Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Girlpower Rules Again with Princess at #1

Invictus gets a red card.

by | December 13, 2009 | Comments

Fairy tales came true as mothers and daughters powered the animated film
Princess and the Frog
to the number one spot in its first weekend of
nationwide release. But the frame’s only other wide opener, Clint Eastwood’s
Nelson Mandela drama
, suffered a soft debut in third place. Overall, the North
American box office remained ahead of the same frame from a year ago as 2009
continued on its record pace towards shattering the $10 billion mark for the
first time ever.

In a cartoon world ruled by computer animation and 3D wizardry, Disney went old
school with its traditionally drawn pic
Princess and the Frog
which won the box office crown with an estimated
$25M this weekend. Following two weeks of exclusive play at solo theaters in New
York and Los Angeles, the G-rated tale set in 1920s New Orleans won over kids
with a powerful $7,280 average from 3,434 theaters. Kidpics rarely break $20M on
opening weekend in December unless they bow over the Christmas holiday frame.
With holiday shopping and other activities becoming a top priority, parents
often become less available for moviegoing at this time of year, but invade the
multiplexes in large numbers come the 25th.[rtimage]MapID=1196003&MapTypeID=2&photo=58&legacy=1[/rtimage]The
Mouse House has a decades-long history of making princess movies, and even in
the 1990s had multicultural female leads in major toons like Mulan,
, and Pocahontas. But Disney finally has its first black
princess and audiences are giving her a big thumbs up. The bayou pic earned a
solid A grade from CinemaScore indicating encouraging word-of-mouth ahead.
Studio research showed that 64% of the audience was female, not surprisingly,
and that 53% was under 25. Disney reported that the gender split began evening
out on Saturday and that more males are expected to come out over the long run.
Princess continued a four-week streak of femme-skewing films ruling the charts
following The Blind Side and New Moon.

Sandra Bullock rushed past the $150M mark for the second time this year as her
surprise football hit
The Blind Side

enjoyed another fantastic hold grossing an estimated $15.5M in its fourth
weekend. Off a very slender 23%, the Warner Bros. hit lifted its domestic total
to $150.2M becoming the record fifteenth movie of 2009 to break the
century-and-a-half barrier – the most in any one year. Only eleven films
surpassed that level in 2008. With
Sherlock Holmes
and other potential blockbusters still to come, that figure is sure to grow.
Blind Side is on course to race past the $200M mark too.

The news wasn’t as good for Warners in third place where its Clint Eastwood film
Invictus ended up
on its opening weekend. The Morgan Freeman-Matt Damon pic bowed to an estimated
$9.1M from 2,125 theaters for a mild $4,275 average. The Nelson Mandela film
debuted just like another Africa-set drama that the studio launched in
mid-December – 2006’s Blood Diamond. That Leonardo DiCaprio pic debuted
to $8.6M from 1,910 sites for a $4,528 average on its way to a $57.4M final cume.
Invictus is already a bigger player during awards season than Diamond
ever was so it is likely to enjoy better legs in the weeks ahead.[rtimage]MapID=1207475&MapTypeID=2&photo=33&legacy=1[/rtimage]Outside
of last winter’s Gran Torino, Eastwood’s directorial efforts never post
large openings but rather attract a loyal older audience over time. Warner Bros.
is expecting the same here looking at this weekend as just a chance to set the
film up in the marketplace so as awards and nominations come in, it can
immediately benefit. The Oscar-winning director saw debuts of $9.4M for last
year’s Changeling, $10.2M for Flags of Our Fathers, and $10.4M for
2003’s Mystic River so he is in the same neighborhood once again. Even
Million Dollar Baby opened to just $12.3M in its first wide weekend in late
January of 2005 just days after it scored seven major Academy Award nominations.

Still, Invictus is no easy-sell with its story of South African politics
and rugby plus its not-so-marketable title. Budgeted at $60M, the PG-13 film
will need to rely on Best Actor kudos that Freeman is expected to receive for
his acclaimed performance in order to attract a larger audience. He’s already
won in that category with the National Board of Review (in a tie with George
Clooney for Up in the Air) and is expected to earn a Golden Globe
nomination this Tuesday. A windfall of Globe nominations including Best Picture
is what Invictus is hoping for to keep it relevant with movie audiences against
a wave of much bigger films about to flood theaters over the holidays.

Dropping 48% to fourth place was
The Twilight
Saga: New Moon
which pulled in another $8M, according to estimates,
boosting the cume to $267.4M. The Summit release is the fifth biggest
blockbuster of 2009 and still has a shot at reaching the triple century mark to
challenge Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the number two spot
for the year. James Cameron will also try to get in on that action with
which invades
theaters on Friday riding a hot wave of anticipation and stellar early reviews.
New Moon now sits at number 43 on the all-time blockbusters list in
between the first Shrek and second Potter.[rtimage]MapID=1206167&MapTypeID=2&photo=65&legacy=1[/rtimage]Disney’s
animated holiday treat
A Christmas
followed in fifth with an estimated $6.9M slipping a mere 12% in
its sixth round for a $124.5M cume. The Jim Carrey starrer is performing just
like the last motion capture Christmas flick from Robert Zemeckis, 2004’s The
Polar Express
. That Tom Hanks vehicle dipped an identical 12% in its sixth
weekend to a slightly better $8.4M pushing its total after six weekends to a
similar $123.4M. But Carol has the advantages of five years of ticket
price increases plus 3D surcharges so it is actually attracting a smaller
audience. A final take of around $155M could be possible.

Lionsgate’s solider story

fell 48% in its second mission to an estimated $5M raising the ten-day total to
$17.4M. A $30M final could result. Disney’s star-driven comedy
Old Dogs

with John Travolta and Robin Williams slipped only 36% to an estimated $4.4M for
a $40M sum.

The doomsday thriller 2012
grossed an estimated $4.4M, down just 35%, and climbed to $155.3M from North
America. Sony’s big-budget disaster flick ranks number 12 for the year having
just zipped past the $155.1M of Fast & Furious. The foreign total climbed
to an astounding $556M repping 78% of the $711.3M global gross. 2012 is
the fourth largest worldwide blockbuster of 2009 and the biggest non-sequel of
the year.[rtimage]MapID=1205696&MapTypeID=2&photo=16&legacy=1[/rtimage]Violent
actioners rounded out the top ten with
taking in estimates of $3.5M and $2.7M, respectively. The Sony
heist film dropped 46% and has made off with only $11.7M in its first ten days.
Warner Bros. saw a 47% fall for its martial arts pic and has banked a decent
$34.3M to date.[rtimage]MapID=1198524&MapTypeID=2&photo=37&legacy=1[/rtimage]In
limited release, Paramount’s awards contender Up in the Air starring
George Clooney continued to impress in its second weekend shooting up to number
11 with an estimated $2.5M despite still in a small number of theaters. The
Jason Reitman-directed pic expanded from 15 to 72 locations and averaged a
sturdy $34,028 per site. The well-reviewed film should continue to post muscular
numbers in limited play especially after it nabs some Golden Globe nominations
this week. The wide break is scheduled for Christmas Day when it will have to
compete for adult audiences against the debuts of Sherlock Holmes and
It’s Complicated
. Air‘s cume is now $4M.

Two new releases enjoyed strong openings in their platform bows on Friday.
Paramount’s Peter Jackson-directed fantasy
The Lovely Bones

was met with some harsh reviews but scored an estimated $116,000 from just three
sites for a powerful $38,667 average. The Weinstein Co. enjoyed a $24,036
opening weekend average for its Colin Firth drama
A Single Man

which debuted in nine locations to an estimated $216,000. Each film will expand
to more cities in the weeks to come with Bones not scheduled to go wide
until January 15.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $84.4M which was up 8% from last year
when The Day the Earth Stood Still opened in the top spot with $30.5M;
but down a steep 43% from 2007 when heavy hitters I Am Legend and
Alvin and the Chipmunks
debuted on top with $77.2M and $44.3M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

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