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Box office: 'How Do You Know' flops; 'Tron' doesn't; and like the bear himself, 'Yogi' is soft [Updated]

December 19, 2010 | 10:01 am

TronLegacy On a weekend packed with new releases, some movies came out well positioned to become holiday hits while one was dead on arrival. Walt Disney Studios' big-budget sequel "Tron: Legacy" opened to a solid $43.6 million. The 3-D animation/live-action hybrid "Yogi Bear" started with a soft but not terrible $16.7 million. And the costly Reese Witherspoon-Owen Wilson adult comedy "How Do You Know" turned out to be one of the year's biggest flops, opening to $7.6 million.

The weekend also saw two movies expand from limited to nationwide release with very strong ticket sales given their modest budgets. "The Fighter," starring Mark Wahlberg, took in $12.2 million. "Black Swan" grossed $8.3 million, a particularly impressive figure as it was playing at only 959 theaters, less than half the number of any other film in the top ten.

The audience for "Tron: Legacy," which cost Disney about $170 million to make and is a hugely hyped property for the company with spinoffs in theme parks, video games and on television, was primarily adult males. The studio had expected on opening weekend to get fanboys who remembered the 1982 original. Now, with children starting holiday vacation this week, it's opening for more of an all-ages event film for families looking for 3-D effects and action.

Exit polls indicated most audiences liked "Tron: Legacy." It received an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Initial foreign grosses were a little more troublesome for Disney. "Tron" took in a so-so $23 million from 26 foreign markets, but bad weather in Europe left the studio hopeful the film would recover for a strong foreign run.

Despite an unimpressive start for "Yogi Bear," which cost $80 million to make, Warner is hoping families with young kids will turn out over the holidays. If that proves correct, the movie, which got a B CinemaScore, could be a solid performer. But any prospects for it to be a breakout smash in the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" mode already have been dashed. That 2007 picture, also based on a classic cartoon and debuting the weekend before Christmas, opened to $44.3 million.

HowDoYouKnow "How Do You Know" will be a big money loser for Sony Pictures, which spent more than $100 million to produce the James L. Brooks-directed film. After a terrible opening, it's likely to fade quickly from theaters, as the mostly adult-female ticket buyers gave it a CinemaScore of C-, agreeing with critics who largely disliked the movie.

"The Fighter" and "Black Swan," meanwhile, appear to be positioned for very strong runs in the coming weeks as the films, which earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, garner more awards-season attention.

The performance of "The Fighter," which got an A- CinemaScore from an adult audience evenly divided between men and women, is similar to that of "Up in the Air," which took in $11.3 million on its first weekend playing nationwide and ultimately grossed $83.8 million domestically. Relativity Media financed "The Fighter," based on a true story, for $25 million, and the film is being distributed by Paramount Pictures.

The box-office performance of "Black Swan," meanwhile, looks similar to that of the 2007 Coen brothers movie "No Country for Old Men," which collected $7.8 million on its third weekend, when it played in 860 theaters. That Oscar-winning film went on to rake in $74.3 million; a similar total would be a huge win for "Black Swan" as it cost only about $13 million to make.

The weekend's only new movie in limited release was "Rabbit Hole," based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a family coping with loss. It opened to a soft but not terrible $55,000 at five theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto.

Director Julie Taymor's adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" continues to do weak business. Walt Disney Studios expanded its last release from the recently sold Miramax Films to 21 theaters and brought in only $53,500.

[Update, 11:11 a.m.: Below are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Tron: Legacy" (Disney): Opened to $43.6 million. $23 million overseas from 26 foreign markets.

2. "Yogi Bear" (Warner Bros.): Opened to $16.7 million.

3. "Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (Fox/Walden): $12.4 million on its second weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $42.8 million. $29.9 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. International total: $124.4 million.

4. "The Fighter" (Relativity/Paramount): $12.2 million on its first weekend in nation-wide release, second in theaters. Domestic total: $12.6 million.

5. "The Tourist" (GK Films/Sony): $8.7 million on its second weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $30.8 million. $10.5 million overseas in 24 foreign markets. International total: $22.3 million.

6. "Tangled" (Disney): $8.7 million on its fourth weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $127.8 million. $14 million overseas in 17 foreign markets. International total: $97.8 million.

7. "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek): $8.3 million on its first weekend in nation-wide release, third in theaters. Domestic total: $15.7 million.

8. "How Do You Know" (Sony): Opened to $7.6 million.

9. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1" (Warner Bros.): $4.8 million on its fifth weekend in theaters, down 43%. Domestic total: $265.5 million. $24.3 million overseas in 62 foreign markets. International total: $558.6 million.

10. "Unstoppable" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $1.8 million on its sixth weekend in theaters, down 51%. Domestic total: $77.3 million. $665,000 overseas in 16 foreign markets. International total: $56.9 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

Photos, from top: A scene from "Tron: Legacy." Credit: Walt Disney Studios. Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd in "How Do You Know." Credit: David James / Columbia Pictures

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