September 22, 2012



Nearly identical opening numbers for 3 new movies mean different things.

OPENINGS:  Thanks to its older audience, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warners) may end up winning the weekend, and certainly having the highest overall gross of this weekend’s openings, even though with $4.2M, it was third place on Friday.  However, this is still a very dim opening for a movie starring Clint Eastwood–his last starring vehicle, 2008’s Gran Torino, took in $29.5M in its first wide weekend.  It’s more in line with the $11-12M openings of films like J.Edgar and Hereafter that’s he’s directed with other stars, and those pictures didn’t crack $40M in total.  Curve is more audience friendly and should do better, but not by all that much.  Did his Republican Convention antics hurt the opening?  Possibly, but more likely as an 82-year old, his core fans just don’t get out to the movies the way they used to.

END OF WATCH (Open Road) was (barely) in 2d place on Friday, but it’s the modest success story of the weekend:  a low budget, essentially indie picture with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead that, depending on word of mouth, could get to a $40M+ total.  HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity), on the other hand, is a boxoffice disappointment despite winning the battle of Friday, 25% below the opening day of The Possession even with the star power of Jennifer Lawrence in the lead.   It will likely fall to 3rd place by Sunday, and soon enough, Lawrence (and we) will be able to forget it ever existed.

The one sure thing this weekend is that DREDD (Lionsgate) is an out-and-out flop.  The studio is doing damage control, telling any industry ear that will listen that its risks are limited, but with what’s likely to be a total gross under $20M, even the marketing spend won’t be earned back.

And then there’s THE MASTER (Weinstein).  Harvey Weinstein made two strategic decisions on this film that could end up backfiring.  First, it led the pack of fall Oscar potentials with its mid-September opening.  That got it a great deal of initial attention, especially for its record-breaking exclusive start in 5 NY/LA theatres, but if it can’t hold on to screens in the weeks to come, it runs the risk of fading from Academy memories as more contenders arrive.  The second decision was leaping to 788 theatres in just the 2nd weekend, instead of gradually building a platform run.  So far, that’s not playing out very well, with a likely $4.5M weekend and a middling $5500 per-theatre average.  The film’s polarizing nature is going to produce very mixed word of mouth, and the result could be an exit from theatres in just a few weeks.

HOLDOVERS:  Not much to say.  The already-limited interest in a 3D FINDING NEMO (Pixar/Disney) ended swiftly, and it should fall 50% this weekend –and over the next 2 weeks, Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie will arrive for the Nemo target audience.  Nemo may not even make as much as the $47.6M earned by the 3D version of Beauty & the Beast in January.  RESIDENT EVIL:  RETRIBUTION (Screen Gems/Sony) collapsed in its 2d weekend, which is par for that franchise’s course, and will probably end up as the least successful (in the US) since the 2002 original–but only the international boxoffice counts on this one.  Other holdovers were down percentages in the normal range of mid-40s to mid-50s as they shed theatres.

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit/Lionsgate) is having an extremely promising start, with what should be a $70K average in only 4 NY/LA theatres.  That may be somewhat front-loaded by fans of the novel, but the film is deservedly getting strong reviews, and since there’s nothing else for its target audience until the last Twilight in mid-November, it has plenty of time to build.  ARBITRAGE (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) added about 20% more theatres to 244, and should hold a solid $4500 average.

NEXT WEEKEND:  Just a few weeks ago, no one showed up to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush–will they come to see him in the time-travel adventure LOOPER (Tri-Star/Sony)?  The new picture is riding a successful launch at the Toronto Film Festival and some strong reviews (and Gordon-Levitt is doing his part by hosting SNL tonight), so maybe.  HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Sony), with a voice cast headed by Adam Sandler, arrives for the kids, and the topical and very earnest WON’T BACK DOWN (20th), starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, will try to find an older audience.  Also, PITCH PERFECT (Universal) will, very unusually for a mainstream comedy, begin its release with a 335-theatre one-week platform run, trying to get some word of mouth bubbling.

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."