Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Apes Still Rule But Help Opens Big

by | August 15, 2011 | Comments

Despite four new films attacking the North American box office, the sci-fi actioner Rise of the Planet of the Apes remained strong enough to hold onto its spot at number one. But the big winner was found in second place as the book-based drama The Help soared above expectations – and all the other new releases – delivering a sensational opening weekend ahead of what could be a very long run in theaters. The 3D horror sequel Final Destination 5 and the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less both scored decent debuts but the concert doc Glee Live! 3D was dead on arrival landing outside of the top ten.

Simian rule continued for a second weekend as Rise of the Planet of the Apes grossed an estimated $27.5M in its second outing falling 50% which was admirable for a sci-fi franchise film. After ten days, the Fox release boosted its total to a solid $104.9M and could be headed for the neighborhood of $175M by the end of its domestic run. That would put it with Thor and Captain America as the summer’s biggest non-sequel action films, and the only one not in 3D. Apes spread into much of the world this weekend taking in $40.5M from 40 markets lifting the overseas cume to $75M and the worldwide tally to $179.9M heading towards the $400M mark. The reported budget was $93M.

Easily beating all other new titles and almost reaching the heights of Apes was the period drama The Help which opened with an estimated $25.5M from 2,534 locations for a muscular $10,073, the best per-theater average for any film in wide release. With its early Wednesday launch, the PG-13 film about wealthy white women in 1960s Mississippi and their black maids has taken in a stellar $35.4M in its first five days. It was adapted from a best-selling book with a built-in audience. But this weekend is just the tip of the iceberg as Help‘s positive reviews, Oscar buzz, and incredible A+ CinemaScore indicate healthy legs into the fall season. Films aimed at adult women in August can often go on to finish with four or five times their opening weekend figure, but Help may just be more durable. Viola Davis, Emma Stone, and Bryce Dallas Howard star.

In just five days, the civil rights story has already matched the seven-week gross of a more high profile summer film that also targeted older adults – Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. As expected, mature women made up the bulk of the audience for Help. Studio research showed that 60% of the crowd was over 35 and 74% was female. Disney did, however, report that the male share has increased everyday since opening. The Help looks on track to race past the $100M mark, especially if the final film releases of the summer fail to excite adult women. That would allow it to outgross such mega-budgeted summer films as Cowboys & Aliens and Green Lantern. Help cost only $25M to produce.

The four-week late-summer parade of horror movies kicked off with the 3D sequel Final Destination 5 which debuted to an estimated $18.4M in third place. Averaging a respectable $5,832 from 3,155 sites, the latest R-rated installment in the eleven-year-old fright franchise delivered the third best (or third worst) opening for the series as the 2000 and 2003 chapters premiered lower while the most recent two pics opened better. In fact, each film delivered a better bow than its predecessor until now with 2009’s 3D entry The Final Destination reaching series highs with a $27.4M debut and $66.5M total.

The meat of the summer season usually doesn’t see too many horror films and this year was no different. Priest from mid-May was the last fright flick but now the genre returns with next weekend’s Fright Night (also in 3D) followed by Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on August 26 and then Shark Night 3D over Labor Day weekend. Final Destination 5 did prompt audiences to spend more for extra dimensional scares as a whopping 76% of the gross came from 3D screens putting it at a higher rate than this summer’s action films that were in the format. Still, being a five-quel with another 3D horror pic attacking on its second weekend, death will come quickly in the coming weeks.

Enjoying the lowest decline among all wide releases, The Smurfs followed in fourth with an estimated $13.5M for a low 35% drop. Smurfette and company broke the century mark on Sunday after 17 days and finished the weekend with an impressive $101.5M. Positive buzz from families and an utter lack of competition for kids has allowed the Sony hit to excel. Overseas audiences are loving The Smurfs too as the kidpic banked an explosive $60M bumping Harry Potter from the top of the international marketplace after a four-week reign. With $141M overseas and $242.5M worldwide to date, the global tally looks well on its way to $450M or more.

Opening in fifth place with mediocre results was the buddy comedy 30 Minutes or Less with an estimated $13M from 2,888 locations for a $4,501 average. The R-rated film about two buddies forced by criminals to rob a bank for them stars Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride. It was the latest in a much-too-long parade of R-rated comedies that Hollywood has rolled out this summer. Like last week’s The Change-Up, 30 Minutes was too little, too late and failed to bring out a large crowd. The Sony release played to young men – a crucial audience that has cut back on box office spending this year – as studio research showed that 58% of the crowd was male while 69% was under 25. A 7% Friday-to-Saturday dip and B CinemaScore indicate a rough road ahead.

Once again, the sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens lost more than half of its business grossing an estimated $7.6M for a 52% drop in the third frame and $81.5M to date. Fellow late summer action entry Captain America: The First Avenger held up better dropping 45% to an estimated $7.1M pushing the cume to $156.9M. Domestic finals should reach about $100M for Universal and $175M for Paramount. Captain America enjoyed a robust international weekend with another $12.2M from 45 territories for a $128.3M overseas tally to date and $285.2M worldwide. Cowboys had a more quiet international outing debuting in 14 markets including Russia and Korea with just $7M. Paramount is handling the releases for both overseas.

The Steve Carell hit Crazy, Stupid, Love took in an estimated $6.9M, off 42%, for a $55.4M cume in 17 days. Warner Bros. should end with roughly $75M.

The studio’s crown jewel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 remained in the top ten for a fifth weekend with an estimated $6.9M as well with a 45% decline. With a huge $357M to date, the 3D wizard pic remains at number 17 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the latest Transformers which now sits at $347.2M. By Monday, the latest Potter will overtake 1993’s Jurassic Park for the number 16 spot although the dinosmash had much lower ticket prices and no 3D or IMAX giving a boost. The final Voldemort pic is headed for about $375M before it leaves domestic theaters. The worldwide haul broke the $1.2 billion mark this weekend with another $30M overseas pushing the international cume to an eye-popping $857.8M and the global gross to $1.21 billion.

After a disappointing opening frame, the Jason Bateman-Ryan Reynolds body switching comedy The Change-Up fell a disturbing 54% to an estimated $6.2M for a ten-day total of $25.8M. Look for a $40M final for Universal.

Opening to dismal results and failing to break the top ten was Fox’s Glee Live! 3D, a music-filled documentary-style film featuring characters from the hit television show performing uplifting songs on stage. The PG-rated pic bowed to just $5.7M from 2,040 locations – all in 3D – for a weak $2,794 average. Receiving somewhat good reviews, Glee started slow on Friday with $2.7M and then collapsed by 37% on Saturday with a puny $1.7M. These young-skewing music pics based on popular brands are typically frontloaded, but Glee truly burned through much of its total audience on opening day Friday which accounted for 48% of the weekend gross. Overall excitement was not too high and the lack of a regular-priced 2D option prompted cash-strapped teens to skip the film. Luckily the production cost was only $10M. Glee joined the 80s comedy Take Me Home Tonight as the only films this year to debut in over 2,000 theaters and fail to break the top ten.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $132.7M which was up 4% from last year when The Expendables opened in the top spot with $34.8M; and up 11% from 2009 when District 9 debuted at number one with $37.4M.

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