Weekend Wrap-Up
New Releases Shelved As Holdovers Dominate
By John Hamann
October 2, 2011

Soon we will take over the world.

We have certainly seen some odd things at the box office over the last few weeks. First it was The Help, finishing second in weekend one, and then taking the crown for two consecutive weekends. Then, following a one weekend win for Contagion, The Lion King 3D crawled out of 1994 and won two consecutive weekends. Now, Moneyball has won two consecutive Fridays, but has yet to win a weekend. Completing the weird story is Dolphin Tale floating to the top this weekend, despite four new releases opening at 9,282 venues.

Our number one film of the weekend is Dolphin Tale, last weekend's number three film behind The Lion King and Moneyball. Last weekend, the difference between the number one film and number three was $2.8 million, and things aren't that much different this weekend. Dolphin Tale placed second after Friday grosses were counted, but rose on the strength of kids and families attending over Saturday and Sunday, taking the weekend with a gross of $14.2 million. That gives Dolphin Tale a decent drop of 26%, but would likely have held better had The Lion King not been around stealing the family audience, and possibly Courageous, stealing some of that faith-based business.

Dolphin Tale wins the weekend due to its strong internal weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross). It finished about $400,000 behind Moneyball on Friday, and less than $200,000 ahead of The Lion King. Because of Moneyball's more adult audience and The Lion King playing on adult nostalgia, Dolphin Tale carried the highest internal multiplier of films in play this weekend at 4.1, as it carried the right audience, has excellent word of mouth (A+ Cinemascore), and excellent reviews (83% fresh at RottenTomatoes). Alcon Entertainment partnered with Warner Bros. on this one, and the result isn't completely different from The Blind Side, another family driven film from the same partnership. Dolphin Tale now has a total of $37.5 million, against a budget of only $37 million. It may be hard to believe, but a $70 million (or more) domestic total for this one is likely.

Moneyball is second, the same spot it finished in last weekend - at least until actuals are reported on Monday. The Brad Pitt/Jonah Hill Oscar bait movie earned $12.5 million this weekend, and was off a decent but not spectacular, 36%. All four of the new releases could have pulled at Moneyball's audience (had they earned anything), but the result for the $50 million film should be lauded. Baseball movies have never been an easy sell, as only one has earned more than $100 million, League of Their Own, which took in $107 million in 1992. This one should finish in the top three, somewhere between 1989's Field of Dreams ($64.4 million) and 2002's The Rookie ($75.6 million), unless something pretty special happens. Moneyball has earned $38.5 million so far.

That means The Lion King 3D is third this weekend, as attendance slips a bit with news of the Blu-ray release reaching a wider audience. Now in its third weekend, The Lion King 3D earned another $11.1 million but sees a bigger drop this weekend (49%) despite no new competition. Last weekend, The Lion King fell only 27%. The Disney re-re-release didn't lose any screens this weekend. It just seems to be losing an audience interested in reliving the early '90s. Regardless, the 3D version of the classic has done very well for Disney, as it's taken in $79.7 million. Additionally, the overall total for the film – dollars earned since its release – crossed the $400 million mark this weekend.

Eking out a fourth place finish is 50/50, the 92% fresh Seth Rogen/Joesph Gordon-Levitt film. 50/50 took in only $8.85 million this weekend, well off what its distributor, Summit Entertainment, and tracking had hoped for (about $12 million). Obviously people don't want to go see a movie about a guy with cancer and its effect on his friendship. This is a shame, as 50/50 takes a serious subject matter and adds laughs, enabling us to learn and take something away. Regardless of subject, this is another well-reviewed flick that audiences have abandoned. Exactly a year ago it was Let Me In (90% fresh, $5.1 million opening, $12 million finish), and two weekends ago it was Drive ($11.3 million opening, 50% second weekend drop). I find it disappointing that these good films are left on the table, and the big business is going to recycled movies like The Lion King 3D. Can 50/50 recover from an opening like this? No.

Courageous, a faith-based film (our second in the top five) distributed by Sony, is fifth this weekend. The film, made by the Sherwood Baptist Church and starring no one, earned $8.8 million. It opened on 1,161 venues, and had an average of $7,580. Made by the same group of volunteers who did Kirk Cameron's Fireproof, Courageous is hoping for the same result. Fireproof cost the church $500,000 to make, and earned $33.5 million. This one cost twice as much, and will likely make more.

Horror film Dream House is sixth this weekend, as the trend away from scary movies continues. Dream House, which stars Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz, flopped this weekend, earning only $8.2 million. This is a story of the talent, director and production company clashing over the final product, as Morgan Creek pulled a Brazil and cut their own version of the movie. Due to that, the stars refused to participate in the marketing of the film and it earned a 6% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. This one cost Morgan Creek and Fox $50 million to make, and it will be extremely lucky to make $20 million in theatres. If you think you need to see this film, you don't, at least until a different cut is released on DVD.

Another classic is seventh, as Tyler Lautner's Abduction hangs on for another weekend. After earning almost $11 million last weekend, Abduction earns $5.7 million in its second frame, and falls 48%. This $35 million Lionsgate effort has now earned $19.1 million, and we shouldn't hear about it again until the Razzies are awarded.

Oh, we are not done with the really bad films just yet. Next up is What's Your Number? with Anna Faris and Chris Evans. What's Your Number? earned only $5.6 million, and is another complete waste of the talent that is Anna Faris. This was 22% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and sounds a lot like one of those sitcoms that gets cancelled after three airings. Made for $20 million, this one won't cost Fox too much, but I bet those who saw it want their money back.

Contagion, Steven Soderbergh's film about an event plague, finishes ninth. Contagion earned $5 million in its fourth weekend, and dropped 40% from last weekend. The $60 million Warner Bros. flick has now earned $64.7 million, and is just getting started overseas.

Tenth is Killer Elite, the Jason Statham/Clive Owen/Robert DeNiro action flick that failed to engage audiences. In its second weekend, Killer Elite earned $4.9 million and dropped 48%. Elite cost its makers $70 million to get it to movie theatres, and it will be lucky to find a domestic gross of $30 million.

Overall this weekend, despite three fairly major flops, the box office abides. The top 12 films earned a respectable $92.7 million, thanks to the three strong holdovers. A year ago, the top 12 earned $86.2 million, as it was propelled by the first weekend of The Social Network. Next weekend brings two higher profile films in The Ides of March with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling, and Reel Steel, the Hugh Jackman movie about boxing robots.