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Martin Scorsese’s HUGO Overperforms, But Not Enough; George Clooney’s THE DESCENDANTS Strong: Box Office

Asa Butterfield, Jude Law, Hugo
Asa Butterfield, Jude Law, Hugo

Box Office: THE MUPPETS Trailing ENCHANTED, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS Opens Modestly

At no. 5, Martin Scorsese’s 3D adventure-fantasy drama Hugo brought in $15.38 million at 1,277 locations, averaging a solid — though hardly record-breaking — per-theater average of $8,888 according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Hugo’s revenues and average were boosted by 3D surcharges, as about 75 percent of the film’s take originated from 3D venues. Its reported cost was "less than $150m." Unless that means way less than $150m — preferably way less than $50m — Hugo has no chance of recovering its budget at the North American box office. Not even close.

Among the English-proficient French characters inhabiting Hugo’s universe are Asa Butterfield in the title role, Ben Kingsley (as movie pioneer Georges Méliès), Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Michael Stuhlbarg, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, and Jude Law.

Rounding out the top nine this weekend were Adam Sandler’s widely panned comedy Jack and Jill with $10.3 million ($57.41 million cume), Tarsem Singh/Henry Cavill/Kellan Lutz’s Immortals with $8.8 million ($68.63 million cume), Antonio Banderas/Salma Hayek’s Puss in Boots with $7.45 million ($135.36 million cume), and Brett Ratner/Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy’s Tower Heist with $7.32 million ($65.38 million cume). Of the aforementioned four movies, only Puss in Boots has managed to surpass its ($130m) budget at the domestic box office.

But remember, studios only get about 50-55 percent of a film’s domestic gross and production budgets don’t include marketing/distribution expenses. In other words, the $75 million Tower Heist and the $80m Jack and Jill are flops. The $75 million Immortals would have been one as well, except for the fact that the period adventure fantasy has already grossed about $65 million overseas — where people like Sandler, Ratner, Stiller, and Murphy have a relatively small following.

At no. 10, Alexander Payne/George Clooney’s The Descendants pulled in $7.2 million ($10.74 million cume). The likely Best Picture Oscar contender added more than 400 locations; its per-theater average at 433 sites was an excellent $16,628 — and without the help of 3D surcharges. For comparison’s sake: The Descendants’ average was more than twice that of My Week with Marilyn’s $7,266 at 244 locations. In late December 2009, the George Clooney-Jason Reitman collaboration Up in the Air averaged $18,344 at 175 locations; Up in the Air went on to gross $83 million domestically. (All things being equal, the fewer the number of locations, the higher the per-theater average should be.)

Hugo photo: Jaap Buitendijk / GK Films

Continue Reading: MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Ok, THE ARTIST Trailing THE KINGS SPEECH, Ahead of A DANGEROUS METHOD

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