Box Office Final: The “Immortals” Stand Tall…

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Releasing on 11-11-11, "Immortals" is #1

While the cat could not make it a trifecta, “Puss In Boots” nearly upended Adam Sandler’s “Jack And Jill” for second place, missing the runner-up position by a scant $275k and rolling past $108 million in domestic box office receipts.  Soaring above all of the competition was innovative director Tarsem Singh’s third film, “Immortals”, which served as his widest opening film to date and banked $32.2 million in its opening weekend.  While some have reported this as a mediocre or even disappointing opening, some people were projecting “Immortals” to finish second or third with a mid-$20 million gross.  Relativity Media are ecstatic at how the film was received and their implementation of having a market-by-market determination on critical screenings seemed risky, but ultimately did not hurt the film’s opening numbers.

A breakdown of how “Immortals” was received by the paying public vis a vis the critical community, Oscar hopeful “J. Edgar” had a difficult week within the industry, but how did audiences react to seeing Eastwood team with DiCaprio in telling the story of a controversial American icon of the 20th century?  Lars von Trier’s long-awaited theatrical opening for the Cannes Award-winning “Melancholia” finally saw the light of day and Werner Herzog’s much-talked about documentary about the Death Penalty, “Into the Abyss” generated some surprising totals.  All of this, and that “Jack and Jill”/Adam Sandler thing after the cut!

Henry Cavill (L) and Joseph Morgan (R) star in Relativity Media's IMMORTALS.

IMMORTALS

There are two ways to look into what happened with “Immortals” and its $32.2 million start, and much of that perception depends on whether you see the cup as being half full or half empty.  On the half full side, you have Relativity, the distributor of “Immortals” who proudly sent around press releases stating that “Immortals” was their biggest opening ever, besting the studio’s start with Bradley Cooper’s “Limitless” ($18.9 million) in the spring of 2011.  In addition, the tracking and industry predictions found “Immortals” landing in the mid-$20 million range, falling behind “Jack And Jill” and “Puss In Boots”, for a 2nd or 3rd place start.  For a film largely exhibited in 3D, and featuring the term “3D” used so ubiquitously in the trailering and marketing that many felt the film was called “Immortals 3D”, “Immortals” delivered the second biggest 3D opening for R-rated films, trailing just “Jackass 3D” on the list.  Then, factoring in a robust $38 million from just 6 international locations, Relativity are rightfully thrilled with the reception levied upon their film.

And then…When viewing what the film presents as, a blood-soaked violent visual spectacle, and then comparing that to say “300”, the “Immortals” crown starts to look a little less shiny.  “300” opened to $70.9 million domestic when it arrived in theaters in March 2007 and the box office numbers showed signs that the film is rapidly losing interest.  After a strong $14.4 million Friday start, the audiences declined from Saturday to Sunday, indicating that the film may not be on track for a gross in the $90-$95 million range as tracking from its opening weekend would indicate.  The CinemaScore grade averaged out to a “B” which is middle-of-the-road for that scale and signs pointed to poor word-of-mouth over the course of the weekend.

Nevertheless, the film represents a nice momentum boost in the burgeoning career of Henry Cavill, the future Superman, but for director Tarsem Singh, “Immortals” did not satisfy critics all that much and surprisingly was not screened in all major markets, with some high profile critics having to see the film on Friday morning with the rest of the moviegoing public.  Still with a 37% TomatoMeter being reported after the film had opened, the strategy seemed to work reasonably well.

Robert Hamer predicted “Immortals” would open in the range of $18-$23 million.

DiCaprio may score a nomination, but Eastwood's film is the worst-reviewed of his directorial career...

J. EDGAR

Embedded in the Oscar conversation since its announcement in the fall of 2010, Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” finally debuted in 7 distinct locations on Wednesday, November 9, and more than 1,900 locations on Friday, November 11.  Banking $11.2 million for the weekend and $11.3 million overall for the 5 days was a good, not great, beginning to the film’s run.  The per screen average was decent at $5,873 per location and Warner Bros. may look to expand the film as the week plays out.  Many eyes were also turned to the project for several reasons…

The film, by its sheer definition and design, inspires talk of Oscar chances for previous winners Clint Eastwood and Imagine Entertainment.  One of the most esteemed and well-received actors in the industry, Leonardo DiCaprio is front and center on the picture, playing the titular character with what some have called the finest performance of his career.   Eastwood films always elicit Oscar buzz as he is still riding the wave of Oscar and box office successes “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby”, and the Oscar-nominated “Letters From Iwo Jima” and its companion film, “Flags Of Our Fathers”.  All the Eastwood trademarks are found here – exquisite cinematography, impeccable detail-oriented sets and costumes, framing important scenes in shadows and light.

And while our own John Foote praised the film with a 4-star rating, others were less enthusiastic, including yours truly.  In the court of critical opinion, “J. Edgar” is simply not a good film.  As of this writing, it carries a TomatoMeter rating of just 41%.  Inexplicably, “J. Edgar” currently stands as the worst-received film of Eastwood’s directorial career (!?!?) and while reports were gloomy coming out of the film festival circuit and in response to the trailers introduced by Warner Bros. weeks ago, no one expected this to be the case.  Audiences gave the film a “B” average via CinemaScore, which portends little as to how well the film will ultimately do.  Warner Bros. have not officially confirmed a production budget but BoxOffice.com indicates that a total of $58 million was spent on production, marketing, and advertising.  There is little chance that Eastwood sees “J. Edgar” move north of $30-$35 million in domestic grosses.

Robert Hamer just missed the mark on Eastwood’s biopic, pegging “J. Edgar” with a start just above $12 million.

THREE...PER...CENT...TOMATO...METER...

JACK AND JILL

Adam Sandler has been responsible for two of the worst-received comedies of all time within the span on 8 weeks.  As a producer of “Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star”, a film which famously received and maintained a ZERO PERCENT TOMATOMETER for its entire theatrical stint of 10 days, Sandler stayed behind the scenes and shied away from publicly addressing the debacle that likely killed off his friend Nick Swardson’s movie career.  Now, we have the PG-friendly “Jack And Jill” which, until critics Michael Smith of Media Mikes and John Hazelton of Screen International weighed in with positive reviews, also had a ZERO PERCENT TOMATOMETER!!!

(Incidentally in the brilliant mind of this Media Mikes guy, “Jack and Jill” earns 3/5 stars while “Martha Marcy May Marlene” secured a 2.5 star rating.  I mean I’m all for differing opinions at the table but Armond White this guy is not…)

“Jack And Jill”, huh?  Well…let’s just be cold and clinical about it, shall we?  Grossed $25.0 million in its opening weekend, with just $5 million of that coming on Sunday – a telltale sign of a film that is hemorrhaging attendance by each respective showing.  Worst reviewed movie of Adam Sandler’s acting career.  Worst comedic opening for Sandler since July 2009’s “Funny People” started with $22.66 million.  If you disregard “Funny People”, and do not count it as a traditional-style Adam Sandler comedy, then you stretch all the way back to the animated “Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights” in 2002 ($9.4 million) or “Little Nicky” in 2000 ($16.0 million) for something this poorly received by the public.

With a budget of reportedly $79 million, “Jack And Jill” is most likely to bottom out in the low-to-mid $60 million range domestically.  Sandler is a box office juggernaut however, starring in 12 films that have grossed more than $100 million, almost in spite of how badly reviewed they are.  I know people who paid to see this movie, could care less about the terrible reviews, and had a wonderful time – a fact backed up by CinemaScore audiences rating the film a “B”, on par with “J. Edgar” and “Immortals” above.  I don’t know anymore folks.

But Media Mikes stands up for the film: “…his (Sandler) constant whining makes Jill more sympathetic, to the point where you can forgive her the occasional break of wind.”

Robert Hamer tagged “Jack And Jill” with an opening in the range of $16-$21 million.

The cast of Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" - his biggest North American opening ever...

MELANCHOLIA

Unable to shake his Cannes Film Festival comments about being sympathetic to what Hitler went through, provocateur Lars von Trier is steadfastly refusing to conform to anyone’s sensibilities.  He is also a profoundly important filmmaker, making challenging and disquieting films that even if they are condemned and panned, still generate much debate and conversation.  He almost always centers his films around women and “Melancholia” sees Kirsten Dunst attempting to revitalize a career saddled with depression, rehab, and a self-imposed sabbatical.  Dunst earned a Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival and has earned some of the highest praise of her career in this film.  After playing for weeks through Video On Demand outlets, “Melancholia” shifts to the big screen and audiences where ready to see it in that venue.

Banking $257,174 at just 19 locations, “Melancholia” scored an impressive $13,535 per screen average and gave von Trier his biggest domestic opening weekend of all time.  It is unclear how much expansion Magnolia Pictures wants to invoke for the film, but von Trier’s biggest grossing film is 2000’s “Dancer In The Dark”, starring Bjork, which wrapped up its North American run with $4.1 million total.  His breakthrough film, “Breaking The Waves”, grossed $3.8 million in 1996, and the Nicole Kidman-led experimental “Dogville” eclipsed $1.5 million.  “Melancholia” has also emerged as one of this best reviewed films of his career and there is the possibility that if precursors stand up for Dunst, the film may have some legs through awards season.

See Awards Circuit staff reviews of “Melancholia” here:  Joey Magidson / Robert Hamer

"Into The Abyss" (IFC Films)

OTHER NOTEWORTHY HAPPENINGS

The romantic drama “Like Crazy” continued its strategic rollout to strong reception, banking another $505k, an uptick of a healthy 89.3%, and lifted its 17-day platform release totals to $1.06 million thus far.  More cities will receive the film, no playing at 70 sites and on 80 specific screens.  Paramount Vantage executives are thrilled with the $7,207 per screen average and as the continue to market the film, the belief is that audiences and couples will seek out this film.

Drawing a lot of Oscar talk in the Documentary Feature category, Werner Herzog’s “Into The Abyss” opened to a lot of anticipation and disappointing audiences.  Riding the momentum of Herzog’s biggest grossing film ever, an earlier 2011 documentary entitled “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams”, IFC Films placed the film in 12 prominent locales, with big city and multi-screen openings to follow this coming weekend.  Perhaps the subject matter was limiting, but IFC expected more than the $48k start they received, feeling like the film could skew closer to $100k with about double the projected per screen average.  The film has received some prominent attention however with its recounting of a triple-homicide and one of the convicted killers just days away from his execution.  IFC have in no way given up on the film, expecting it (and “Cave” for that matter) to land on the Documentary Shortlist from the Academy, set to drop in the next few days.

Bollywood breakout "Rockstar" (Eros)

More screens means more and more audience for “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, as another increase in business, although a smaller than expected 7.5% helped push the film to a 24-day platformed total of $1.7 million thus far.  Fox Searchlight have continued to advertise the film on television and heavy in selected markets, and are in no way through in working the film.  Keep your eyes tuned to the start of the Oscar precursor season right after Thanksgiving because if the film nets citations, a whole lot more people are going to have the chance to see the film.  Look for December 2 as a possible big expansion date for the film, since no major releases are scheduled that day.

In our Bollywood file, “Rockstar” started impressively with $612,235 at 112 locations.  For North American distributor Eros International, “Rockstar” continues their hot hand, which saw the big budget and ambitious science-fiction 3D extravaganza, “RA.One” clear more than $2.32 million recently.  No one ever reports on these films domestically, but Bollywood films often perform well stateside and get ignored for how comparatively popular they are.

THE MILLION DOLLAR CLUB

12 films grossed more than $1 million this weekend, down from 14 films last weekend and the Top 12 films total grosses gained 21.8% over the previous weekend.  The steepest decline amongst the Million Dollar Club members this weekend was once again “Paranormal Activity 3”, which lost 56.7% of its fourth weekend audience. The $5 million production has surpassed the $100 million milestone domestically ($100.8 million) and must move past “Paranormal Activity”‘s $107.9 million gross to be the biggest North American success to date in the franchise.

“Footloose” has not yet seen a significant plummet in audience, shedding only 39% in its fifth weekend and staring down $50 million in domestic grosses.  Faith-based drama “Courageous” also is drawing repeated business, with a 7 week tally of $31.6 million.

ON THEIR WAY TO HOME VIDEO…

“Contagion” made the jump to the second-run circuit and added $312k to its 10-week total of $74.9 million.  The science-fiction thriller, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is scheduled to arrive on home video either January 10 or 17, 2012.

The goofy nature of the way box office calculations work brings to the Sarah Jessica Parker-bomb “I Don’t Know How She Does It”.  With its just announced home video date of January 3, 2012, The Weinstein Company moved the film from 8 first-run theaters and added 75 second-run/discount houses which brought up the bizarre double victory in our Weekend Breakdown.  “…Does It” saw the largest increase amongst films playing at more than 50 sites, with business surging 904%.  All that new business resulted in the film netting the worst per screen average amongst that same sample set.  The film scored an average of $30 per showing… as in THIRTY DOLLARS EVERY TIME IT RAN.  I would love to know who these people were/are that comprised the “We Are $30” crowd.  But I digress…

THE WEEKEND BREAKDOWN

#1 Movie Of The Weekend: “IMMORTALS” (Relativity), earned $32.2 million in its opening weekend.

Largest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “IMMORTALS” (Relativity), $10,349 at 3,112 locations for a total gross of $32.2 million.

Smallest Per-Screen Average (50+ Sites): “I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT” (The Weinstein Company), $346 at 83 locations for a weekend take of $29k. Total gross stands at $9.6 million in 59 days of release.

Largest % Increase (50+ Sites): “I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT” (The Weinstein Company), Increased 904.9% with an increase in theaters from 8 theaters to 83.

Largest % Decrease (50+ Sites): “THE THING” (Universal), Decreased 75.5% with a reduction from 384 theaters to 141 theaters.

Now Profitable – Domestic v. Production Budget:

  • A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS – $23.2 million, with a $19 million production budget.
  • MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE – $1.7 million, with a production budget of just under $1 million.
  • LIKE CRAZY – $1.06 million, with a production budget of just under $1 million.

THE TOP 40 MOST ATTENDED FILMS (11/11 – 11/13/2011)
Numbers are representative of millions…
Bold denotes films increased in business this week versus last.

PKFILMWKNDTOTAL+/- %DAYS
1
Immortals32.232.2NEW3
2
Jack And Jill
25.025.0NEW3
3Puss In Boots24.7108.0-25.217
4Tower Heist12.843.5-46.810
5J. Edgar11.211.3NEW5
6…Harold/Kumar Very 3-D Christmas5.923.2-54.310
7In Time4.130.6-45.417
8Paranormal Activity 33.6100.8-56.724
9Footloose2.748.8-39.031
10Real Steel1.981.6-45.738
11Moneyball1.171.9-40.352
12Courageous1.031.6-34.345
13The Ides Of March.94438.4-51.338
14The Rum Diary.80312.4-72.517
15Dolphin Tale.69369.6-32.252
16Rockstar.612.612-NEW3
17Anonymous.5833.8-52.817
18Margin Call.5463.3-24.024
1950/50.50833.8-46.845
20Like Crazy.5051.1+89.317
21The Three Musketeers.49719.2-70.724
22Martha Marcy May Marlene.4811.7+5.624
23The Way.3322.6-8.038
24The Smurfs.319141.7+5.0108
25Contagion.31274.9+44.266
26The Skin I Live In.2971.7-9.431
27Melancholia.257.257NEW3
28The Help.245167.8-26.4103
29Johnny English Reborn.2058.1-69.724
30The Lion King 3D.19593.7-8.059
31Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.130176.3-27.0101
32Take Shelter.1201.2-31.945
33RA.One.1192.4-69.117
34Born To Be Wild IMAX.11614.1+21.4220
35Drive.10534.3-46.659
36Sarah’s Key.997.6-63.2115
37Crazy, Stupid, Love..8284.2-36.7108
38Dream House.7921.3-60.845
39Abduction.7127.5-45.552
40Cars 2.67191.3-24.0143
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My love of film began at the age of 7 when my parents not only gave me a television, but HBO to boot. My first theatrical experience was "E.T." My first movie cry came with "Old Yeller". "The Usual Suspects" made me decide to make movies and film writing a priority in life, even knowing the twist beforehand. My passion for film, music, and pop culture in general can be isolated to my youth. My love for film took root in high school. Above all else, movies and art, in any form, exist to entertain and I remain much more interested in how art affects others, more than with myself. But I love the conversation and to have a chance to share my thoughts and be a part of the community here is a unique and enriching experience.