BOX OFFICE: Photo Finish For The Smurfs And Cowboys & Aliens

She kissed a Smurf, and she liked it.

It seems that I underestimated the pull of those blue-and-white magical creatures when predicting how this weekend’s box office race would fare. As it turns out, kids can’t seem to get enough of live-action/animated hybrids. Having already gobbled up properties like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Yogi Bear, Sony Pictures got in on the action with The Smurfs. And if its opening weekend total of $36.2 million is any indication, we should expect a sequel in 2013.

So what happened with Cowboys & Aliens, which many predicted (myself included) to be the easy pick for a first place finish. Well, it was a mash-up of western and sci-fi. It also wasn’t very good. Daniel Craig got a lesson in humility, learning first hand that even though he’s the star of a franchise does not mean people will always flock to the theaters to see him when he’s not telling bartenders how he wants his martini. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have learned this same principle starring in films that didn’t have Fast or Furious in the title. $36.2 million is well below the $40 million plus expected. The film was marketed on its title and assemblage of key parties involved. You had Iron Man director Jon Favreau, executive producer Steven Spielberg, producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, and stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. It wasn’t a cheap movie by any stretch, either. And with five writers tinkering with the screenplay you have to worry about all the different ideas mashing together into one script. Costing $163 million, plus print and ad costs, Universal better hope that overseas numbers will offset domestic grosses.

Cowboys still has some room for growth for the month of August if it can withstand the August 5th release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the last remaining tentpole type release of the summer. But that all depends if it connects with audiences. I don’t think word of mouth will be positive, though, thus killing its chances to become a domestic hit. Still, at least Clancy Brown got to be in a movie for a change – usually he’s hanging out with a sea sponge that lives inside a pineapple.

Though, you also have to point blame at moviegoers who only make their decisions on what to see when they reach the ticket booth. A film like Cowboys & Aliens and The Smurfs have simple titles that don’t require much thought, unlike, say, The Tree of Life or Crazy, Stupid, Love (which placed fifth for the weekend – more on that later). Being a betting man, when weekend estimates become weekend actuals, it wouldn’t be surprising if The Smurfs got more green.

Didn’t expect Captain America to have a sharp drop this weekend, but considering that it is pretty much universally praised by the Inside Pulse Movies staff, and it is second-best reviewed superhero movie of the summer (right behind X-Men: First Class), the future looks bright for the red, white and blue hero. Though, if Transformers: Dark of the Moon hadn’t already positioned itself for the fourth of July weekend, Captain America should have used that as a prime target for release. Next week, Captain America should reposition itself as it tries to overtake this week’s #1 and #2 while also competing against new releases Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Change-Up.

Harry Potter opened heavy and is quickly winding down its run. It’s already achieved the status of being the franchise’s highest-performing entry and its gotten critics’ ratings it hasn’t seen since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In terms of attendance, the film doesn’t match the previous entries. But Warner Bros. Pictures has a billion reasons to be happy.

You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.

The studio also should be happy about how well Crazy, Stupid, Love performed. The romantic dramedy, a counterprogramming release in a sea of major tentpoles, performed well netting $19.3 million. With Larry Crowne coming and going from theaters, adults gravitated to this story and it probably got a boost from the nearly thirty crowd who have become more attentive to quality movies, having seen Ryan Gosling’s work in the films Half Nelson and Blue Valentine.

The only restricted comedies in the top ten, Friends with Benefits and Horrible Bosses, finished #6 and #7 for the weekend. By next weekend, Bosses will have surpassed $100 million making it the fourth consecutive R-rated comedy to do so (Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II, and Bad Teacher are the other three). Transformers: Dark of the Moon finished the weekend just under $6 million. Since its release on June 29, the film has made $982.8 million worldwide. Finishing the top ten are the family titles Zookeeper and Cars 2. For Zookeeper the Kevin James-starring comedy has yet to break even and with Cars 2 it will finish its run as Pixar’s least successful domestic release since A Bug’s Life. But Disney is cleaning up with Cars merchandise, so that means we can expect Cars 3 summer 2016.

For notable films playing on less than one thousand screens, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is closing in on $50 million. The Guard opened on five screens and earned $80.4k, while The Devil’s Double opened on four screens and took in $95k. Roadside Attractions’ The Future had the biggest per-screen average of any film this weekend as it earned an estimated $28.2k from a single location. The National Geographic/YouTube doc Life in a Day played on 11 screens and made $45.5k. And as the better alternative to Cowboys & Aliens, Attack the Block earned $130,000 at eight locations.

Next week, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Change-Up enter the box office picture. Will The Change-Up continue the impressive run for R-rated comedies this summer, or will people be going bananas for Apes?

1. The Smurfs – $36.2 million
1. Cowboys & Aliens – $36.2 million
3. Captain America: The First Avenger – $24.9 million ($170.2 million worldwide)
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – $21.9 million ($1 billion worldwide)
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love – $19.3 million
6. Friends With Benefits – $9.3 million ($38.2 million overall)
7. Horrible Bosses – $7.1 million ($96.2 million overall)
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – $5.97 million ($982.8 million worldwide)
9. Zookeeper – $4.2 million ($68.7 million overall)
10. Cars 2 – $2.3 million ($399.6 million worldwide)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,