Sherlock leaves Chipmunks Chipwrecked
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
December 18, 2011
Yes, it seems that people have finally figured out that turd-eating chipmunks are neither entertaining nor educational. The newest film featuring Alvin, Simon, Theodore and Jason Lee (why, Jason, why?) earned only $23.5 million this weekend, less than half of what the Squeakquel made on its opening weekend, $48.9 million. There’s no sugarcoating this result. Fox went to the well a third time in four calendar years, and it proved to be overkill. Don’t line up too quickly to cast aspersions, though. Chipwrecked has a budget of just $80 million, and will probably wind up with worldwide receipts in excess of $400 million, which is the average of the previous two. As is the case with so many other “blockbusters” these days, there will be less money domestically and more money abroad.
Perhaps the strongest performance this weekend comes from a title in only 425 locations, albeit the most expensive ones in North America. Third place finisher Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol debuted with $13 million, giving it a per location average of $30,588 (although it did have a more-than-ordinary number of Thursday sneak exhibitions to bump up the total).
Why did this do so well in its limited venues? There are a number of reasons that we could cite, but primary amongst them is that with this small of an audience, there was going to be a wide, insider-type awareness that Brad Bird was at the helm. For those who are unaware (and if you’re reading this site, we’re a little surprised at you), Bird is a director who cut his teeth in animation, including episodes of The Simpsons along with cinematic masterpieces The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The novelty of seeing him translate his undeniable skills to the big screen was going to be a huge draw for some.
Additionally, M:I4 is receiving reviews that are absolutely glowing. Overall, its Rotten Tomatoes score is 95%, with 100% of “Top Critics” giving it the thumbs up. Its audience score at the site is 91%. Suffice to say that action pictures just don’t get reviews like this.
Finally, there might be something to the fact that selected theaters had a preview of The Dark Knight Rises attached to the M:I4 print. It’s not a big enough number of cities to say that it was truly the biggest factor, but it was well publicized, and could only have helped the ultimate results. Is it possible that people are finally ready to forgive Mr. Cruise for his antics of the past several years? The next couple of weeks are going to go a long way toward helping his image. As a final note, the Mission: Impossible films have always done extremely well overseas, so assuming that the fourth installment follows the pattern of all international releases over the last couple of years, it’s going to clean up outside of North America.
Fourth and fifth spot go to last weekend’s openers, New Year’s Eve and The Sitter. The two films predictably slide three spots each due to the new openers. New Year’s Eve has a respectable hold of 43% as it falls to $7.4 million. Given the loathsome word-of-mouth, this borders on being a best-case scenario. So far, the film has earned $24.8 million, but has a chance to double its box office over the next two weeks if it can maintain its theaters. As for The Sitter, it has a steeper decline of 55% to $4.4 million and a pathetic $1,599 per location average. Its grand total sits at $17.7 million, and it’s going to have to scratch and claw to break $30 million.