Mar 30 2014, 12:59pm CDT | by Forbes
Proving once again that perhaps there is no such thing as “bad publicity”, the controversial Noah earned a strong $44 million over its debut weekend, including $6.2m in IMAX alone. The relatively well-reviewed film has been beset by umbrage and the like, from whether or not Paramount would allow Aronofsky’s preferred cut to be released (they did), to the decision to add a “this isn’t a literal version of the Bible” disclaimer to the marketing to whether or not Russell Crowe got to meet the Pope. The majority of critics outside of New York and LA didn’t get to see the film until Wednesday night at the earliest, which was arguably less about the film’s quality and more about holding back coverage of the film’s more fantastical elements and potentially unnerving third act turns.
But all of this “news” kept Noah in the spotlight, which meant audiences darn-well knew it was coming out. As I discussed last year with World War Z, if a film looks appealing to a ticket buyer, they won’t care about behind-the-scenes scuffles or whether or not the film has been condemned by pundits they wouldn’t otherwise listen to. We’ll eventually see what the specific demographics were over this weekend, but I’m guessing the vast majority of the ticket buyers just said “Oh, Russell Crowe stars in a film about Noah, that sounds interesting” and bought their ticket accordingly. And that’s pretty much how it went down this weekend./>
Paramount stressed going into the weekend that they didn’t have the kind of group ticket sales that benefited Son of God a few weeks back, and it would seem that many of the very hardcore religious filmgoers that Paramount was both scared of and somewhat pitching to ended up seeing God’s Not Dead anyway (more on that below). What should be noted is that this strong weekend was without that 3D bump, as the film went out in 3D elsewhere but not in America. Using very rough math (45% 3D, with that 45% costing around 33% more per ticket), a 3D-converted Noah would probably be looking at an opening weekend of around $50m. Factor in the unexpected challenge from God’s Not Dead, and Noah‘s $44m debut is even more impressive.
Paramount kept expectations in check, selling the company line of a probable $30-$33m debut, with the media tossing out $35m as the expect number, which makes this $44m debut look like a massive over performance. It had a solid 2.88x weekend multiplier, meaning that it’s playing like a general audiences blockbuster. It played 50 female and 74% over 25 years old.The better news is that, a “C” grade from Cinemascore aside, if enough of the religiously-inclined who did sample the film this weekend give a relative thumbs up, we may see stronger legs as the rest of the flock check out the film in the coming weeks as we get closer to Easter.
The picture cost $125 million to produce, and it has already earned $51m overseas, giving the film a $95m worldwide cume. Barring a quick collapse or uncommonly strong legs (I’m not ruling out the latter), a $44m weekend should mean around $135m domestic, which means the film will probably be on the path to profitability after theatrical even if it plays overseas more like Hugo ($111m) than Life of Pi ($484m overseas). Obviously I’m guestimating somewhere in between those two extremes. It will be interesting to see which markets do best, considering Paramount had the film converted to 3D for 65 international markets while going 2D in the rest.
The other major new release was Open Road Films’ Sabotage. The $35m Arnold Schwarzenegger-led ensemble action picture earned just $5.33 million on its debut weekend, which is among the worst wide release openings in Schwarzenegger’s career. That’s less than the $6.2m debut of The Last Stand back in January 2013, about tied with the $5.43m debut of Raw Deal in 1986, and only higher than the $2m debut of Red Sonjia in 1985 and the $4m debut of The Terminator in 1984. If this film, helmed by critic-fave David Ayers and filled with recognizable character actors, can’t at least crack $10m over its opening weekend, then I think it’s time for us to finally admit that Schwarzenegger’s days as a top-billed action star are done. The Expendables franchise will survive thanks to its added value cast additions each time out, but Arnold the action star is a relic of a bygone era.
Pantelion and Lionsgate debut the Michael Peña-starring biopic Cesar Chavez in 664 theaters and earned $3 million on its first weekend. That’s not great, but the reviews were weak and the film felt more like homework than entertainment. It’s a little ironic/sad that longtime supporting player Michael Peña finally gets an out-and-out lead role only through a project that couldn’t possibly be fronted by a white guy. Still, the biopic of the famous union rights/civil rights activist is the kind of film we should all want more of, so I hope it finds something approaching legs in the next month. Of course, tomorrow is Cesar Chavez day, so it may well count as a four-day weekend for California, Colorado, and Texas.
Also debuting in limited were Sony Classic’s The Raid 2 on seven screens and Trebecka Film’s Hide Your Smiling Faces. The Raid 2 earned $176,907, for a solid $25,272 per-screen. The first Raid opened on 14 screens, but Sony will take this sequel semi-wide on its third weekend (April 11th), rather than waiting until the fourth weekend for the last picture. The Raid earned $4.1m in America and honestly anything over $5m for The Raid 2 should be seen as a triumph. Hide Your Smiling Faces opened on probably just a few screens and probably made around $10, but it’s pretty terrific so I wanted to mention it in the hopes that you watch it via VOD where it’s currently available. Also recommended on VOD: Cheap Thrills, 13 Sins, and Odd Thomas. Odd Thomas, directed by Stephen Summers and based on a Dean Kootnz novel, is really a gem.
Debuting overseas in a handful of markets was Walt Disney’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The film earned a rock-solid $75.2 million since opening on Wednesday, March 26th, including $2.8m in 98 IMAX screens alone. Marvel has been doing the overseas debut about a week prior to its domestic debut since Iron Man 2 back in 2010. For comparison’s sake, varying numbers of international markets and varying release dates aside, Iron Man 2 earned $100m on its first overseas weekend just prior to its domestic debut, while Thor: The Dark World earned $109m, The Avengers earned $185m, and Iron Man 3 earned $195m just prior to their respective domestic debuts. The first Thor had a slower international roll-out so the comparison doesn’t work as well. Obviously Captain America isn’t as broadly popular a property around the world, and it’s opening well outside of the prime blockbuster season, so this still counts as a big win for the sure to be well-liked action thriller (my mixed-positive is basically the equivalent of an F compared to the critical consensus). The film opens in America, China, and elsewhere next week.
In holdover news, Divergent earned $26.5 million in its second Friday, down about 51% from last weekend. That’s a pretty decent hold for this kind of picture, and it’s significantly less than the 62% plunge for Twilight film and Hunger Games film respectively. Heck, its second weekend was just over the second weekend of Twilight even with a smaller debut weekend. Divergent now sits with $95.2m. It’s clear the fans like what they got last weekend, so this one isn’t close to done yet. 300: Rise of an Empire scored another $4.3m for Warner Bros., down 49% from last weekend. As expected, it crossed $100m and now sits with $101m domestic (overseas will be updated, but it’s well over $300m at this point)./>
The LEGO Movie earned another $3.1m, down just 25% from last Friday. The animated picture has earned $248.3m domestic as it climbs up the list of top-grossing animated features in America. It’s at 14, having just past Toy Story 2 ($245.8m) on Friday and with Despicable Me ($251m) next on the list. DreamWorks’ Mr. Peabody and Sherman earned another $9.5m, just 19% off of last weekend. The DWA animated feature is holding up pretty well and has now earned $94.9m after four weekends. Also holding up well is Walt Disney's Muppets Most Wanted. After its soft-ish $17 million debut, the film earned a decent $11.37m, down just 33% from last weekend. This brings the film’s domestic cume to $33.2m. That’s not terrific (although it basically doubled its Friday gross on Saturday), but it means that the film should at least gross its $50m budget in America before seeking more fortune-and-glory overseas.
The real surprise in holdover news was the shocking hold for God’s Not Dead. The film earned a fine $9.1m last weekend, but is set to earn another $9.08m this weekend (-2%). The faith-based drama is not remotely the one-weekend-wonder that I was expecting, as it ended its tenth day with $22.03m. Long term projections are officially out the window, but it should pass $30m by the end of next weekend. It may end up within spitting distance of the $56m gross of Fox's Son of God. It ironically probably swooped up much of the hardcore religious viewership that Paramount was so concerned about in regards to Noah, arguably by positioning itself as the anti-Noah for those who felt that Aronofsky’s film wasn’t explicitly divine enough.
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I shamefully have not seen yet, but I’m going to try to sneak out this week) expanded to 977 screens and didn’t miss a beat. The Fox Searchlight release earned $8.8m (the biggest single weekend in Anderson’s career), earning $9,007 per screen and bringing its cume to a terrific $24.46m, already Anderson’s third-biggest grosser behind The Moonrise Kingdom ($45m) and The Royal Tenenbaums ($52m).
Need For Speed earned around $4.1m for its third weekend for a $37m 17-day total, but it’s crushing it overseas making its domestic total all-but-irrelevant. Jason Bateman’s relatively amusing Bad Words expanded to $to 842 theaters and earned $2.65m for a $3.56m cume. Non-Stop ended the weekend with around $85m while Stalingrad cracked $1m and Lone Survivor crossed $125m domestic. And Frozen just became the world’s biggest-grossing animated film of all time, earning $1.072 billion worldwide, surpassing Toy Story 3 for the respective honor. And it’s also now the biggest-grossing original/non-sequel ever not directed by James Cameron.
That’s it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the domestic debut of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Source: Forbes Business
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