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Weekend Wrap-Up

Basketball Beats Box Office As Ticket Sales Fade

By John Hamann

March 20, 2011

That's a lot of drinks he's got there.

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Bradley Cooper in Limitless, Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, or the Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Championship – which one did you pick this weekend? From looking at box office statistics it looks like basketball - and female moviegoers - won out. The difference on the movie side this weekend is that the choices were actually good – three for three, actually – and we have to go waaayyy back in the calendar for that achievement. Openers included Paul, with the great Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; Limitless with Robert DeNiro and The Hangover's Bradley Cooper; and The Lincoln Lawyer with my dear friends Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe.

Our number one film of the weekend is Limitless, as an extremely dry moviegoing season almost put three-weekend-old Rango back on top. It could've been Rango; however, Limitless actually did better than expected, as the Relativity release managed to earn $19 million from 2,756 venues. It had an average of $6,894, and tracking had indicated it would open below $15 million. For Relativity, the number one opening - more than the gross itself – is very good news for the upstart distributor. The film, whose co-star Robert De Niro might have brought a different generation to the theater, cost only $27 million to make, and with the gross and number one ranking, should produce a tidy profit for Relativity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Relativity was in good shape prior to release, due to foreign sales and an output deal with Netflix.




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Relativity needed a hit. As a distributor they have struggled since getting started. They released Stone, another Robert De Niro flick, which failed, never grossing more than $361,000 over any weekend despite starring De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich; The Warrior's Way, which cost $42 million (or more) and earned $5.6 million at the domestic box office; and the Nic Cage flick, Season of the Witch, which cost $40 million and earned $25 million at the domestic box office, just to name a few. In fact, after one day of release, Limitless was Relativity's second biggest flick of all time. Beyond the good news of Limitless, Relativity also has a piece of the foreign market with David Fincher's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, scheduled for US distribution in December.

Limitless is also the first title from Richard Branson's Virgin Produced label, and not only is it a solid earner, it has critics on its side as well. Of the 120 critics polled at RottenTomatoes, 77 thought well enough of it to give it a positive review. That gives the Neil Burger (The Illusionist) film a fresh rating of 64%, and will likely mean even more dollars for the Relativity release once DVD sales and rentals are counted. For Bradley Cooper, this was a better choice following some missteps since The Hangover. After The Hangover earned $277 million in North America, Cooper's next was the awful All About Steve (6% fresh), which was followed by the also-awful Valentine's Day (17% fresh). He then appeared in the suspense flick Case 39 (23% fresh), and then the $100 million A-Team, which earned $77 million at the US box office. For Cooper, Limitless may not be a breakout success, but it will be remembered as a solid outing for the actor between Hangovers.


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