March 10, 2012



Moral of the weekend:  If you’re going to spend $250M+ on a movie, check first whether anyone wants to see it.
OPENINGS:  With a probable $27-28M opening, just how big a flop is JOHN CARTER (Disney) going to be?  Hard to tell until full weekend and international numbers are in.  But its sheer cost–probably at least $400M when worldwide marketing is included, and very possibly $500M–dwarfs such famous flops of the past as Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate, both made in the 1980s when marketing costs were a fraction of what they are now, and even last year’s huge bomb Mars Needs Moms, which cost around $100M less.  The movie is mediocre; the decision to green-light it at that budget was insane.  

At a far lesser level of failure (financially, at least), SILENT HOUSE (Open Road) is headed for a $6-7M weekend and probably won’t crack $20M in total (especially with an ugly “F” from CinemaScore), but with a tiny budget and limited marketing, it won’t cause anyone much damage.  A THOUSAND WORDS (Paramount/DreamWorks) is only hitting theatres after 3 years because Paramount would have had accounting consequences had it been held off the market any longer.  It’s heading for a similar total to Silent House at a much higher cost.  The amazing factoid is that if it can manage to scrape together a weekend above $5.5M, it’ll still be higher than 2 of Eddie Murphy’s last 5 openings, beating both Meet Dave and Imagine That.  And this:  with the exception of the Shrek movies and Dreamgirls, Murphy’s last $100M grosser was Dr. Dolittle 2 in 2001.
HOLDOVERS:  With no direct competition, THE LORAX (Universal) is having a strong 2d weekend, down only 40-45% from its giant opening (and easily winning the weekend).  More surprisingly, PROJECT X (Warners) is holding up fine, with a similar percentage drop.  SAFE HOUSE (Universal), THE VOW (Screen Gems.  /Sony) and THIS MEANS WAR (20th) continue to hold up best, with drops of only around 30%, while GOOD DEEDS (Lionsgate/Summit), WANDERLUST (Universal) and GONE (Summit/Lionsgate) are collapsing as they get dumped by theatres.
OSCAR WINNERSTHE ARTIST (Weinstein)‘s post-Oscar bump didn’t last long, as word-of-mouth and a wide audience continue to elude the film (permanently, we can now say).  A 40% weekend drop puts it in line for around $45M in total.  THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight), in its final pre-homevideo weekend, and HUGO (Paramount), already available at home, face similar declines.  THE IRON LADY (Weinstein), though, is holding on well with only a 25% fall.
LIMITED RELEASE:  FRIENDS WITH KIDS (Roadside Attractions) is trying a quasi-limited opening at 374 theatres, with fairly decent results for that kind of release, probably close to a $5K average per theatre that should give it around a $2M start.  On a much smaller scale, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) should have an OK average of around $10K in only 18 big-city theatres.  The Israeli FOOTNOTE (Sony Classics), with rave reviews, is headed for a very nice $20K average in 2 NY theatres.  BEING FLYNN (Focus) tripled its theatre count to 12, and will be lucky to hold even for the weekend, as its per-theatre average plummeted.
NEXT WEEKEND:  The big arrival is the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill comedy revamp of 21 JUMP STREET (Sony), which is garnering remarkably strong early reviews.  2 more offbeat comedies will open in smaller releases;  JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount Vantage) and Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language CASA DE MI PADRE (Lionsgate).  

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."