Weekend Wrap-Up for September 24-26, 2010

Bizarro Box Office Weekend: Gekko and Ga'Hoole

By John Hamann

September 26, 2010

Kirk Douglas looks fantastic!

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For Oscar winner Michael Douglas, its been a long time since he's headlined a number one film. The last was Don't Say a Word, where he starred with the late Brittany Murphy (whose creepy performance in the trailer sold it). The film earned $17.1 million over this same September weekend, back in 2001. This is Shia LaBeouf's lowest opening since he came on to the scene in Disturbia, which earned a higher $22.2 million to start that bizarre April run in 2007. Director Oliver Stone sees the biggest opening of his career - at least according to estimates. World Trade Center earned $18.7 million, so if the studio went high, that might not hold up.

Second goes to those damn owls. Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'Hoole (the second film out of the top two that has an odd, over-the-top title) opened to $16.3 million from 3,575 venues – about 2,479 of those being the 3D variety. It had a venue average of $4,569. The Owls of Ga'Hoole was expected to open to closer to $20 million, but with that odd title and an odd marketing strategy, this one has been in trouble for a number of weeks. Wonderboy director Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead), stepped down from his usual R-rated resume to make an almost kid-friendly 3D picture (this guy can't win for losing, though, as folks are calling his kid-friendly pic violent). Snyder got Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow to spend $100 million on this hopeful franchise launcher, and production costs were lowered to $80 million thanks to tax credits from an Australian shoot. The companies involved will likely be very happy costs were lowered as this one is in big trouble. Reviews are soft at only 50% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and the somewhat anemic opening won't help legs. At this point, The Owls of Ga'Hoole is going to need an open-to-domestic finish of over 5.0 – and that will only be enough to match its pre-marketing production budget at the domestic box office.


What went wrong? The title certainly didn't help draw anyone who hadn't read the books, and this is certainly no Harry Potter. I find this title remarkably similar to His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, which belonged to the Nicole Kidman “flop” that came out in 2007. It flopped in the US, earning only $70 million against a $200 million production budget, but it was HUGE overseas, earning over $300 million. The Golden Compass was a bigger title than The Owls of Ga'Hoole, but keep in mind that the owls could earn some serious coin overseas. The domestic death knell for Legend of the Guardians came in the marketing strategy, as there was zero buzz heading toward release, no early reviews, no nothing. Warner Bros. laid an egg with the advertising, and will have to settle for middling results.

Finishing third is last weekend's top film, Ben Affleck's The Town. Despite adult competition coming in the form of Wall Street 2, The Town still held extremely well. The Warner Bros. flick earned $16 million in its second weekend, and was off a very good 33%. Gone Baby Gone, Affleck's last directing effort, fell 31% in its second weekend, but opened to only $5.5 million. To have that good of a hold when your film opened to $23.8 million has to be considered more ammunition towards an Oscar nomination. The Town had very strong weekday numbers as well, and outgrossed its production budget of $38 million on Friday, which means this will be a very profitable entry for Warner Bros. The Town has a running total of $49.1 million so far, with $100 million not completely out of the question.

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