Tuesday, March 11, 2014

300 Slays a Really Smart Dog at the Box Office

Scott analyzes the aftermath of the Battle of Movies Set In the Distant Past that occurred this weekend at the box office.

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This weekend in theatres was a solid one, posting the highest gross since Valentine’s weekend as it brought in $143 million, a similar take to the same weekend last year which nabbed $140 million. Two movies of great potential for dollars debuted in 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel to 2007’s Zack Snyder directed 300, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a family animated film that was based on a Rocky and Bullwinkle segment Peabody’s Improbable History. While family films can usually take the lead at this time of year, it was the stylized battling armies of 300 that were able to steal top spot.

Going into the weekend industry tracking numbers for 300: Rise of an Empire showed a possible predicted range between around $35 and $45 million dollars. While I ended up believing that the film may end up on the lower end of the spectrum due to two films of similar genre already bombing in the box office this year, the lack of Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, seven years passed since the original, and no carry over heroes from the first film. The R-rated action film took in $45 million, which was 35% lower than the $70 million opening weekend that 300 was able to make.

The numbers are lower, but it is still a very good start for the film. It has a much larger production budget than the original ($110 million compared to $65 million), but it already sits at $132 million worldwide and should easily be able to turn a profit for Warner Brothers. Unlike the other sword and sandal movies that ultimately tanked this year, the brand recognition as well as the distinct visual style of the franchise was able to set it apart and perhaps give the studio reason to consider penning a sequel, but it would probably be best if they did not wait another seven years to release it. With that being said, Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out seven years after Terminator and was able to bring in $31.7 million compared to the original’s $4 million, so it looks like my argument about not waiting seven years may not carry all the weight in the world.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
easily took second place with an opening weekend haul of $35 million dollars. It is a positive way to start its box office campaign, but it is also under a shadow of a budget of $145 million. In the world of big budget films, $145 million is not a monstrous number but we have seen very successful animated family films show that quality does not need to come with a hefty price tag.

Despicable Me 2 (which had the third highest worldwide gross of 2013) had a very modest budget of $76 million, and The LEGO Movie (which is currently this year’s highest grossing movie) was able to bring in a deep cast and create beautiful animation for $65 million. Considering the budget for Mr. Peabody & Sherman, it will need to bring in over $300 million dollars to clear both production and marketing costs.

Not appearing in the top 10 this weekend was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which had an absolutely terrific opening of $811,000 across only four locations and giving it a per theatre average of $202,792. The film boasts both a very talented cast as well as the visual presentation that fans of Anderson have become to be familiar with. The critics are showing lots of love towards the film, as it currently has a Rotten Tomato rating of 89%. With such a successful opening, it is a good bet that the film will be expanding to more theatres next weekend.

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