BOMBS AWAY! 'Battleship' Sinks To $25.3M Torpedoed By Still Strong 'Avengers'; Lame 'What To Expect' Behind Limp 'The Dictator'

SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: These official Friday, Saturday, and weekend numbers for North America are way worse than anyone expected. Every film tanked except Marvel’s The Avengers which keeps sucking all the air out of the box office for the 3rd straight weekend. Demonstrating just how disastrous the new movies opened, audiences gave Universal’s Battleship only a ‘B’ CinemaScore, Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting a ‘B-‘, and Paramount’s The Dictator a ‘C’. And yet none of the affected studio moguls expect to lose their jobs. At Universal, Peter Berg’s military vs aliens actioner did only John Carter-low grosses for high cost (which is why the star of both pics, Taylor Kitsch, will be asking “You want fries with that?” very shortly). But Battleship already made $230M internationally, thus mitigating its $209+ budget and advance bad buzz in North America. At Paramount, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Middle East spoof also is showing modest strength overseas to mitigate its much smaller $65M-$70M cost. And at Lionsgate, a financial partner put its production exposure under $30M which was cut almost in half by international presales for the high-profile cast including J-Lo and Cameron Diaz. “Our risk on the film is therefore very low,” the studio boasted to me. Which just goes to show that creating crap rejected by domestic audiences comes with few consequences for those in charge — unless you’re at Disney where John Carter made one head roll. Meanwhile, Marvel’s The Avengers will become the highest grossing domestic release in Disney’s history. Joss Whedon’s superhero assembly is already the studio’s highest grossing film of all time globally, and will pass the $450M mark this weekend. It is currently the #6 film of all time globally, the #10 film of all time domestically, and the #9 film of all time internationally (not adjusted for higher ticket prices, premium 3D sales, or inflation). The latest foreign gross is $682.6M and domestic $460M for a global cume of $1.142.6M. Overall moviegoing this weekend is looking like $140M, which is -12% from last year.

Here’s the Top Ten (ranked by Friday grosses):

1. Marvel’s The Avengers (Disney) Week 3 [4,349 Runs] PG13
Friday $15.3M, Saturday $24M, Weekend $55.0M, Cume $450.0M

2. Battleship (Universal) NEW [3,690 Runs] PG13
Friday $9.0M, Saturday $10.0M, Weekend $25.3M

3. The Dictator (Paramount) NEW-Wed [3,008 Runs] R
Friday $5.7M, Saturda $6.7M, Weekend $17.0M, Cume $24.0M

4. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,755 Runs] PG13
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.5M (-58%), Cume $50.7M

5. What To Expect When You’re Expecting (Lionsg) NEW [3,021 Runs] PG13
Friday $3.8M, Saturday $4.1M, Weekend $10.3M

6. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Week 3 [354 Runs] PG13
Friday $872K, Saturday $1.4M, Weekend $3.5M, Cume $8.5M

7. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) Week 9 [2,064 Runs]
Friday $820K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $2.8M, Cume $391.4M

8. Think Like A Man (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [1,722 Runs] PG13
Friday $800K, Saturday $1.2M, Weekend $2.7M, Cume $85.9M

9. The Lucky One (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,055 Runs] PG13
Friday $585K, Saturday $750K, Weekend $1.7M, Cume $56.9M

10. Pirates! Band Of Misfits (Aardman/Sony) Week 4 [1,840 Runs] PG
Friday $340K, Saturday $700K, Weekend $1.6M, Cume $25.5M

FRIDAY 6:15 PM, 3RD UPDATE: Paramount claims that The Dictator will finish the domestic weekend with $15M and Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting with $12M. That’s still incredibly disappointing for both films. But at least Sacha Baron Cohen’s Middle East spoof is showing modest strength overseas: the international cume for Wednesday and Thursday is $10.1M from 17 territories. “We are either a confirmed or projected #1 in all territories, with the exception of Denmark,” the studio emails me. Paramount is projecting a $30M hail from 29 territories this weekend for a global cume of $45M. And the pic cost between $65M and $70M depending on whom I believe.

FRIDAY 4:30 PM, 2ND UPDATE: My sources don’t see any dramatic upticks in early numbers — yet. What a disaster at the North American box office this early summer weekend with everything from today and a week ago tanking except for Marvel’s The Avengers which should make another $55M. Universal’s Battleship is stuck at $9M-$11M today and $30M (which is around the same meager amount where Warner Bros’ Dark Shadows debuted last weekend and is on life support now). Paramount’s The Dictator which opened weakly Wednesday is completely falling apart even for an ‘R’ rated movie with just $12M. And Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting is beating it with $15M. Hollywood is in a very dark mood today — and I’m finding that the movie moguls are not appreciating my humor when I ask, “Are your bags packed?”

FRIDAY 7:45 AM: Universal’s Battleship is “certain to be soft,” according to my studio sources. ‘There’s no indication it’s going to break out and do huge numbers.” It opened with only $420K midnights from 1,074 theaters: that’s weaker than Warner Bros’ underperforming Dark Shadows last weekend and even Disney’s notorious 2012 bomb John Carter. Universal cautions that “both of those films have a bigger ‘geek base'” whereas the strength of Peter Berg’s military vs aliens actioner is “that it’s the anti-geek, anti-midnight movie of all time”. What does this mean? That the studio is hoping the patriotic pic does well in flyover country. It already has made $220M internationally, thus mitigating its $209+ budget and advance bad buzz in North America where Marvel’s mega-juggernaut The Avengers from Disney is still sucking all the air out of the box office. Meanwhile, Paramount’s The Dictator from Sacha Baron Cohen continues not to rule box office: it made only $2.8M Thursday after opening weak on Wednesday for a 2-day total of $7M. Now Baron Cohen’s Middle East spoof may not even be the #1 comedy in the marketplace this weekend: the latest news is that Lionsgate says it’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting romantic comedy which wasn’t tracking suddenly ticked up Thursday. “We got a nice bump which could put us ahead of The Dictator for the three-day weekend and hopefully put our weekend into the high teens,” an exec tells me. “Our P&A spend and production costs are even less than The Dictator – and our cast made it to the Oscars without offending AMPAS. Ha.”

Marvel’s The Avengers on Thursday set a new domestic speed record, reaching the $400M box office threshold in 14 days. Worldwide, it has passed Toy Story 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to become the #6 highest-grossing film of all time and the highest grossing Disney release ever. Internationally it is the #9 highest-grossing film of all time. So The Avengers’ cumulative performance to date consists of international box office $668.7M and domestic $402M for a global total of $1,070.7M. Additional highlights to date include: fastest film to reach $350M (10 days), $300M (9 days), $250M (6 days), $200M (3 days), $150M (3 days) and $100M (2 days) at domestic box office; Disney’s fifth release to cross the billion dollar global box office threshold; biggest domestic opening of all time ($207.4M); biggest domestic second weekend of all time ($103M); highest-grossing domestic film of 2012, passing The Hunger Games in just 12 days of release; the 12th highest grossing domestic release of all-time; highest domestic Saturday tally ($69.5M); highest domestic Sunday tally ($57M); second-highest domestic single-day tally ($80.8M).

WEDNESDAY PM/THURSDAY AM: From parading a camel down the Dictator Box OfficeCannes’ Croissette this week, to humiliating Ryan Seacrest on the Oscars’ Red Carpet last February, Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t missed an opportunity to hype his latest character, Admiral General Aladeen. But it looks like his many publicity stunts for Paramount’s The Dictator worked better overseas than domestic. My sources say the R-rated spoof about a fictional Middle Eastern tyrant opened with just $4.5 million from 3,003 North American theaters on Wednesday, much weaker than the $5M to $6.5M that rival studios predicted the laugher would earn. Plus, audiences only gave it a ‘C’ CinemaScore which may adversely affect the pic’s word of mouth this weekend. Like all the major early summer movies, Baron Cohen’s film has an uphill battle because that mega 3D juggernaut Marvel’s The Avengers (4,000+ theaters) from Disney keeps sucking the air out of the worldwide box office now that it has grossed $1B+. It’s still expected to be the #1 North American film for the third straight weekend, also swamping Universal’s Battleship (3,750 theaters) which is finally opening Friday in the U.S. and Canada after making $215.3M internationally over the past month. (Glub…  Glub… Glub…) Avengers currently stands as the #9 film of all time globally, and the 13th highest grossing domestic release of all time (not adjusted for higher ticket prices or premium 3D or inflation). The film also just became the highest domestic grossing film of 2012, passing Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games in just 12 days of release. “It’s an uphill battle here,” a Paramount exec admitted to me Wednesday. “But internatonally it’s ahead of the U.S. tracking, especially in Australia and the UK. The publicity does feel like it’s paying off overseas, especially that Oscar stunt which got huge pickup.”

Dictator Box OfficeInternationally, The Dictator opened #1 in Australia on Wednesday with $710K ahead of $350K for Avengers which is already entering its 3rd week of release down under.  “We had a very good start  in Australia,” a Paramount exec gushed to me, noting that The Dictator’s debut was better than Bridesmaids‘ and Dark Shadows‘ there. Also opening on Wednesday were Germany and UK. In all, 29 overseas markets open this weekend. International tracking also has been stronger overseas than Baron Cohen’s two other starring vehicles: Borat did $128M domestic and $133M foreign, while Bruno did $60M and $80M foreign. “This film figures to be somewhere between those two on a global basis,” a Paramount exec emailed me.

Still, you have to wonder whether the disappointment in the abhorrent Bruno of Baron Cohen’s fans who loved the crassly hilarious Borat may hurt The Dictator‘s chances. So it may gross only low- to mid-$20sM for its five days in the U.S. and Canada. The good news for Paramount is that Baron Cohen’s film cost only $65M-$70M which is cheap for a summer tentpole. (Batttleship cost $209+M, and Dark Shadows $150+M…) The bad news is that the studio gave away between 25% to 30% to gross participants — primarily to Baron Cohen. “Honestly, it’s just impossible to know right now,” admits a rival studio exec. “His movies never really track, so it’s hard to use that as a guide. But it doesn’t feel like it’s working to me, so we’ll see. Also, the way Bruno dropped from Friday to Saturday suggests we’ll see this very frontloaded regardless.” To be fair, the pic’s box office could conceivably pick up this weekend, especially because no other major comedy has momentum in the marketplace. Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting has been on life support tracking-wise even though it’s opening Friday in 3,021 theaters. Then again rom-coms are having a tough time of it lately… Fuller analysis in the morning.

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