Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Meatballs Rains Down onto the Top Spot in the Box Office

Scott serves up a piping hot dish of box office analysis and movie news from this past weekend.

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Busy is the word for theatres right now. There were three wide release movies last weekend, and as well, the expansion of Rush from New York and Los Angeles to theatres all over North America. There is no shortage of content for audiences, and that showed with four movies in the top five landing within around two million dollars of one another. There was an animation, a romantic comedy, a comedy/drama, and a racing car drama. There was, however, an absence of dance movies, and the performance of the previous weekend’s Battle of the Year (after ten days, it is already out of the top ten) shows us why that’s a good thing.

Once again we see the power that an animated family film can have in the box office, as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 was able to score first place on a busy weekend. While the film was not a hit with the all of the critics (scoring 60% on Rotten Tomatoes), it did do well with the audiences, averaging $8,502 per theatre. The $35 million from the Sony release shows that the distributor is onto something by scheduling an animation at this time of year as on the same weekend last year Sony released Hotel Transylvania to an opening weekend of $42.5 million. While the release schedule for the next month is full of Oscar bait, thrillers, action, and horror, there will not be another animation until Free Birds opens November 1st, meaning very little competition to steal box office attention away from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.  Planes, which had a lackluster opening weekend of $22 million, showed just how well an animation can do when there is no competition as it crawled its way to making $86 million and remained in the top ten until this past weekend.

Ron Howard’s F1 racing flick Rush, which is based on the real life story of the rivalry between Britain’s James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) during the 1976 racing season, came third with $10 million. It landed just behind last week’s number one movie, Prisoners, but was unable to pass the dark thriller. Rush features great performances by Bruhl and Hemsworth, who is able to prove that he is not just a pretty face, but a serious actor as well. Along with the great acting, there are some great visuals and audio that are able to transport the audience into the world of motorsports. The world of serious car racing movies is not a lucrative one, as movies like Days of Thunder and Driven opened to $15 million and $12 million respectively. With a lot of content coming out for mature audiences, Rush has a long way to travel to make back its $38 million budget.

In fourth place was romantic comedy Baggage Claim, which hauled in $9 million. I was really thinking that it had a chance to break the double digit millions, but it still did well as it averaged $4,455 (almost $100 more than Rush) over 2,027 theatres. While the critics were mostly against it (15% on Rotten Tomatoes), the critics are not the ones paying for the tickets, and audiences showed a lot more love towards it on Rotten Tomatoes, being 67% in favour of it. Even in the critical negativity, there seems to be positives said for star Paula Patton, who is able to bring a lot of charm to her roles. With a low budget of $8.5 million, it is a good start for the movie, which probably won’t break thirty million by the time it’s done.

Hitting fifth place was the feature film directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon, a movie about a man who is addicted to pornography and ends up exploring love, sex and relationships in ways he is not used to. Gordon-Levitt stars as the protagonist and also wrote the script, a lot of responsibility to tack onto the duties of a first time director. The narrative that really comes out of this movie is that the long-haired kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun is more talented that anyone probably originally believed and that Hollywood has a lot to gain from mentoring him and grooming him in his pursuits.  Don Jon earned $8.6 million in theatres, which is right around where a movie that has a serious focus on an issue like pornography will land. It is the kind of topic that could alienate a lot of audience members, and it may not be the best ‘date night’ material.

Last Friday I had mentioned that The Wolf of Wall Street has been bumped to December 25, and may not even be ready by then. On top of the current run time of the movie, which is over three hours, they are working to lower the rating of the film, which would currently be NC-17. There have also been a number of other movies with Oscar buzz around them that have been bumped from the 2013 schedule. The Weinstein Company has bumped Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman and The Immigrant. Sony Pictures Classics’ Foxcatcher, which is directed by Bennett Miller and stars Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, will also see a 2014 release date.

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