SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Sony Pictures announced today its 2012 opened as a runaway No. 1 with $23.6 million Friday (including $1M in Thursday midnights) and $24.8M Saturday (+5%) from 3,404 theaters, with the studio expecting another $16.6M on Sunday. That’s a $65M domestic weekend and $160M international Wednesday through Sunday launch (with 2/3s of the 100 territories releasing day and date starting Friday, including North America). So it’s on its way past $225M worldwide for its first 5 days. That’s big for a PG-13 popcorn pic that’s neither a previously established brand or franchise or bestselling novel. Yet another in a long line of signature Roland Emmerich films featuring world destruction, this catastrophe film was anything but at the box office and became Sony Pictures’ 8th #1 North American film this year. Opening weekend exit surveys showed the audience was 52% male and 48% female with 45% under the age of 25. Despite dismal reviews, the film received an “A” Cinemascore for moviegoers under 18 and a “B+” overall. It’s exceeding expectations due to an aggressive marketing campaign that went into overdrive 6 weeks ago that included sneaking a key 2-minute sequence of the film’s special effects featured in the film as well as aggressive Internet searches surrounding the Mayan prophesy. But don’t forget that the disaster pic’s production budget was at least $200M and that Emmerich receives 25% of the gross. (see below).
Disney’s A Christmas Carol from Robert Zemeckis showed an excellent hold for No. 2, down just -25.7% from a week ago with $5.6 million Friday and $10.4M Saturday (+87%) from 3,653 plays for a $22.3M weekend and new cume of $63.3M. Overseas, the UK continues to outperform, with the overall international weekend of $16M bringing the total cume from abroad to $34M.
Because of amazing word of mouth propelled by Oprah and Tyler Perry, and castmembers Mariah Carey and Mo’Nique, and even George H.W. Bush, Lionsgate’s Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire also did $1.9 million Friday and $2.4M Saturday (+26%) and an estimated $1.7M Sunday for a $6M weekend for a new cume of $8.9M after expanding to still only 174 plays in arthouse and African-American neighborhoods. The location average was $35K. Precious also is pulling off an impressive feat; it represents a healthy 10% of Fandango’s daily online ticket sales.
In 4th place, Overture’s The Men Who Stare At Goats was down -52% from a week ago for $1.9 million Friday and $2.6M Saturday from 2,453 dates and $6.1M for the weekend.
In 5th place, Michael Jackson’s This Is It for Sony Pictures had a $5.1M weekend from 3,036 theaters and new cume of $67.2M. The film has now grossed $222.6M globally — $155.4M overseas and $67.2M domestic.
Among new limited releases, Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox from, of course, Fox, got off to a good start in 2 theaters in NY and 2 in LA for $70K Friday and $107K Saturday (49%). This put the animated pic at $260K for the weekend with a total per screen average of $63,000. And Focus Features’ Pirate Radio got off to only a modest start Friday with $879K but a feeble per screen average of $998 from 882 theaters, for an estimated $2.7M weekend, with better results in the urban and suburban smart houses. Saturday is generally the strongest day for adult/boomer movies so the studio hopes there’s an opportunity to rebound tonight.
As for 2012, Roland Emmerich of Independence Day, Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow and other pics in the apocalyptic genre, came to market with this spec script in February 2008 right before the release of his bomb 10,000 BC with its humiliating “9” Rotten Tomatoes score. Sony won a fairly competitive bidding war to get the property, but had to commit to a whopping 25% of the gross for Emmerich, as well as a staggering $200 million budget for 2012. (Film financing circles speculate the cost ballooned past $300M, maybe because of Roland’s reputation for not controlling costs, but Sony execs vehemently deny this.) That said, all the money went to special effects on this 2 hour, 39 minute, nonstop series of deaths, explosions and collapsing buildings. Certainly not to actor salaries. (Seeing small movie standout Jon Cusack as the lead in this bloater, and you wonder why the filmmakers couldn’t pay for a “real” action star.) Or a real script. (The more candid reviews advised audiences to “look, not listen”.)
Yet this weekend’s great numbers for 2012 prove once again the irrelevance of movie critics and bad buzz (only 36% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) and the effectiveness of early and relentless marketing. Not to mention everyone’s seemingly insatiable appetite for world annhilation especially when it targets iconic landmarks. “Really, how many times can you get away with destroying the White House? Nice touch taking out the Vatican, though, even with the Pontiff on the balcony,” snarked a rival studio exec to me. (But when Emmerich proposed demolishing a sacred Muslim shrine, his colleagues freaked out about a possible fatwa — and the idea was dropped.)
Awareness was high among all quadrants for 2012 with a slight edge to males under age 25 who also showed strongest definite interest and drove tonight’s big box office since everything else in the marketplace for them was holdovers. Hollywood expects 2012 to be flat or down for Saturday. But even though the world didn’t come to an end for Sony because of this budget-buster, with talk of another $150 million spent on global P&A, the studio has a long way to go to break even. “Even with some huge international grosses that are the hallmark of Roland’s films, Sony isn’t out of the woods yet,” another studio competitor warned me.
The studio opened 2012 on Wednesday overseas in what has been a $58.4 million cume from 38 territories after Friday when the pic expanded into 100 countries. “From Day One, this has been a worldwide play for the studio. We have many highly-ranked opening days. Again, remember for a new, non-branded, non franchise title, this is shaping up nicely all over the globe,” a Sony exec told me. Highlights so far included France with the 2nd biggest non-sequel opening day ever, and the 12th biggest opening day among all movies; and Russia, the 2nd biggest opening day ever; plus big numbers in Germany, Belgium, Korea, Poland, Australia, and Thailand.