This week’s box office results are kind of a some good news – mostly bad news situation. The good news is that the first week totals for October are up 11% compared to the same frame last month and for the first time in three weeks the number one movie in America was not a rerelease of a decade and half old movie. The bad news the box office was topped by Dolphin Tale which only earned $14.2 million, the smallest amount earned for a number one box office since Hall Pass did $13.5 million back in February. Add to that the totals for the top ten films in the North American box office being down nearly 14% from last week and of the three super wide releases that came out this week, not one earned more than $9 million, October is off to a pretty bad start.
Warner Brother’s Dolphin Tale, a sappy vaguely true story starring a tailless dolphin and Morgan Freeman, topped the box office with $14.2 million essentially by losing less than its competitors, falling only 25% from its debut last week. The film has now made $37.5 million, half a million more than the film cost to make so it could be argued that Andy Hendrickson was right when he said that stories don’t matter when one is in the business of making tent pole films. He used the visual spectacle and chiseled cheekbones of Johnny Depp of Alice in Wonderland as an example but he could have been talking about a plucky yet horribly disfigured dolphin and Morgan Freeman’s reassuring baritone.
Moneyball once again came in second, taking in $12.5 million in its second week of release. Now that the $50 million Brad Pitt led saber metrics drama has only made $38.4 million one has to wonder if the tailor made suits at Sony are wondering if they could have made a more profitable saber metrics movie by casting say Aaron Eckhart or Dennis Quid in the lead role with Topher Grace or Jamie Kennedy in the nerdy supporting role and saving money in the frontend and maybe making more money on the backend by making a feel good sports movie that didn’t remind America of how old Brad Pitt looks now.
The Lion King 3D saw its first substantial fall this weekend, earning $11 million and falling 49% from last week. That’s a big drop but it’s understandable given that 3D convert was only intended to be a cash in rerelease designed to capitalized on the imminent Blu-ray release of the film. And it’s been a very successful cash in, earning Disney $79.5 million in three weeks. Worldwide, the film has now made $882 million making The Lion King the third highest grossing animated film ever. The circle of wealth, it moves us all.
Of this week’s new releases the cancer buddy comedy 50/50 did the best but only in the sense that it failed the least. It’s bizarre the very public failure of Funny People didn’t teach 50/50 star Seth Rogen that the blend of broish humor and existential and physical disease doesn’t make for a winning box office combination but clearly it ddin’t since he choose to make 50/50 instead of a Pineapple Express sequel or something else that would have been equally popular. Hopefully the film’s non-starter status won’t stop the push toward making Joseph Gordon-Levitt a leading man. One misstep should damage a career with that much potential.
Shining inspired thriller Dream House also bombed in spectacular fashion earning $8.2 million against a $50 million production budget. Why did a decently budgeted horror film starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weiss released in October do so badly? It’s been reported that Dream House distributer Morgan Creek took the film away from director Jim Sheridan (In America) after a shoot filled with studio interference. The project went so off the rails that Sheridan and the main cast refused to do press for the film after seeing the studio’s final cut. This debacle was followed by a trailer that obviously reveals a twist upon which the main narrative of the film balances. The question here is why hire and pay people for a job and then not allow them to complete it if they’ve proven that they can deliver quality work.
Raunchy romantic comedy What’s Your Number?, which follows Anna Farris as a woman who goes all High Fidelity on her exes after being scorned by her friends for the supposedly high number of men she has slept with. This was a film that tried very hard to win the Bridesmaids sweepstakes and with its 3,000 plus theaters and extensive marketing campaign Fox clearly thought it was already a winner. This movie didn’t bomb because women can’t open comedies or because people don’t know and love Anna Farris (the Scary Movie franchise has made more than $800 million worldwide) it’s because What’s Your Number? was a predictable rom-com with a premise that’s a bit too safe to lure in the Hangover crowd.
The only film that could be considered to have a successful launch this week is the Christian themed drama Courageous; a film produced by Sherwood Pictures a small studio that’s grown out of an Albany, Georgia evangelical church with an aim toward producing quality entertainment with obvious religious convictions. Courageous was made for a very modest $1.8 million and has already made $8.8 million with minimal mainstream press coverage. As with the success of Soul Surfer and Jumping the Broom, it’s become clear that there is an audience hungry for well-made Christian material.
As for the rest of the top ten: Bourne lite action Abduction continued to fare poorly, dropping four places from last week and taking in $5.6 million in its second week of release. So Taylor Lautner can’t open a movie that doesn’t have him playing a werewolf. Easy fix, get the Howling license back from Syfy and knock out a new one of those. Viral disaster film Contagion made $5 million in its fourth week of release. The film has now made more than $71 million worldwide against a $60 million production budget. Once the film opens in more international territories it should reach the breakeven point but it’s strange to see a movie with this cast and so topical a premise do average money in the US. Finally, Clive Owen Jason Statham showdown actioner Killer Elite fell five places from last week taking in $4.8 million in its second week of release. To date the $70 million film has made $22 million, making it a late entry for one of biggest financial bombs of the year.
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The top ten movies of September 30-October 2, 2011 were
1. Dolphin Tale- $14.2M
2. Moneyball- $12.5M
3. The Lion King 3D- $11M
4. 50/50- $8.85M
5. Courageous- $8.80M
6. Dream House- $8.2M
7. Abduction- $5.6M
8. What’s Your Number?– $5.6M
9. Contagion- $5M
10. Killer Elite- $4.8M
(Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo)
Mario blogs regularly at A Polemic Killer Room.