July 2, 2011

Box Office Footnotes – 7/1/11


TRANSFORMERS:  DARK OF THE MOON becomes the latest franchise movie to fall short in the US compared to prior chapters of the series, despite an increased 3D ticket price.  (Like others, most notably Pirates 4, it may well make up the shortfall overseas.)  That doesn’t make a US gross of $350M anything to complain about, but it will continue to change the studio dynamic of how future franchises are developed and produced.  An acid test of this phenomenon will come in 2 weeks when we get to the final HARRY POTTER, which people have assumed will be the highest grossing of the series because it’s the last chapter (and in 3D)–but will that prove true?
Universal can talk all it wants about the budget of LARRY CROWNE being only $30M and its audience being an older crowd that doesn’t rush out on opening weekend; the studio paid for a big-time marketing campaign, and that means no profits for anyone (including Hanks and Roberts, who could only have achieved that budget with enormous back-end deals).  The question isn’t so much whether Hanks and Roberts are giant stars any longer (they’re not), but who steps into their shoes?  There’s little sign that Katherine Heigl or Ryan Reynolds, just to name two, can become that level of star.  (Bill Simmons at Grantland wrote a terrific column this week about the current definition of movie stardom–very much recommended.) 

Thinking of people who aren’t movie stars:  MONTE CARLO couldn’t manage a decent opening even with Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Cory Monteith and Katie Cassidy in the cast.  Unlike Larry Crowne, though, this one had a limited marketing campaign, so the red ink shouldn’t be so bad.   (Nicole Kidman, who originally developed the movie to star herself and other actresses in her age group, must be wondering why she allowed the picture to become teened and herself relegated to a mere producer.)
CARS 2 is having, by a considerable margin, the worst 2d weekend drop in Pixar history–and that’s on a holiday weekend!  Its decline being more severe than the one for BAD TEACHER is a bet even Vegas wouldn’t have taken 2 weeks ago.  (By the way, for devotees of Cinemascore:  take a look at the A- Cars 2 scored and the C+ of Bad Teacher and try to rationalize how those grades can mean anything.  For a comparison of the statistical value of Cinemascore versus critic reviews, read Mitch Metcalf’s piece on calculating Word of Mouth.) 
BRIDESMAIDS and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS continued their almost imperceptible weekend drops, especially Midnight, which now seems certain to become Woody Allen’s biggest hit (unadjusted for inflation, which is relevant when you’re talking about a 40-year career).  In smaller releases, TREE OF LIFE and  BEGINNERS added a few theatres and held fairly steady; we’ll see in the next few weeks how wide Fox Searchlight and Focus think they can go.  The only notable new limited release is the extremely well-reviewed TERRI, from new indie distributor ATO:  it’s a tough sell and seems to be headed for an only OK $10K or so in each of 6 theatres.
No action movie wanted to open on July 8 and be sandwiched between the behemoths of Transformers and Harry Potter, so this week we get more counterprogramming:  the R-rated comedy HORRIBLE BOSSES, which has a fun premise but not a lot of star power (other than Jennifer Aniston in a supporting role); and ZOOKEEPER, with the kind of cute talking animals that could deal a deathblow to the floundering Cars 2.  

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."