Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon' has solid but hardly phenomenal debut
March 29, '10, update: Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, and featuring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, and America Ferrera, DreamWorks Animation 3D entry How to Train Your Dragon took in $43.73 million at the North American box office this weekend (March 26–28, '10) according to studio figures.
How to Train Your Dragon boasted a $10,785 per-theater average at 4,055 sites. Budgeted at a reported $165 million, the 3D-boosted animated feature had a perfectly acceptable though hardly phenomenal opening. Having said that, How to Train Your Dragon will likely have trouble matching its hefty production costs at the North American box office.
'Alice in Wonderland' holds up
As found at Box Office Mojo, Alice in Wonderland collected $17.7 million at no. 2 – down 49 percent from the week before. That's not bad at all, considering that Tim Burton's fantasy adventure lost hundreds of 3D venues this past weekend.
Alice in Wonderland's U.S. and Canada total currently stands at $293.5 million. It'll probably cross the $300 million mark on either Tuesday or Wednesday, a couple of days later than I'd initially predicted. (See further below.) The 3D fantasy loosely based on Lewis Carroll's work stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway.
'Hot Tub Time Machine' malfunctions, 'The Bounty Hunter' surprisingly sturdy
Directed by Steve Pink, Hot Tub Time Machine disappointed with a so-so $14.02 million debut. Starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke, the MGM comedy may not even match is relatively modest $36 million budget at the domestic box office.
Since as a rule of thumb studios/distributors keep about 50-55 percent of domestic box office grosses, if Hot Tub Time Machine is to earn MGM a profit – especially when taking into account marketing and distribution costs – that will have be generated by way of the overseas market and ancillary revenues.
Starring Jennifer Aniston and How to Train Your Dragon voice actor Gerard Butler, the romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter earned $12 million at no. 4. That's a pretty good amount – down 40 percent from last weekend – for a movie that has been hounded by highly negative reviews. To date, The Bounty Hunter, which cost $40 million, has grossed $38.8 million.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid was next in line with $10.1 million, about 15 percent less than early estimates indicated. The kiddie flick's cume is $35.7 million. Featuring Zachary Gordon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has already covered its $15 million production budget and may end up in the black at the North American box office even after marketing and distribution expenses are tallied. That's rare these days.
Universal's two box office bombs
At no. 6, She's Out of My League drew in $3.51 million, a mid-level 39 percent drop from last week. To date, the Jay Baruchel-Alice Eve teen comedy has grossed $25.6 million. The film was budgeted at a reported $20 million.
Next was the Paul Greengrass-Matt Damon Iraq War thriller Green Zone with $3.38 million, down 45 percent. The $100 million Universal production has grossed a mere $30.4 million to date.
The Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio mystery thriller Shutter Island, which also features Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, and Michelle Williams, grossed $3.18 million at no. 8, following a relatively low 33 percent drop. Total to date $120.6 million. Budget: $80 million.
At no. 9, down from no. 4 last weekend, the Jude Law-Forest Whitaker futuristic action thriller Repo Men earned only $3.01 million. Universal's $32 million production lost 50 percent of its business from a week ago. Total to date: $11.3 million. Repo Men has become the studio's second flop in a row.
The no. 10 movie was another Forest Whitaker effort, Our Family Wedding, which pulled in $2.35 million (down 41 percent). For a movie not aimed at children or teenagers, Our Family Wedding performs surprisingly well on weekends, always going up a spot or two on the box office chart. To date, the comedy also featuring How to Train Your Dragon voice actress America Ferrera has grossed $16.7 million.
'Avatar' no longer among Top Ten
Avatar, now out of the Top Ten according to Sunday's estimates, was no. 11 with $2.04 million. At the beginning of its 15th week, James Cameron's 3D sci-fier has amassed a grand domestic total of $740.4 million.
If it's true that Avatar cost about $200 million to produce and $150 million to market and distribute – studios can easily downplay (or exaggerate) these figures if they so choose – then Avatar's North American box office earnings have already covered its costs (or are very close to doing that).
See also: “'Avatar' vs. 'Alice in Wonderland.'”
'Remember Me': Weak weekend performer
At no. 12, Robert Pattinson's Remember Me earned $1.93 million, down an acceptable 42 percent from last weekend. Curiously, when compared to most other movies Remember Me actually does better on weekdays than on weekends.
The romantic drama was no. 10 on Friday, but according to current estimates it had only a minor surge on Saturday and did poor business on Sunday. That has been the film's pattern since it opened two weeks ago. A relatively weak weekend, but then on weekdays it goes up a spot or two on the chart.
To date, Remember Me has brought in $17.1 million, or about $1 million more than its production cost. It'll probably earn another $3-$5 million in the next couple of weeks, ending its run in the low $20 million range. That's not bad at all for a movie that at first looked like it was going to disappear within the week.
'The Ghost Writer': Made for the international market?
The Ghost Writer will likely earn its producers a profit, but only when international and ancillary revenues are tallied. In fact, The Ghost Writer is the sort of movie that seems to have been made with specific segments of the international market in mind.
Films with adult themes – unless they have a major star and a strong studio push (and that's no guarantee, e.g., Green Zone) – haven't been doing well at all at the North American box office, which apparently continues to survive thanks to 12-year-olds (or those with the mindset of 12-year-olds) and their parents, guardians, and/or nannies.
In The Ghost Writer cast:
Best Actor Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, 2001).
Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980).
Veteran Eli Wallach (The Victors, The Godfather: Part III).
Movies in limited release: Kristen Stewart-Dakota Fanning rock biopic down alarmingly
A holdover from last week, the Kristen Stewart-Dakota Fanning rock biopic The Runaways dropped an alarming 43 percent, collecting only $455,000 at 237 North American screens this past weekend. Average per screen: a paltry $1,920.
Here's wondering what's going to happen when The Runaways opens wide in April. The film's total to date is $1.58 million.
The silver lining: much like Robert Pattinson's Remember Me, The Runaways will probably do much better on home video and pay-per-view. Twilight fans may not be willing to go to a movie theater and shell out $12 to watch Pattinson or Stewart in off-beat roles, but they may well be willing to catch them on the small screen.
Amanda Seyfried-Julianne Moore combo disappoints
At 350 screens, Atom Egoyan's Chloe, starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, and Liam Neeson, grossed a disappointing $900,000, or a quite low $2,573 per location.
The Noah Baumbach-Ben Stiller comedy Greenberg did okay for itself, grossing $1.02 million at 181 screens; its per-theater average was $5,642. For comparison's sake: Three weeks ago, Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer had a per-theater average of $8,769 at 147 sites. Ticket prices were lower then as well.
At 44 screens, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did well with $344,000 and a per-theater average of $7,761. The Swedish mystery thriller stars Noomi Rapace as a computer hacker who helps a disgraced journalist (Michael Nyqvist) crack a four-decade-old murder.
Toplining Tahar Rahim, Jacques Audiard's A Prophet is losing steam in a market that for all purposes allows only big-budget Hollywood productions – or movies with tons of critics' awards – to prosper. The well-received prison drama pulled in $145,000 for a total of $1.32 million.
Bong Joon-ho's also well-received Mother, starring Kim Hye-ja in the title role, brought in only $81,000 at 38 screens. Total to date: $215,000.
Still out there:
- Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon: $35,000. Total: $2.023 million.
- Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces, starring Penélope Cruz: $23,000. Total: $4.758 million.
- Tomm Moore and co-director Nora Twomey's animated The Secret of Kells: $16,000. Total: $117,000.
- Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's Ajami: $12,000. Total: $444,000.
'How to Train Your Dragon' Friday debut more modest than expected
March 27 p.m. update: DreamWorks Animation's new 3D feature How to Train Your Dragon grossed an estimated $12.2 million – a $3,009 per screen average – on Friday (March 26), according to Box Office Mojo. That's more than $1 million less than early estimates indicated. (See further below.)
Will the film match the $47.5 million prediction found at Deadline.com last night? That's still possible, considering that revenues for kiddie flicks such as How to Train Your Dragon tend to zoom up on Saturday and Sunday.
'Alice in Wonderland' no longer tops
At no. 2 for the first time since it opened three weeks ago, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland collected $4.7 million – down 53 percent from the week before. That amount is also a hefty $1.5 million less than stated in early reports.
It's now unclear when exactly Alice in Wonderland will cross the $300 million mark. As a kiddie flick, revenues should soar today and tomorrow – as they have in the past. But it's highly unlikely the 3D film will reach $300 million by Sunday even with the assistance of higher ticket prices. Chances are that milestone will be crossed either Monday or Tuesday next week.
'Hot Tub Time Machine' no 'The Hangover'
Hot Tub Time Machine will apparently underperform as predicted late last night. At no. 3, the MGM comedy starring John Cusack took in an estimated $4.55 million on Friday. Hot Tub Time Machine may thus end up grossing only $13.5 million for the weekend, when most initial predictions had it pegged at around $20 million.
At no. 4, the Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter earned $4 million. That's a perfectly acceptable drop – 47 percent – for a movie that has been widely derided. Its estimated weekend take is $12.5 million.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid was next with $2.9 million. Figures will most likely improve on Saturday and Sunday, enough for it to gross an estimated weekend total of $11.5 million.
'How to Train Your Dragon' flying high, but not too high
March 27 a.m. update: How to Train Your Dragon will apparently be settling for halfway between a solid opening and an excellent opening. The DreamWorks Animation 3D feature scored an estimated $13.5 million on Friday. A rough estimate for the weekend, as per Deadline.com, currently stands at $47.5 million. Predictions had ranged from $30+ to $60 million or whereabouts.
Alice in Wonderland, for its part, is holding up stronger than expected, grossing about $6.2 million on Friday for an estimated $22.5 million by Sunday night. Most box office clairvoyants were predicting $17-18 million, especially considering that Alice has just been booted out of hundreds of 3D theaters.
If this rough estimate is on target – $298 million cume by Sunday night – Alice in Wonderland will cross the $300 million mark on Monday.
The MGM comedy Hot Tub Time Machine may end up underperforming: an estimated $4.5 million on Friday and only $13.5 million for the weekend. Most had been predicting something around $20 million, which is what other recent comedies of that type have collected on their debut weekend.
'Remember Me' surprisingly ahead of 'Avatar'
Surprisingly, according to Friday estimates the no. 10 movie on the domestic box office chart wasn't James Cameron's Avatar but Robert Pattinson's Remember Me. Both films lost about 300 screens each and Avatar's 3D tickets are costlier; even so, Pattinson's romantic drama held the lead.
Things will surely change on Saturday and Sunday, as Avatar receipts usually go way up on the weekend proper. Unless Pattinson's fans suddenly decide to flood U.S. and Canadian theaters, James Cameron's 3D sci-fier will likely be among the Top Ten by the time final weekend figures are tallied.
Remember Me took in 690,000, down a mid-level 44 percent. That's good when compared to its much steeper drop-off rate last weekend. We'll see how the film performs on the next two days.
The Forest Whitaker-America Ferrera comedy Our Family Wedding was no. 11 with $655,000, and only then came Avatar at no. 12 with $535,000, down 49 percent from last week.
Weekend debuts: 'How to Train Your Dragon,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine,' movie ticket price increases
March 26, '10: How to Train Your Dragon opens today in North America. Expect box office receipts to soar even if actual attendance drops.
Thanks to the success of James Cameron's Avatar and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, 3D venues have decided that the Great Recession is over, spring is here, and it's time to cash in on the Good Times.
That means an additional $2 to $3 per ticket for 3D presentations – though the price hike will actually take place across the board. In other words, 2D movies will be affected as well.
At this rate, next spring a 2D matinee will cost about as much as an IMAX-3D ticket for Avatar last winter. (I hope the National Association of Theater Owners will be revising its “average” ticket prices for 2010, currently at $7.61, in the very, very near future.)
How high will 'Dragon' fly? How hot will 'Tub Time Machine' get?
How to Train Your Dragon is expected to dominate the domestic box office this weekend, though how strongly is yet unclear ($30+-$60 million). At Box Office Mojo, Brandon Gray has pointed out that dragon movies (Eragon, Dragonheart) haven't fared all that great in the past; which is kinda strange, considering that dinosaurs – i.e., dragons without wings or fire-spitting tongues – have usually acquitted themselves quite well.
The weekend's other major domestic release is Hot Tub Time Machine, supposed to be a kindred spirit to last year's sleeper blockbuster The Hangover. Starring John Cusack, Hot Tub Time Machine is MGM's first release since Fame last September. Box Office predictors are expecting a $17-$22 million debut.
'Alice in Wonderland' soon to pass $300 million
Although Alice in Wonderland will be crossing the $300 million mark sometime in the next few days, it will be severely impaired by a drastic cut on its number of 3D venues, which have been taken over by How to Train Your Dragon. Predictors are expecting $17-18 million for the weekend.
A glut in the market keeps making 3D exhibitors dump still-profitable films for new releases. Exhibitors should keep on doing well (even though first/second weekend box office percentage shares generally favor distributors), but the 3D films' producers (and, quite likely, distributors) probably aren't too happy with the current set-up.
Image of How to Train Your Dragon flying dragons: DreamWorks Animation.
Robert Pattinson Remember Me movie image: Myles Aronowitz / Summit Entertainment.
Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried Chloe movie image: Sony Pictures Classics.
Red Queen Helena Bonham Carter and Mairi Ella Challen Alice in Wonderland image: Disney Enterprises.
John Cusack Hot Tub Time Machine image: MGM.