Box Office Top Heavy With Three Strong Openers
By John Hamann
November 7, 2010
After three weekends of gimmicks, the movie-going experience goes back to a somewhat normal state, much like TV commercials did following the midterm elections. Openers were of the "wow" variety over what is really the first weekend of the holiday movie-going season, and studios spent a combined $226 million on the three newbies. Those new films include the 3D animated Megamind from Paramount, which gets an early, fairly strong start on the lucrative season; Due Date from Warner Bros., as the studio tries to catch The Hangover again, without the headache; and For Colored Girls, a much more serious Tyler Perry outing, with a bevy of A-list talent.
November is trotting out the power hitters early this year, and our number one film, Megamind, may not have a hit a home run this weekend, but it's going to be very lucrative before it's through. Megamind earned $47.7 million, just short of the $50 million (or more) expected from the Paramount film. Megamind debuted at 3,944 locations, many of those of the 3D variety, and carried a venue average of $12,082. The animated flick that sports a voice cast of Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt and the lovely Tina Fey, opened to $12.5 million on Friday, and worked well all weekend, delivering a kid-friendly internal multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 3.81. I think it's important to remember that this was never going to have a summer-like opening, or a Pixar-November type opening ($70 million plus). Megamind doesn't lose those 3D screens until Tangled arrives from Disney on November 24th, which gives it two more weekends without competition.
While the opening should be seen as encouraging for the studio, I'm starting to think an interesting trend is emerging with animated films done in 3D. We cursed How To Train Your Dragon for its (at the time considered) low opening of $43.7 million back in March of this year, as well as Despicable Me's $56.4 million debut in July. We saw the fourth Shrek open $50 million lower than Shrek the Third, while The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole evaporated before our eyes. All of these films have A) been animated; B) been shot with some element of 3D; C) under-performed over opening weekend, and for the most part, D) over-performed following opening weekend. It appears that as 3D becomes the norm, animated films in 3D do not benefit (as much as other live action 3D films do) over opening weekend. While Megamind may have thrown below its tracking estimate, I don't think there's a strong reason to believe this won't end up earning close to $200 million for Paramount and DreamWorks Animation.
Getting back to Megamind, could the opening have been bigger? The easy answer is yes, as marketing and reviews in my mind came up a little bit short. Paramount got somewhat unlucky debuting the trailer for Megamind in front of How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek the Fourth, which are noted for the disappointing opening weekends in the previous paragraph. It was then shown with a couple of terrible films, The Last Airbender and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a good one in Despicable Me, and a great one in Toy Story 3. TV ads were good but not great, and until Will Ferrell does some better live action work, he will still remind me of Land of the Lost. Critical reception was also on the shoddy side, but we must remember that this one lives in the shadow of The Incredibles. At RottenTomatoes, 96 reviews were counted, and of those, 65 were positive, giving Megamind a fresh rating of 68%. The key word derived from the reviews is unspectacular, not really a word you want associated with your film that's starting the holiday season.