Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Sandler Beats Bieber

Plus, gnomes soar higher than eagles

by | February 13, 2011 | Comments

Comedy king Adam Sandler and pop prince Justin Bieber fought over the North American box office crown with the funnyman winning a narrow victory according to studio estimates. Still, his comedy Just Go With It and the 3D concert flick Justin Bieber: Never Say Never each pulled in over $30M and were joined by the 3D animated film Gnomeo & Juliet which exceeded expectations to power the marketplace to its best showing of 2011.

Adam Sandler’s latest comedy Just Go With It didn’t soar to the heights of his summer offerings, but it delivered a sturdy debut nonetheless with an estimated $31M. Sony’s latest PG-13 vehicle from one of the industry’s most bankable stars averaged a sturdy $8,737 from a very wide 3,548 sites. Dennis Dugan directed his sixth Sandler vehicle and Jennifer Aniston co-starred in the story of a single doctor who must stretch a lie about being married with kids to extreme levels. As with most Sandman projects, critics piled on the insults.

Just Go debuted well behind the $40.5M of the comedian’s last film Grown Ups but beat out the $22.7M of his previous offering, the R-rated Funny People. Non-summer debuts for Sandler in years past have been better like the $42.2M for Anger Management from April 2003 and the $39.9M for 50 First Dates from Valentine’s Day weekend in 2004. Just Go played to an older adult crowd with 60% of the audience being over 25 and 58% being female. The film’s budget was about $80M which on par with other comedies starring top A-list talent. It was the eleventh number one hit for Sandler who has been a consistent draw at the box office with $100M hits in 10 of the last 13 years.

If estimates hold, teen pop sensation Justin Bieber will narrowly miss out on a number one opening with his 3D concert biopic Justin Bieber: Never Say Never which debuted impressively with an estimated $30.3M this weekend. Powered by his tween girl fan base, and their moms, the G-rated film averaged a stellar $9,746 from 3,105 theaters playing in 443 fewer locations than Sandler’s pic. A very high 84% of the gross came from 3D screens which included extra surcharges. Including $743,000 in sales from special Wednesday night previews held in selected cities, the total stands at $31M. Ticket packages for those shows were sold at $30 and included fan merchandise too so Paramount only counted a portion of that towards the box office gross.

Budgeted at a mere $13M, Never Say Never tells the story of how a young Canadian kid turned himself into an internet sensation and then a multi-platinum superstar in just a couple of years. The audience was exactly as expected with females making up 84% of the crowd and 67% being under 25. Reviews were the best among the weekend’s four new releases and audiences liked what they got as the CinemaScore grade was a solid A. Despite the high score, sales are likely to decline fast as they generally do with movies that tap into intense fan demand. But with Valentine’s Day Monday expected to be a strong day and next weekend’s Presidents’ Day holiday frame, Never Say Never will certainly end up being a very profitable venture.

Breaking down the days, Friday saw an easy Bieber victory with $12.4M compared to Just Go With It‘s $9.6M. The films swapped positions on Saturday with Sandler surging 41% to $13.5M and the teen singer dropping 13% to $10.8M. Sony is projecting a 41% decline on Sunday to $8M for Just while Paramount is estimating a 35% dip to $7M for Justin.

Disney scored a solid debut for its 3D animated comedy Gnomeo & Juliet which bowed to an estimated $25.5M by playing to families that have had very few good options this year. The G-rated pic about two feuding groups of garden gnomes set to the classic Shakespeare tale averaged a healthy $8,517 from 2,994 locations. Reviews were mixed but generally decent for what has become the biggest toon opening in February ever. With the Presidents’ Day holiday next week and many schools taking winter breaks this month, the road ahead seems bright and a run to the $100M mark cannot be ruled out.

Opening to disappointing results in fourth was Channing Tatum’s historical epic The Eagle which grossed an estimated $8.6M from 2,296 theaters for a soft $3,741 average. The PG-13 film came nowhere near the $30.5M bow of the actor’s hit drama from last year Dear John and even fell below the $11M of his action film Fighting from April 2009. Reviews for Eagle were not too kind.

Last weekend’s number one film The Roommate fell down to fifth place but fared well given all the competition dropping 44% to an estimated $8.4M. With $26M in ten days, Sony’s $16M-budgeted thriller should finish with $35-40M.

Two weeks away from what The Weinstein Co. hopes will be the biggest night in the young company’s history, The King’s Speech remained popular with moviegoers dipping a mere 4% to an estimated $7.4M in its twelfth weekend. With ticket buyers continuing to catch up with what is the most likely film to win the Best Picture Oscar, the Colin Firth hit has raised its cume to $93.9M and should reach $100M before Presidents’ Day. It also swept the BAFTAs winning seven awards including Best Film.

Natalie Portman’s golden touch helped her sex comedy No Strings Attached which slipped only 30% to an estimated $5.6M giving Paramount $59.9M to date. Universal’s 3D underwater adventure Sanctum tumbled 46% to an estimated $5.1M in its second weekend. With just $17.5M in ten days, the James Cameron pet project should finish with a disappointing $27-30M putting it at around half of the $54.2M of 1989’s The Abyss.

The blockbuster Western True Grit grossed an estimated $3.8M, down 19%, putting Paramount’s sum at $160.3M. Sony’s super hero flick The Green Hornet followed falling 40% to an estimated $3.6M and $92.3M overall. With $107.2M overseas, the Seth Rogen film will jump the $200M global mark on Monday.

In limited release, the indie comedy Cedar Rapids debuted to an estimated $311,000 from just 15 theaters for a solid $20,733 average for Fox Searchlight.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $129.3M which was down 29% from last year when Valentine’s Day opened in the top spot with $56.3M; and down 15% from 2009 when Friday the 13th debuted at number one with $40.6M. However, both of those frames were during the lucrative Presidents’ Day holiday session.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

twitter.com/giteshpandya

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