SHOW OSCAR THE MONEY! Disney's 'Princess & The Frog' #1 With $25M Wkd; Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' #3 With Soft $9M


SUNDAY AM: With film critic associations announcing their best-of lists, SAG nominations due on Monday, and Golden Globe nominations to be announced Tuesday morning, there’s still no concensus as to the winners. Which is why the grosses for each box office weekend until the end of the year become increasingly important to the awards process. Yes, size does matter.

Hollywood didn’t expect Spyglass/Revelations/Malpaso/Mace Neufeld/Warner Bros’ Invictus to do more than $10M-$15M at the box office from 2,125 plays because its marketing had all the lure of a history lesson. “I don’t feel any real heat on it like other Clint Eastwood films,” one rival studio exec. Flat tracking showed zero interest from young females, moderate interest from older females, but decent interest and choice with males who generally flock to Eastwood efforts. Though the story is inspirational (“audiences leave surprised and inspired,” one WB exec noted), the studio knew that ideological perceptions might deter filmgoers even though Clint’s direction and Morgan Freeman’s/Matt Damon’s acting are as usual superb. Nor was selling it as a feel-good sports story an option at least in the U.S. because it’s about rugby and the 1995 World Cup Championship. But that may help the pic overseas. All in all, Friday’s $2.9M opening and Saturday’s $3.6M and the weekend’s $9M were on the low end of what was expected. (Clint’s Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby both did $10M openings and each went on to earn around $100M respectively.) CinemaScore was an A- with 47% of the audience over age 50 rating the film an A. “I’m not in a panic at all wish. I wish it were a little stronger out of the gate,” one WB exec told me. “But it’ll be a slow burn. It’ll have great word of mouth and long legs through the holidays.”

Disney’s The Princess And The Frog with its fresh black take on the stale lily-white royal romance stories force-fed to children was expected to shoot past $30M this weekend since there’s nothing new for kids in theaters. Reviews have been glowing, and it was just named the #1 pic of the year by Time Magazine. (Is that newsosaur even still relevant?) The expansion into 3,434 venues follows exclusive 2-week runs with higher ticket sales because of an extra “Disney Experience” to sold-out audiences of all ages in just two theaters in NY and LA that grossed $3.6+M. (Whew!) Now, add Friday’s take of $7.1M and Saturday’s of $10.6M for a $25M weekend — about expected for hand-drawn 2-D animation these days with an A via CinemaScore. Disney said it was the biggest opening for an animated  film released in December. Princess has two weeks before Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel opens on Christmas Day. Overseas, Princess will roll out overseas: it opened day-and-date in just a few markets, including Germany and Mexico.

The specialty box office keeps unrolling awards-touted titles in limited runs. Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones from DreamWorks/Paramount debuting in three dates in New York and LA made $116K. The biggest hurdle facing its marketing is convincing audiences it’s not as grim as the Alice Sebold novel about a young girl who is brutally slain by a serial killer. Low grosses could hurt its Academy Awards chances.

The Weinstein Company’s A Single Man opened in nine theaters in a few markets including New York and LA for $216K and a per screen average of $24K. Adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s book and starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, this is the pic that Harvey Weinstein promised fashion designer-turned-film director Tom Ford to deliver an Oscar. (That’s how Harv would get all those hot movie stars and directors for puny money, and indeed The Weinstein Company only paid $2 million for the U.S. rights. Even with massive publicity for a small movie, Hollywood thinks its upside is only $10M gross at the U.S. box office and no more.

Finally, Paramount is pointing out its George Clooney starrer and Oscar hopeful Up In The Air expanded into 72 screens this weekend for a $2.5M weekend and per screen average of $34K. (Its Friday per screen was better than two of last year’s big films: Gran Torino‘s $27K when it expanded to 84 screens on December 26th, and Slumdog Millionare‘s $18K when it hit 78 screens on December 5th.) Its cume should be $4M after Sunday.

Top 10 After Friday:

1. Princess & The Frog (Disney) [3,434 runs] Wkd $25M, Cume $27.8M (3 weeks)
2. The Blind Side (Warner Bros) [3,388] Wkd $15.4M, Cume $150.2M (4)
3. Invictus (Warner Bros) NEW [2,125 runs] Wkd $9M (NEW)
4. New Moon (Summit) [3,635 runs] Wkd $8M, Cume $267.4M (4)
5. A Christmas Carol (Disney) [2,402 runs] Wkd $6.8M, Cume $124.4M (6)
6. Brothers (Lionsgate) [2,088 runs] Wkd $5M (-48%), Cume $17.4M (2)
7. 2012 (Sony) [2,838 runs] Wkd $4.4M, Cume $155.3M (5)
8. Old Dogs (Disney) [3,090 runs] Wkd $4.3M, Cume $39.9M (3)
9. Armored (Sony) [1,919 runs] Wkd $3.5M (-46%), Cume $11.7M (2)
10. Ninja Assassins (WB) [2,100 runs] Wkd $2.7M, Cume $34.3M (3)

Up In The Air (Paramount) [72 runs] Wkd $2.5M, Cume $416M (2)
A Single Man (Weinstein) [9 runs] Wkd $216K (NEW)
Lovely Bones (Paramount) [3 runs] Wkd $116K (NEW)
Precious (Lionsgate) [664 runs] Wkd $1.2M, Cume $38.2M (6)
Fantastic Mr Fox (Fox) [1,268 runs] $1.4M, Cume $16.2M (5)
The Road (Weinstein) Fri $147K [135 runs] Cume $3.6M (3)

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