Weekend Box Office: Wreck-It Ralph Powers Up To #1, Flight Soars In Low-Theater Count Debut

Zangief just heard that Ralph beat his high score.

Outside of Hollywood the biggest news of the week was the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the countdown to the presidential election. In Hollywood the big news was the announcement that Disney had acquired Luscasfilm for around $4 billion. The news created such a fervor that sites like Ain’t It Cool News had a near meltdown. My own Facebook feed was lit up with all sorts of comments, even from friends who aren’t cinephiles like me. So it must be a big deal. Our own Scott Sawitz has a piece on it, which you can read by clicking here.

While the Northeast is still recovering, business was back to normal in Hollywood. Days after the Lucasfilm announcement Disney debuted Wreck-It Ralph to a $49.1 million gross. An impressive figure for sure, the total was enough to make it the biggest domestic Disney Animation Studios opening ever – bettering Tangled by $400k.

Wreck-It Ralph is easily one of the most colorful motion pictures released this year. A year that has also seen a wide range of color on display, including Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Mirror Mirror, and Moonrise Kingdom. Though Wreck-It Ralph‘s color explosion is on par with the likes of Speed Racer and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. While Ralph‘s target audience may be kids and families, the film is also geared for those newborns from the mid-’70s and ’80s who were weened by arcade and video games.

As impressive as scoring close to $50M in your debut, more surprising is the performance of Paramount’s Flight. Strictly looking at dollars and cents Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action cinema did half as well as Wreck-It Ralph on less than 2,000 screens. Paramount has been smart with its marketing of the Denzel Washington film by not overplaying the story of alcoholism. Going further, the studio released it on 1,884 screens in its debut. Expansion will happen in the weeks to come, but even on less than 2,000 screens the film became Denzel Washington’s fifth straight film to open above $20M, and his 13th overall to do so. In an era where it is difficult to find consistency with movie stars and their ability to draw crowds and open films, Washington has been Mr. Consistency. His films may not always make $200M, sometimes not even $100M, but the one constant is that his releases are mid-budget studio films marketed to adults. Hollywood has been neglecting this demographic as studios are inconsistent when it comes to producing films for adults. This is what got Universal in some trouble years ago when films like Duplicity, State of Play, and Green Zone didn’t pull in adult moviegoers despite having A-list talent attached in starring roles.

So the performance of Flight throws the proverbial wrench in the system showing that with good marketing and low overhead (both Washington and Zemeckis worked for scale to ensure the production not exceed a certain amount – it reportedly cost $30 million) can lead to a mid-level hit for a studio wanting to bring adults to the movies. There’s been talk if Denzel Washington’s performance as an alcoholic pilot is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Well, outside of his performance the movie doesn’t have much going for it. And considering the field at this point where three spots are pretty much solidified (John Hawkes for The Sessions, Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, and Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln) I could see him taking one of the remaining two slots. Though for my money the best performance in Flight is James Badge Dale’s singular scene as a cancer patient who espouses his condition to Washington’s character.

Last week’s number one, Argo, which climbed the mountain to finally claim the top spot in its third week of release, fell this weekend to third place with $10.2M. But the pace of Ben Affleck’s third feature is well ahead of his previous effort The Town. So while the intended demographic may have taken flight for Flight the picture is most assuredly going to crack $100M domestically. It will be interesting to see how Warner Bros. will handle the Oscar campaign and if it will extend its run in theaters with expansion certain weekends when the competition isn’t as fierce.

You know a studio has no confidence in a movie when it fails to screen it critics before its release. But what does it mean when the film’s co-writer, director and star does a press tour where the press is not allowed to see the final product before conducting interviews? That’s what happened in my part of the world (ahem, Texas) as RZA made the rounds fielding questions from critics and writers who had maybe only seen the trailer and a few movie clips prior. Universal dropped the Quentin Tarantino presentation (read: did not direct) of The Man with the Iron Fists in less than 2,000 theaters. The result was a tepid opening for sure which pretty much puts the kibosh on any future expansion. Nevertheless, I had fun with it. It was what I expected it be. Bloody, chopsocky fun. And I was curious about Russell Crowe’s involvement. Of course his character Mr. Knife (first name Jack) outshone the rest of the cast. Despite dumping it in theaters, $8.2M isn’t a complete failure, since the film cost in the ballpark of $15-$20 million. It should play well on DVD and internationally.

Iron Fists did just enough to distance itself from Taken 2, which is surprisingly still in the top five in its fifth week. At $125 million it will need some help if it is going to surpass the original’s $145M haul. But even if it doesn’t eclipse that mark, worldwide the film has already surpassed its predecessor in the amount of global receipts. Expect the third installment in 2014 sometime. And a decade after that the studio will milk the trilogy again with a reboot and new cast of characters. But who will play Liam Neeson’s character? My money’s on Jude Law.

Cloud Atlas gained five theaters but lost 45% of its viewership. Its opening weekend as iffy to begin with and the film remains just a curiosity at this point. As decisive with critics as it is with audiences, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer better hope international audiences are more receptive to a sci-fi project that has enough luminaries to keep it out of the arthouse. Even if it doesn’t make its money back and then some, it could very well be one of those movies that slips through the cracks and is discovered years from now and be considered a classic.

The arrival of Wreck-It Ralph saw Hotel Transylvania take a big fall. But with $137.5 million domestic receipts and another $115M overseas, Sony Pictures is beyond pleased. Plus the film is just $5M away from surpassing The Smurfs to become the studio’s biggest animated hit. What are the odds Sony tries to rush this feature to home video the weeks before or after Christmas? Meanwhile, it looks like audiences took a pass on creature features this first weekend of November as Paranormal Activity 4 and Silent Hill: Revelation tumble down the list with the Kevin James’ starring Here Comes the Boom stuck in between.

Outside of the top ten, Barry Levinson’s found footage eco-thriller The Bay debuted on 23 screens and VOD and earned $21.4k. Entertainment One’s A Late Quartet starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken played at 9 locations and earned $76k. Finally, to impress your friends at the water cooler you can gloat about the performance of the latest James Bond movie Skyfall. Set to open in U.S. theaters on November 9th (or the 8th if you watch it on IMAX), the film has already amassed global receipts of $287 million. So Wreck-It Ralph may be enjoying a “sugar rush” and a gold metal victory at the box office this week, but come the weekend he’ll be silenced by double-oh seven.

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Source: Box Office Mojo