Early spring box office: Handsome, muscular hunks abound, but their movies’ domestic figures have been on the flaccid side
The spring season in the Northern Hemisphere is near its halfway point. And that means Hollywood’s official summer blockbuster season – which runs from (the United States’) Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend – is about to begin.
Below is an oft-updated glimpse at the commercial performances of several major and not-so-major releases at North America’s (not including Mexico) early spring box office.
One noticeable pattern: Handsome, hunky guys – not infrequently shirtless or in tight clothing – featured in disparate movies that, for various reasons (none related to their male stars’ physique), have underperformed in the domestic market.
Examples: Kellan Lutz in the horror thriller A Nightmare on Elm Street, Alex O’Loughlin in the romantic comedy The Back-up Plan, Aaron Johnson in the superhero parody Kick-Ass, Sam Worthington in the fantasy adventure Clash of the Titans, and Liam Hemsworth in the romantic melodrama The Last Song.
The return of Freddy Krueger & his good-looking victims
Early spring box office – April 30–May 2: Starring Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, 2006) as Freddy Krueger, Warner Bros./New Line Cinema’s A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot grossed $32.9 million (including Thursday midnight screenings) in the domestic market according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
That’s $700,000 more than yesterday’s studio estimates, but $7 million less than some had been predicting for the widely panned horror remake.
Budgeted at a reported $35 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 also features Kyle Gallner, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’s Kellan Lutz, Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, and Clancy Brown. Samuel Bayer directed.
Directed by Wes Craven, the 1984 original featured Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, in addition to veteran John Saxon (The Reluctant Debutante), Oscar nominee Ronee Blakley (Nashville, 1975), Heather Langenkamp, Jsu Garcia (billed as Nick Corri), and Johnny Depp in his first big-screen role.
Update: As it turned out, A Nightmare on Elm Street earned more than half of its final domestic take – $63.1 million – on its first weekend out. Internationally, it collected $52.6 million, for a worldwide total of $115.7 million.
Hardly blockbuster figures, but one would have thought that was enough cash to lead to a cheapo sequel.
Shirtless Alex O’Loughlin or no, Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy has weak debut
Early spring box office – April 23–25: Starring Jennifer Lopez and Alex O’Loughlin, Alan Poul’s The Back-up Plan debuted with a mere $12.2 million – a hugely disappointing figure for a movie playing at 3,280 theaters. (Per-venue average: A mediocre $3,720.)
Unless the $35 million romantic comedy grows a pair of sturdy back-up legs (awful pun totally intended), it won’t even earn enough at the U.S. and Canada box office to match its production cost. Remember: As a rule of thumb, studios get only about 50-55 percent of a film’s domestic gross.
And that means this past weekend’s true success story was that of DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon, which, after five weekends out, officially topped the domestic box office chart for the first time.
How to tally your grosses
Well, the 3D fantasy would have been the box office winner last weekend as well if it weren’t for the fact that Lionsgate found a way to kick Kick-Ass to the no. 1 slot by including the movie’s Thursday night tally to the three-day weekend’s total. (See further below.)
Of course, final tallies would also look quite different if studios reported attendance figures instead of (increasingly) 3D/IMAX-inflated box office grosses. But they don’t.
Anyhow, when How to Train Your Dragon came out, it was considered by some a commercial “disappointment” because of its hefty $165 million budget. Indeed, there’s no way on Earth the animated fantasy adventure will recoup its production cost domestically.
Update: Jennifer Lopez and Alex O’Loughlin’s The Back-up Plan flopped both domestically and internationally: $37.5 million and $40 million, respectively. Worldwide total: 77.5 million.
How to Train Your Dragon eventually grossed $217.6 million domestically and $277.3 million internationally. Worldwide total: A remarkable $494.9 million.
Top spot flip-flop II: Nerd-turned-hero Aaron Johnson’s Kick-Ass is the actual no. 1 – or is it?
Early spring box office – April 16–18: Even though it opened below expectations, Matthew Vaughn’s R-rated, $30 million budget Kick-Ass still managed to top the domestic box office chart this past weekend – admittedly, with the assistance of income from late-night Thursday screenings that U.S. distributor Lionsgate chose to add to the final tally.
The action-packed, expletive-filled superhero parody took in $19.8 million, thus barely edging out DreamWorks Animation’s sturdier than expected How to Train Your Dragon’s $19.6 million. Early weekend estimates had the animated 3D fantasy on top. And in fact, it was on top if only three-day weekend figures are included.
In any case, this is the second such flip-flop in a row: Last week, Date Night seized the domestic box office crown only to have it snatched away the next day by legitimate ruler Clash of the Titans.
”I can’t fly but…”
A couple of comparisons regarding Kick-Ass’ initial gross: In April 2004, Quentin Tarantino’s R-rated Kill Bill: Vol. 2 opened to the tune of $25.1 million (approx. $31 million today). The following year, Robert Rodriguez’s R-rated Sin City opened with $29.1 million (approx. $34 million today).
Depending on the source, Lionsgate acquired Kick-Ass for $15–$25 million. An Anglo-American production, in relative terms the movie has been performing far better in the United Kingdom.
In the cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, 1995), Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, and Aaron Johnson (“I can’t fly, but I can kick your ass”), who recently won the Most Promising Actor Jameson Empire Award for his portrayal of the young John Lennon in Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy.
Update: Kick-Ass ultimately grossed $16.8 million in the U.K.
In the U.S. and Canada, it collected $48.1 million. Its worldwide total was $96.2 million.
Top spot flip-flop: 3D epic fantasy Clash of the Titans once again no. 1
Early spring box office – April 9–11: Starring Avatar‘s Sam Worthington, Louis Leterrier’s fantasy epic Clash of the Titans turned out to be the no. 1 movie on the domestic box office chart for the second weekend in a row.
Early studio estimates had the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy Date Night on top. But no. Clash of the Titans grossed $26.6 million (down 56 percent), while Date Night took in $25.2 million (about $2 million less than studio estimates indicated). Date Night, however, still managed to retain the highest per-screen average among the Top Twelve films: A passable $7,471.
Clash of the Titans will likely reach the $150 million milestone in the U.S. and Canada, but it’ll have a whole lot of trouble reaching $200 million. The overseas market is the great box office hope for this Warner Bros. release.
Directed by Shaw Levy, Date Night also features Oscar nominees Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, 2006) and Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008), plus Jimmi Simpson, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Common, and Gal Gadot.
Sam Worthington’s biceps notwithstanding, Clash of the Titans leaves box office gods underwhelmed
Early spring box office – April 2–4: Starring Avatar hero Sam Worthington as the demigod Perseus, Louis Leterrier’s Warner Bros.-distributed Clash of the Titans grossed $61.2 million over the Easter Weekend. Once its $2.7 million Thursday night take is added, the fantasy adventure set in ancient Greece has reached a total of $63.9 million – about 52 percent of which from 3D screens.
Just bear in mind that higher 3D ticket prices – and let’s not forget last week’s across-the-board (up to 25 percent) movie ticket price hike – helped this (reportedly) $165 million production reach these figures even if actual attendance numbers may have left the demanding Greek gods somewhat underwhelmed.
For comparison’s sake: This past weekend, Clash of the Titans took in $16,212 per theater. On its opening weekend last March – when ticket prices were lower than today – Tim Burton’s 3D fantasy adventure Alice in Wonderland grossed $31,143 per venue, while last December James Cameron’s 3D futuristic adventure Avatar boasted a $22,313 average.
The good news for Clash of the Titans and Warner Bros. is that this sort of release is all but critic-proof. That means Kenneth Turan’s appraisal in the Los Angeles Times – “When the most thrilling thing about a film turns out to be its title, even unleashing the Kraken won’t be payoff enough” – will likely not result in (m)any sleepless nights.
Having said that, Warners and director Leterrier will probably have to worry about another Turan complaint: “It’s doubtful that records are kept about this sort of thing, but consider the possibility that Clash of the Titans is the first film to actually be made worse by being in 3-D.”
In addition to Sam Worthington, the cast includes Oscar nominees Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Pete Postlethwaite, and Elizabeth McGovern, plus Gemma Arterton, Nicholas Hoult, Alexa Davalos, Liam Cunningham, Ian Whyte, Jason Flemyng, and Mads Mikkelsen.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Desmond Davis’ 1981 Clash of the Titans featured Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Susan Fleetwood, Tim Pigott-Smith and veterans Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Burgess Meredith, Flora Robson, Sian Phillips, Freda Jackson, and Donald Houston.
Update: Clash of the Titans ultimately collected $163.2 million domestically and a whopping $330 million internationally, for a worldwide grand total of $493.2 million. That explains the 2012 sequel Wrath of the Titans.
Clash of the Titans’ top international markets were the United Kingdom ($29.2 million), Russia/CIS ($24.6 million), Mexico ($20.5 million), France ($19.3 million), and South Korea ($19.2 million).
Tyler Perry flick has strong debut
Also on their first weekend out were Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too and the Miley Cyrus-Liam Hemsworth romantic melodrama The Last Song.
Featuring Perry, Janet Jackson, Sharon Leal, and Michael Jai White, the Lionsgate-distributed Why Did I Get Married Too earned $29.2 million (about $5–$10 million above expectations) at no. 2. That’s a solid opening for this comedy-drama currently playing at 2,155 locations – $13,991 per theater without the assistance of 3D-inflated ticket prices.
For comparison’s sake: The poorly received 2007 original Why Did I Get Married, featuring many of the actors found in the sequel, opened with $21.3 million, eventually reaching $55.2 million domestically (and less than $1 million internationally).
On the downside, the sequel wasn’t even screened for most critics. Not a good sign.
Update: As expected, Why Did I Get Married Too plummeted (down 62 percent) on weekend no. 2. It eventually took in $60.1 million domestically and, like other Tyler Perry movies (if they get any screenings at all), less than $1 million (a measly $578,000) internationally.
Miley Cyrus & hunk Liam Hemsworth romance at lower end of expectations
At no. 4 (also trailing How to Train Your Dragon), the Walt Disney Studios’ The Last Song brought in $16 million from 2,673 locations, landing it at the lower end of expectations.
Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and co-starring Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets, 1997), The Last Song earned $25.4 million on its first five days. That may not be too bad for a (reportedly) $20 million production, but it’s hardly a figure worth celebrating.
For comparison’s sake: In February, Lasse Hallström’s Dear John, another melodramatic romance based on a Sparks novel (and featuring a similar poster), opened with $30.3 million (first three days). Starring Amanda Seyfried and a shirtless Channing Tatum, Dear John went on to gross $79.4 million at the U.S. and Canada box office. Despite Liam Hemsworth also going shirtless, prospects for The Last Song are considerably humbler.
Lastly, a brief remark about Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, a $14 million psychological mystery drama that – notwithstanding the presence of the aforementioned Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, and Liam Neeson – has raked in a mere $1.8 million domestically in the last 10 days. Also in the cast: Max Thieriot and Nina Dobrev.
Update: The Last Song eventually reached a modest – but likely profitable – $63 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to a far more modest $26.2 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $89.1 million.
Chloe’s domestic total reached $3.1 million. Internationally, it took in $10.6 million, for a worldwide total of $13.7 million.
“Early Spring Box Office” endnotes
Unless otherwise noted, “Early Spring Box Office: Hunks in Would-Be Hits” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via various sources, including BOM.
Comments about a movie being profitable or a money-loser at the box office are based on the available data about its production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production budget), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that contractual details and data regarding pre-sales, rebates, and other credits that help to split/alleviate production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for).
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office gross at top-priced theaters.
Alex O’Loughlin The Back-Up Plan movie image: CBS Films.
Aaron Johnson Kick-Ass movie image: Dan Smith | Marv Films | Lionsgate.
Sam Worthington Clash of the Titans 2010 movie image: Warner Bros.
Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus The Last Song image: Walt Disney Pictures.
“Early Spring Box Office: Hunks in Would-Be Hits” last updated in April 2022.