Patrick Fugit, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, We Bought a Zoo
Despite the presence of Matt Damon, one of the most likable actors around, and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, on Friday, Dec. 23, the kiddie-oriented We Bought a Zoo brought in a mere $3 million, landing at no. 6 on the North American box office chart according to early, rough estimates found at both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.com. Directed by Cameron Crowe, who has been luckier with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky), and distributed by 20th Century Fox, We Bought a Zoo is expected to gross less than $8 million at 3,117 locations over the three-day weekend.
Memories of the tragic, bloody slaughter of dozens of wild animals in Ohio a few weeks ago — the animals had been part of a private zoo — are likely not the reason for We Bought a Zoo's poor opening. But hefty movie-ticket prices, year-end expenses, and the weak U.S. economy just might. A family of four could easily end up spending over $100 at the movies these days. Not many can afford that luxury. Or perhaps it's just that live animals that don't talk are less interesting than chipmunks that do.
We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office flop Elizabethtown back in 2005, has a so-so 65 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. The film's screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), had a major critical and box office flop a few weeks ago, the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don't Know How She Does It, which earned less than $10m in North America.
In addition to Damon and Johansson, the We Bought a Zoo cast includes Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones.
Rounding out the top movies on Friday were Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve with an estimated $1.1 million, Sarah Smith/James McAvoy's Arthur Christmas with $1 million, Amy Adams/Jason Segel's The Muppets with almost $1 million, and Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 with nearly $650k. Unless it gets unseated by The Sitter, Breaking Dawn will likely remain among North America's top ten movies throughout the Christmas weekend — its sixth. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner star.
Comparing Breaking Dawn to the three previous Twilight movies: David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Chris Weisz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight remained on the top-ten chart for five weekends. Will Breaking Dawn beat that three-way tie/record?
But wait, there's also an offering from New Regency and Summit Entertainment — Breaking Dawn's distributor — coming out on Christmas Day: The Darkest Hour, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller ideal for this time of year. Directed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, and Rachael Taylor, The Darkest Hour hasn't been screened for critics. Chances are it won't usurp Breaking Dawn's spot among the top ten. [Addendum: But Steven Spielberg's War Horse at 2,376 locations just might. Forgot about that one last night. In all likelihood, Breaking Dawn's only chance to stay on the top-ten chart is if it manages to beat The Muppets and/or Arthur Christmas. That's not impossible, but at this stage it doesn't seem too likely.]
The all-star omnibus comedy-drama New Year's Eve stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, and others.
In addition to Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, the extensive Breaking Dawn cast includes Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Dakota Fanning, MyAnna Buring, Booboo Stewart, and Michael Sheen.
Plus Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Sarah Clarke, Anna Kendrick, Christian Serratos, Christopher Heyerdahl, Michael Welch, Christian Camargo, Julia Jones, Gil Birmingham, Kiowa Gordon, Billy Burke, Bronson Pelletier, Charlie Bewley, Tyson Houseman, Daniel Cudmore, Jamie Campbell Bower, Casey LaBow, Mia Maestro, and Alex Meraz.
Matt Damon/Scarlett Johansson/We Bought a Zoo picture: Neal Preston / 20th Century Fox.