Weekend Wrap-Up for September 10-12, 2010

Box Office Dead, But There Is Afterlife

By John Hamann

September 12, 2010

The future's so bright, he's got to throw his shades.

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The post Labor Day frame at the box office is always anemic, but this week we are really seeing bottom. This weekend brings the slowest frame since September 8, 2008, which was also a Labor Day follow-up. That weekend's top 12 brought in an embarrassing $50.3 million, and no film made more than $7.8 million. The difference between that weekend and this one is Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth "film" in the video-game based franchise. BOP's David Mumpower wrote a love letter to the video game and film franchise in BOP's Weekend Forecast. Be warned: There will be no love letter in this column.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (in 3D, natch) is our number one film of the weekend, as we reap what we sow. Afterlife earned a franchise-topping $27.7 million this weekend from 3,203 venues, and of those, about 2,100 were 3D venues, and added the mark up. It had a venue average of $8,648. Screen Gems distributed the $60 million picture, grabbing all domestic and most international markets for a reported $52 million.


It looks like it will be another good investment for Screen Gems, but not domestically, as this franchise has never been successful in North America. The first Resident Evil flick cost $35 million to make (pre-marketing and prints), and earned $40 million in the US. With marketing included, Resident Evil would have carried a loss for the studio (until maybe home video, maybe), but that's not the world we live in anymore. The first film managed to earn $60 million overseas - $20 million more than the domestic total, and all of a sudden we have a franchise. The next two films played out the same. With a budget of $50 million, the second film, Apocalypse, earned $50 million in the US and $75 million overseas. The third film, Extinction, opened and earned almost exactly the same domestically, but increased its overseas total to almost $100 million. So, heading into the release of the fourth film, it had cost $130 million to make the first three movies in the franchise – however, with marketing included, my guess at a combined budget would be between $200 and $225 million. The combined domestic total for the franchise stood at about $141 million (or a big loss), but the worldwide figure was about $380 million.

The fourth film will keep the pattern alive. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to estimate Afterlife's opening weekend. Using the second and third film's opening take ($23 million), and adding 15% for those 3D venues, and then tossing in a little for inflation, you come up with about $27 million. And unless something extraordinary happens, and it doesn't fall around 65% next weekend, Resident Evil: Afterlife will earn about $58 million at the North American box office. Like the films, with the same product over and over again with the same effect, the box office is the same. For what I think we can all admit to being mindless entertainment, isn't $20 bucks too much? Am I alone here? Bueller?

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