($562.5 million worldwide)
5. Michael Cera vs. the World – $10.5 million
6. Despicable Me – $6.8 million ($222 million)
7. Step Up 3D – $6.6 million ($30 million)
8. Salt – $6.4 million ($104 million)
9. Dinner for Schmucks – $6.3 million ($59 million)
10. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Ga-Litter – $4.1 million ($35 million)

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