August 18, 2013



OPENINGS:  If a movie like THE BUTLER (Weinstein) can make back most of its production cost in a single weekend (and The Help did the same 2 years ago), why aren’t there more movies like The Butler?  The answer is the other side of the coin of “Why are there so many action-fantasy adventure movies?”, and it’s one word:  International.  The Help made one-quarter as much overseas as it did in the US, and Lincoln, even with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, only made half as much.  The current economics of the movie business don’t have much room for American studios to make movies with specifically American subjects.  (Incidentally, the studio’s $25M weekend estimate for The Butler is based on a fairly small 20% Saturday-to-Sunday drop, so it may dip with tomorrow’s final numbers.)

Thinking of which, why would Universal bother to exaggerate the likely weekend for KICK-ASS 2?  It’s a flop even at the $13.6M the studio is admitting, so why claim a tiny 15% Sunday drop (by far the lowest in the Top 10, and after a terrible 28% plunge on Saturday)?  Just studio reflex, perhaps.  The happiest studio of the weekend besides The Weinstein Company is Lionsgate, which released the first Kick-Ass (to a $19.8M opening weekend) and passed on the opportunity to do the sequel.  The movie also made $6.3M from 17 overseas territories, which won’t help it much.

Not much to say about JOBS (Open Road) and PARANOIA (Relativity), with their respective $6.7M and $3.5M weekends.  They were simply movies nobody wanted to see.  Jobs cost about $13.5M (plus marketing) and Paranoia about $40M (same), but each studio has US rights only, so neither is on the hook for the full pricetag–still, they’re going to lose whatever they’ve spent.

HOLDOVERS:  It’s good to be the only comedy in the market, and WE’RE THE MILLERS (Warners) is reaping that benefit, with a spectacularly low 33% drop from last weekend to $17.8M.  It probably won’t perform as well overseas as Hangover 3 (it’s at $10.3M in 13 international markets), but at a much lower cost it may end up being equally profitable for Warners.

ELYSIUM (Sony) fell 54% in the US to $13.6M, and added a not-great $22M overseas.  There are still more territories left to open, but the signs aren’t promising for a movie with a pricetag (including marketing) of $250M+.  (As is often the case, the parties involved were quick last week to announce director Neil Blomkomp’s next movie, attempting to dampen any notion that his career could be losing momentum.)

PLANES (Disney) and PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th) both fell 41-42%, to $13.1M and $8.4M respectively.  That’s much better news for Planes, which cost less than Percy and should hit $70-75M in the US.  Percy won’t get past $55-60M, far below the $88.8M for the first movie.  Percy also took in an OK $21.5M in 36 overseas territories, while Planes kicked off its overseas campaign with $7.3M in 9 territories.

PACIFIC RIM (Warners) is selling plenty of international tickets, with $286M overseas ($20M this weekend) compared to less than $100M in the US.  But $100M of that international total is from China, where for studio purposes it’s equal to a $45M gross in the US, because of the amount retained by the Chinese government.  So although the overall numbers are gaudy, Pacific is still unlikely to earn back its $350M (including marketing) cost.  THE SMURFS 2 (Sony) plummeted another 51% in the US to $4.6M–bad for a family title–and with a $56.9M total, it won’t get anywhere near the first Smurfs $142.6M in the US (maybe not even half).  The much worse news for Sony is that it only made $20M this weekend overseas, and has $150M so far–a vast distance below the original movie’s $421M international total. Smurfs 3 is already underway for a 2015 release, but that’s not the sure-thing proposition it once appeared to be. DESPICABLE ME (Universal), on the other hand, is now at $346M in the US ($3.8M this weekend) and $435M overseas ($19.5M this weekend), and it may reach $850M worldwide before it’s done. THE WOLVERINE (20th) is performing indifferently in the US ($4.4M this weekend and $120.5M total), but is at $214.8M overseas, and with Japan still to come, it’s certain to be the highest-grossing internationally of the X-Men series.

LIMITED RELEASE:  BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) almost doubled its theatres this weekend to 229, but just held even with last weekend, indicating resistance as the movie moves into smaller, less Woody Allen-ish markets.  But a $10.3K per-theatre average at that level is nothing to scoff at, and with $9.5M earned so far, Jasmine is nowhere close to done.  AUSTENLAND (Sony Pictures Classics), with a $10.7K average in 4 theatres, was a bit stronger than AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC), with a $9600 average at 3.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW (A24) expanded fairly well, with a $7600 average at 55, while IN A WORLD… (Roadside) was a notice below with a $6200 average at 37.  



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."