24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Box Office

'Madgascar 3' box office: Are we living in the era of the 1%?

June 18, 2012 |  6:30 am

In the spring of the not-so-long-ago year of 2005, the weekend box-office winners offered a healthy variety of cinematic choices.

There was a U.N.-set thriller ("The Interpreter"), a "Star Wars" prequel, ("Revenge of the Sith"), an interracial comedy ("Guess Who") a comic-book-derived style piece ("Sin City") an epic adventure ("Sahara"), a slasher flick ("The Amityville Horror") and an adaptation of a beloved book ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), to name just a few.

In the 12 weekends of that year's spring, there were 11 different weekend winners. (Only one movie, "Sith," was a repeat champion.) They were hardly all good films, let alone great ones. But most were pretty different from one another.

Cut to 2012, and the story is vastly different. The spring season that comes to an end this week yielded a lot less diversity in its weekend winners, not least because there were a lot fewer weekend winners to begin with. Just six, to be precise, with many of the weekends occupied by repeat champions ("The Avengers," "The Hunger Games," "Think Like A Man" and, after this weekend, "Madagascar 3").

That may seem like simply one more data point for box-office enthusiasts to noodle over. But the data also offer evidence of a growing trend: the uber-hit, that is, the movies that go beyond modest success to dominate the multiplex, often leaving other contenders far behind.

There have always been such films, of course. But their ranks are growing, while many of the other big bets are indeed lagging.

Or, to put it a different way, when it comes to box office, it's increasingly a world of the 1% and the 99%.

Take a look at the last few months. On the one hand, this has already been an achievement-filled year at the box office. In March, "The Hunger Games" had the biggest spring opening-weekend ever. In May, "The Avengers" turned in the biggest opening weekend, period, becoming the first movie ever to cross the $200- million threshold in its first three days. Expect sums almost if not in fact equally as strong when "The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters next month.

Yet the number of big-bet disappointments is also rising. Tick off the recent ones: "Battleship." "Dark Shadows." "John Carter." "Rock of Ages." Films with big budgets and expectations -- career-defining ones, for some of the executives associated with them -- that can barely eke out $75 million or $80 million domestically. Heavily marketed new films that get whipped by movies that were released a week or two earlier.

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Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' beats Cruise, Sandler films [Video]

June 18, 2012 |  4:00 am

Madagascar 3 was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Two of Hollywood's biggest stars couldn't pull in as many ticket sales as "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" did at the box office this weekend, because the cartoon was the No. 1 pick yet again.

For the second consecutive weekend, the 3-D animated flick featuring a band of zoo animals topped the box office. The DreamWorks Animation movie raked in an additional $35.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $120.5 million.

Meanwhile, a new musical featuring Tom Cruise and a raunchy comedy starring Adam Sandler flopped. "Rock of Ages," which stars a high-profile cast including Cruise, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, only debuted with a lackluster $15.1 million. Sandler's R-rated "That's My Boy" fared even worse, starting with a weak $13 million.

So why didn't audiences turn up to see two of the country's biggest movie stars? Check out this week's box office video report for more details.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

'Prometheus': Should Ridley Scott return to sci-fi full time?

June 11, 2012 |  8:30 am

Director Ridley Scott's "Prometheus"Since making us cover our eyes and drop our jaws with 1979's "Alien," Ridley Scott has had a remarkably diverse career, even by the standards of established directors with broad appetites.

He's taken us into a world of political intrigue and bloody jousting ("Gladiator"). He's gone militaristic ("Black Hawk Down"), medieval ("Robin Hood" and "Kingdom of Heaven"), Japanese ("Black Rain") and undercover ("American Gangster"). He even tried the reborn wine guy in France ("A Good Year," even if it wasn't that for him).

Some of these adventuresome meanderings have been compelling ("Thelma & Louise"). Some have been less so ("G.I. Jane").

But the success of "Prometheus" this past weekend suggests something many Scott fans have suspected all along. Maybe all we really want from the director is to watch him do what he announced himself as good at from the start: explore a mysterious and troubled spacecraft far above the Earth, deep into the future.

"Prometheus" scored $50 million in its opening weekend, good enough for a strong second-place finish to "Madagascar 3" (and, it should be noted, garnering a better per-screen average). As my colleague Amy Kaufman pointed out, the Fox release was Scott's second-best opening ever (after 2001's "Hannibal"). The results hark back to "Alien," which is not only a similarly effects-driven movie with spiritual and scientific themes, but Scott's highest-grossing movie ever when adjusted for inflation.

More than just ticket sales, "Prometheus" earned Scott some of his best (if also polarized) reviews in a long time — and certainly some of his sharpest fan interest. Love or hate the movie, it's a conversation piece in a way a Scott film hasn't been in years.

The irony in the debate about whether the plot details the Michael Fassbender- and Noomi Rapace-starring "Prometheus" amounted to an "Alien" prequel — a battle waged with gusto by fans (and denied with gusto by Scott and the studio) — is that in the most important way, the movie did connect to the 1979 classic. Scott wasn't just revisiting science-fiction territory, he was using special-effects tools and the mysteries about the future to pose questions about the present.

From a box-office standpoint, the answer to the headline question is a resounding yes — few directors have done so many different things only to find success disproportionately in one realm.

From the perspective of Scott's — and our — interests, the answer is less evident, but, I'd argue, still clear. Yeah, we can hear all the comments already. Filmmakers should follow their heart and their story, challenging themselves with the new. Scott's done the sci-fi thing again now; he should move on.

Sure, some of the best directors — Danny Boyle, Ang Lee — never come close to repeating themselves. But even the most libertarian, let-directors-do-their-thing type might sing a different tune with Scott. The Brit has a particular gift for looking far off and seeing something that resides within ("Blade Runner," though set on this Earth, operates on this principle too.) Why doesn't he use it more often?

A filmmaker who keeps making the same movie or tries to reclaim past glories with endless spins on the same genre (see under: latter-day Tim Burton) is indeed boring.  But staying within a genre doesn't mean you can't also reinvent that genre or yourself (see under: Guillermo del Toro). The world's most successful auteur, in fact, sees the one-genre approach not as a prison but the culmination of a lifetime's search (see under: James Cameron evacuating all other projects to concentrate on "Avatar" sequels).

Scott may well listen to the voices that tell him to go period Rome or rural France. He's already preparing to direct "The Counselor," a legal drama with a drug-trafficking twist, and may make a sojourn to biblical Egypt afterward. But it's becoming harder to argue that he shouldn't just concentrate on booking return trips to outer space.


Hero Complex: Riddles and Ridley Scott

Madgascar 3 beats Prometheus at the box office

R rating for 'Prometheus': Will it hurt the film commercially?

Prometheus comes up short of 'Alien' expectations, critics say

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace in "Prometheus." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' lures families to multiplex [Video]

June 11, 2012 |  4:00 am

Both kids and adults showed up in healthy numbers to the box office this weekend, as both the animated "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" and Ridley Scott's R-rated "Prometheus" each opened to $50 million or more.

The weekend's big winner was "Madagascar 3," which debuted with $60.4 million, while "Prometheus" started off with $50 million in ticket sales. As a result of the weekend's strong business, receipts were up 29% compared with the same three-day period in 2011.

With strong sales both domestically and abroad, DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 3" will probably go on to replicate the success of its blockbuster predecessors. As for "Prometheus," the sci-fi epic could end up being one of the biggest hits for director Ridley Scott in over a decade.

For more on the weekend's results, check out the latest box office video report above.


"Madagascar 3" goes on a European road trip

'Safety Not Guaranteed' has decent debut, but 'Lola' struggles

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' beats 'Prometheus' with $60.4 million

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." Credit: DreamWorks Animation

Kristen Stewart's 'Snow White' debuts with $56.3 million [Video]

June 4, 2012 |  1:48 pm

Kristen Stewart proved she appeals to more than just "Twilight" fans at the box office, as her latest film beat industry expectations over the weekend.

"Snow White and the Huntsman," which also stars Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, debuted with a better-than-anticipated $56.3 million. 

The good news for Stewart was that the movie attracted an older audience, 52% of whom were over the age of 30. That indicates that the 22-year-old actress may have appeal beyond the young female fan base that typically turns up to see the vampire series.

For more on the respectable opening of "Snow White," check out this week's box-office video report.


"Snow White" has surprisingly strong $56.3-million debut

Five lessons from the success of Kristen Stewart's 'Snow White'

"Snow White and the Huntsman" is a tale darkly told, critics say

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Kristen Stewart stars in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Credit: Universal Pictures

Box Office: 'Men in Black 3' blasts away competition [Video]

May 29, 2012 |  2:02 pm

Men in Black 3 grossed 70 million dollars at the box office this weekend
After four weeks atop the box office, "The Avengers" finally had to settle for the runner-up position.

"Men in Black 3" dethroned the superhero flick, raking in $70 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend. The movie ended up grossing around $203 million worldwide by weekend's end -- roughly $50 million less than industry projections had indicated the film would debut with.

Meanwhile, the low-budget horror flick "Chernobyl Diaries" had a dismal opening, collecting a weak $9.3 million. To make matters worse, the few moviegoers who saw the film hated it, assigning it an average grade of D+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

There were some success stories in the independent film world, however. Both Wes Anderson's 1960s-set quirky dramedy "Moonrise Kingdom" and the French foreign-language film "The Intouchables" performed well in limited release.

For more on this week's hits and misses at the multiplex, check out our latest box office video report.


'Men' fights well but misses a prediction

'Men in Black 3' was no easy sequel to make

'Moonrise Kingdom' sets per-screen-average box office record

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Will Smith stars in "Men in Black 3." Credit: Sony Pictures

'Battleship' debuts weakly at the box office [video]

May 21, 2012 |  5:00 am

BattleshipThe headline writers had fun.

The makers of “Battleship” didn’t.

In a dramatically weak opening, the alien invasion drama grossed just an estimated $25.3 million in its domestic premiere, as “Battleship” took in less than half the returns of “The Avengers” in its third weekend.

The Marvel superhero story continued its stunning run at the ticket window, becoming the highest grossing global release in the history of the Walt Disney Co., with total receipts of $1.18 billion.

“Battleship” has done moderately well overseas, grossing $226.8 million to date, but with a budget of $209 million and gloomy prospects domestically, Universal Pictures will struggle just to break even on the production. 

Two other new films in wide release opened softly. Paramount’s Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Dictator” grossed $17.4 million but did better in international markets, while Lionsgate and Alcon Entertainment’s pregnancy plot “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was orphaned by ticket buyers, with sales of a paltry $10.5 million, well below expectations.

As for the “Battleship” headlines, here are a few of the cruelest:

‘Battleship’ Capsizes with $25 Million Launch

‘Battleship Sinks, ‘Dictator’ Drowns

‘Battleship’ Fires Blanks

‘The Avengers’ Torpedoes ‘Battleship’

‘Battleship’ Pulls Up Lame at Box Office


Box office: 'Avengers' helps sink 'Battleship'

'Avengers' final opening weekend tally: $207.4 million

'Battleship' keeps Taylor Kitsch afloat after 'John Carter' debacle

--John Horn

Photo of Rihanna in "Battleship." Credit: Universal Pictures.





‘Dark Shadows’: Has America fallen out of love with Johnny Depp?

May 14, 2012 |  7:45 am

Vampire movies are fading. Tim Burton has taken an odd left turn. “The Avengers” was going to be an unstoppable force no matter what opened against it.

There are no shortage of reasons why “Dark Shadows” sputtered at the box office this past weekend, grossing just $28.8 million. (To put it in context, it was Burton’s lowest total ever for a wide opener — even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” took in nearly double that amount. Or as my colleague Amy Kaufman put it, chalking up the movie's failure at least partly to things Marvel, “‘Avengers’ sucked the life out of ‘Dark Shadows’ … [leaving] the vampire comedy looking pallid.”)

Certainly it was hard to ignore the halo effect of the Downey-fest on any weekend comer. But equally conspicuous was the sight of Johnny Depp in yet another domestic disappointment. Since overperforming in “Alice in Wonderland” more than two years ago, Depp has been involved in seemingly one misstep after another.

He signed on to an art-house actioner in “The Tourist,” which flopped at the U.S. box office and became known mostly for its cringe-worthy Golden Globe nomination for best musical or comedy. He followed that up with what appeared to be a reliable breadwinner in a fourth ”Pirates of the Caribbean” movie last summer — only to see it become the lowest-grossing domestic performer of the franchise.

A new Hunter S. Thompson stab, “The Rum Diary,” was a flop even by the author’s modest standards, tacking in just $13 million at home.

And now there’s "Dark Shadows," a dismal movie for reviewers — its 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 15 percentage points below “Transformers,” to give you an idea — and an equally bad performer by commercial standards. Even “Public Enemies” nearly matched its opening-weekend total.

But Depp isn’t completely faltering. International audiences seem to love him more than ever.  Though it flopped here, the most recent “Pirates” was the second-highest-grossing film of the franchise internationally. “The Tourist” was a downright smash overseas, tallying  $210 million, three times as much as it grossed at home.

“Dark Shadows” didn't blow international audiences away when it opened in more than three dozen markets this weekend. But with about $37 million, the remake of the campy American soap has tallied more abroad than it has here.

It may be premature to say that Depp is turning into a kind of Oscar-friendly Steven Seagal, a man more popular overseas than at home. But America certainly seems to have gotten over its obsession with Depp (who now of course spends a lot of time in Paris), an obsession that during his "Edward Scissorhands" / "Gilbert Grape" heyday made him either a box-office force or a teen pinup, or both. At 48, he's clearly making choices that international audiences are responding to a lot more than American ones.

Next up for Depp is “The Lone Ranger,” which hits theaters in May 2013. it will be the ultimate test of Depp's appeal. Few stories get more American than that. And Depp has never  seemed like less of a U.S. favorite.


 'Avengers' crossed $1 billion worldwide; Depp has soft debut

Dark Shadows is short on storytelling, not style, critics say

Is Tim Burton losing his touch?

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows." Credit: Warner Bros.

Box Office: 'Avengers' flies past $1 billion worldwide [Video]

May 14, 2012 |  5:00 am


"The Avengers" joined the elite $1-billion club this weekend, passing the massive box office milestone in just 19 days of worldwide release.

After setting the record for the biggest domestic opening ever, the superhero adventure had a massive second weekend, raking in $103.2 million. That raised the film's total in the U.S. and Canada to $373.2 million, and combined with the movie's $628.9 million international haul, the picture joined the ranks of 11 other films that have sold over $1 billion worth of tickets.

With so many moviegoers still interested in the likes of Thor and Captain America, there wasn't much attention paid to Johnny Depp and his "Dark Shadows." The Tim Burton-directed vampire comedy grossed a disappointing $28.8 million upon its debut, less than industry estimates had predicted heading into the weekend.

Why didn't more fans turn up to see Depp's latest flick? Check out this week's box office video report for more.


Exclusive: The only ‘Dark Shadows’ set visit

'Dark Shadows' premiere: Johnny Depp and crew keep it creepy

Box Office: 'Avengers' crosses $1B worldwide; Depp has soft debut

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Chris Hemsworth, left, stars with Scarlett Johansson in "The Avengers." Credit: Walt Disney Studios

'The Artist' to get re-release over Mother's Day weekend

May 7, 2012 |  1:00 pm

The Artist will be re-released in theaters this weekend

Good news for those moviegoers whose ears are still ringing from all the noise of "The Avengers": "The Artist" is making its way back to theaters this weekend.

That's right -- less than three months after the almost entirely silent black-and-white film was named best picture at the Academy Awards in February, the movie is returning to the multiplex for a limited engagement. The Weinstein Co. said Monday that it would re-release the movie over Mother's Day weekend, calling it "the perfect family outing" for the holiday.

While that may be marketing spin, the gambit actually could pay off this weekend, when mothers typically get to choose which movie the family goes to see in theaters. With "The Avengers" and the new Johnny Depp-Tim Burton team-up "Dark Shadows" competing for the attention of young males, "The Artist" may prove to be a popular choice with older women.

Although "The Artist" was a critical success, also scooping up Oscars for lead actor and director, it wasn't a massive hit at the box office. After its domestic release in November, the film went on to gross $44.2 million in the U.S.


'The Artist' wins three top Oscars, including best picture

Already a hit overseas, 'Marigold Hotel' has strong U.S. debut

'The Avengers' are box office superheroes, with $200.3 million

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jean Dujardin stars in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


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