Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Rango Gets Biggest Opening of the Year

If Benjamin Franklin had been alive to see how profitable animation has become he may have rephrased his famous quote. “The only things certain in life are death and taxes. And animated hits.” Rarely do you see a computer-animated film misfire. Rango marks the first non-3D animated film in what seems like years, but may be only one or two. Had it had the extra surcharge, we may have witnessed the first $40 million, maybe even $50 million opening for the year. As such, a $38 million showing is not a bad haul at all. Though it will be interesting to see if audiences are willing to pony up to see Sheriff Rango again. It’s got tons of critical approval (88% on RT, 75 on Metacritic), but Cinemascore audiences only rated the film a C+. Ouch. Perhaps those audiences didn’t get it. Rango may be marketed as a movie that is first and foremost for kid viewers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more adult audiences were more approving of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s animated spin on the Old West. Paramount is no doubt hoping that Rango suffers little drop-off in its second weekend of release – where it will be up against the likes of Battle: Los Angeles and Mars Needs Moms (the second is a CG-animated release that is also 3D) – for it to have a chance being a hit domestically. If not, the studio better hope that Johnny Depp’s star presence can offset the difference. It helped the stinker that was The Tourist. Could it help, you know, a good movie?

Is Matt Damon a movie star? He’s certainly in the discussion, even though he hasn’t always had the most the hefty of opening numbers. Lucky for him then that The Adjustment Bureau registered his strongest opening since The Bourne Ultimatum opened at a colossal $69 million. Playing Jason Bourne opened some doors for the Oscar winner on being a viable leading man. But Damon didn’t let the success of the Bourne trilogy get to his head. He instead went to working with the likes of Clint Eastwood (Invictus and Hereafter), the Coen brothers (True Grit) and Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!). With the exception of Grit none of those other films were domestic hits, but they did more than double their earnings overseas. With the opening success of The Adjustment Bureau it shines a new light on Universal, a studio that paid $62 million for the distribution rights from Media Rights Capital (MRC, for short). Banking that the international numbers will be double that of domestic earnings, it may be worth a gamble when you consider that Damon’s last Universal release, Green Zone, made $60 million overseas versus $35 million in the U.S. If anything, The Adjustment Bureau will be the studio’s biggest release after the disappointing returns that The Dilemma and Sanctum have received thus far.

Another release defying expectations was CBS Films’ Beastly (or “that other Alex Pettyfer” movie). Rescheduled numerous times, the advertisements didn’t look to do enough to entice viewers. None of the actors’ names were mentioned in the trailers, despite featuring Pettyfer, High School Musical‘s Vanessa Hudgens, Neil Patrick Harris, Mary-Kate Olson and Peter Krause. Made on the cheap as if it were a Screen Gems production, this modern take on Beauty and the Beast will assuredly make its money back and earn a few more Simoleons on home video.

Last week the box office estimates got it wrong; instead of Gnomeo & Juliet repeating as #1, the Farrelly brothers’ Hall Pass made a few thousand more to give it the first place distinction. It had a modest drop of 33%, giving it a total of $26.8 million after two weeks. Their movies rarely cost more than $35 million to produce, unless they’re working with Jim “$20 Million Dollar Man” Carrey (Me, Myself, and Irene cost upwards of $51 million) after he had his string of box office hits in the early nineties. Because of Rango‘s release it was able to separate itself from Gnomeo, which should have no trouble making it to a $100 million domestic haul. It’s one of those success stories that make you scratch your head and go “really?” Hopefully it doesn’t spawn impostors involving the works of Emily Dickinson and lawn chairs.

Liam Neeson is still kicking ass and taking names, well the names that he can remember, in Unknown. It should do about as half as what Taken did when it was released two years ago. Still, $70 million is $70 million. Adam Sandler should have another $100 million release once Just Go With It ends its run in theaters. Though, with Sandler you have to wonder where all the money invested in his projects go. They routinely run up into the $80 million range, yet don’t involve any much in the way of special effects or action set pieces.

Heavens to Betsy, audiences are tired of hearing the King speak! It won Best Picture but didn’t see a rise in audience participation for the weekend. Yet it did have the smallest audience drop of titles in the top 10. No worries for the Weinsteins. The period drama will coast past $300 million globally. Now that’s something worth talking about.

In other news, teenyboppers took the weekend off as I Am Number Four and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never round out the top 10.

And for those looking for a little ’80s nostalgia over the weekend, you were probably the only ones. Take Me Home Tonight, which Relativity Pictures picked up from Universal for $10 million (that’s in 2011 currency, not pre-’80s stock market crash currency) opened on 2000 screens and only made a measly $3.5 million. Whoever is looking over the money at Relativity should invest in a Magic 8-Ball, because after Season of the Witch and now this comedy their batting average isn’t so hot. Thank goodness for foreign rights. They’re the next best thing to tax shelters. (Uwe Boll is proof of this.)

1. Rango – $38 million
2. The Adjustment Bureau – $21.1 million
3. Beastly – $9.85 million
4. Hall Pass – $8.9 million ($26.9 million overall)
5. Gnomeo and Juliet – $7.2 million ($84 million overall)
6. Unknown – $6.5 million ($53 million overall)
7. The King’s Speech – $6.2 million ($123.5 million overall)
8. Just Go With It – $6.4 million ($88 million overall)
9. I Am Number Four – $5.75 million ($46 million overall)
10. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D – $4.3 million ($69 million overall)

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