This weekend, Hugh Jackman scored an easy victory over George Clooney in the battle of People magazine’s former sexiest men alive as the robot boxing actioner Real Steel punched up a number one debut well ahead of the political thriller The Ides of March which played in one-third fewer theaters. Overall box office during the Columbus Day holiday weekend was decent but not exceptional with holdovers filling up the rest of the top ten.
Topping the charts for six of the last eight weeks, Disney enjoyed another number one hit with the big-budget pic Real Steel which bowed to an estimated $27.3M marking the third largest opening ever over the Columbus Day holiday frame. The PG-13 film starring Jackman averaged a muscular $7,936 from 3,440 theaters and got some help from higher-priced tickets from its 270 IMAX locations. Produced for more than $100M by DreamWorks, Steel follows the sleeper sensation The Help in the Spielberg company’s recent rebound after a string of films that struggled at the box office.
Jackman also found good news from the opening as his past non-Wolverine roles have never generated big numbers in the American market. Mixed but generally positive reviews from critics helped but audiences mostly responded to the exciting look of the marketing of the picture. Plus it was the first major action film with broad appeal to hit theaters since the summer. According to studio research, males made up 66% of the audience while 70% were under 35. Real Steel earned an encouraging A CinemaScore grade which could bode well for the long-term run of the film.
Overseas, the robotic pic grossed an estimated $22.1M from 19 territories making for a $49.4M global debut. Russia, where the cast and crew traveled to for a lavish premiere, led the way with $6.9M while Jackman’s home country of Australia saw a $5.3M bow. Given that the star and the action genre play much better abroad, Real Steel could continue to post impressive global numbers as it rolls out into more markets. That will be crucial to the film breaking even since the marketing push has been elaborate and pricey.
Opening in second place with a good but not stellar performance was the political thriller The Ides of March with an estimated $10.4M from 2,199 theaters for a respectable $4,729 average. The R-rated election pic starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney (who also directed), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Evan Rachel Wood earned very good reviews from critics, however it did not wow paying audiences as the Sony release scored only a B grade from CinemaScore. Ides played exactly like a Clooney vehicle as its gross and average were in line with the actor’s recent films including The American ($13.2M opening, $4,668 average), Michael Clayton ($10.4M, $4,131), The Men Who Stare At Goats ($12.7M, $5,201), and Up in the Air ($11.3M, $5,947). Without Brad Pitt at his side adding extra box office muscle, the polarizing actor/director’s films only sell to so many people.
Sony is expecting a strong multiple given the Oscar buzz for Ides and the fact that Clayton also opened to the same gross in mid-October finishing with $49M for a multiple of nearly 5. However, $10M of that figure was collected during the film’s re-release when Oscar nominations were announced. The lawyer flick grossed $39.4M during its initial run giving it a multiple of 3.8 in that period. Sony’s other fall awards contender Moneyball is on course to finish its run with a multiple of about 3.7 while last fall’s well-reviewed dramas The Town and The Social Network enjoyed multiples of 3.9 and 4.3, respectively.
Ides, the story of a press spokesman for a presidential candidate who finds himself swept into the vicious world of politics, is a lower cost film so it carries less financial risk thanks to a production cost of only $12.5M. Sony acquired domestic rights to the title for an undisclosed amount and paid for the marketing. Having Clooney and Gosling certainly upped the female interest as exit polls showed that a very high 58% of the audience consisted of women. The thriller skewed much older as 60% was over 35. Over the last three months, Gosling has won raves from critics for his performances in Ides, Drive, and Crazy, Stupid, Love but still eluding him is the abiliity to draw in a sizable crowd at the multiplexes. If Ides succeeds in earning a Best Picture nomination, a January re-release would certainly be possible especially since it would be right at the start of the 2012 presidential primaries.
For the third weekend in a row, Seven co-stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt were side by side on the charts with their inspirational films which have grossed the same amount of money over the last 17 days. The Warner Bros. release Dolphin Tale dropped from first to third with an estimated $9.2M, off 34%, for a $49.1M cume. Sony’s Moneyball fell 38% to an estimated $7.5M giving the baseball drama $49.3M to date. Both look set to end up with around $70M.
The cancer comedy 50/50 enjoyed the best hold among last weekend’s four new releases dipping only 36% to an estimated $5.5M. The Summit release has collected a modest $17.3M in ten days and hopes to reach the $30M vicinity. The faith-based fatherhood pic Courageous lost 49% of its crowd and took in an estimated $4.6M giving Sony $15.9M. The low-budget $2M drama is headed for $25M or so.
Two-time chart-topper The Lion King 3D followed with an estimated $4.6M tumbling a steep 57% now that the updated film is available in stores on Blu-ray. Still, the re-release has banked an impressive $86M to date boosting the lifetime total for Simba and pals to $414.5M. Later this week, it will surpass the $415M of last year’s Toy Story 3 to reclaim the title of top-grossing animated film ever for Disney. 2004’s Shrek 2 from DreamWorks still holds the crown for all toons with $436.7M.
Universal’s spookfest Dream House dropped 45% after its lousy debut to an estimated $4.5M for a ten-day tally of only $14.5M. Falling 44% from its dismal start was the Anna Faris comedy What’s Your Number? which collected an estimated $3.1M and $10.3M across ten days. Final totals should reach $25M and $15M, respectively. Taylor Lautner’s action vehicle Abduction rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.9M, down 48%, for a $23.4M sum for Lionsgate.
The top ten films grossed $79.4M which was up 3% from last year when The Social Network remained in the top spot with $15.5M; but down 14% from 2009 when Couples Retreat debuted at number one with a new Columbus Day weekend record of $34.3M.