Transformers vs. Ice Age = Roddick vs Federer
By John Hamann
July 5, 2009
Since we know that first place is a tie, we also know that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is going to throw under the opening of the second film in the franchise, Ice Age: The Meltdown, which opened to $68 million in April 2006. How far under? The result for Ice Age 3 is not great, however again, the holiday is skewing this open. Dawn of the Dinosaurs had a three-day haul of $42.5 million, and has earned $67.5 million since opening on Wednesday, which is actually slightly more than tracking was indicating. Ice Age 3 started off on Wednesday with a $13.8 million gross, dropped 19% on Thursday to $11.1 million, before bouncing up 53% on Friday to a gross of approximately $17 million, which means it brought in an additional $25.5 million on Saturday and Sunday.
Usually, I bash studios who release films on a Wednesday, but with Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the July 4th weekend, I think it was an excellent decision. First off, stretching that opening weekend enabled this sequel to match the opening of Ice Age 2 - it just took two extra days to do it. The five day opening counteracted the effect of July 4th Saturday, and enabled later viewings on Thursday for the kids, since the day off for parents was landing on Friday. Fox and Blue Sky Studios knew they were going to have some work to do to keep up with the earlier films in the franchise, as the 78% fresh rating of the original had migrated down to 45% for the third film. The smartest thing this franchise has ever done is make adults laugh, and it really pays off in opening weekend, legs, and after-theatre DVD sales. Ice Age now has a week and a half to work until Harry Potter shows up on Wednesday, July 15th, surely dominating theatres everywhere.
Finishing third this weekend is the Johnny Depp/Christian Bale-headlined Public Enemies, with a gross big enough to call this one a success. The star-studded $100 million plus film also started on Wednesday, earning a solid $8.2 million on opening night. It dropped a slim 18% on Thursday with a gross of $6.7 million, before jumping 51% on Friday to $10.1 million. For a period piece living in the shadow of the effects-filled Transformers, this was a solid start, and by Friday we knew it was going to outgross the tracking estimate of a $35 million five-day start. Public Enemies finished the weekend with a three-day estimate of $26.2 million, and five-day estimate of $41 million. With that large $100 million budget, Public Enemies desperately needed at least a $30 million five-day, so this start must be deemed a success. This release should see an opening-to-domestic finish multiplier of about 3.5 (or higher, given the July 4th curveball), which will make it a $100 million plus domestic earner.
The period piece is never an easy film to open, regardless of the star. Tom Hanks was coming off a string of hits when he opened Road to Perdition to a somewhat soft $22 million over three days in 2002 (it went on to make a little over a $100 million). Mullholland Falls had a cast that included Nick Nolte, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Connelly and Melanie Griffith (in their respective heydays) and opened to only $4.3 million in 1996. The 1991 flick Mobsters had Christian Slater transitioning from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and tanked with only a $6 million opening. Finally, period piece Billy Bathgate with Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman was a notorious flop in 1991 with a $4 million opening. I thought the writing was on the wall with Public Enemies, and I'm releived that the opening is better than the pedigree. It will be interesting to see where this one heads in the weekends to come.