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

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

The protocol actually says that most Tersies will say this has to be a dream.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)
(SPOILERS) The Wachowski siblings’ wildly patchy career continues apace. They bespoiled a great thing with The Matrix sequels (I liked the first, not the second), misfired with Speed Racer (bubble-gum visuals aside, hijinks and comedy ain’t their forte) and recently delivered the Marmite Sense8 for Netflix (I was somewhere in between on it). Their only slam-dunk since The Matrix put them on the movie map is Cloud Atlas, and even that’s a case of rising above its limitations (mostly prosthetic-based). Jupiter Ascending, their latest cinema outing and first stab at space opera, elevates their lesser works by default, however. It manages to be tone deaf in all the areas that count, and sadly fetches up at the bottom of their filmography pile.

This is a case where the roundly damning verdicts have sadly been largely on the ball. What’s most baffling about the picture is that, after a reasonably engaging set-up, it determinedly bores the pants off you. I haven’t enco…

Seems silly, doesn't it? A wedding. Given everything that's going on.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010)
(SPOILERS) What’s good in the first part of the dubiously split (of course it was done for the art) final instalment in the Harry Potter saga is very good, let down somewhat by decisions to include material that would otherwise have been rightly excised and the sometimes-meandering travelogue. Even there, aspects of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I can be quite rewarding, taking on the tone of an apocalyptic ‘70s aftermath movie or episode of Survivors (the original version), as our teenage heroes (some now twentysomethings) sleep rough, squabble, and try to salvage a plan. The main problem is that the frequently strong material requires a robust structure to get the best from it.

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.

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his…

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…

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…