Oct. 16, ’11, update: Real Steel and Footloose are at a near-dead-heat for first-place at the North American box office this weekend (Oct. 14-16), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. The gap between the two movies is about $200,000: Real Steel with $16.3 million and Footloose with $16.1 million. Their positions may be reversed when weekend box office actuals are released tomorrow. [Right: Kenny Wormald in Footloose.]
Having fallen short of the $20 million some had been expecting, Footloose wasn’t the only box office disappointment this weekend. The Thing earned only $8.7 million at no. 3, when most pundits had been expecting earnings between $10-15 million. Worst of all was The Big Year, which brought in even less money than the predicted $4 million after a dismal Friday bow: despite the presence of Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, the David Frankel-directed comedy drew an estimated $3.32 million at no. 9 ($1,547 average at 2,150 sites), making it one of the worst wide-release openings in recent memory and, adjusting for inflation, the very worst-opening for a wide release in Steve Martin’s three-decade career.
In other words, Hollywood obviously no longer has any imagination, what with sequels and prequels and remakes everywhere you look. This weekend, for instance, was down a whopping 33 percent compared to the equivalent weekend in 2010. So, what do we need to arouse audiences enough so they’ll be eager to burn $40 on movie tickets, parking, popcorn, and a giant soda? Good and Original movies. Those will bring both fat and bony asses into theaters seats. I repeat: We need Good and Original movies. Like last year’s Jackass 3D, which brought in more than $50 million in revenues on its first weekend out.
Directed by Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan‘s Craig Brewer, the Paramount-distributed Footloose stars relative newcomer Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, and Andie McDowell. Following a stronger start on Friday, Footloose fell behind Real Steel on the weekend proper, jumping less than 20 percent on Saturday. Its per-theater average was a mediocre $4,536. Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer starred in the 1984 original, a derivative effort directed by Herbert Ross and written by Dean Pitchford.
Directed by Shawn Levy, Real Steel, which was down 40 percent compared to its opening weekend, stars Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, and Hope Davis. The film’s domestic total to date is $51.74m; worldwide: $108.34 million. That’s not bad after only a couple of weekends, but Real Steel will have to earn at least twice as much to break even at the global box office, as studios keep about 50 percent of a movie’s worldwide grosses. Real Steel reportedly cost $110 million – not including marketing/distribution expenses.
A remake of John Carpenter’s 1982 horror/thriller -- itself a remake of Christian Nyby and (an uncredited) Howard Hawks’ 1951 B movie The Thing from Another World – Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s The Thing features Joel Edgerton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Ulrich Thomsen. The Thing cost a reported $38 million, which means Universal has another recent flop in its hands, following Cowboys & Aliens, Larry Crowne, and Dream House.
In addition to Martin, Black, and Wilson, The Big Year features Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike, and Kevin Pollak. The Big Year reportedly cost $41 million – and don’t expect the international market to come to the rescue for this one. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that The Big Year was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which also handled last weekend’s What’s Your Number?, a Chris Evans-Anna Faris-Zachary Quinto romantic comedy that had one of the top five worst openings ever for a movie at more than 3,000 screens.
Footloose picture: K. C. Bailey / Paramount Pictures.
Kenny Wormald, Footloose
If early, rough estimates are correct, the Footloose remake will not reach the $20 million mark as some had been expecting. As per The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.com, Footloose collected approximately $5.7 million on its Friday debut, which would translate into a $17 million weekend. Directed by Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan‘s Craig Brewer, the Paramount release stars relative newcomer Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, and Andie McDowell. Kevin Bacon starred in the 1984 original (itself a derivative effort similar to countless movies of the previous three decades).
Hugh Jackman’s Real Steel is expected to land in second place with $15m-$15.5 million for the weekend, following grosses of $4.5 million on Friday. At no. 3, the horror/thriller The Thing – another remake of an ’80s flick (itself a remake of a 1951 B movie) – will likely cume at $10m-$11 million after only $3.8 million on Friday. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s feature-film debut stars Joel Edgerton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Ulrich Thomsen. John Carpenter directed Kurt Russell in 1982; Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks directed Kenneth Tobey in The Thing from Another World in 1951.
Starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, 20th Century Fox’s The Big Year is expected to open in seventh place – behind The Ides of March, Moneyball, and Dolphin Tale. In fact, with a possible $4 million at 2,150 locations, the reportedly $41 million-budgeted comedy may turn out to be not only one of the biggest duds of the year – but also one of the biggest duds of the century to date, and, adjusted for inflation, the worst ever wide-release opening of a Steve Martin movie.
Directed by The Devil Wears Prada‘s David Frankel, The Big Year also features Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike, and Kevin Pollak.
Footloose picture: K.C. Bailey / Paramount Pictures.
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Directed by Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther, Night at the Museum, Date Night), and starring Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo as father and son bonding thanks to the family-friendly-fun sport of robot-boxing, Disney’s Real Steel topped the North American box office chart this weekend (Oct. 7-9), as per studio estimates.
Real Steel grossed $27.3 million at 3,440 locations, which isn’t bad for a non-franchise, but isn’t exactly great for a movie that cost a reported $110 million. Its average was a just okay – for this sort of high-profile action movie – $7,936 per theater. (In 2009, for instance, Channing Tatum’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, averaged $13,654 on its debut weekend, while District 9 averaged $12,251. Starring Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum averaged $8,258 back in 2006, or about $10,000 today.) Helping things out for Real Steel were the film’s additional $22 million earned overseas.
When not donning Wolverine’s long whiskers, Hugh Jackman hasn’t exactly been a major domestic box office draw. His best non-X-Men-related opening by far was Van Helsing, which collected $51.74 million back in May 2004. Swordfish (2001), which co-starred John Travolta and Halle Berry, was next with $18.14 million (approx. $25.5 million today), followed by Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006), with Christian Bale, and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008), with Nicole Kidman, each taking in $14.8 million. Within that context, Real Steel could be considered a Hugh Jackman box office hit, as it boasts Jackman’s second non-Wolverine/X-Men strongest opening since Van Helsing – and one in which he has no “name” co-stars.
Also in the Real Steel cast: Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis, and Kevin Durand.
Though much better received than Real Steel, George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March opened with an estimated $10.4 million at 2,199 sites, or a so-so $4,729 per theater. Ryan Gosling co-stars in his second box office disappointment in less than a month. The much talked-about and widely praised Drive opened with only $11.34 million, averaging $3,929 per site. After four weekends, Drive has just now passed the $30 million mark.
For comparison’s sake: even Clooney’s Leatherheads, already considered a box office disappointment, had a bigger opening than The Ides of March: $12.68 million at 2,769 theaters ($4,580 per theater) back in 2008. Leatherheads cumed at $31.37 million, while Clooney’s more well-regarded Good Night, and Good Luck. topped at $31.55 million in 2005. The Ides of March will be lucky if it reaches that far.
Perhaps this was one instance when an adult-oriented movie needed to open at a few theaters and then expand slowly, aided by good word-of-mouth and positive reviews. George Clooney movies such as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Good Night, and Good Luck., Syriana, Michael Clayton, and Up in the Air all benefited from that approach. In box office terms, Sony Pictures won’t go as far with The Ides of March as it did with The Social Network or, to a lesser extent, Moneyball.
The Ides of March also features Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle, and Jeffrey Wright. Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. collaborator Grant Heslov co-wrote the screenplay.
The Ides of March picture: Saeed Adyani / Columbia Pictures.
Hugh Jackman, Real Steel
The North American box office has been in the doldrums of late. Well, apart from Disney’s The Lion King 3D, this year’s late summer/early fall sleeper hit. One that happened to have been originally released in 1994.
What would the late Jack Valenti and the current folks at the Motion Picture Association of America have to say about that? Simply that there’s absolutely no box office malaise a Good Movie can’t cure. Good Movies like Fast Five, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, and now Real Steel. (Admittedly, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, too.)
Directed by Shawn Levy, and starring Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo as father and son reunited thanks to robot-boxing, Real Steel has received wildly mixed reviews: 61 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Even the “positive” commentaries refer to the film as mindless and corny, but hey, what do film critics know about neurons and grains? The Christian Science Monitor‘s Peter Rainer says “they should call this overloud, underwhelming movie Real Steal.” But who the heck is Peter Rainer and whoever reads the Christian Science Monitor? Whoever reads reviews, for that matter? In fact, whoever reads, period?
Real Steel is expected to gross around $27 million this weekend, or about 50 percent more than potential Oscar contender Moneyball on its first weekend out. I won’t even bother comparing its take to those of other recent well-received films such as Drive and 50/50.
Real Steel took in an estimated $8.7 million at 3,400+ locations on Friday, as per Deadline.com. Now, whether it will remain at or near the top of the box office chart for very long is a mystery. And considering that the sci-fi/actioner cost a reported $110 million, DreamWorks and fellow financiers will need lots of non-North American butts warming up lots of non-North American seats to recover their investment.
Also in the Real Steel cast: Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis, and Kevin Durand. Perhaps they should have cast Taylor Lautner as Hugh Jackman’s son? That would have guaranteed a much stronger opening for Real Steel, I’d say – and Abduction would never have gotten made. And really, can a non-Wolverine Hugh Jackman carry a movie on his own? (Apart from something like Van Helsing, that is.)
The Ides of March, a political drama directed by George Clooney, and starring Clooney and Ryan Gosling, opened with an estimated $3.7 million at 2,199 sites. It’s expected to reach $11 million for the weekend, placing it on a par with Gosling’s previous effort, the violent crime drama Drive. The Ides of March has a 73 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.
Rounding out the top five on Friday were Harry Connick Jr-Ashley Judd’s Dolphin Tale with $2.4 million, Bennett Miller-Brad Pitt’s Moneyball with $2.1 million, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt-Seth Rogen’s 50/50 with $1.7 million. At this stage, it looks like Moneyball has no chance whatsoever of getting even close to the $90m+ earned by The Social Network. (Both were/are “adult-themed” Sony Pictures releases with strong Oscar potential.)
Remember, the above figures are early, rough Friday estimates. Official studio estimates will come out on Saturday. Weekend estimates on Sunday, and weekend box office actuals on Monday. Expect quite a bit of switching around until then.
Real Steel picture: Greg Williams / DreamWorks