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'Game of Shadows' Flopping? & Tom Cruise to Save Moribund Box Office After Dismal 'New Year's Eve' Debut?

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Noomi Rapace Robert Downey Jr: Transformers meets Conan DoyleSherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Noomi Rapace and Robert Downey Jr. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace more or less replaces Rachel McAdams as the female “lead” in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which stars U.S. actor Robert Downey Jr. as an Iron Man version of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective – a witticism-spewing version that has nothing in common with his British Sherlock Holmes predecessors such as Basil Rathbone, Clive Brook, and TV's Jeremy Brett. Equally unlike your parents and grandparents' Dr. Watson is Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes' sidekick in Guy Ritchie's special-effects-laden thriller that feels much closer to Michael Bay's Transformers movies than to Conan Doyle's late 19th century/early 20th century novels. Perhaps that's why A Game of Shadows has been a domestic box office underperformer – maybe it looks too much like an autobot-free reboot of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which came out just a few months ago to great box office figures and equally great critical derision.

Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr. actioner 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' a domestic box office 'flop'?

Dec. 18 update: Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows hasn't exactly “saved” the North American box office despite the estimated $40.02 million it earned (or rather, is earning) this weekend, Dec. 18–20, at 3,703 locations, including $1.25 million from Thursday midnight screenings.

In fact, A Game of Shadows failed to shake things up because it earned slightly over $40 million. After all, the original Sherlock Holmes collected $62.3 million on Christmas weekend 2009 (admittedly, when people were out of school/work) while last week's predictions had A Game of Shadows bringing in anywhere between $55 and $60 million.

I'm not sure if many have used the word “flop” in reference to a movie that grossed $40 million over the course of three days. But unless things pick up dramatically next weekend and the following one – the Monday holiday should help things some – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will be just that – a flop – at the domestic box office.

The Sherlock Holmes sequel cost a reported $125 million, or about 30 percent more than the original. Even when ignoring the tens of millions spent on marketing and distribution, in order for Warner Bros. and fellow producing companies to recoup their investment at the domestic box office A Game of Shadows would have to rake in around $235–$250 million.

How many believe that will happen? How many believe Sherlock Holmes 2 will reach, say, $150 million?

Mediocre reviews

The original Sherlock Holmes went on to gross $209.02 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $315 million internationally. Its worldwide total was $524.02 million.

Reviewers, for their part, have been anything but enthusiastic about the sequel. A Game of Shadows has a mediocre 46 percent approval rating and 5.4 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. For all that is worth, the film does have an “A-” CinemaScore rating.

Dec. 12 update: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows performed slight worse than Sunday estimates indicated: $39.63 million over its debut weekend.

International market to the rescue

Now, for the good news: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has earned $14.5 million abroad after opening in a mere six territories, with most major ones (e.g., Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain) yet to come.

Moral of the story: At least for now, if you're looking for a Mighty Savior to rescue the Hollywood studios from the dainty North American box office – down this weekend about 12 percent from last year – don't look for any particular movie. Look overseas, for other countries.

Besides Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows features Rachel McAdams, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Jared Harris, Paul Anderson, Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked trailer with Jason Lee and a group of squeaky-voiced furry creatures. Like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, another domestic box office underperformer this Christmas season.

Another underperformer

Also underperforming – especially compared to its predecessor – is Mike Mitchell's animated feature Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which collected an estimated $23.5 million at no. 2 over the weekend, as per boxofficemojo.com.

Back on Christmas 2009, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel pulled in $48.87 million on its debut weekend. At that time, the Chipmunks even surpassed James Cameron's mighty Avatar on their first day out, Dec. 23.

The latest Alvin and the Chipmunks annoyance, which cost approximately $80 million, features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

Sinking reviews & blasé international market

Movie reviewers have overwhelmingly disliked Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which has a sinking 12 percent approval rating and 3.4 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Things overseas haven't been all that great, either. In 38 territories (including Spain and the U.K.), Chip-Wrecked has earned $14.5 million, or slightly less than Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in a mere six markets.

But since this is a kiddie flick, business should pick up considerably during the holiday season. The Squeakquel went on to gross $443.14 million worldwide; the first Alvin and Chipmunks (2007) took in $361.33 million.

U.S. & Canada tired of sequels?

Ah, and before anyone comes up with the nonsensical idea that Americans and Canadians have gotten tired of sequels in 2011, just check out the list of biggest blockbusters of the year. The top seven movies are all sequels:

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise hood: Bigger hit than predecessor?Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise & his tough guy hood. The fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible movie franchise, which began in 1996, will likely be more successful at the domestic box office than its immediate predecessor, J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III. Directed by Pixar animator Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), Ghost Protocol enjoyed a remarkable debut in (somewhat) limited release in North America. Although his box office appeal has dimmed somewhat in the U.S., Tom Cruise remains a huge box office draw internationally. No matter how successful in the domestic market, Ghost Protocol will surely attract more moviegoers elsewhere. Update: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol collected $209.39 in the U.S. and Canada (vs. Mission: Impossible III's $134.02 million) and $485.31 internationally.

Tom Cruise to save domestic box office?

Dec. 17 update: With the underwhelming debuts of the Robert Downey Jr. actioner Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the kiddie flick Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, the silver lining at the North American box office this weekend is the Brad Bird-Tom Cruise $140 million-budgeted collaboration Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which has raked in an impressive, IMAX-boosted $4.6 million – including $1 million from Thursday midnight showings – at only 425 locations (300 of which IMAX theaters).

As per The Hollywood Reporter, Ghost Protocol should bring in $12 million by Sunday evening. If so, that would represent an outstanding, even considering the IMAX surcharges, $28,400 per-theater average.

Dec. 12 update: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol scored $12.75 million, for a $30,083 per-theater average.

'Ghost Protocol' vs. 'Mission: Impossible III'

For comparison's sake: Directed by J.J. Abrams, Mission: Impossible III earned $47.74 million at 4,054 theaters in July 2006 (approx. $58 million today), averaging $11,776 per site (approx. $14,000 today).

At a little more than one tenth the number of theaters, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is expected to take in more than one fifth of the inflation-adjusted gross of its predecessor. IMAX surcharges or no, that's quite impressive.

Admittedly, the eagerly anticipated previews of Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight Rises at several dozen IMAX locations were no hindrance for Paramount's Ghost Protocol. The latest Christopher Nolan-Christian Bale Batman movie will open in summer 2012.

'Ghost Protocol' to surpass predecessor?

Budgeted at a reported $150 million, Mission: Impossible III ultimately grossed a disappointing $134.02 million at the North American box office, which led to wildly exaggerated media speculation that Tom Cruise's career was in as bad a shape as the current North American box office.

Internationally, however, the third installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise fared much better, earning $263.82 million. Its worldwide total was $397.85 million – the eighth biggest that year.

Not bad for a “flop” that even led the head of (Paramount's parent company) Viacom, Sumner Redstone, to publicly berate Tom Cruise for his Oprah Winfrey and Brooke Shields antics. (Cruise's crass, vulgar Les Grossman is an obvious – and quite funny – Redstone parody.)

Also in the Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol cast: Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Léa Seydoux, Simon Pegg, Vladimir Nashkov, Anil Kapoor, and Michael Nyqvist – the leading man of A Game of Shadows' Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

'New Year's Eve' has nothing to celebrate

In other box office news, last weekend's top movie, Garry Marshall's all-star New Year's Eve, was down two spots with about $2.4 million at no. 3 on Friday, and an estimated $7.7 million for the weekend.

Despite the presence of Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Biel, et al., if these estimates are correct, after ten days New Year's Eve will have earned less than half (about $25 million) of the $56.26 million its Marshall-directed, all-star predecessor Valentine's Day raked in on its debut weekend in February 2010.

'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' not to reach $300 million

Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner is expected to gross $4.2 million over the weekend, for a domestic cume of $266.4 million – the third biggest hit of the year in the U.S. and Canada.

If these early estimates are on target, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 will be down a relatively modest (for the Twilight series) 46 percent despite the loss of about 650 theaters.

The $300 million milestone seems out of reach, as this latest Twilight Saga installment will likely cume at $285–$290 million, as predicted on opening weekend.

Supporting the multispecies romantic triangle in Breaking Dawn - Part 1 are Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Maggie Grace, and Billy Burke.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows trailer with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, and (an unbilled) Rachel McAdams. Surely not the sort of adventure tale Arthur Conan Doyle had envisioned back in his day.

Men of action & talking chipmunks to rescue abysmal domestic box office?

Dec. 16: The North American box office is in the doldrums. Receipts last weekend (Dec. 11–13) were the lowest since September 2008 (unadjusted for inflation), while attendance figures – if reports are on target – are at their lowest since September 2001, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Lest we lose all hope, two tough, middle-aged male stars and a bunch of squeaking chipmunks are expected to turn things around. Enter Robert Downey Jr. in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Tom Cruise in Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and the titular stars of Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.

The battle of the sequels: 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' vs. 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'

Things have started out well for Tom Cruise, whose $140 million-budgeted Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol grossed $1.1 million at only 425 locations midnight Thursday.

That's about as much as – not adjusted for inflation – Mission: Impossible III earned in 2006 at 2,000 sites. Helping matters some were previews of The Dark Knight Rises at a few dozen or so IMAX locations.

Considerably less successful at midnight Thursday shows were Robert Downey Jr. and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, also featuring Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace. The actioner opened with a relatively modest $1.25 million from 1,650 screens.

Back in late December 2009, the original Sherlock Holmes opened with $62.3 million. Expect A Game of Shadows to have a markedly more modest debut.

Box Office Mojo has it pegged at $59.8 million. Perhaps it'll reach that high, but I'd surprised if the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr. movie-movie passes $50 million, let alone $55 million.

'New Year's Eve' movie tops worst weekend since 2008

Dec. 11 update: The worst weekend at the North American box office since September 2008, with an overall take of $78 million.

That's this very weekend, Dec. 9–11, when Garry Marshall's critically lambasted Warner Bros. release New Year's Eve succeeded in topping the domestic chart with a meager $13.7 million, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. At 3,505 locations, New Year's Eve averaged a not-at-all celebratory $3,910 per site.

Thanks to a name cast that includes teen icon Zac Efron, Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Oscar winner Halle Berry, and Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, some had been expecting that New Year's Eve would open around $30 million. Later on, $20 million became an acceptable figure. But $13.7 million?

Chances are Marshall's New Year's Eve movie won't get even close to matching its $56 million budget at the domestic box office – let alone being able to recoup it.

New Year's Eve with Zac Efron Michelle Pfeiffer. Critical disaster is box office bomb tooNew Year's Eve with Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer. Garry Marshall's all-star critical disaster New Year's Eve has also turned out to be a box office bomb, opening with less than half the amount earned by its predecessor – Marshall's all-star Valentine's Day – in February 2010. Younger man Zac Efron, whose credits range from the High School Musical flicks to Me and Orson Welles, and older woman Michelle Pfeiffer, whose credits range from Scarface to Chéri, are two of the members of the extensive New Year's Eve cast, which also includes Oscar winners Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, and Robert De Niro, plus Josh Duhamel, Jessica Biel, Til Schweiger, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, and Jon Bon Jovi.

'New Year's Eve' vs. 'Valentine's Day' & 'He's Just Not That into You'

For comparison's sake: Marshall's all-star Valentine's Day – featuring Julia Roberts, Taylor Lautner, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, and countless others – debuted with $56.26 million in February 2010.

Ken Kwapis' similarly packaged all-star romantic comedy-drama He's Just Not That into You – with, once again, Bradley Cooper, plus Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, et al. – brought in $27.78 million in February 2009.

Not helping matters is that New Year's Eve has a dismal 3 percent approval rating and 3.0 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Next to Marshall's latest effort, He's Just Not That into You seems like a movie classic, with a 32 percent approval rating and 5.0 average.

Valentine's Day had a more modest – though still nearly five times better than New Year's Eve – 14 percent approval rating (and 4.0 average).

One element that He's Not That Just into You and Valentine's Day have in common – but that is missing from New Year's Eve – is Bradley Cooper. When Garry Marshall comes up with “Veterans Day” or “President's Day” or just plain “Easter,” he might want to ensure that Cooper is somewhere around.

On a positive note, New Year's Eve opened internationally with an acceptable $12.6 million in 36 territories.

Dec. 12 update: Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve movie debuted with $13.01 million, for a $3,714 per-theater average – or less than $200 above The Sitter's $3,582 average.

'New Year's Eve' movie cast

The extensive New Year's Eve movie cast includes the following:

Three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (as Best Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons, 1988; as Best Actress for The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989; and Love Field, 1992).

Two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry, 1999; Million Dollar Baby, 2004).

Best Actress Oscar winner Halle Berry (Monster's Ball, 2001).

Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; Best Actor for Raging Bull, 1980).

Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006).

Zac Efron. Sofia Vergara. Sarah Jessica Parker. Josh Duhamel. Jessica Biel. Til Schweiger. Katherine Heigl. Cary Elwes. Alyssa Milano. Seth Meyers. Sarah Paulson.

Jon Bon Jovi. Penny Marshall. Common. Cherry Jones. Lea Michele. Ashton Kutcher. James Belushi. Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges. Hector Elizondo. Ryan Seacrest. Carla Gugino.

'The Sitter' lands with a thud

Expectations for the R-rated Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter were quite low to begin with. After earning an estimated $3.72 million on Friday, The Sitter seemed doomed to gross $1–$2 million less than the most modest predictions of about $10–$11 million. (Our prediction had it at $9 million.)

As it turns out (if estimates are accurate), the 20th Century Fox release managed to pull in $10 million, at the lower end of – but still within – expectations. These days, that's good news.

The Sitter's per-theater average was a weak $3,636 at 2,750 locations. Directed by David Gordon Green, The Sitter cost a reported $25 million. Also in the cast: Sam Rockwell and Ari Graynor.

Dec. 12 update: The Sitter brought in $9.85 million, for a $3,582 per-theater average.

'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' no longer lonely at the top

After three weeks on top – a first for a Twilight Saga movie – Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was down two spots at no. 3, with $7.9 million – down 52 percent, the highest drop-off rate among the weekend's Top 12 movies.

At no. 4, The Muppets, featuring Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Chris Cooper, and Jason Segel, brought in $7.07 million (down 36 percent).

At no. 5, Arthur Christmas drew in $6.6 million – down a mere 11 percent. That's good news for the costly animated feature that has been doing only mediocre business. In the voice cast: James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Laura Linney, and Hugh Laurie.

'Hugo' down despite expansion

Rounding out the Top Ten were:

  • Martin Scorsese's Hugo, with $6.12 million (down 19 percent, despite the addition of 768 sites).
    Cast: Asa Butterfield. Chloë Grace Moretz. Sacha Baron Cohen. Ben Kingsley.
  • Alexander Payne's The Descendants with $4.83 million (up a modest 1 percent, after adding 302 sites).
  • Cast: George Clooney. Shailene Woodley. Judy Greer.
  • George Miller's Happy Feet Two with $3.75 million (down 37 percent).
    Voice Cast: Elijah Wood. Robin Williams. Brad Pitt. Matt Damon. Sofia Vergara.
  • Dennis Dugan's Jack and Jill with $3.2 million (down 40 percent).
    Cast: Adam Sandler. Al Pacino. Katie Holmes.
  • Tarsem Singh's Immortals with $2.44 million (down 45 percent).
    Cast: Henry Cavill. Freida Pinto. Kellan Lutz. Luke Evans. Isabel Lucas.

Sad state of box office affairs

A couple more titles: at no. 11, Brett Ratner's Tower Heist, with Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, took in $2.4 million. It was followed by Chris Miller's animated Puss in Boots, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, with $1.65 million.

Note on the current state of the North American box office: not a single movie on the Top 12 chart averaged more than $6,000 per theater. Only The Descendants had an average above $5,000 – and that's the only movie playing in less than 1,800 locations. (The fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.)

Cheerless box office following 'New Year's Eve' movie debut

Dec. 10: Starring about half of Hollywood, Garry Marshall's Warner Bros. release New Year's Eve is the latest movie to open to underwhelming figures in North America, collecting an estimated $5.08 million on Friday, Dec. 9. Screening at 3,505 sites, New Year's Eve averaged a meager $1,449 per theater.

The omnibus, all-star romantic comedy-drama will be lucky if it reaches $16–17 million over the weekend, whereas some, including Box Office Mojo, had been expecting an opening around $30 million.

Expectations for the Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter were pretty low to begin with – but apparently not low enough. After earning an estimated $3.5 million on Friday, The Sitter should collect at most $9 million over the weekend. That's about $1 or $2 million less than the most modest predictions.


Robert Downey Jr. and Noomi Rapace Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows image: Daniel Smith / Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol image: David James / Paramount Pictures.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked trailer: 20th Century Fox.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows trailer: Warner Bros.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron New Year's Eve image: Warner Bros.

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5 Comments to 'Game of Shadows' Flopping? & Tom Cruise to Save Moribund Box Office After Dismal 'New Year's Eve' Debut?

  1. ritu

    Despite the festival season Breaking Dawn Part I indeed did a rocking business worldwide .It tuled the box office for straight 5 weeks with all the competitors way behind.

  2. Krista

    You are wrong about Breaking Dawn reachin the 300 million mark being impossible! Breaking Dawn reached $312 million is its first week! Overall the movie has made $400 million or over!

  3. Jiyalin

    I saw this movie! Tom Cruise is amazing

  4. Bettybmusing

    Once again truth wins the day. Some people just can't handle box office bottom-line truth. :-)

  5. miller

    Been there, Done that. and the celebs in Valentines Day were a LOT more appealing (bradley cooper, shirley mcclaine, the catchy Taylor2, julia roberts, jamie fox, anne hathaway, george lopez etc) …plus blown up blue condoms don't have much appeal…..