Ralph Wrecks It
By John Hamann
November 4, 2012
Wreck-It Ralph has arrived. That means it’s a big Game Over for Cloud Atlas, Silent Hill 2 and Hotel Transylvania (cue the sounds of Pac Man being eaten by ghosts).
Our number one film of the weekend is Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s latest foray into the big, big business of November animation. The digitally animated feature earned an on-target $49.1 million this weekend from 3,752 venues, as the weekend gross matched tracking expectations of a $45-$50 million opening. It overcame the remnants of Hurricane Sandy and managed a venue average of $13,082. It is the highest opening frame since Taken 2 grabbed $49.5 million over the October 5th weekend, and debuts more strongly than Hotel Transylvania’s $42.5 million. While it may be hard to believe, this weekend marks the opening session of the holiday box office season, and Wreck-It Ralph provides a decent, but not breakout, beginning.
Using a two-pronged approach for drawing audiences (1980s retro video games for adults, cool animation and simple story for the kids), Disney bet big on Wreck-It Ralph, spending $165 million to bring the "bad guy turns good" story to the screen, and it needed the big opening it got this weekend to propel it towards success. This start will make Wreck-It at the very least a $150 million domestic earner, if not $200 million, and there is no reason why this won’t be a $400 million earner overseas. Wreck-It Ralph also screams sequel, so this could be big for Disney for a long time.
The expensive animated feature had a couple of things going for it, but had the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy working against it. In the plus column was good reviews, as Wreck-It Ralph was 84% fresh at RottenTomatoes at the time of this writing, with some critics calling it the best of the year, and many referencing the retro feel. Also positive was the state of the box office last weekend, where the top 12 films earned only $81.2 million, the low point over the last six weekends. A frame ago, the three-weekend-old Argo climbed to number one and the five-weekend-old Hotel Transylvania placed third. Obviously, audiences were desperate for new product, and got it this weekend with Wreck-It Ralph. My question is this: Had Hurricane Sandy not turned the Eastern Seaboard on its head last week, would these numbers be higher? With people still struggling to get their lives back on track on the East Coast, many of those would not have considered this to a be a movie-going weekend, and the hurricane took a direct approach at one of the biggest movie going areas in the country.
Wreck-It Ralph’s weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) was 3.66, which means more people showed up over the weekend proper than on Friday night. Multipliers for kids’ films in early November should be quite high. Puss in Boots earned a 3.6 over the October 28th weekend last year, and a 4.2 multiplier over its second frame on November 4th, when it dropped only 3%. Wreck-It Ralph should have no problem with good legs. It has two weekends to work as counter-programming against a couple of big releases (Skyfall and Twilight), before Rise of the Guardians debuts and challenges Ralph for that animated coin.