Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Argo' Ahead of Four Dreadful Debuts

Four new nationwide releases all underperformed this weekend, which allowed Argo to move up to first place in its third outing. Overall business was fairly quiet, with the Top 12 off 12 percent from last year with an estimated $82 million.

It's hard to gauge the actual impact of Hurricane Sandy, which is about to bear down on the East Coast. At worst, Sandy may have suppressed business by about 10 percent (for example, that would put Paranormal Activity 4's drop in line with Paranormal Activity 3), though it's impossible to say for sure. One thing that wasn't affected, at least, was the Saturday-to-Sunday drops: studios are estimating that the Top 10 will dip 42 percent from Saturday to Sunday, compared with 47 percent last weekend.

Argo eased 25 percent to an estimated $12.36 million in its third weekend. It's the first movie since True Grit to claim the top spot for the first time on its third frame. That's partly due to the movie's strong word-of-mouth, but incredibly weak competition also played a major role. Through 17 days, Argo has earned $60.8 million, which is off from The Town by just over $3 million.

Hotel Transylvania jumped from fourth place last weekend up to second place this weekend with $9.5 million (down 27 percent). The movie has now grossed $130.4 million, making it Sony Pictures Animation's top animated-only movie ahead of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($124.9 million). It will eventually become SPA's top movie overall ahead of The Smurfs ($142.6 million), though it's going to get hit hard by Wreck-It Ralph this coming weekend.

Cloud Atlas had the highest debut among this weekend's newcomers with an estimated $9.4 million from 2,008 theaters. That's the lowest nationwide launch ever for the Wachowski siblings (who co-directed with Tom Tykwer), and it's also the worst nationwide opening for star Tom Hanks since 1996's That Thing You Do! At least the movie nearly matched The Fountain's $10.1 million total, though that's really not a ringing endorsement.

This is a disappointing, but not surprising, opening for Cloud Atlas. With six thinly-connected stories set in different time periods, the marketing was never able to convey an actual story, which is the most fundamental part of selling a movie. The insane runtime (164 minutes) was also likely a deterrent for casual moviegoers, while the middling reviews (62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) weren't good enough to convince cinephiles to check it out. The movie could save some face overseas, where its strong visuals and internationally recognizable cast will help a lot, but it's still going to be a long road to profitability for this $100 million epic.

Warner Bros. reported that the audience was split about evenly between men (51 percent) and women, and skewed much older (77 percent over 25). They gave the movie a "C+" CinemaScore, which isn't shocking given the more challenging nature of the movie. IMAX contributed $1.13 million (or around 12 percent) from 105 locations.

Paranormal Activity 4 plummeted 70 percent to an estimated $8.68 million in its second weekend. That's the worst drop so far in the franchise behind Paranormal Activity 3's 66 percent. Through 10 days, the horror sequel has only earned $42.6 million, which is $10 million less than Paranormal Activity 3's opening weekend alone.

Fifth place was a tie between Taken 2 and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, both of which reported earning an estimated $8 million this weekend. For Taken 2, that brings its total to $117.4 million through four weekends, which is ahead of its predecessor by over $22 million.

Silent Hill, on the other hand, doesn't look so good compared to its predecessor, as its $8 million opening was off 60 percent from the first movie's $20.15 million. Blame that on the schlocky feel, the decreased relevance of the franchise (Can anyone recall seeing an ad for a Silent Hill game on TV in the past five years?) and competition from two other interesting horror choices (Paranormal Activity 4 and Sinister) over Halloween weekend. Distributor Open Road Entertainment is reporting that the movie received a "C" CinemaScore, and that 74 percent of revenue came from 3D showings.

In 10th place, Fun Size bombed with just $4.06 million at 3,014 theaters. That's lower than similar movie I Love You Beth Cooper ($4.9 million), and also marks a new low for a Nickelodeon movie behind Hey Arnold! The Movie ($5.7 million). Paramount is reporting that moviegoers were 67 percent female and 73 percent under the age of 25, and they gave the movie a fine "B" CinemaScore.

The worst debut of the weekend belongs to surfing drama Chasing Mavericks, which opened in 13th place with just $2.2 million. That's the ninth-worst debut ever in over 2,000 locations, and it's the second disastrous Fox/Walden Media movie in the past month following Won't Back Down ($2.6 million). The crowd was split evenly between men and women, and skewed a bit older (59 percent above 25). Its "B+" CinemaScore was the best among new releases this weekend, but it still won't get much past $5 million before it disappears from theaters.

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