SUNDAY AM, 8TH UPDATE: It’s another huge weekend for the North American box office with $150M, or +25% from last year. Lionsgate’s humongous holdover The Hunger Games won the weekend domestically and nearly internationally again despite two new major releases opening against it. Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ 3D action fantasy sequel Wrath Of The Titans failed to come close to the original’s grosses, while Relativity Media’s Snow White comedy Mirror Mirror failed to lure families. Both received ‘B+’ CinemaScores from audiences even if critics were at best lukewarm. Meanwhile, we now know how low Disney’s $200M writeoff John Carter will go: it will be lucky to reach $70M domestic. Starting its 4th weekend in release, this disaster is already discounted at Valley Plaza 6 in Van Nuys for $2 before 6 PM and $3 after.
This weekend’s Top 5 films (rest of Top 10 below)
1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) Week 2 [4,137 Theaters] PG13-Rated
Friday $18.8M, Saturday $26.2M, Weekend $61.1M (-60%), Cume $251.0M
2. Wrath Of The Titans 3D (Legendary/Warner) NEW [3,545 Theaters] PG13-Rated
Friday $12.4M, Saturday $13M, Weekend $34.6M
3. Mirror Mirror (Relativity) NEW [3,603 Theaters] PG-Rated
Friday $5.8M, Saturday $7.9M, Weekend $19.3M
4. 21 Jump Street (MGM/Sony) Week 3 [3,148 Theaters] R-rated
Friday $4.6M, Saturday $6.2M, Weekend $14.8M, Cume $92.8M
5. Dr Seuss’ The Lorax 3D (Universal) Week 5 [3,264 Theaters] PG-rated
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.7M, Weekend $8.3M, Cume $189.8M
The Hunger Games passed $200M Friday and $250M by weekend’s end. Even more impressive is that the actioner is currently the #1 movie and #1 book and #1 album in America. (The studio just cut an online-only spot with those trifecta bragging rights.) Pic played in the same 4,137 locations this weekend but with a lower screen count because of the end to its limited one-week engagement on all IMAX screens. The film held extremely well during the week, with a record breaking Monday of $10.8M. Second wave promotion exploited this second weekend’s adult curiosity about the movie. Heck, even GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney went to see Hunger Games with his family. “From Presidential candidates to talk show hosts, it seemed everyone was talking about the film publicly,” studio boasts to me.
Though Wrath Of The Titans certainly looked better than 2010’s Clash Of The Titans whose retrofitted 3D was deemed sub-par, its critical reviews fared far worse — only 25% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Its projected weekend gross (including $1M from 1,490 domestic midnight screenings) was in line with studio expectations. But that’s still far short of the original’s $61.2M opening weekend. Then again the original made 2/3s of its money overseas ($332M of the total $495M cume) and this sequel should, too, to justify its $150M bloated cost. The PG-13 pic released day and date as a worldwide event in 60 territories and on approximately 13,900 screens (9,766 3D and 175 IMAX) in all major markets with the exception of Japan. “We’re off to a great start, with $18M on Friday for a progressive cume to date of $25M internationally,” Warner Bros tells me. In Mexico and Brazil, for instance, Wrath Of The Titans was ranked a strong #1 ahead of The Hunger Games.
In the U.S. and Canada, actioner debuts in 3,545 locations with 2,900 3D locations, 4,400 3D screens, and 290 IMAX locations. As expected, there’s very strong male support both young and older but the sequel’s marketing around “Feel The Wrath” didn’t have the campy coolness quotient of the original’s “Release The Kraken” campaign featuring Liam Neeson. And Avatar‘s Sam Worthington has proven he isn’t a box office draw. (Remember, he failed to open Man On A Ledge.)
Warner Bros positioned Wrath Of The Titans to target younger and older males including ethnic audiences with “an aggressive approach that sold the intensity of the action and the spectacular creature battles, all with great visuals and compelling music,” an exec tells me. Clearly March as a whole, and this pre-Easter weekend in particular, is now as competitive as summer or holiday periods for sizable event films despite distractions like the NCAA Final Four. The studio’s marketing strategy relied on an aggressive TV schedule and online content combined with more compelling 3D. After Jonathan Liebesman replaced Louis Leterrier as director on the 2nd installment, the sequel was supposed to be shot in 3D. But then Liebesman announced that Wrath of the Titans would be converted rather than shot in 3D even though that had been a big bone of contention with fans of the original. To reduce skepticism, Liebesman reminded that the first film Clash Of The Titans had been shot and edited as a 2D film and then converted to 3D just a few weeks before release. Whereas Wrath was conceived in 3D from the start right through editing. Even the most contrary reviews say the film is much better-looking than the original thanks to Prime Focus World, which did the original 3D as well as the sequel’s. Reception to story was decidedly mixed. Screenplay credit went to Dan Mazeau and David Johnson who also received story credit with Greg Berlanti.
As for Mirror Mirror, its $85M cost was piggybacked by a very expensive full-frills TV ad campaign that didn’t justify its disappointing $19M domestic debut. That number was below even the studio’s lowball expectations. As usual, Relativity claims its actual exposure on the film was far less — “just under $30M” — after foreign pre-sales, Montreal tax incentives, and its Netflix deal. On the other hand, Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh is newly beholden to investors like savvy Ron Burkle who may not be as patient with razor-thin profit margins as Elliott Associates once was. One thing is certain: Mirror Mirror is the opposite of the “Hail Mary” blockbuster which Kavanaugh hoped it would be to dig Relativity out of its financial mess. I’m not sure how director Tarsem Singh justifies a career trajectory that starts out with visually arresting The Cell and The Fall, continues through Immortals, and ends up here. Or why star Julia Roberts banked her cold career comeback on this hot mess. What the movie does is audaciously play the Brothers Grimm story for lame laughs. It’s 180 degrees different from Universal’s much anticipated Snow White & The Huntsman adult swordfest releasing June 1st though the two projects were developed at the same time. But Mirror Mirror‘s target audience is kids ages 6-12 and their parents. Now the studio hopes that, with schools out next week and the week after for Easter vacation, its pic won’t be played out this weekend. Overseas, the film has already opened in a dozen territories and this weekend debuted day and date in a dozen more.
Marketing-wise, Relativity partnered with Bloomspot, a leader in the local offer space, to launch on March 24th a first-ever promotional screening program for the member base in 11 U.S. markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. Relativity also initiated promotions in the top 50 markets. Key digital initiatives included Annoying Orange (You Tuber), Social Queen video, parent blogging, a Snow Spell featurette on ParentsConnect.com, integrated gaming expériences on top sites targeting children like Poptropica.com, Nick.com, GirlsGoGames.com, Webkinz.com, as well as mobile apps targeted to young girls. Relativity Music Group released the original motion picture soundtrack for Mirror Mirror on March 27th and included an original score by 8-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, along with two new versions of the reworked Nina Hart song “I Believe in Love” performed by the film’s Lily Collins (The Blind Side) that plays over the end credits. Credits on the screen story go to Melisa Wallack and the screenplay to Marc Klein and Jason Keller.
In other box office news, the CBS Films pickup, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, cracked the Top Ten for the first time while playing in just 483 locations. Studio stresses that the film performed much better than other current and recent platform expansions at this level. “The most interesting data point is that holdover theaters (124 existing locations) were down only 18% from last week. In fact, just like last weekend, several of the top twenty runs were actually up from the previous Friday.” CBS Films will keep rolling out the pic in the weeks ahead to see how long the Salmon can run…
Here is the rest of the Top Ten with numbers refining later Sunday morning:
6. John Carter 3D (Disney) Week 4 [2,397 Theaters] PG13-rated
Est Friday $530K, Est Weekend $2.0M, Est Cume $66.2M
7. Salmon Fishing In Yemen (CBS) Week 4 [483 Theaters] PG13-Rated
Est Friday $340K, Est Weekend $1.7M, Est Cume $3.6M
8. Act Of Valor 3D (Relativity) Week 6 [1,239 Theaters] R-Rated
Est Friday $290K, Est Weekend $1.3M, Est Cume $68M
9. A Thousand Words (Dworks/Par) Week 4 [1,007 Theaters] PG13-rated
Est Friday $275K, Est Weekend $1.0M, Est Cume $16.5M
10. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 5 [903 Theaters] R-rated
Est Friday $255K, Est Weekend $950K, Est Cume $53.5M