Skip to main content

The whole world's gonna be watching.

Box Office Comment
March- April 2013


There weren’t any huge surprises over March and April, at least in terms of films that no one expected to do well becoming break-out hits. Certainly, we saw under-performers, and a couple of over-performers, but nothing has become the sizable hit studios want as an all-round boost until the last couple of weeks has.

That mega-hit finally arrived in the last week of April (internationally). Iron Man Three has already made $680m worldwide, even increasing its international take in its second week (quite remarkable). As some analysts have been given to comment, it’s behaving like a sequel to Avengers, rather than to Iron Man 2. And makes Robert Downey Jr. fairly unbeatable. Iron Man 2 finished with $60m less than the third installment has taken in 10 days. The only question now is how far towards $1.5bn it will head, rather than if it will hit the billion mark. My estimated ($750-900m) now appears very conservative, although I’d estimate at the US tally ending up in the $400-450m range (I guessed $330-370m). But anyone thinking this is prescriptive of the response to Thor: The Dark World is kidding themselves.

Prior to the return of Tony Stark, the year’s biggest hit was Oz The Great and Powerful. I expected this to be a disappointment and, relative to its cost, it has been. It’s nearing a final total now, and stands at $484m. Significantly, that total is near 50-50 US/International; not the kind of ratio studios want in this day and age. With a cost of $200m+, Disney will no doubt break even eventually, but I doubt that they will bank on a sequel. Just imagine how different it might have been had Downey Jr. been bagged rather than non-star James Franco. I wouldn’t bet against the former’s Pinocchio being a hit, however unlikely it sounds on paper. I didn’t think Oz would get more than $400m worldwide ($170m US); it has received more of a welcome than I expected, but still a slightly tepid one.

Another one I had low expectations for is The Croods, so the moral is to never underestimate an animated movie. It’s reached half a billion worldwide and, although it’s trailing off now, it’s comfortably in Dreamworks’ Top 10 in that genre. Which will be a relief to shareholders. The studio has won a reprieve until next time, and the film has done as well as could probably be hoped for. Again, I didn’t expect this to reach more than $400m worldwide; an underperformer as opposed to the medium-sized hit for the studio it’s become (it’s $200m behind Madagascar 3).

G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s only upset has been in a heartier International response than predicted for a quintessentially American property. The first film was split almost 50/50; this one is currently closer to 70/30 in favour of International. At $355m worldwide, we may yet see another sequel in spite of reshoots, 3D conversion and release delays. My top-end estimate of $290m was somewhat short, but in the same ballpark.

Rounding out the Top Five for the year to date is the critically savaged A Good Day to Die Hard, which has limped past $300m on the strength of international sales (a massive 78% of takings, a similar ratio to Hansel and Gretel). Some writer’s been touting his name about as drafting Die Hard 6; bunkum in his case, one suspects. But, given the under-control budget, a sixth chapter seems an eventual inevitability. Make a final sequel by all means but please let John McClane bow out with a bit of dignity and a decent director, Fox.

Oblivion is roughly in line with expectations; a reasonable return thus far, but it wont do anything stratospheric. So Kosinski and Cruise live to make more movies, but there won’t be any blank cheques forthcoming. I estimated $270-350m worldwide. With a current take of $222m, the $300m barrier may be reachable. In the US it will flounder somewhere around the $90m mark, further emphasising Cruise’s loss of appeal on home soil.

Although Oz definitely wasn’t a success to crow about, the movie that all the “This year’s John Carter” headlines have been written about has barely grossed its production budget. Bryan Singer’s decay into blandly serviceable fare has reached its nadir with Jack the Giant Slayer. I estimated a top end of $170m, which is close to the $195m near-final figure.

Identity Thief is your typical surprise US comedy hit, in that the Rest of the World has greeted it indifferently. Nearly 80% of its gross is from home audiences, further underlying that a Hangover-type phenomenon is a relative rarity.

As if to underline this point, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone bombed like you wouldn’t believe. It has yet to open in many markets, but any kind of recovery is beyond reach. It’s the one I’ve got most wrong, since a $22m US gross (so, unlikely to get even to $50m worldwide) against my minimum estimates of US $70m/ international $160m. I guess I just liked the trailer. Jim Carrey certainly won’t be the comeback kid this year.

Still on the comedy front, the flop that is The Big Wedding ($13m US) is hardly likely to salvage itself when it goes global. Director Justin Zackham appears to be taking much of the blame. Even my low-end estimates ($55/$85m US/Int) look high.

Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain won’t reach $50m US, and is hardly likely to ignite elsewhere now. I thought it might do a bit better, but it seems audiences aren’t too well disposed to his queasy black comedy (even when he’s done the same with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence there have been mutterings of concern). Still, it didn’t cost much. My estimates were $65/$90m US/Int low end.

Olympus Has Fallen has slightly exceeded my high-end estimates (currently at $95m, I expected no more than $75m) but it doesn’t appear to being met with rapture internationally. Leave that to Roland Emmerich. Currently at $135m worldwide, it will top my high-end estimate of $140m.

The Evil Dead remake is currently standing at $72m globally. If it wasn’t so nasty (at the expense of scary), it might have been better received. It was cheap, and a sequel is guaranteed, but it should have gone $100m+ given the hype.

The Weinsteins’ resuscitation of Scary Movie has been met with even greater indifference than the return of Scream a couple of years back. At $50m, it has made only a third as much as the next lowest grosser in the franchise.

In contrast, Brad Anderson’s Halle Berry-starrer The Call has made a tidy little profit for Sony; $51m US with many regions still to show it.

I bet low for The Host, but not low enough, it seems. No one seems much interested in non-Twilight Stephenie Meyer and at $48m that’s some way short of my minimum bid of $75m Worldwide.

Tyler Perry’s latest (US-only) did business in line with expectations, while the likes of Last Exorcism 2 and Dead Man Down have fizzled. Nobody was much interested in Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in Admission, while The Place Beyond the Pines has had limited success on a limited budget (so evens at best).

That leaves 42, currently going strong at $78m and showing legs. I batted for $80-120m, and it could easily top $100m US. Worldwide it’s still unlikely to get much traction, however.

May-June is where it all kicks off. Star Trek Into Darkness is currently provoking some unease as a potential underperformer, with suggestions that the marketing has been botched by J J Abrams; giving a shit about the identity of a villain the general public is clueless about is possibly a mistake. And fanboys are already cursing its appropriation of, and disrespect for, the series’ mythology.

Fast and Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III open on the same weekend in the US, which is asking to split audiences. But both are pretty much dead certs; I’m not sure that the previous Hangover was as disdained by the public as it was by critics and the Internet. But we shall see.

I’ve been doubtful about Epic’s chances but now it’s looking more like kids’ fare coming at the right time (and Turbo, for which I was optimistic, may be a bit late in the season). I’m still having trouble seeing After Earth doing much more than Oblivion-sized business. Now You See Me is one of the few releases that looks like it will ask its audience to come in with their brains switched on so, provided it does, it would be nice if it’s a sleeper hit. It could get lost in the melee, however.

The Internship could go either way; the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson heyday of Wedding Crashers is nearly a decade hence, and comedy (even Adam Sandler comedy) has a shelf life. However it does in America, its chances in the rest of the World are likely limited.

Man of Steel will go through the roof; it’s the only movie I can really see giving Iron Man Three a run for its money this summer. Hey, I want to see it and I’m ambivalent about the now-pantless superhero.

I’ve been conservative with my estimates for Monsters University, but apparently test screenings have gone incredibly well. As for World War Z, I’m expecting it to open at very least, and I can quite see International audiences lapping it up. The anti-PG-13-zombie crowd won’t be happy no matter what, however. Whitehouse Down has just released a trailer that looks like the kind of daft thrill ride you expect from the director of 2012, so I don’t think Olympus getting out of the gate first will harm its chances. The Heat, given Identity Thief’s success, will surely do well in the US, but again, all bets are off when exporting comedies. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.