Could the Hollywood marketplace be changing? Are studios no longer banking on bigger openings, instead shifting expectations to a long and healthy shelf life? They’d better hope so, as softer openings for recent efforts like “Footloose,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “Dolphin Tale” have allowed those titles to survive a fairly weak release schedule.
As more and more studios have planned for 2012, films have been pushed from the 2011 slate, leaving a fairly barren winter season. And yet, the first major November film, the star-studded “Tower Heist,” opened to relatively meager numbers ($25.1 million) against incumbent number one “Puss In Boots“ ($33.1 million) despite no competition from only one other wide-release newcomer. All involved are box office heavy hitters, but this is the lowest live-action Ben Stiller opening since 2007 flop “The Heartbreak Kid,” the third straight weak opening for an Eddie Murphy live-action blockbuster since ‘07, and Brett Ratner’s least-impressive first weekend since 2004’s “After The Sunset.”
This is what happens when you don’t strike while the iron is hot. Despite its accidental relevance in the wake of #OccupyWhatever, “Tower Heist” has been in development for years, and with Stiller and Murphy, the film carried little-to-no relevance to a youth audience who know Stiller and Murphy as the stars of shitty kiddie movies. This is what happens when commercial brands are sullied by an over-reliance on commercial necessities. While Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder” was an R-rated hit that won plaudits from critics, his other mainstream adult-centric efforts have been few and far between. Since the end of ‘04, a year where Stiller appeared in six releases, his mainstream adult core has been served by 'Heartbreak' and two 'Focker' movies. We apologize to the ten non-critics who paid to see the otherwise-excellent “Greenberg.”
Murphy, meanwhile, is at a career crossroads. He’s got “A Thousand Words” coming up, though that’s another family-centric effort that’s gathered moss on the shelf for awhile, and he’s doing a voice for “Hong Kong Phooey,” because “Shrek” residuals have kept the Murphy household very happy. Beyond that, his Oscar gig could give him a momentary Colin Farrell-type career boost, or send him into the premature retirement of which he’s hinted. If his performance in “Tower Heist” is any indication, it’s the latter. As for Brett Ratner, he’s clearly running out his goodwill by the day.
'Heist' was projected to be number one by a healthy margin, but that was not taking into account that the “Puss In Boots” opening last weekend was affected by kids staying home due to Halloween and the East Coast snowstorm. Clearly word of mouth was also a factor, as this was a pretty muscular hold for a second week kiddie flick. This might not be at the level of the other “Shrek” films, the last of which grabbed $232 domestic, but 'Puss' has one more weekend until “Happy Feet Two,” which isn’t tracking nearly as well as its predecessor. Similarly “Tower Heist” is the standard star-studded low-impact crowd-pleaser that could play for weeks throughout winter. Get used to these two battling it out for the next few weeks.
Despite 3D-inflated prices, audiences had very little interest in “A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas.” Titled like a television special, H&K fans treated it as such, and the film looks as its opened weaker than the second film. This is a limited fan base and the series may have run one movie too long. While it’s good that this generation has had their own Cheech and Chong, these movies, while affordable, aren’t cheap enough to justify the expense of a fourth effort, especially given their frontloaded nature. It’s back to TV for Kal Penn and John Cho, most likely. Though a weekly “Harold And Kumar” episode seems like money in the bank.
Weekend three is all good news for “Paranormal Activity 3.” It’s not about keeping its massive screen engagement as it is passing milestones, as globally this is already the most successful of the series, and domestically it has a good chance of eclipsing the original. The fall was less severe for “In Time,” which is slowly gliding down the top ten, bound to end up on hotel double-bills with “Friends With Benefits.” As an unconventional sci-fi project performing to so-so numbers, it renders the Justin Timberlake-as-big-screen-star experiment inconclusive, though the film will be long forgotten by the time Timberlake shows up in the Coens’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
“Footloose” posted the lowest drop in the top ten, and could conceivably approach $60 million, a superb number for a remake no one really wanted after the softer-than-Downey debut. It stayed above “Real Steel,” which has managed decent-sized holds, but will nonetheless fall short of $100 million, a tremendous loss for all parties involved. “The Rum Diary” took a second week slide and should be forgotten by next week, while adult fare “The Ides of March” and “Moneyball” are closing very successful multi-week runs at better-than-expected numbers.
1. Cat With Shoes (Paramount) – $30.5 million (domestic: $73 mil.)
2. Castle Robbery (Universal) – $24.5 million
3. A Very Harold And Kumar Obligatory Seasonal Sequel (Warner Bros.) – $14.2 million
4. Pair Of Normal Activities (Paramount) – $8.5 million (domestic: $95 mil.)
5. In Time (Fox) – $7.8 million (domestic: $24 mil.)
6. Footloose (Paramount) – $4.5 million (domestic: $45 mil.)
7. Real Steel, Fake Plastic Trees (Fox) – $3.5 million (domestic: $79 mil.)
8. The Rum Diary (FilmDistrict) – $3.1 million (domestic: $11 mil.)
9. The Ides of March (Sony) – $2 million (domestic: $37 mil.)
10. Moneyball (Sony) – $2 million (domestic: $70 mil.)