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Fall Box Office: Johnny Depp + Eddie Murphy Bomb

Armie Hammer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench, J. Edgar Hoover
Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson, Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, Judi Dench as Anne Marie Hoover, J. Edgar.
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Nov. 13 update: At no. 5 on the domestic box office chart this weekend, Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar raked in $11.5 million – at the very lower end of expectations – as per studio estimates found at The J. Edgar Hoover biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, Armie Hammer as his associate and intimate companion Clyde Tolson, and Naomi Watts as FBI secretary Helen Gandy averaged an acceptable – though not very promising – $6,005 at 1,910 locations.

As mentioned in a couple of previous posts, comparisons to Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-nominated Milk, which were possible on Wednesday, are impossible to make at this stage. Written by J. Edgar‘s Dustin Lance Black, the 2008 drama starring Sean Penn as gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk never played at more than 900 North American sites – and that expansion took place around Oscar time, more than two months after the film’s late November debut. Made for a reported $20 million, Milk went on to gross only $31.8 million at the domestic box office; J. Edgar‘s final tally remains up in the air, for it depends on the film’s box office hold in the next couple of weekends.

Another comparison: Ridley Scott’s 2008 political thriller Body of Lies, which features DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, opened with $12.9 million and went on gross only $39.4 million in North America. Body of Lies fared much better abroad – totaling $75.7 million; but considering that J. Edgar Hoover is a nonentity outside the United States, J. Edgar‘s chances of doing well internationally will fall squarely on DiCaprio’s box office pull.

Now, that pull is considerable. No wonder Eastwood, Scott, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and others want DiCaprio starring in their films, no matter how little he may resemble the characters he’s portraying. Beginning with Titanic in 1998, every single DiCaprio star vehicle has earned more money – oftentimes much more money – overseas than in the domestic market. Movies as varied as Catch Me If You Can, Shutter Island, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, Inception, The Man in the Iron Mask, Blood Diamond, The Beach, Gangs of New York, and the aforementioned Body of Lies.

Also, it’s worth noting that several of Eastwood’s latest movies – the ones featuring stars such as Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie – have performed much better abroad than in the United States. Hereafter took in $72.5 million overseas vs. $32.7 million in North America; Invictus $84.7 million vs. 37.5 million; Changeling $77.3 million vs. $35.7 million. (Flags of Our Fathers, showing the U.S. side of World War II, was a flop abroad; Letters of Iwo Jima, which showed the Japanese side, though hardly a blockbuster was a much bigger success overseas than in North America.)

At least on the domestic front, Warner Bros. may have jumped the gun by opening J. Edgar in early November. Debuting in late December, Scorsese’s The Aviator, a 2004 biopic starring DiCaprio as eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, never earned more than $11.4 million (about $14.5 million today) per weekend. But as a result of lots of awards season buzz, The Aviator had very modest weekend drop-off rates. Ultimately, the film went on to gross $102 million in North America and $111 million internationally.

Shot for a reported $35 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), Clint Eastwood’s film currently has a mediocre 55 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics. But even without an awards-season buzz as strong as that of The Aviator, J. Edgar likely would have performed much better domestically during the height of awards season. After all, Oscar chances are still possible for the film, for Eastwood, for DiCaprio, and in various technical/craft categories.

In addition to DiCaprio, Hammer, and Watts, J. Edgar also features Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh, Judi Dench as Anne Marie Hoover, Miles Fisher as Jim Garrison, Lea Thompson as Lela Rogers (Ginger Rogers’ right-wing mother), Jeffrey Donovan as Robert F. Kennedy, and Dermot Mulroney as Norman Schwarzkopf.

Also: Gunner Wright as Dwight Eisenhower, Christopher Shyer as Richard Nixon, Ken Howard as U.S. attorney general Harlan F. Stone, Jennipher Foster as Lucille Ball, plus Stephen Root, Ed Westwick, Amanda Schull, Michael Gladis, Josh Stamberg, and Zach Grenier.

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According to – very possibly unfounded – rumors, FBI emperor J. Edgar Hoover enjoyed wearing some nice-fitting dresses every now and then. Ironically, this weekend the all-powerful Hoover will surely be beaten at the U.S. and Canada box office by another cross-dresser: Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill. How the mighty have fallen. At no. 5 on the domestic box office chart, Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar will likely rake in $10–$12 million for the weekend after grossing $3.5–$4 million on Friday.

Nov. 10

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic J. Edgar grossed $52,645 according to Box Office Mojo. The Warner Bros. release starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the FBI honcho and Armie Hammer as his intimate “friend” Clyde Tolson is currently screening at seven locations. The film’s average was a not-too-impressive $7,571 per theater.

For comparison’s sake: on November 26, 2008, Gus Van Sant’s Milk, another biopic about a gay figure written by J. Edgar screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, collected $268,000 at 34 locations, averaging $7,897 (about $9,150 today) per site. Remember that all things being equal, the lower the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. In other words, Milk had a considerably stronger first-day opening than J. Edgar. But then again, Milk opened the day before the Thanksgiving holiday; that could have made a difference. Milk, which stars Sean Penn as slain gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, went on to gross $31.8 million in North America and $22.7 million overseas.

J. Edgar expands to nearly 2,000 theaters tomorrow, Nov. 11. Some pundits are expecting a weekend debut in the mid-teens. Reviews haven’t been exactly positive – 66 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics – though J. Edgar remains a strong Oscar contender as long as it delivers at the box office. If the film fails, there go its Best Picture Oscar chances. That’s what happened two years ago, when Rob Marshall’s Nine and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones turned out to be both critical and box office disappointments. Even Eastwood’s Invictus, which garnered mostly positive reviews, failed to be shortlisted after it flopped in North America.

Nov. 8

Currently with $10.6 million at the North American box office, The Rum Diary has the dubious distinction of possibly ending up as the biggest Johnny Depp flop in “very wide” release – movies screened at more than 2,000 locations. Among 38 Johnny Depp titles found on Box Office Mojo’s inflation-adjusted list, The Rum Diary ranks no. 31.

With luck, The Rum Diary will ultimately settle somewhere between What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, and Cry-Baby. With inflation-adjusted box office totals ranging between $15–$19 million, those are all releases from the 1990s – before Depp became a worldwide box office superstar as a result of Gore Verbinski’s international blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003.

In case The Rum Diary manages to outgross The Astronaut’s Wife, it’ll be Depp’s second-lowest-grossing movie in “very wide” release. In order to achieve that feat, The Rum Diary will have to earn more than $16.7 million in the US and Canada, an amount that is theoretically within its reach. Otherwise, Depp’s second stab at a starring in a film version of a Hunter S. Thompson novel will remain at the bottom of the box office barrel.

Directed by Bruce Robinson, The Rum Diary also features Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Rispoli, Amaury Nolasco, and Enzo Cilenti. FilmDistrict distributed this drama-comedy-adventure mix in North America. Overseas prospects aren’t exactly great, though The Rum Diary has opened relatively well in Russia, collecting more than $4 million in 10 days.

Depp’s previous Hunter S. Thompson foray, the Terry Gilliam-directed Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, came out in 1998. That psychological drama was a major box office disappointment despite supporting performances and cameos by the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Katherine Helmond, Mark Harmon, Gary Busey, Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Jeter, and Cameron Diaz. At the time, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas grossed $10.68 million (approx. $18 million today) in the domestic market, of which about half went to distributor Universal; the film’s official budget, not including marketing/distribution expenses, was $18.5 million.

Another major Johnny Depp box office flop, the period drama The Libertine, was dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson. Directed by Laurence Dunmore, The Libertine pulled in a mere $5.9 million (adjusted for inflation).

As per Box Office Mojo, Depp’s biggest overall flop ever is Emir Kusturica’s Arizona Dream. The 1995 release drew approx. $200,000 (adjusted for inflation).

Nov. 6

Partly as a result of last weekend’s snowstorm along the northeastern coast of the United States, DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots had a soft opening, $34 million. Since there was no cataclysmic snowstorms (and no Halloween festivities) this Nov. 4-6 weekend, the Shrek spin-off recouped some of that previously distracted audience, thus earning an estimated $33.05 million. The animated feature was down a mere 3 percent from a week ago according to studio estimates.

Directed by Shrek the Third‘s Chris Miller, Puss in Boots features the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Amy Sedaris. The film, which cost an estimated $130 million, has also collected $39 million overseas.

At a disappointing no. 2, Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist pulled in an estimated $25.1 million, which is at the very lower end of (official) studio expectations, and about $3–$10 million less than many pundits had been predicting. Starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, Tower Heist averaged an acceptable – though hardly “good,” considering the film’s star wattage and heavy marketing – $7,455 per site at 3,367 locations.

Eddie Murphy apparently has one more box office disappointment to his credit, though the $85 million action caper could be considered a huge hit when compared to Imagine That‘s $16.1 million cume and Meet Dave‘s $11.8 million. The last Eddie Murphy star vehicle to earn more than $100 million – or even $20 million – at the domestic box office (adjusted for inflation) was Norbit in 2007. (Approximately $111 million in 2011 dollars.)

Just this past week, Forbes magazine listed Murphy as the most overpaid actor in Hollywood. Director Ratner, however, stands by his star. Not only has Ratner gotten Murphy to host the Academy Awards ceremony next year, but he has also told TheWrap that he and Murphy are planning to join forces on another project (not Beverly Hills Cop 4).

Tower Heist also collected $9.5 million at 23 foreign markets. Those are hardly blockbuster figures, especially considering that the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain are included among those countries. Perhaps that’s because Murphy isn’t a major draw overseas, while Stiller usually underperforms outside the Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers/Little Fockers franchises.

Since the year 2000, the only Eddie Murphy star vehicle to earn much more abroad than in North America was The Haunted Mansion in 2003. During that same period, the only non-Museum/Fockers Ben Stiller movie to do much better abroad was The Heartbreak Kid in 2007 – perhaps not too difficult a task, as the comedy was a domestic flop.

Besides Stiller and Murphy, the stellar Tower Heist cast includes Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, David Chappelle, and Alan Alda.

Oct. 29:

Assisted by costlier 3D tickets, Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots may gross $36–$38 million this Halloween weekend, after taking in an estimated $9 million at 3,952 locations on Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That would break Saw III‘s $33 million Halloween record of five years ago (not adjusted for inflation/3D surcharges) – though it would still be a relatively low figure for a DreamWorks release.

Directed by Chris Miller, the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots features the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Billy Bob Thornton, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Sedaris, and Guillermo del Toro.

Other new releases didn’t fare nearly as well as Puss in Boots. At no. 3, newcomer In Time drew a so-so $4.9 million and may go no further than $12–$13 million by Sunday evening. Andrew Niccol directed; Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried star in the futuristic drama. Reviews have been tepid for this Fox release produced by New Regency.

Faring considerably worse despite the presence of Johnny Depp – who, admittedly, doesn’t often lure all that many ticket buyers when not donning his pirate costume – Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary earned a paltry $1.7–$2 million at no. 5 and will likely have trouble reaching $6 million for the weekend. Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, The Rum Diary is screening at 2,272 locations; if estimates are correct, the film will have one of the worst wide openings of Depp’s career. Also in the film’s cast are Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi, and Richard Jenkins.

Greeted by mixed reviews, Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous raked in a so-so $350,000 at 265 sites, as per Its weekend opening should be slightly over $1 million. The “Shakespearean” drama features Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Rafe Spall, Xavier Samuel, and David Thewlis.

At no. 2, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Paranormal Activity 3 collected an estimated $7.3 million, down more than 70 percent from last Friday – well, which included $8 million from Thursday midnight screenings; else, PA3 was down about 59 percent. Weekend earnings should top $20 million.

Footloose was the no. 4 movie, pulling in $2 million on Friday. Featuring Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough, the dance-movie remake is expected to gross $6 million over the weekend.

Pamela Anderson Scary Movie 3 Jenny McCarthy
Paranormal Activity 3 vs. Pamela Anderson in Scary Movie 3, with Jenny McCarthy.

Oct 27 update: Peter Jackson will reportedly direct the sequel to The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. We’ll see if Jackson gets to beat the solid (early) box office results of Steven Spielberg’s first film in the planned trilogy.

Partly assisted by costlier 3D tickets, The Adventures of Tintin earned $8.6 million in Belgium, France and the UK, where it opened on Wednesday (Oct. 26), following previews on Monday and Tuesday. In France, The Adventures of Tintin fared better than 2010’s blockbuster Toy Story 3 and the Shrek movies, and as per The Hollywood Reporter is expected to surpass $18 million by next Monday – reportedly placing its debut behind only James Cameron’s Avatar among non-sequels.

Perhaps – if one chooses to ignore inflation and higher 3D ticket prices. For in terms of ticket sales in France, Tintin is trailing no less than 22 movies according to CBO-Box office (via On opening day, the Sony Pictures release (in non-English-language territories) sold 491,540 tickets, placing it way behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2‘s 732,000 tickets sold earlier this year. Overall, Tintin landed smack between Gérard Krawczyk’s 2003 action comedy Taxi 3, featuring Samy Naceri, Frédéric Diefenthal, and an up-and-coming Marion Cotillard, and Chris Weitz’s 2009 supernatural romance The Twilight Saga: New Moon, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner. [Note: As a commenter has pointed out, I should add that Tintin opened on a Wednesday. Ah, by the way, so did Deathly Hallows 2. And New Moon. And countless other movies in France.]

Providing the French voices for The Adventures of Tintin‘s lead characters are Benjamin Bollen, Patrick Bethune, Gad Elmaleh, Guillaume Lebon, and Pierre Laurent. (Milou remains Milou in the French version; in the United States, Tintin’s little white dog has been rebaptized Snowy.)

The Adventures of Tintin opens in the US – via Paramount – on December 25. Jamie Bell stars as Tintin; others in the cast include Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Daniel Mays.

Oct 25: After grossing $52.56 million over the Oct. 21-23 weekend, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s horror thriller Paranormal Activity 3 has easily surpassed the $50.35 million earned by Jackass 3D last year, thus breaking fall (actually, September and October) box office records in North America. Minor detail: there’s such a thing as inflation.

The no. 3 movie on the Box Office Mojo fall chart, David Zucker’s Scary Movie 3, opened with $48.11 million in October 2003. Adjusted for inflation, that translates into about $63.6 million in 2011 dollars for the comedy featuring Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Anna Faris, Simon Rex, Jeremy Piven, and Charlie Sheen. So, which movie sold more tickets, Paranormal Activity 3 or Scary Movie 3? And which one proves that audiences are and have always been hungry for original, quality movies and stories? (Answer: neither one. Jackass 3D is the unforgettable cinematic experience that proves that point once and for all.)

By the way, Scary Movie 3 isn’t the only release to have sold more tickets than Paranormal Activity 3 during the fall in the U.S. and Canada. At no. 4, DreamWorks’ Shark Tale took in $47.6 million in 2004, or approximately $61 million today; and at no. 12, Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour, an action flick starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, drew $33 million in 1998, or about $63 million today.

Now, the actual record-breaking opening weekend in the fall – from late September to late December – is that of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which opened on November 20 (officially, “the holiday movie season”), 2009. Directed by Chris Weitz, and starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, New Moon brought in $142.83 million, or about $151.5 million today. It’s the no. 1 fall movie, inflation or no.

Update: Last weekend, people were complaining that the North American box office has been in the doldrums throughout the fall because of a dearth of original, quality movies. Proving those pundits right – as they always are – the third installment of a cheap horror franchise, with a mediocre 60 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics, Paranormal Activity 3, has soared to the top of the box office chart and will likely beat estimates by about $10 million.

Co-directed by Catfish’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, Paranormal Activity 3 was expected to earn around $40 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend. It’ll likely take in around $50 million after pulling in $26.2 million on Friday (including $8 million from Thursday midnight screenings) as per The Hollywood Reporter. The film officially cost $5 million, but that’s without marketing/distribution expenses. The previous Paranormal Activity flick, aptly titled Paranormal Activity 2, cost a reported $3 million – gee, cheap! – but Paramount spent more than $25 million on its initial push for the film.

After earning $40.7 million from 3,216 locations ($12,649 per-theater average) on its opening weekend last year, Tod Williams’ Paranormal Activity 2 went on to gross $84.7 million in the U.S. and Canada and $177.5 million worldwide. After opening wide (but at only 760 locations; a phenomenal $25,813 per-theater average), the original Paranormal Activity collected $19.6 million in 2009; its worldwide cume reached $193.4 million. Oren Peli directed.

The Paranormal Activity 3 cast includes poltergeist veteran Katie Featherston, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, and Dustin Ingram.

Kenny Wormald, Footloose
Kenny Wormald, Footloose

Oct. 16: 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 $51.7 million; worldwide: $108.3 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.

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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, 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 $15–$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 1980s flick (itself a remake of a 1951 B movie) – will likely reach $10–$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.

Oct. 9

Directed by Shawn Levy (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 $51.7 million back in May 2004. Swordfish (2001), which co-starred John Travolta and Halle Berry, was next with $18.1 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.

Oct. 8: 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 (debut: $90.2 million*), 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 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.)

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 $11.3 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: $12.7 million at 2,769 theaters ($4,580 per theater) back in 2008. Leatherheads ended its run with $31.4 million, while Clooney’s more well-regarded Good Night, and Good Luck. topped at $31.6 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.

Austin Stowell shirtless Dolphin Tale
Austin Stowell, Dolphin Tale

Dolphin Tale box office: No. 1 on weekend no. 2

Sept. 30–Oct. 2 weekend box office: Dolphin Tale grossed slightly less than estimated according to North American box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. Directed by Charles Martin Smith, and featuring Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Austin Stowell, and Morgan Freeman, Dolphin Tale pulled in $13.9 million.

At no. 2, Bennett Miller’s Moneyball collected $12 million. Brad Pitt stars, along with Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Chris Pratt.

At no. 3, The Lion King 3D added $10.6 million. Originally released in 1994, The Lion King features songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the voices of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, and others.

Contrary to Sunday estimates, the Christian-themed drama Courageous ended up ahead of the cancer-themed dramedy 50/50. Courageous raked in $9.1 million at no. 4, while 50/50 earned $8.6 million at no. 5.

Directed by Jonathan Levine from a screenplay by Will Reiser, 50/50 features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Alex Kendrick (Fireproof, Facing the Giants), who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Stephen Kendrick, Courageous features director Kendrick, Ben Davies, Kevin Downes, Ken Bevel, and Tony Stallings.

As for The Lion King, third spot or no, it is now no. 18 on Box Office Mojo’s inflation-adjusted chart of the all-time box office champs in North America. In the last week, The Lion King surpassed both the Dustin Hoffman-Anne Bancroft-Katharine Ross 1967 blockbuster The Graduate and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 reptilian hit Jurassic Park. By next Sunday, it’s quite likely that The Lion King, Blu-ray release or no, will be ahead of another Spielberg flick, the 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark, starring Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. The total to date of the 3D release is $79.65 million.

Also this weekend, The Lion King 3D added $1.8 million overseas. The film features songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the voices of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, and others.

Directed by Charles Martin Smith, Dolphin Tale features Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Austin Stowell, and Morgan Freeman, who created a ruckus last weekend with his anti-Tea Party remarks on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show. Looking at Dolphin Tale‘s figures and its estimated weekend-to-weekend drop-off rate, it doesn’t seem at all likely that Freeman’s accusing Tea Partiers of being racists in any way affected the film’s box office revenues. Dolphin Tale‘s current cume is $37.5 million. Cost: $37 million.

Directed by Capote‘s Bennett Miller and starring Brad Pitt, the baseball drama Moneyball was the no. 2 movie at the North American box office this weekend (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Sandwiched between Dolphin Tale and The Lion King 3D, Moneyball grossed $12.5 million, down an acceptable down 36 percent from last weekend. Featuring Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, and Chris Pratt, Moneyball‘s cume currently stands at $38.5 million. Cost: $50 million.

As per studio estimates, the no. 4 spot this weekend belongs to the inspirational cancer comedy-drama 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. However, with a gross of $8.858 million at 2,458 locations, 50/50 was only 58,000 ahead of Sony Pictures’ inspirational Christian drama Courageous’ $8.85 million at 1,161 theaters. When box office actuals are released on Monday, Courageous may jump one spot.

Also worth noting, Courageous’ per-theater average was obviously much higher than 50/50‘s: $7,580 vs. $3,604. In fact, Courageous’ average was the highest among North America’s top twelve movies this weekend.

Distributed by Summit Entertainment, 50/50 has a much better critics’ score than Courageous: 93 percent vs. 45 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ critics. But first-weekend audiences clearly opted for the inspirational message from a Christian viewpoint.

Directed by Jonathan Levine from a screenplay by Will Reiser, 50/50 also features Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Alex Kendrick (Fireproof, Facing the Giants), who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Stephen Kendrick, Courageous tells the story of four cops who struggle with their religious beliefs in the aftermath of a major tragedy. The cast includes director Kendrick, Ben Davies, Kevin Downes, Ken Bevel, and Tony Stallings.

For comparison’s sake: Kendrick’s previous Christian-themed effort, the Samuel Goldwyn-released 2008 drama Fireproof, pulled in $6.83 million (approx. $7.58 million today) at 839 locations on its first weekend out, averaging $8,148 ($9,044) per theater.

In other words, looking merely at the unadjusted box office figures, it looks like Courageous performed much better than Fireproof. But when adding a little context – inflation, per-theater averages – Fireproof, perhaps because of the presence of Kirk Cameron and some romance, actually performed slightly better, especially considering that it was distributed by a much smaller entity than the mighty Sony Pictures.

Courageous reportedly cost $1–$2 million. But “grassroots marketing” or no, selling the film – as Sony tried to expand its audience beyond the Evangelical Christian crowd – surely cost much more than making it.

Released by Universal, directed by multiple Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan, and starring James Bond a.k.a. Daniel Craig, Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, Oscar nominee Naomi Watts, and Marton Csokas, the widely panned mystery thriller Dream House raked in only $8.1 million from 2,661 locations at no. 6.

That’s Daniel Craig’s second box office flop this year, following the highly disappointing performance of Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens, Craig’s highly expensive summer pairing with Harrison Ford.

Craig, in fact, hasn’t been very box office friendly when not in Bond mode. Prior to his three-year hiatus from films, Defiance, The Invasion, Flashbacks of a Fool, and The Golden Compass were all domestic financial misfires, though the last film did become a major international blockbuster. We’ll see if David Fincher’s remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will enhance Craig’s box office appeal in North America.

The no. 8 movie was Mark Mylod’s comedy What’s Your Number?, featuring an extensive cast that includes Captain America: The First Avenger‘s Chris Evans, The House Bunny‘s Anna Faris, Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto, Ari Graynor, Martin Freeman, Blythe Danner, Chris Pratt, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Anthony Mackie.

On its debut weekend at no. 8 on the chart, the comedy What’s Your Number?, starring Chris Evans and Anna Faris, scored a measly $5.4 million from 3,002 locations; its per theater average was a dismal $1,865. As per Box Office Mojo’s Ray Subers, that’s “one of the worst numbers for a super-saturated (3,000+ theaters) release ever.” The fourth-worst, to be more precise, after Luke Wilson-Logan Lerman’s Hoot, David L. Cunningham’s fantasy The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, Eddie Murphy-Elizabeth Banks’ Meet Dave.

Reviewers surely didn’t help What’s Your Number?‘s box office prospects, as the film has a 7 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Anna Faris, by the way, also received credit as executive producer.

What’s Your Number? movie image: Claire Folger | 20th Century Fox.

The Rum Diary movie image: Peter Mountain | FilmDistrict.

Moneyball movie image: Melinda Sue Gordon | Columbia TriStar

Pamela Anderson Scary Movie 3 movie image: Dimension Films.

In Time movie image: Stephen Vaughan | 20th Century Fox.

J. Edgar movie image: Keith Bernstein | Warner Bros.

Dolphin Tale movie image: Jon Farmer | Warner Bros.

Puss in Boots movie image: DreamWorks Animation.

The Ides of March movie image: Saeed Adyani | Columbia Pictures.

Footloose movie image: K. C. Bailey | Paramount Pictures.

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zac -


The 66% approval rating referred to RT’s *top critics*. It’s now down to 55%.

sidsbowl -

The total rottentomatoes score for J Edgar is, in fact, a truly dreadful 39%, the same as “Immortals”. So how many Oscars will “Immoratals” receive?

vijaya shree -

hi, i am a big big fan of johnny depp, the movie got released JUST NOW , so we cant say that its a flop…. wat every they say johnny i am with ,, i am an INDIAN so i am so eagerly waiting for the movie to be realized


Just wanted ti say don’t count The Rum Diary out yet. It’s not been released in enough theaters yet. It’s only showing in one theater in my area and that theater is over 50 miles away. When it’s showing closed to home I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to buying it on BluRay too.

rachel -

Hey..why are you so rude with Johnny? When Johnny did Alice in Wonderland he didn’t use a pirate costume! And that movie was a BIG HIT. Don’t say nonsense..and Johnny DEPP STILL often lure to the people..truth! The thing is this movie is not a BIG a weird movie ,IS NOT COMMERCIAL LIKE PUSS IN BOOTS..GOT IT? I LOVE YOU JOHNNY!

Maha -

“Faring considerably worse despite the presence of Johnny Depp — who, admittedly, doesn’t often lure all that many ticket buyers when not donning his pirate costume —”
Um… you missed The Tourist earlier in the year? AIW, Sweeney Todd, Rango…
This film was never gonna be a big hitter. It’s not a mainstream movie, it’s unconventional, not outrageously advertised… ofcourse its in the position it’s in. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth watching- it just sets a very specific audience.
Can’t wait to watch it.

Teresa -

I saw Corageous with my family this weekend. I am a strong , full time working mother. I do feel that the lines have been blurred for men in our society. They were created to be the leaders of our household, and unfortunately not too many of them accept this position as earnestly as they do their “daytime” jobs. I feel this has lossened the moral fabric of our society, and is partially the reason we are on a tailspin in the wrong direction. The movie has a great message. I just pray that the men who watch it actually put the message in action in their daily lives! I especially pray that my husband does!

Ed. -

COURAGEOUS, simply the best inspirational movie ever!!!!

jay -

People are sick of slutty blondes, Daniel Craig in non-James Bond roles, and dark comedies. Religious movies rule


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