Sunday, January 16, 2011

'Green Hornet' Kicks Ass Over Holiday Weekend

Box Office Mojo
by Brandon Gray
January 16, 2011

Swooping into first with an estimated $34 million in three days, The Green Hornet added some zing to an otherwise tepid Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, while The Dilemma was a distant second. Overall business was down around 25 percent from the same weekend last year, which featured the one-two punch of Avatar and The Book of Eli, and this is shaping up to be the least-attended MLK weekend since the mid-1990's.

The Green Hornet snared the highest-grossing opening ever for a live-action superhero comedy, topping Kick-Ass's $19.8 million in a sub-genre that usually struggles at the box office. The movie's three-day start was estimated to be slightly higher than the MLK launches of The Book of Eli last year ($32.8 million) and Paul Blart: Mall Cop in 2009 ($31.8 million). Green Hornet also broke star Seth Rogen's losing streak: his last successful picture was Pineapple Express in 2008, and it was followed by the disappointments Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Observe and Report and Funny People.

Distributor Sony Pictures's exit polling indicated that The Green Hornet's audience was 61 percent male and evenly split over and under 25 years old. Green Hornet played on approximately 5,700 screens at 3,584 locations, and the release included 2,704 3D venues, which accounted for 69 percent of business (62 percent at 2,530 regular 3D sites and seven percent at 174 IMAX 3D sites).

Unlike Rogen, Vince Vaughn and Kevin James were on a hot streak, but that cooled with The Dilemma. On around 3,500 screens at 2,940 locations, the comedy pulled in an estimated $17.4 million, which was low by the stars' recent standards. Vaughn's Couples Retreat and Four Christmases nearly doubled that on their first weekends, while James was last seen in the larger Grown Ups and headlined the aforementioned Paul Blart.

Distributor Universal Pictures' research indicated that 60 percent of Dilemma's audience was female and 58 percent was aged 30 years and older. Universal claimed to see As Good as It Gets, Something's Gotta Give, Spanglish and How Do You Know as good comparisons for The Dilemma. However, all four of those movies opened in December, when multiples are higher, and are not indicative of Dilemma's longterm pattern.

The pairing of Vaughn and James (along with director Ron Howard) should have been a comedic event, but, while Sony's advertising was revving past redline for Green Hornet, Universal's marketing seemed to be whiffing on Dilemma, particularly in the home stretch: blink-and-you-miss-them television ads failed to convey the premise or provide laughs.

Dilemma's premise of a man learning his friend's wife is cheating and debating whether to tell the friend or not wasn't much of a dilemma, and it wasn't as comedically charged as Vaughn's other relationship comedies. Sony hit hard, early and often with Green Hornet, including carpet-bombing football and basketball telecasts and scoring Carls Jr. tie-in ads that started running early in the holiday season. On paper, Hornet sounded problematic, given its sub-genre and star, but the movie looked like a super-slick action buddy comedy in its ads, cleanly conveying the premise and deftly integrating Rogen's persona.

Meanwhile, last weekend's top grosser, True Grit, eased 23 percent to an estimated $11.2 million, lifting its haul to $126.4 million in 26 days and gaining further ground on Little Fockers. The latter continued to lose steam at a faster rate than predecessor Meet the Fockers, falling 47 percent to an estimated $7.1 million for a franchise-soft $134.2 million total in 26 days.

The King's Speech more than doubled its location count to 1,543, and business rose 41 percent to an estimated $9.1 million, increasing its sum to an impressive $44.6 million in 52 days. Also expanding, Black Swan jumped from 1,584 locations to 2,328 and made an estimated $8.1 million, but business was on par with last weekend. Its tally stands at $73 million in 45 days.

In its second weekend, Season of the Witch plummeted 58 percent and from third place to tenth, grossing an estimated $4.5 million for an anemic $18 million in ten days. Country Strong also showed weakness in its second weekend of nationwide release, dropping 50 percent to an estimated $3.7 million and ranking tenth with $13.3 million in the till.

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