Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Tron Matches Avatar‘s Midnight Opening, Not Weekend Overall

The writing was on the wall the day I read that the Pixar bunch was brought in to polish the script for Tron: Legacy. Having watched it this weekend I had the same opinion as many others: “Disney had 28 years to make a sequel and this is the best they could come up with?” After matching Avatar‘s midnight numbers it failed to capture the same audience during its opening weekend. A visual smorgasbord with a great soundtrack by Daft Punk, both did their best to make those in attendance overlook a trite story that samples everything from genocide to The Wizard of Oz. And then there’s the whole Flynn is the Almighty of “The Grid” just as Neo is the Almighty of “The Matrix.” Realistically, Tron should have opened over $50 million with the added surcharge of 3D screenings. Though I have a bone to pick with the surcharge. Prior to the feature beginning a notice appears on screen indicating that some of the film’s scenes appear in 2D as they were intended. So does this violate the needed surcharge? Theatrical posters clearly state to see the film in “Disney Digital 3D, Real D 3D, and IMAX 3D.” I don’t recall ever seeing any prompt in the ads that portions would be shown in 2D. Even if a majority of the film was converted to 3D, the idea that audiences are paying a surcharge to see a 3D movie and not have it all in 3D throws a wrench in the need for surcharges to exist. Anyone else agree?

Opening south of $50 million, Disney currently has two films in the marketplace that have combined production costs of $430 million (Tron: Legacy is estimated at $170 million and Tangled estimated at $260 million). Factor in the hundreds of millions for marketing around the globe, and Mickey Mouse’s House better hope that audiences overseas love them some Rapunzel and Flynn, see them in 3D multiple times and buy as many toys as they can. This fall-winter season has been devoid of “big” movies, but this 28-year-old sequel just had that blockbuster sense of entitlement ever since the first bootleg trailer appeared from the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con. But not all blockbusters are created equal and for a sequel to a film property that wasn’t very popular 28 years ago, consider Tron: Legacy lucky that it doesn’t have to compete against any major brands or properties this holiday season.

Right behind Tron this weekend is a film I’m glad is finally released, Yogi Bear. Not that I have any desire to see it, but for every film I’ve seen in 3D recently, its trailer has been shown. It’s like an inescapable terror. I can close my eyes, but then I still have to deal with Dan Aykroyd’s voice as Yogi Bear. Again it is another family-centric movie property that couldn’t even command a $30 million opening. It could barely muster north of $15 million. Though it does beg the question, did marketing the voices of Aykroyd as Yogi and Justin Timberlake as Boo Boo make that much of a difference in terms of audience gained? Parents could have been feeling nostalgic for the good ole days of Saturday Night Live while also knowing Timberlake’s “D*ck in the Box” contributions to the variety show. As for the kiddos, I don’t think they cared who voiced what just as long as they could see talking bears on screen. And then there’s poor Tom Cavanagh as Ranger Smith. The star of Ed doesn’t even get recognition in the trailer. For shame.

Continuing a down trend this week were The Chronicle of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Tourist and Tangled. All three had audience percentages losses of 39.5% and above. Narnia didn’t lose any screens with the new 3D films in the marketplace, but it did lose nearly half its audience from the week before. Unless the film is a beast overseas, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about seeing any more adaptations produced.

The Tourist got no support in its second weekend of release even after getting Golden Globe nominations for Picture (Musical/Comedy category), Actor (Johnny Depp) and Actress (Angelina Jolie). Unless Depp is dressed as a pirate or working with Tim Burton, audiences don’t care. And for Jolie, they like her kicking ass as a Russian spy and not trying to prove that she has “a mighty heart.” Again it just shows you how out of touch that the Hollywood Foreign Press is when films like The Tourist, Burlesque, Red, and Alice in Wonderland are noticed in the Musical/Comedy category and True Grit is ignored completely.

Films that got some good gains this weekend were The Fighter and Black Swan, two films that are likely to be up for multiple Academy Awards. Last week David O. Russell’s film about boxer Micky Ward had a small opening, but with expansion this week it managed to get itself in the top five. Made for close to $20 million, It should be able to clear that figure by the end of next weekend. And if it continues to hold steady you can be sure that Paramount Pictures will be pushing ads for both this and its other big prestige release, True Grit.

Building on its success from previous weeks Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan looks like the must-see art house blockbuster of the season. Darren Aronofsky is a favorite among critics and with Swan playing in less than 1000 screens, to make $8.3 million is not unheard of but definitely impressive. Already hurdled past its production budget of $15 million, $30 million plus is a reasonable goal and should make it on the buzz Natalie Portman has been getting for her performance alone. Look for a serious expansion of this release in the coming week.

Either comedies are getting more expensive these days or Sony Pictures let writer-director James L. Brooks have free reign to make his latest, How Do You Know. It’s all about what have you done for me lately and in the case of Brooks he hasn’t done much for Sony Pictures. Granted his picture As Good As It Gets became a big hit for the studio and was rewarded come Oscars for its lead performers, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. But then he did Spanglish with Adam Sandler, Paz Vega and Tea Leoni and that failed to even recoup its production budget of $80 million. It’s not that How Do You Know was a complete dud, but aside from Reese Witherspoon and to a lesser extent Jack Nicholson in a small supporting role, I don’t think many audiences would have gravitated to the comedy. When at least a fourth of the budget is reserved for principle actors’ salaries, well somebody should have been minding the store and keeping track of the receipts. Not sure if this has legs to withstand the harsh winter weather, but if it can withstand a sub-$8 million opening (while playing on 1500 more screens than Black Swan) then it may have a chance to make a little money, before being rushed to home video for a late April release (just in time for Mother’s Day).

In limited release, Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman opened on five screens and earned $55k for the weekend, while Casino Jack starring Kevin Spacey played on seven screens to the tune of $35k. The King’s Speech expanded to 43 screens and averaged $25k per location. In three weeks it has crossed $1 million. Not too shabby considering it debuted on four screens. Fox Searchlight’s other Oscar hopeful, 127 Hours, isn’t faring nearly as well as Black Swan. At $9 million is well short of its $18 million budget. With difficult subject matter and essentially a one-man show, it doesn’t offer itself up as a fun viewing experience. Too bad, as it has one of the great performances of the year in James Franco and the cinematography is some of the best you’re likely to see this year. It’s reasons like that why you need to skip the megaplex and seek out the local art house, fellas.

Box Office Estimates taken from

1. Tron Legacy – $43.6 million
2. Yogi Bear – $16.7 million
3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – $12.4 million ($43 million overall)
4. The Fighter – $12.2 million ($12.6 million overall)
5. The Tourist – $8.7 million ($31 million overall)
6. Tangled – $8.6 million ($128 million overall)
7. Black Swan – $8.3 million ($16 million overall)
8. How Do You Know – $7.6 million
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – $4.8 million ($824 million worldwide)
10. Unstoppable – $3.8 million ($77 million overall)

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