Mar 1 2014, 11:32am CST | by Forbes
What seemed on the outset like a quiet weekend has turned into something of a whirlwind. We’ve got four new wide releases, two of which are basically recycled variations of an existing product, and one of which is an English-language dub of a Japanese animated film. Ironically enough, the one outright “new” movie this weekend topped the Friday box office, as Non-Stop earned $10 million. The Universal (a division of Comcast) release marks another notch in Liam Neeson’s action-hero belt, as the $50 million airplane-set thriller should earn over/under $30 million for the weekend. The picture once again proves that Liam Neeson is basically the last old-school action hero we have left, as the film’s success rests almost entirely on his shoulders.
The picture benefited from a fun and easy to explain premise (villain threatens to kill an airplane passenger every 20 minutes until he gets paid, Neeson protests, action ensues). While she has what amounted to a glorified cameo, Lupita Nyong’o helped the film earn plenty of free publicity, as the much-talked about 12 Years A Slave Oscar nominee has dominated media circles of late, with token mentions of this, her “next” film, in pretty much every article or interview. I’m not saying she was a draw per-se, but general moviegoers who may have missed the trailer or TV spots were now likely to read about the film in an otherwise unrelated entertainment story and take notice. Every bit helps.
Anyway, the legs on this one may-well be short, although there is a chance it becomes a consensus pick in the coming weeks for those not interested in hard-R violence (300: Rise of an Empire) or kid-centric fare (Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Muppets Most Wanted). With a budget of just $50 million, Non-Stop is of course the kind of movie where a $30 million debut is more-than good enough. It’s another solid win for Universal this year, scoring another moderately budgeted hit after Lone Survivor and Ride Along (which crossed $125 million today). In fact, with the delay of Fast & Furious 7, their entire 2014 slate seems to be made up of moderately budgeted programmers. Hmm… I think I’ll write about that next week.
The next new release basically amounts to a television re-run transformed into a theatrical release. 20th Century Fox distributed Son of God this weekend, which is basically a cut-down version of the very popular History Channel mini-series The Bible, with a few deleted scenes used to round out the narrative. The “story of Jesus” drama earned $9.4 million yesterday. $4.5 million of that came from advanced ticket sales going into the weekend, so front loading will depend on how many of those advanced sales went towards Friday versus Saturday/Sunday. The film was of course aggressively marketed to uber-religious moviegoers, the kind that might otherwise not go to the movies of a major new release on opening weekend.
It may sound nuts that around $28 million worth of audiences are heading to the theater to see a television re-run, but A) plenty of people didn’t see the mini-series and B) did you go to the theaters to see a 3D reissue of The Lion King, Titanic, Jurassic Park, etc. over the last few years? The picture obviously didn’t get the loads of free publicity/controversy that courted Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ ten years ago this weekend, as whatever controversy is to be found in this arena is being reserved for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah which Paramount drops on March 28th. This film cost $22 million, so it’ll break even by the end of next weekend, with possibly huge foreign dividends as well. The lesson here is the same as something like Instructions Not Included: There is real money to be made targeted audiences who aren’t used to being targeted.
It took Aslan and Jesus to dethrone The LEGO Movie (which like many “the chosen one” stories has a touch of Jesus parable to it as well), but it will have to take comfort in crossing $200 million tomorrow or Sunday (it’s at $192 million today). The Warner Bros. (a division of Time Warner) blockbuster earned $4.4 million (-39%) and should end its fourth weekend with around $20 million for an over/under $205 million cume. Of note, Gravity was released on DVD/Blu Ray this week after being available on VOD for the last few weeks. It still dropped 0% this Friday, with $220,000 for yesterday and a $269.8 million domestic cume. Her may go home empty-handed (or it may win Best Original Screenplay), but last minute interest allowed the Spike Jonze sci-fi romance to jump 13% from last Friday, giving the picture $120,000 for yesterday and $24.2 million total. A Winter’s Tale lost 2,260 screens and dropped 88% from last Friday, earning $78,000 on 705 screens for a $12 million cume.
Walt Disney released an English-language dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises into 450 theaters this weekend. Walt Disney has been doing these semi-wide releases for the famed Japanese animation director for (at least) 15 years, as I have fond memories of seeing Princess Monokeke and Spirited Away in my local first-run Ohio Regal Cinemas. Since the films make a mint in Japan and elsewhere anyway, these domestic releases are almost an act of public service/charity. If The Wind Rises, which is a PG-13 film centered around World War II, might not be the kid-friendly magnet of something like Ponyo ($15 million domestic), there is still worth to releasing an animated film in America that isn’t explicitly intended for kids. As such, its $460,000 Friday gross (estimated $1.5 million for the weekend) counts as a moral triumph no matter how much or little it cost to dub and distribute.
In other “A for effort” releases, Paramount decided to unleash an alternate cut of Anchorman 2 into 1,317 screens this weekend. The version isn’t a traditional “unrated cut”, but an R-rated, 143 minute version of the comedy sequel that is allegedly made up of 95% new jokes taken from alternate takes and/or deleted scenes. This is the kind of “movies should be seen in a theater” move that I heartily applaud, even if inconvenient showtimes and weird theater scheduling prevented me from seeing it yesterday. As of this writing, it’s estimated to earn $1.4 million over the weekend. But I’ll update when I know more and I still wanted to point out what an interesting gesture it was. In other unusual releases, Sony released Stalingrad on 308 3D IMAX screens, and the Russian WWII action film earned $147,000 last night.
In other holdover news, Three Days To Kill, already off a mediocre $12 million debut, buckled under the competition of Non-Stop and earned just $1.45 million, down 64% from last Friday. In specifically Sony holdover news, Monuments Men earned $1.44 million yesterday and should flirt with $65 million by Sunday. About Last Night earned $1.04 million yesterday and should end the weekend with around $43 million, while Robocop should cross $50 million tomorrow after earning $1.14 million yesterday ($47 million thus far). Pompeii dropped a brutal 63% from last Friday and should end its second weekend with around $4 million for an over/under $18 million cume. In better Sony news, American Hustle started its Oscar weekend with $529,000 for a $145.29 million cume. In non-Sony news, Walt Disney’s Frozen should end the weekend with about $388 million domestic and may or may not cross $1 billion worldwide on Sunday to boot.
That’s it for today. Join us tomorrow for weekend estimates.
Source: Forbes Business
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