Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: 2012 Destroys the Competition

Plus, A Christmas Carol gets #2, and Pirate Radio capsizes.

by | November 15, 2009 | Comments

This weekend Audiences were warned – by Mayans and film critics alike – but moviegoers around the world still flooded the multiplexes to see Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster epic 2012 which generated an explosive global debut. Last weekend’s top film A Christmas Carol held up well in its second weekend taking the runner-up spot while the awards hopeful Precious expanded moderately but raced all the way up to number four despite playing in fewer than 200 theaters. Overall ticket sales were slightly behind last year’s levels, but well ahead of 2007.

Blasting past expectations, Sony scored its best opening of 2009 with 2012 which grossed an estimated $65M this weekend from North America alone. As big as it was, that amount represented just 29% of the global haul which soared to $225M thanks to a stunning $160M from 105 international territories. The doomsday thriller cost at least $200M to produce and was backed with an expensive worldwide marketing push which paid off.


The PG-13 pic opened domestically in 3,404 theaters and averaged a sensational $19,095. Sony estimated that opening weekend sales hit $23.6M on Friday, inched up 5% to $24.8M on Saturday, and will drop by a slim 33% to $16.6M on Sunday. If the estimate holds, 2012 will have the seventh largest November debut ever. The disaster pic played to a broad audience as studio research showed that males made up 52% of the crowd and 55% were 25 or older. Critics slammed the movie with negative reviews taking major aim at its script.

Overseas, 2012 delivered the fifth largest international opening of all-time and the largest ever for a non-sequel. Emmerich’s previous disaster films have played especially well around the world so his newest one was always expected to be a global performer. Even with large declines in the weeks ahead, the worldwide gross may soar north of $500M by the end of its run.


After a soft opening at number one last weekend, Disney’s 3D holiday offering A Christmas Carol displayed good legs dipping only 26% in its sophomore outing to an estimated $22.3M. The expensive Jim Carrey vehicle has taken in $63.3M in ten days and is playing out like the studio’s 2002 holiday pic The Santa Clause 2 which also was released on the first weekend of November. Carol and Clause had similar openings of $30.1M and $29M, respectively, and the Tim Allen sequel bagged another $24.7M in its second weekend pushing its ten-day score to $60M. The only major difference was the drop as Clause 2 eased by just 15%. The latest motion capture project from Robert Zemeckis could finish up with around $130M depending on how it holds up over the lucrative Thanksgiving session.

George Clooney’s The Men Who Stare At Goats fell 51% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.2M but remained in third place with a cume of $23.4M in ten days. Overture may find its way to $35-40M by the end of its run.


A hair behind in fourth place was Lionsgate’s awards contender Precious which rocketed up the charts thanks to an expansion from 18 to 174 locations delivering an estimated $6.1M gross for the weekend and a dazzling $35,000 average per theater. Reaching the top ten usually requires at least 1,000 theaters, but to hit the top five with under 200 venues is virtually unheard of. Backed by promotional clout from executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, the R-rated tale of an abused pregnant teen from Harlem continued to show remarkable strength proving it wasn’t just some one-week wonder. Precious opened in new markets such as San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. plus expanded into more theaters in its initial markets of New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Cume is $8.9M which is just the tip of the iceberg as the well-reviewed film will expand nationally this month plus it has awards season ahead of it when nominations and wins could keep it going all the way to March 7 when Oscars are handed out. This Friday, Lionsgate will widen Precious into roughly 600 theaters across more than 100 markets throughout North America and will add more playdates for Thanksgiving.


Michael Jackson’s This Is It stumbled in its third round falling 61% to an estimated $5.1M boosting the 19-day take to $67.2M. Sony continued to see bigger numbers overseas as the international take for the weekend was $11.5M. The collection of concert rehearsal footage has now grossed $155.4M overseas and a stellar $222.6M worldwide. A whopping 70% of the tally to date has come from outside of North America.

Universal’s alien abduction chiller The Fourth Kind took a tumble in its second frame falling 61% to an estimated $4.7M lifting the ten-day tally to $20.6M. A $27-29M final seems likely. The studio has fared much better with its relationship comedy Couples Retreat which broke the $100M mark in its sixth weekend grossing an estimated $4.3M. Down just 31%, the Vince Vaughn vehicle has displayed great legs this fall and has upped its cume to $102.1M giving the actor his seventh hit to join the century club. The former swinger has also headlined $100M+ grossers in five of the last six years.


Also breaking nine digits was the indie thriller Paranormal Activity which scared up an estimated $4.2M, off 49%, for a $103.8M sum for Paramount. Overture’s top-grossing film ever Law Abiding Citizen followed by dipping 35% to an estimated $3.9M for a $67.3M total. The Cameron Diaz flop The Box rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.2M, down a sharp 58%, raising the cume to a measly $13.2M after ten days. Look for a $17-19M final for Warner Bros.

The British pic Pirate Radio was lost at sea and failed to find its way into the top ten during its opening weekend. Focus bowed the Philip Seymour Hoffman film in 882 locations and attracted just $2.9M worth of business, according to estimates, averaging a poor $3,253. Mixed reviews and a lack of starpower hurt the 1966-set tale of rebel radio DJs.


But Fox enjoyed spectacular results for its stop-motion animated film from director Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which debuted in only four theaters but grossed an estimated $260,000 for a stunning $65,000 average. That was similar to the $67,469 average of the filmmaker’s last entry The Darjeeling Limited although that one opened on a Saturday so its figures were for two days instead of three. The PG-rated Fox, which features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray, will expand into more than 2,000 theaters on Wednesday, November 25 for the Thanksgiving frame. The studio is hoping that loyal Anderson fans in New York and Los Angeles will help spread the word allowing it to find broad appeal by the long holiday session.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $125M which was down 7% from last year when Quantum of Solace opened in the top spot with $67.5M; but up a healthy 38% from 2007 when Beowulf debuted at number one with $27.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

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