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?
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.
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:
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.
- The Hangover Part II.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
- Fast Five.
- Cars 2.
Tom Cruise to rescue 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.
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.
See also: “Tom Cruise to Save Domestic Box Office?”
'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' 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:
Jon Bon Jovi. Common. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
“Game of Shadows 'Flopping' & New Year's Eve Bombing + Tom Cruise to the Rescue?” last updated in July 2018.