Mars More Disastrous to Disney than Battle: Los Angeles
By John Hamann
March 13, 2011
While the box office remained soft again this weekend, we did learn something. We learned to never, ever, put the word Mars in your movie title. Disney did that this weekend, releasing Mars Needs Moms, an extremely expensive motion-capture flick from Robert Zemeckis's shop, ImageMovers. Let's just say things did not go well. On the (slightly) more positive side, Sony released the $70 million Battle: Los Angeles onto unsuspecting audiences, while Warner Bros. did what did CBS Films did last weekend - conned teenagers out of their parents' hard earned money, as some went to see Red Riding Hood, from Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke.
Our number one film of the weekend is the Sony/Columbia disaster movie, Battle: Los Angeles, the one with the fantastic teaser trailer, and the not so fantastic follow ups. Battle: Los Angeles earned $36 million from 3,417 venues. The $70 million event picture managed an average of $10,536. While no disaster (we will get to Mars Needs Moms soon), it is certainly no breakout success, as it couldn't beat fellow March opener Wild Hogs, which opened to $39 million in 2007, and earned approximately half of what a real March event film did. I'm talking about 300, which earned $70 million over its opening frame, also in 2007.
Battle: Los Angeles isn't a Skyline loser ($11.7 million opening, $22 million finish), but it also didn't cost $10 million to make. It had a decent star in Aaron Eckhart, who did have a large role in The Dark Knight, which you might remember. That was 2008, though, and since then, Eckhart has only shown up twice, with one of the films being the brutal Love Happens, a movie even Jennifer Aniston couldn't save. As for his other movie, it was the critically acclaimed but barely seen Rabbit Hole, which garnered Nicole Kidman an Academy Award nomination but saw Eckhart left out when it came to Best Actor nominees.
The Battle: Los Angeles opening is on par with District 9, which opened in mid-August 2009 to $37.4 million, but that's where the comparison ends, as Battle just isn't very good. At Rotten Tomatoes, Battle could only find 40 positive reviews out of a possible 123, leaving it with a rotten rating of 33%. "Top Critics" at the site (or the ones actually read by humans) gave it a 22% rating. Battle: Los Angeles was made for action junkies and really no one else, but to say it drew more than Skyline should be considered some sort of success. For March, it's a top 15 film, and Sony will make a decent amount of money off of it; however, international box office will have to be counted before real dollars are seen.
Second this weekend, despite the Mars Needs Moms debut, is Gore Verbinski's Rango. The talking lizard movie earned another $23.1 million, helping it to stay above $20 million in its second frame with an okay 39% drop. Things are looking pretty good for its ability to hang around, particularly since the "big" competition from Mars Needs Moms didn't challenge Rango. Last weekend, Rango had a weekend multiplier of just under 4.0 (at 3.96), and it does even better this time out, as it's up to a 4.27. Often times, we do see second weekend declines in the 35-45% range for CGI animated films (Megamind, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me all followed such a pattern) prior to their straightening out in weekend three and seeing better staying power. It seems unlikely that Rango is going to follow any sort of How to Train Your Dragon trajectory, but the people who champion it are really, really enthusiastic. It still has a long way to go to match its $135 million budget, but for now, Rango has taken in $68.7 million domestically and $30 million overseas.