Weekend Box Office: Puss In Boots Dominates; Tower Heist Fails To Steal Money Away

It’s never a good idea to pit two comedies up against one another during an opening weekend. Especially if those comedies were trying to court the same audience. Luckily there was no crossover appeal for Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. The first wanted to be edgy but tame enough to pass for PG-13. The latter had no problems being edgy, but only catered to a small fan base. While they did enough to separate one another, it was an animated kitty that took the weekend.

Moviegoers were eating up Puss In Boots like catnip. The DreamWorks Animation release only had a three percent drop in attendance, a remarkable hold for a first week release. Granted, Halloween trick-or-treating and the snowstorms in the east played a role in its $34 million opening. So that explains why the small percentage drop; families were able to get out for the weekend and see the Shrek spinoff. Great word of mouth is helping the cause, as the cat with big, wide eyes is also one of the better action-adventure romps of the year.

As for Tower Heist, it was a glossy production with not much muscle. Considering the story was an amateur robbery with an ensemble that consisted of an Axel Foley turned criminal, “Still Neurotic” Ben Stiller, Old Ferris Bueller, and “Precious with a Jamaican accent”, a better comedy should have been expected. Instead the amateur robbery was met with amateur comedy. If it wasn’t for Chistophe Beck’s musical score and Dante Spinotti’s cinematography it would have been a total write-off. Not even its coincidental relevance to the Occupy (insert city here) movement had much of an impact. Harold and Kumar did a better job in its opening scenes.

So what does this mean for the two big stars of Tower Heist: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Consider it a wash for Stiller, who will probably move right into Zoolander 2 or another Night at the Museum sequel. Eddie Murhpy may have gotten a boost in visibility for his upcoming hosting gig at next year’s Oscars telecast (produced by his Tower Heist director Brett Ratner), but a better vehicle would have been nice. At the very least, the film is better than his last few outings, minus Dreamgirls where he was cast in a supporting role and not meant to carry the picture. Not one to pay much attention to critic quotes or blurbs, it’s very disconcerting when someone says that Tower Heist is Murhpy’s best since Beverly Hills Cop. Apparently that person missed him in Coming to America and/or Bowfinger. Still, Tower Heist is generic enough for mainstream audiences to enjoy, so expect this one in the top ten for the rest of the month through December.

It’s looking more and more like this may be the last time we see the affirmative action friendly pairing of John Cho and Kal Penn as Harold and Kumar. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is like a raunchy Christmastime special that would air on Comedy Central after hours. With a $13 million opening, the film failed to eclipse their predecessor’s $14 million haul. Neil Patrick Harris may have broken the fourth wall and told H&K that he’d see them in the fourth, but those chances look bleak. Despite the good chemistry between Cho and Penn, this third installment in the series feels like Kevin Smith’s Clerks II where it seems like the closing chapter of the two friends. Though if a fourth ever came down the pike, perhaps the filmmakers could include cameos by two TV celebrities that NPH mentions.

Don’t look now, but Paranormal Activity 3 is close to being the most profitable of the series and could eclipse the original in a few more weeks.

Outside of the top 4, In Time goes from third to fifth this weekend. While Justin Timberlake isn’t quite ready to play action hero leads, 2011 was a good year for him. Riding on his strong supporting work in The Social Network, he got to play rich and nerdy in Bad Teacher and sing “Closing Time” to Black Swan’s understudy in Friends with Benefits. Not quite Frank Sinatra The Man with the Golden Arm material, but maybe he’ll learn a few acting tips working with the Coens and Carey Mulligan on Inside Llewyn Davis (to be released in 2013).

Footloose continues to show legs, as it is still a draw in the top ten. Having the lowest drop of a theatrical release that’s played for more than three weeks is good news for studio Paramount Pictures. While it may have not caught fire like Sony Pictures’ The Karate Kid, this was still another remake of a film that didn’t need to be remade. Real Steel continues to do okay, but will be unable to make to $100 million here. Overseas, it’s already at $127 million and counting.

Audiences continue to stay away from Johnny Depp and his Rum Diary, while Sony’s one-two punch of adult fare, The Ides of March and Moneyball round out the top ten. Both have stayed in the top ten for more than a month (Brad Pitt’s baseball movie has managed an impressive 7 weeks).

Looking at the arthouse scene, we had new releases The Other F Word (two screen opening with a $14.6k total) and The Son of No One. The Son of No One is the latest from Ditto Montiel, of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Fighting previously. Both featured Channing Tatum. Tatum returns for Montiel’s third directorial effort and is joined by Al Pacino, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes and Tracy Morgan. Despite the cast, the film played on 11 screens but only grossed $19.8k. Films that got a much needed boost with new engagements included Anonymous, which added 248 screens and finished with $1.2 million. Margin Call, though also available on VOD, made an impressive $778k on 178 screens; Martha Marcy May Marlene and Like Crazy had healthy returns with their expansions, netting $471k and $270k respectively. The Weinstein Company’s Sarah’s Key had the best percentage increase of any film in the box office list with a +1,868.7%. The decision to expand it for the month of November was a right one as the film brought in $277k from 318 total screens.

1. Puss in Boots – $33.1 million ($75.5 million)
2. Tower Heist – $25.1 million
3. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas – $13.1 million
4. Paranormal Activity 3 – $8.5 million ($172.4 million worldwide)
5. In Time $7.7 million ($24.2 million)
6. Footloose – $4.5 million ($45 million)
7. Real Steel – $3.5 million ($205.9 million worldwide)
8. The Rum Diary – $3.1 million ($10.4 million)
9. The Ides of March – $2 million ($36.8 million)
10. Moneyball – $2 million ($70 million)

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