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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. 

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