SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Warner Bros’ 3D Green Lantern ($21.6M Friday, dropping -21% for $17.1M Saturday, and only a $52.6M weekend) underperforms, unable to meet even the studio’s lowered expectation for North America despite the higher 3D ticket prices. And Fox’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins ($6.4M Friday, up only +2% for $6.5M Saturday meaning it failed to get any significant kiddie matinee bump, and only an $18.2M weekend) falls to No. 3 behind Paramount’s holdover Super 8 which cast no stars moves up to No. 2. But these numbers also signal falling stars in Hollywood. Green Lantern had well-known actor Ryan Reynolds playing the superhero, yet won’t come near that other non-sequel Thor‘s recent $65.7M opening weekend for Marvel yet starring a complete unknown. Even though for weeks now, Green Lantern had been tracking better than Thor, which also was tasked with introducing a superhero to moviegoers. Warner Bros and DC Entertainment began freaking out Friday about the continuing negative buzz around Green Lantern especially the bad reviews.
This was fanned by rival studios looking at U.S. box office. Competitors also told me that the foreign day-and-date opening grosses were off to a “very soft start” in the UK, Russia, New Zealand, Asia, and some Middle East markets with an estimated $17M from 3,253 screens. They were right: though UK opened #1 with £2.6M (US$4.9M) from 907 situations. That’s less than this summer’s openings of X-Men: First Class, Fast Five, and Thor. And the Russia and South Korea debuts weren’t strong even though these territories usually love action movies, but Green Lantern couldnt even beat Super 8 in Russia.
Meanwhile, Mr. Popper‘s weak result demonstrates how Jim Carrey’s popularity keeps waning in live-action movies. His last films were Fun With Dick And Jane (2005) opening to $14.6M, and The Number 23 (2007) debuted to $14.3M and Yes Man (2008) which first released to $18.2M. (I Love You, Phillip Morris never received wide distribution.) That this latest grossed at all is due to the penguins, I’m certain.
The total moviegoing weekend ends up an estimated -22% from last year (when Toy Story 3 opened to $110.3M. The big qualifier for all the above is the Sunday drop for Father’s Day.
Full analysis below. Refined numbers in the morning. Here’s the Top 10:
1. Green Lantern 3D (Warner Bros) NEW [3,816 Runs]
Friday $21.6M, Saturday $16.8M, Weekend $52.6M
Warner Bros said it was very pleased with DC Entertainment’s Green Lantern 3D opening of $3.35M midnight showings from 1,810 venues, which bettered Marvel/Paramount’s Thor midnights ($3.2M from 1,800 locations) and were on a par with Marvel/Fox’s X-Men: First Class prequel midnights ($3.3M from 1,783 theaters). “It’s an excellent result setting up for a strong Father’s Day weekend at the box office,” a Warner Bros exec emailed me this morning. But it was all downhill from there. Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds (the romantic comedy lead voted People‘s Sexiest Man Alive) and directed by Martin Campbell (who rebooted James Bond with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale) opened in a wide but by no means record-setting release into 3,816 theaters, of which 2,711 were 3D. Hollywood estimated a North American weekend opening of at least the mid-$50M range with the upside as much as $60M-$65M-$70M if the fan boys went for it in 3D despite the poor reviews. The studio now can only hope for a big Father’s Day judging from strong results from past superhero films.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros marketing saw the finished film extremely late in the game, I’ve confirmed, because the visual effects were much delayed coming in and delayed aspects of the campaign. Marketing didn’t have access to more than 70% of the finished movie until two weeks ago so it appeared as if the campaign changed three times which is unusual. The studio claims its campaign has been consistent since launch — but even I have eyes — though admits it may seem like that. Sources also tell me that Warner Bros film chief Jeff Robinov and DC Entertainment “pressured the campaign to feature the alien characters too much in the name of ‘franchise building’,” But not everyone was on board having to feature these side characters so much especially given their marginal roles in the finished film.” The result is that, at a time when $35M is the average marketing cost and $70M the domestic norm for a big summer tentpole, Warner Bros spent $55M on Green Lantern‘s domestic TV ads, and a total $100 million for the overall domestic campaign. (“Every time I turn my TV on, I think I’m watching the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, there’s so much green slime going on,” a rival studio exec snarked to me.)
Hollywood is expecting director Martin Campbell to be made the scapegoat: he’s already publicly suggested he won’t be back if there’s a sequel. Some point to Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer who also writes the Green Lantern comics and was integrally involved (reputedly even the deciding vote) on every big decision. And he’s respected but also controversial in some quarters. But Warner Bros execs Jeff Robinov and Greg Silverman should have made sure this movie was much better than a score of only 21% positive on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to Thor‘s 77% and X-Men‘s 87%). Looks like there’s plenty of blame to go around. “I’m not going to tell you this is the greatest movie,” a studio exec admits to me about why the film wasn’t better. The problem sounds like it was filmmaking by committee.
2. Super 8 (Paramount Week 2 [3,408 Runs]
Friday $6M, Saturday $8M, Weekend $21.2M (-40%), Cume $72.7M
For all those doubters: this $50M-budget movie frm JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg had a very strong hold.
3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Fox) NEW [3,338 Runs]
Friday $6.4M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $18.2M
This weekend’s other major studio release Mr. Popper’s Penguins also scored poor reviews with only 43% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The family fare starring Jim Carrey doing what he’s done in films a hundred times (over-acting) but also those adorable live birds (who doesn’t like penguins?) was tracking soft generally but strong in the special parents-young kids tracking. So Hollywood expected a high teens to low $20sM result for the $55M budget laugher and a fight for No. 2 with Paramount’s holdover Super 8.
I’m a sucker for animal films but always worry how the critters are treated by Hollywood, and this one had to be made on a refrigerated set because this breed of sub-Antartic Gentoo penguin has to be kept cold all the time. So the crew had to bundle up in down parkas and knit caps and mittens in the 36 to 40 degree temperatures as a result. Never before have wild live birds held such a key role in a narrative film, so filmmakers had to cast Captain, Lovey, Bitey, Nimrod, Stinky, and Loudy (so named for their distinctive traits). Birds & Animals Unlimited, Hollywood’s top animal trainers, was enlisted along with scientist Scott Drieschman, the penguin guru making his first foray into the movie biz. Before the Gentoos were transported to the U.S., a facility was built for them next to Steiner Studios in Brooklyn where some of the film was to be shot. The penguin production home included a living area, swimming pool, training space, and massive air conditioning built to simulate their environment in the wild. (Hey, I know top human actors who don’t get this many perks from Fox tightwad Tom Rothman…)
Drieschman himself moved into a trailer home next to the penguin habitat on call 24/7. Then the trainers at Birds & Animals went to work trying to train the wild birds to hit their marks. Problem was, the minute they even smelled food, it became complete mayhem on the set. Supposedly, that dining scene was improvised where the penguins leap onto the dinner table and start attacking each other’s sardines while Jim Carrey just sits there and keeps eating only to ask very politely, ‘Could you pass the salt?’ in the middle of it all. Only when the birds had to “act” by performing a very specific action, or when the filming location could not be made hospitable to the birds, did the production’s visual effects team take over with CG penguins.
4. X-Men: First Class (Fox) Week 3 [3,375 Runs]
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $4.4M, Weekend $11.5M, Cume $119.9M
5. The Hangover Part II (Legendary/Warner Bros) Week 4 [3,460 Runs]
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $3M, Weekend $9.6M, Cume $232.6M
This weekend, The Hangover Part II generated an estimated $21.4M from approximately 5,800 screens in 55 markets, bringing the international total to $256M. With a worldwide gross of $488M, the sequel now surpasses the original’s gross of $468M to become
the biggest R-rated comedy globally. The combined worldwide box office for both pics now exceeds $1 billion. Yowza!
6. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount) Week 4 [3,469 Runs]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.4M, Weekend $8.7M, Cume $143.3M
Pic went to #1 at the international box office this weekend, grossing $52.5M from 10,267 locations in 55 markets. This takes the cume to an excellent $280 million. Kung Fu Panda 2 expanded into 10 territories this weekend, clinching #1 in every one.
7. Bridesmaids (Universal) Week 5 [2,573 Runs]
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $2.9M, Weekend $7.4M, Estimated Cume $136.8M
Unversal opened Bridesmaids overseas this weekend with $7.3M in 7 territories. Australia opened No. 1 with $6.8M at 234 dates
and 36% market share. This opening is 19% bigger than Knocked Up, 22% bigger than The Hangover and 16% bigger than The Proposal.
8. Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 (Disney) Week 5 [2,742 Runs]
Friday $1.7M, Saaturday $2.4M, Weekend $6.2M, Cume $220.3M
9. Midnight In Paris (Sony Classics) Week 5 [1,083 Runs]
Friday $1.4M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.2M, Cume $21.7M
This is Woody Allen’s biggest hit in years, looking to exceed both Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and Match Point (2005), both of which grossed $23+M domestic at the box office.
10. Judy Moody (Relativity) Week 2 [2,524 Runs]
Friday $785K, Saturday $825K, Weekend $2.2M (-63%), Cume $11.1M
Fox Searchlight expands Terence Malick’s Tree of Life into 114 screens and grossed $323K Friday and $450K Saturday for an estimated $1.1M weekend and an estimated cume of $3.8M. The specialty house also opened newcomer The Art Of Getting By onto 610 screens and grossed $296K for Friday and a disastrous $230K for Saturday with a disappointing weekend of $700K. Focus Features’ Beginners playing in 44 theaters grossed $154K for a $354K weekend and $908K cume. Beginners increased 66% from Friday to Saturday this weekend indicating
positive word of mouth.