Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend Report: Remakes Can't Retire 'Real Steel'


Two 80s remakes and a bird-watching movie weren't able to knock down Real Steel, which held well enough to repeat in first place this weekend. Footloose wasn't far behind, but also wasn't all that impressive, while The Thing missed the mark and The Big Year bombed. Overall box office was off around 33 percent from the same frame last year when Jackass 3-D led with $50.3 million. 

Real Steel dipped 40 percent to an estimated $16.3 million. That hold isn't quite as strong as Secretariat or Red from last October, but it's still solid in its own right. Through 10 days in theaters, the Hugh Jackman robot boxing movie has earned $51.7 million. 

Footloose was a close second with an estimated $16.1 million. It debuted below Stomp the Yard ($21.8 million and the first two Step Up movies ($20.7 million and $18.9 million), but did end up slightly above Step Up 3-D ($15.8 million). It also had lower initial attendance than the original Footloose, which opened to roughly $20 million when adjusting for ticket price inflation. Distributor Paramount Pictures is reporting that 75 percent of Footloose's audience was female, and 27 percent was under the age of 18. The movie played best in the South, Southwest and Midwest, and earned a strong "A" CinemaScore. 

With an established brand and Paramount's vibrant and pervasive marketing effort, Footloose's opening seems fairly unremarkable. However, the movie was probably saddled with unfair expectations, and didn't really have a chance to open too much higher than this. While the dance genre has turned out some hits, the all-time top opening belongs to 2001's Save the Last Dance with $23.5 million. It's hard to imagine Footloose setting a new high-mark for the genre when the movie doesn't really bring anything new to the table, and instead appears to be a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the popular 1984 original.

While the Footloose remake at least held its own, The Thing was an outright disappointment with a meager estimated $8.7 million. That's lower than most horror remakes from the last decade, including second-tier ones like The Fog ($11.7 million) and The Stepfather ($11.6 million). Interestingly, though, this new version of The Thing actually sold about as many tickets in its opening weekend as John Carpenter's 1982 movie (still, there's little chance it holds on as well in the long run given the way release patterns have changed in the past few decades). According to distributor Universal Pictures, the audience was 57 percent male and 56 percent under 30 years old. The CinemaScore was a weak "B-," indicating that the movie is going to have a tough time surviving opposite Paranormal Activity 3 next weekend. 

Considering the amorphous nature of The Thing's titular villain, the movie was naturally at a disadvantage: a vague "thing" doesn't give prospective audiences much to latch on to. It was therefore left up to fans of the original, who are already familiar with the concept, to turn out in strong numbers. There was a pervasive cynicism about the need for a remake within this community, though, and with an identical story, location, and title, there didn't appear to be much of a reason to head to theaters. Successful remakes like last year's The Karate Kid manage to stay true in nature to the original movie while at the same time promising a new experience, which is something that The Thing and Footloose weren't quite able to achieve this weekend. 

The movies occupying fourth through eighth place were all holdovers that experienced very light declines. The Ides of March eased just 28 percent to an estimated $7.5 million. That's an improvement on star George Clooney's Michael Clayton, which declined 36 percent around the same time in 2007. Ides's 10-day tally reached $22.2 million. 

Dolphin Tale dipped 31 percent to an estimated $6.4 million for a total of $58.7 million. Moneyball was off 26 percent to $5.5 million, and has now made $57.7 million. 50/50 had the best hold among all wide releases, falling just 24 percent to $4.3 million. Through three weekends, the cancer comedy has earned a solid $24.3 million. Finally, Courageous eased 30 percent to $3.4 million for a total of $21.4 million. 

Opening all the way down in ninth place with an estimated $3.3 million, The Big Year was a big disaster. That debut is just a tiny fraction of director David Frankel's The Devil Wears Prada ($27.5 million) and Marley and Me ($36.4 million). It's only slightly better than star Jack Black's Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny ($3.24 million), and is Steve Martin's lowest wide opening since 1994's Mixed Nuts. The Big Year even opened a bit lower than Owen Wilson's 2004 bomb The Big Bounce ($3.336 million). This is distributor 20th Century Fox's third-straight disappointment following Glee The 3D Concert Movie ($6 million) and What's Your Number? ($5.4 million). Demographics and exit polling are not currently available. 

The Big Year received a half-hearted, late-to-the-game marketing effort from distributor 20th Century Fox that failed to identify a premise beyond the fact that the three lead characters were all going through some kind of personal crisis. It's understandable that the potentially boring bird-watching elements were largely sidelined in the campaign, though it's hard to imagine the movie doing much worse if they had been incorporated. Regardless, The Big Year's commercial prospects were never all that high, and it should quickly fade from theaters over the next few weeks.

Opening in just six theaters, Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In earned an estimated $231,000. That translates to a per-theater average of $38,500, which is the best average since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2's $38,672 on its opening weekend in July.

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