Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Robotic Damon, Stripping Aniston, and Poseidon's Son Battle at the Box Office: Analyzing the Weekend Results

Scott analyzes the results at the box office, and looks at all the reasons for the successes and failures of the new wide release pictures.

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Well, another box office weekend is in the books with Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium taking first place with $29 million dollars, followed by We’re the Millers at $26 million, Planes with $22 million, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ending in with $14.4 million.  Though it may be the quick and easy route to think the straight forward winner was Elysium, we would be most wrong to do so.

Leading up to the release of the Matt Damon led sci-fi movie, a lot of projections had Elysium having an opening weekend in the same realm as Blomkamp’s Oscar nominated District 9, which was $37 million.  That was an unfortunately low projection, as District 9 only had a budget of $30 million, while the budget on Elysium is rumoured at $120 million.  Even more unfortunate is the fact that Elysium underachieved on the already low (compared to budget) expectation, and will end up having a very dismal domestic run.  We can mark this movie down as another casualty of an over saturated special effects summer and lukewarm critical reception.  I had believed this movie would fare better as it was more of a true sci-fi than an action movie, and that would separate it from the other blockbusters of the summer.  I was proven wrong, as explosions are explosions no matter what genre they emanate from, and people are fatigued from them at this point in the season.

The true winner this weekend was the R rated comedy We’re the Millers which starred Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston as husband and wife in a fake relationship in order to smuggle drugs across the border.  My expectations for this movie, along with many others, were quite low based on a competitive weekend, the drawing power of Sudeikis and Aniston, and a year that has seen audiences ruthlessly reject some comedy offerings.  Over its five day opening weekend it brought in $38 million, which is not only impressive when compared to original projections but is impressive when we realize that it has already made back its $37 million budget.  It was able to benefit from a lack of straight comedy movies in theatres, but it will see direct competition next weekend with the arrival of Kick-Ass 2.  By the time its domestic run comes to an end, it could wind up with around $90 million which is a great day out when we compare it to its reasonable budget.

Even though Disney’s Planes fell short of studio expectations this weekend, we are going to consider this movie a winner of the weekend as well.  The reason why I am so quickly willing to call it a winner is based solely on the fact that it was originally going to be a straight-to-video release.  Because of that, any money made in theatres is technically money that was originally not anticipated, apart from additional marketing done to promote the film.  The reviews are fairly awful, and it is important to note that there is no Pixar involvement in this film.  It has a decent budget for an animated movie at $50 million, and it will possibly come close to that before it goes to video for its originally intended sales.  There is already a sequel in the works for 2014, and it will be interesting to see how that one succeeds, and if it will end up as a straight-to-video release.

And finally we come to the last of the wide release new arrivals from this past weekend, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  The first movie in the Percy Jackson series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief fell below studio expectations, but was able to draw $30 million in its opening weekend with the sequel making just under half of that for its opening weekend.  The best guess as to what happened here is that there was no reason, audience, evidence, desire, market, demographics, or whatever else is needed to prove that there was a purpose for creating a $90 million dollar sequel to a movie that failed to make back its budget in the domestic markets, yet they attempted the sequel nonetheless.  The international market is what saved the first movie with a decent run and time will tell if foreign audiences want to give a second attempt to what we cannot deny is a blatant knock-off of Harry Potter.  If it seems like I am not a fan of Hollywood copying successful movies to milk and bleed all potential money from hard working people who enjoyed a franchise that started a fad, just wait until I get to let loose my fingers and type about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in two weeks.

Outside of the land of domestic wide release movies, there are a few interesting talking points to share.  One of them being the success of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim in China.  Domestically it struggled ,partially due to the aforementioned over saturation of special effects blockbusters, and partially because of the niche market that would be interested in giant robots battling giant monsters.  It was easily predictable that it would do well in Asian markets based both on the content of the film and the location of the film, and China has not let del Toro down.  Pacific Rim opened on July 31, and has already made $76 million in China which will probably pass the current North American total for the movie, which is $96 million.

Also of note in the international market is Snowpiercer, a South Korean film by director Joon-ho Bong which saw much anticipation prior to its release.  For South Korean movies, it is now the one with the highest opening weekend in its home nation and beat Hollywood mammoths Iron Man 3 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the amount of time taken to reach 4 million admissions sold.  Snowpiercer also placed fourth in the international box office charts last week, beating movies such as Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, and Fast and Furious 6.  The premise is a train with a perpetual motion engine that travels across the surface of the planet, which has been frozen due to climate change.  The inhabitants of the train are separated by classes, with the rich living in lavish quarters at the front of the train and the poor crammed into the rear cars and a revolt that ensues.  It should be reaching North American theatres in 2014, but will most likely suffer from much editing in an effort to dumb it down for audiences.  To me it sounds like a simple concept that is easy enough to follow and comprehend, but perhaps I am wrong.

Yep, I am still going.  It would be a shame for me to not mention in this write up the continued success that Blue Jasmine is achieving.  The Woody Allen movie starring Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin has held well over three weeks in theatres as it just recently expanded to over 100 theatres and has now grossed over $6 million.  It saw an average of $21,750 per theatre this past weekend, only second to debuting In a World, which averaged $23,667 per theatre in its first weekend.

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