SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: I’m still on vacation but the box office never rests, especially when 2012 delivers another hot weekend. Sony Pictures is in shock that its Screen Gems sleeper Think Like A Man based on the bestselling book by TV/radio comedian Steve Harvey and starring new comedy star Kevin Hart is North America’s #1 movie. But also by its gross through Sunday looking like double what execs predicted. And Saturday’s number was up +9% from Friday’s figure. The weekend total may finish as high as $33M. And yet this urban comedy — like it or not, that’s what the movie industry calls this genre — was playing in only 2,017 locations. It was aimed squarely at African-Americans ages 13 to 49 but then wound up crossing over big-time with all audiences regardless of race and sex. Opening weekend demos show that the campaign attracted an audience mix of 37% males and 63% females: 38% were under 30, and 62% were 30 and over. Pic earned an ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences: ‘A+’ Males, ‘A’ Females, ‘A+’ under age 25, ‘A’ every other category. Big online ticket seller Fandango called this contest early when it reported that Think Like A Man was its top-selling movie grabbing a healthy 42% of Thursday’s sales. “The movie had a negative cost between $12M-$13M so we’re thrilled,” a Sony exec emails me. “Any weekend where you make back the negative cost in the first weekend is a good weekend in our books.”
I’m amused how everybody is getting in line now to tell me all the execs and talent responsible for the huge success of this movie. But, first, let’s not forget that Jeff Blake’s ace marketing and distribution team can sell virtually anything. And no doubt Clint Culpepper is on a hot streak: this is Screen Gems’ third #1 film of the year, and Sony Pictures’ fourth #1 in 2012. Besides Harvey, comedian Kevin Hart deserve credit for turning out his rabid fanbase by endlessly promoting the pic and dominating the social media conversation about it. Hart is still a fairly fresh film star: his 2011 standup comedy film Laugh At My Pain shocked the industry by making Top 10 numbers despite playing in very few theaters. Harvey’s and Hart’s and the cast’s popularity allowed Sony to take advantage of some 40+M social connections on Facebook and Twitter. And then there’s Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four 1 and 2) who directed the film. “How many prominent African American film comedy directors are there after all who have helmed a mainstream breakout hit?” one insider gushed to me. And then there’s African American producer Will Packer, whose small budget-big rewards hits include Takers, Obsessed, and Stomp The Yard. Besides Harvey, screenwriting credit went to David A. Newman and Keith Merryman.
Knowing that the story skewed towards women, the studio’s marketing strived to position the movie from a male point of view while not turning off the female audience. The trailer debuted with New Year’s Eve, and it also ran with The Vow, Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, and Red Tails. The usual high-profile sports games were employed, as well as a ‘Behind The NBA’ promotion featuring Kevin Hart, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Kevin Smith. The film took advantage of a lot of radio cross-promotion, including screening programs and flyaway promotions. It also took over Harvey’s morning show during the first week of April with the actresses on one day, and the actors the following day. Sony also reached out to radio DJs from top urban markets, inviting them to the press junket and hosting a special cast dinner with the biggest African American bloggers and websites. Studio also had a big presence on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities, and hosted special fraternity screenings in select markets. Other urban media outlets across TV, radio, print, and outdoor were saturated by Sony. BET created full blocks of programming dedicated to Think Like A Man, and all special programming attracting African American viewers were utilized including the BET Honors, the NAACP Image Awards, and America’s Next Top Model.
Warner Bros’ romantic drama from star author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John), The Lucky One starring Zac Efron is looking like $8.9M Saturday — about even with Friday — for a $22.8M weekend. This is another wild overperformer because the studio only expected $15M through Sunday. Playing in 3,115 theaters, it received a ‘B+’ CinemaScore from audiences. Warner Bros’ private tracking saw this film was at the high end for a Sparks film, which all have a good multiple of approximately 4x. So the studio marketed the movie based on the well-developed fan base for both Sparks and Efron. (Though Zac’s box office appeal is going down as his age goes up.) The campaign targeted females both by leveraging Zac’s appeal and the novelist’s pedigree. “The heart of our online marketing campaign was leveraging the celebrity and likability of Zac Efron in advertising, publicity and social media, while additionally leveraging the various social networks surrounding Nicholas Sparks and his previous films,” a WB exec told me. The sell was heavily focused on romance, and included aspirational messages like “What if you were destined to fall in love with someone before you even met?” (I know: barf. But this crap works, obviously.)
Both films right now finished the weekend ahead of Lionsgate’s four-weekends-in-a-row winner The Hunger Games which was playing in 3,732 locations and came in #3. The mega-blockbuster racked up a new international cume of $215.8M and domestic cume of $356.9M for a new worldwide cume of $572.7M. This first installment of Suzanne Collins’ book/film trilogy now has broken into the Top 20 domestic grossing films of all time this weekend (ahead of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers).
And nice matinee numbers came in for DisneyNature’s Chimpanzee which received an ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences. The label’s 4th documentary is looking like $10.2M for the weekend from 1,563 plays. (Who can resist that cute ape face?) That beats last year’s African Cats which opened at $6M and made $15.4M, while Oceans in 2010 opened with $6M and went on to $19.4M. Fact that the second day of Chimpanzee went up from opening day is a first for a Disneynature film. Studio claims the label “enables us to sustain the company’s longstanding commitment to conservation. Through donations tied to the first three Disneynature films, Disneynature has planted three million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, established 40,000 acres of marine protected area in The Bahamas, and protected 65,000 acres of savanna in Kenya.” The label launched in April 2008 and keeps turning out high-grossing feature-length nature films. For this simian pic, Disneynature joined forces with the Jane Goodall Institute for a special ‘See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees’ program. For every moviegoer who sees the pic during opening week, the label makes a donation to Goodall through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect chimps.
More international numbers in the morning. For now Peter Berg’s military vs aliens actioner from Universal Pictures crossed the $100M milestone in its first 10 days of international release. Through this Sunday Battleship‘s first 12-day total should reach $126.7M. The pressure is on for the film to do well in the 50 territories where it’s now open — including China and Russia — because of its advance bad buzz and very expensive budget. (The studio claims the cost was $209M while outside sources say $250M.) Battleship doesn’t open in the U.S./Canada until May 18th because the studio set a strategy to open overseas first. It was the #1 opener in 16 territories this week bringing the film’s total Number One openings overseas to 37 in the last two weeks. It dominated the Russian box office with 78% of market share. In China, Battleship gave Universal its largest opening in history on Wednesday. Universal has 14 more territories to open.
Here’s the Top 10 based on Friday’s grosses:
1. Think Like A Man (Screen Gems/Sony) NEW [2,015 Theaters] PG13
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $13.2M, Weekend $33.3M
2. The Lucky One (Warner Bros) NEW [3,155 Theaters] PG13
Friday $9.1M, Saturday $8.5M, Weekend $22.8M
3. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) Week 5 [3,752 Theaters] PG13
Friday $4.0M, Saturday $6.5M, Weekend $14.5M, Cume $356.9M
4. Chimpanzee (DisneyNature) NEW [1,563 Theaters] G
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $3.7M, Weekend $10.2M
5. The Three Stooges (Fox) Week 2 [3,482 Theater] PG
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $4.3M, Weekend $9.2M (-46%), Cume $29.3M