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'Robin Hood' far from a bull's-eye, but foreign grosses keep it in the range

May 16, 2010 | 12:20 pm

RobinRidley It's not clear yet whether a healthy overseas performance will be enough to make a hit out of "Robin Hood," but it certainly staved off disaster.

Universal Pictures and Relativity Media's costly historical epic, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, had a weak estimated opening in the U.S. and Canada for a summer event film -- $37.1 million -- but took in a more-than-respectable $74 million overseas, where it opened in every major territory except China and Japan.

It has virtually no chance of being a major hit like Crowe and Scott's "Gladiator," which won a best picture Oscar and grossed $458 million worldwide in 2000. But it should do much better than Scott's 2005 historical-epic flop, "Kingdom of Heaven," which ended up with $211.6 million worldwide.

U.S. and Canadian audiences gave "Robin Hood" a mediocre average grade of B-, according to market research firm CinemaScore, meaning word of mouth will probably be soft. That's counter-balanced somewhat by the fact that it appealed mostly to adults, who were more likely than young people to see a movie after its opening weekend. Still, the film probably will end up with a domestic total of about $100 million, an unimpressive performance for a big-budget summer picture.

Overseas, however, "Robin Hood" should end up with at least $200 million, a solid total for any movie with aspirations of worldwide appeal. If foreign audiences really take to the film and it significantly exceeds $200 million internationally, "Robin Hood" could end up something of a hit.

At a minimum, however, Universal and its financing partner Relativity appear to have a so-so performer on their hands, which is likely a relief given that studio executives have admitted the economics of the movie make it challenging to turn a profit. The picture cost more than $200 million to make, according to two people familiar with the budget, though a spokesman said that if tax credits were included and costs for an aborted production start in 2008 were excluded, the budget was about $155 million.

"Robin Hood" is the third of three costly pictures released in 2010 by Universal and co-financed by Relativity that had executives at the companies nervous, along with "The Wolfman" and "Green Zone." The latter two movies both flopped, but "Robin Hood" appeared to have avoided that fate.

Now executives at Universal, which also had a dismal 2009 that led to the firing of former Co-Chairmen Marc Linde and David Shmuger and the elevation of Adam Fogelson, president of marketing, and Donna Langley, president of production, to the top jobs, can breathe a small sigh of relief and look forward to potentially more profitable pastures ahead.

The studio's highest-profile release still to come this summer is the animated family comedy "Despicable Me."

For more on the opening of "Robin Hood," along with "Letters to Juliet" and "Just Wright" and the second-weekend performance of "Iron Man 2," see our initial box office post.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Iron Man 2" (Marvel/Paramount): $53 million on its second weekend, down 59%. $31 million overseas in 63 foreign territories. Domestic total: $212.2 million. International total: $245 million

2. "Robin Hood" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $37.1 million. $74 million overseas in 56 foreign territories.

3. "Letters to Juliet" (Summit): Opened to $13.8 million.

4. "Just Wright" (Fox Searchlight): Opened to $8.5 million.

5. "How to Train Your Dragon" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $5.1 million on its eighth weekend, down 23%. $7 million overseas in 61 foreign territories. Domestic total: $207.8 million. International total: $221 million.

6. "A  Nightmare on Elm Street" (Warner Bros./New Line): $4.7 million on its third weekend, down 48%. $7.8 million overseas in 24 foreign markets. Domestic total: $56.1 million. International total: $17 million.

7. "Date Night" (Fox/Dune): $4 million on its sixth weekend, down 27%. $5.1 million in 40 foreign markets. Domestic total: $86.7 million. International total: $48.3 million.

8. "The Back-Up Plan" (CBS): $2.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $34.2 million.

9. "Furry Vengeance" (Summit): $2.3 million on its third weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $15.1 million.

10. "Clash of the Titans" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $1.3 million on its seventh weekend, down 50%. $4.3 million overseas in 58 foreign markets. Domestic total: $160.2 million. International total: $303.1 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott on the set of "Robin Hood." Credit: David Appleby / Universal Studios

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