With the Packers and Steelers squaring off in the Super Bowl, moviegoers avoided the multiplexes as the North American box office slumped to the third worst frame of the past two years. Of the two new releases that dared to compete against football, the collegiate thriller The Roommate fared well opening at number one by targeting young females but the older-skewing 3D action film Sanctum debuted poorly in second. The NFL championship game always commands the attention of the entire nation but this weekend’s Top 20 plunged to just $84.2M falling well below recent Super Bowl sessions from the past three years.
Teenage girls and young women, the demographic least affected by football, turned out in solid numbers for the college-set thriller The Roommate which debuted at number one with an estimated $15.6M. The PG-13 film about a freshman gal with a creepy obsession with her new living partner averaged a good $6,156 from 2,534 theaters and marked Sony’s eighth film over the past eleven years to bow on top over Super Bowl weekend. Most were suspense thrillers from the studio’s Screen Gems unit like Roommate which play to this dependable audience.
Produced for just $16M, The Roommate drew in its target audience with a relatable storyline and starpower from TV stars Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights). Studio research showed that 65% of the crowd was female and 61% was under 21. A targeted marketing campaign made sure that too much wasn’t spent on other demographic groups that would never come out anyway. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the pic a weak B- average grade.
The underwater survival actioner Sanctum sank in its opening weekend grossing just $9.2M, according to estimates, despite playing very wide in 2,787 locations including over 2,000 3D screens and 178 IMAX venues. Averaging a weak $3,310, the R-rated film failed to spark much interest with ticket buyers despite being heavily promoted as a project from James Cameron who was one of the executive producers. In fact, Sanctum opened just below the $9.3M debut of the Oscar-winning director’s 1989 underwater adventure The Abyss which had significantly lower ticket prices, no 3D surcharges, and 1,200 fewer theaters.
Universal and Relativity Media paid only $12M to acquire distribution rights (and paid for marketing) so the $30M-budgeted Sanctum should not turn into too problematic of a title financially. IMAX screens accounted for 17% of the gross, but overall moviegoers showed that paying a premium for this particular film was not worth it. The aquatic actioner suffered one of the worst openings for a live-action 3D film during the format’s current era and was about even with the two-day $6.3M bow of Gulliver’s Travels this past Christmas. According to studio research, females made up 53% of the audience and 65% was 30 and over so the film skewed much older than other titles. A poor C+ CinemaScore grade indicates a quick fade in the weeks to come. Reviews were mostly lackluster. Overseas, Sanctum debuted in second place in Australia with $1.6M and in fifth place in the U.K. with $1.5M.
With only one new release generating good results and most holdovers fading away, the Top 20 suffered troubling declines compared to recent Super Bowl weekends – 23% vs. 2010, 29% vs 2009, and 30% vs. 2008. The aftermath of last week’s massive blizzard also played a role as people in many top markets in the Midwest and Northeast were still digging themselves out of the latest round of winter snow.
The Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy No Strings Attached remained a popular item with audiences sliding only 37% in its third session to an estimated $8.4M. Paramount’s sex comedy has laughed up an impressive $51.8M in 17 days and is playing as effective counter-programming for women against all the football hoopla.
Stepping closer to the $100M mark, Oscar front-runner The King’s Speech ranked fourth with an estimated $8.3M enjoying the smallest drop in the top ten with its 25% dip. The Weinstein Co. has reached $84.1M and will join the century club before the February 27 awards.
The Green Hornet fell 46% to an estimated $6.1M placing fifth for the weekend giving Sony $87.2M to date for 2011’s top-grossing new release. Last week’s top performer The Rite suffered the worst drop of any film plunging 62% to an estimated $5.6M in its sophomore scare. Bad buzz and competition from a new fright flick contributed to the steep tumble. Warner Bros. has grossed $23.7M for its Anthony Hopkins supernatural thriller and should end up with $30-35M.
Jason Statham’s latest action platform The Mechanic plunged 53% to an estimated $5.4M in its second weekend. The CBS Films release has grossed $20.1M in ten days and should end with about $30M. Jumping the $150M mark this past week was Oscar contender True Grit which took in an estimated $4.8M, down 37%, for a cume to date of $155M for Paramount. Along with TRON: Legacy, Jeff Bridges has raked in a stellar $324M this winter from his pair of blockbuster hits.
Dropping 39% to ninth place was Vince Vaughn’s comedy The Dilemma with an estimated $3.4M bumping the total to $45.7M for Universal. Best Actress front-runner Natalie Portman rounded out the top ten with Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan which collected an estimated $3.4M, off 34%, for a $95.9M. Look for the ballerina thriller to cross the $100M mark by Valentine’s Day.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $70.2M which was down 26% from last year when Dear John knocked Avatar out of the top spot with a $30.5M opening; and off 27% from 2009’s Super Bowl frame when Taken opened at number one with $24.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!