Argo: No Longer Just a Mid-Week Champ
By John Hamann
October 28, 2012
All four new films failed to beat the now five-weekend-old Hotel Transylvania, the animated PG spooker. The Adam Sandler-voiced kids flick is the only film this weekend that used Halloween to its advantage, as it rises from the dead (or fourth last weekend at the box office), and holds quite well, placing second. The Sony release earned another $9.5 million, dropping a slim 27% as Halloween approaches for the kids. Hotel Transylvania was an $85 million bet for Sony, and is that wager ever going to pay off. Hotel Transylvania has now earned $130.4 million domestically, and is headed toward another $100 million from overseas cinemas, with an overall haul of $250 million not out of the question.
Finishing third this weekend is Cloud Atlas, the new film from the Wachowski family and Tom Tykwer. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant (amongst others), and featuring a complex premise and a ton of eye candy, one might think this should have been the film to see this weekend. However, since its debut at Cannes, Cloud Atlas has been dividing people, with some calling it greatness, and some calling it dreck. It’s the Tree of Life but with the future instead of the past. At two hours and 43 minutes, it is very long, and with the R rating, it’s hard to get the kids in to eat up the eye candy. And why would Warner Bros. release this over the pre-Halloween weekend to only 2,008 venues? This is either Christmas on 3,000 screens or July 4th on 4,000 screens. Two-thousand screens in late October this is definitely not. A scheduling move this bad is reminiscent of High School Musical 3, which came out the weekend before Halloween, and had its second Friday on Halloween night.
The release strategy behind Cloud Atlas has not only failed to pay off, it is going to leave a giant mess for the financiers of the film, and will only serve to impede the progress of other visionary films. Why? Cloud Atlas earned only $9.4 million from the 2,008 venues it appeared in this weekend. This is a film that cost at least $100 million to make, and was independently funded. Warner Bros. needed to get it out to a higher number of screens, as they must have known audiences were not going to like it (cough cough C Cinemascore cough cough).
Despite a masterfully cut trailer, Warner Bros. should be ashamed of themselves for how they handled this release. A platform roll out would have worked much better, letting the brains in New York and LA see it first, and make it a "cause celebre" –cranking up the debate about the philosophies in the film. That opportunity is gone now, and so is any chance at making a profit. Cloud Atlas will be lucky to make $30 million at the domestic box office, and will have to hope that its bevy of international stars helps it out overseas - or it turns into a financial pumpkin.