Maybe that sequel will happen after all. Very clever, Universal. First, you announce that "Snow White and the Huntsman" is tracking a bit weak, possibly in the low 30s. Then, there's a "leak" that you've backtracked on a sequel since getting David Koepp to pen a follow-up. And now, with reports that 'Huntsman' may have actually connected with the young males they were trying to entice, registering a $55 million opening, there's great rejoicing for the film, particularly in the wake of the absolutely pathetic "Battleship" returns.
There are a couple of narratives here, most of them involving Universal dodging a major bullet. One, obviously, is a victory over the opposing Snow White film, with "Mirror Mirror" only collecting $63 million domestic, a number 'Huntsman' should reach by midweek. Another is a big debut for a film with three relatively untested leads, all of whom see their profiles raised considerably. Following "Thor" and "The Avengers," Chris Hemsworth now has three straight starring roles that have broken at least $55 million in their opening weekends, without counting the left-for-dead "Cabin in the Woods." Charlize Theron, always liked and respected in Hollywood, likely buys herself a few more years as a Hollywood leading lady, at least before the cruel beast that is this industry forces her to start playing moms.
More importantly, it raises the profile of Kristen Stewart. While she hadn't really tested her mainstream appeal beyond the dubious "Twilight" franchise, it was a gamble bringing her on as Snow White knowing that, like most young actresses, her Q-rating owes itself to a number of filmgoers who register actual dislike and disdain (jealousy?) towards her. Having the central role in another blockbuster, and possible franchise, places her in the very small conversation of young females who can open a film, alongside peers like Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence.
Like most recent blockbusters, "Snow White and the Huntsman" also has to overcome its significant budget. Not being based on a recognizable brand beyond the broad fairy tale designation suggests it could have stronger week-to-week legs. Though a 'B' Cinemascore suggests perhaps audiences may not be into what most critics agreed was a turgid, uninspired fantasy film, the picture did register strong overseas numbers as well. But with a cost of $170 million plus, along with what must have been a hefty ad budget, results in the neighborhood of $500 million global might be needed, a difficult bar to reach without 3D-inflation.
"Men In Black III" shuffled past the $100 million domestic line, though that too is at the mercy of its obscene costs. While there are stronger overseas results thus far that should help the film eclipse the last picture's $441 million, it's going to need to level off in order to reach the first film's $589 million worldwide number. And that's with fifteen years of inflation, on top of 3D-enhanced prices. Considering a huge chunk of the reportedly $250 million plus budget as well as the backend goes to participants Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Sony might just escape taking a bath on this installment. "Men In Black 4" seems a tad improbable, though, at least not with the expensive above-the-title talent.
What more can you say about "The Avengers"? Weekend five provided Disney with an achievement beyond their wildest dreams, as it has now outgrossed all films not directed by James Cameron (yep, you're still the king of the world, you rich bastard). Whiile the picture loses quite a bit of steam from weekend to weekend, it's still holding on strong and the Marvel Studios' super hero saga is now the #3 domestic and international grosser of all time, moving "The Dark Knight" into fourth place stateside and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" globally. That's $1.355 billion and counting worldwide. Strong, but not strong enough for the film to crack the top two of "Avatar" and "Titanic." Either way, it's certainly a good way for Joss Whedon to wipe "Titan A.E." off his resume.
There are relatively few success stories this summer, but "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" has to be one of them. The Brit-com surpassed $100 million worldwide earlier this week, with plenty more to come stateside given the film had the lowest drop of any film in the top ten. Fox Searchlight has played this exactly right, allowing a steady expansion and word of mouth to allow the film to trump similar non-blockbuster summer fare like "What To Expect While You're Expecting," the latter of which finally limped over $30 million domestic. There's always an underserved audience out there, just waiting for a fastball right down the middle. In this case, the always underrated Tom Wilkinson Fan Club.
The rest of the top ten was just making time. "The Dictator" is completing a middling theatrical run before a no-doubt healthy rental life, while "Battleship" began a slow and steady walk out of the limelight after losing its studio a good $100 million plus. "Dark Shadows" may have been far too expensive, but few people genuinely lose their shirts when a film begins to approach $200 million worldwide. A release in 757 theaters allowed "For Greater Glory" to debut in the top ten, though its per-screen suggests a lack of future success. And keep on truckin', "The Hunger Games" — the blockbuster hangs on just outside the top ten by its fingernails, landing at $398 million, desperate to reach that $400 milestone. May the odds be ever in their favor. And by that, we mean it's genuinely sick when people actively root for megablockbusters to keep making money. Enjoy your guilt trip!
While it hasnt opened here yet (next weekend), Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" is off to a great start: $35 million hauled in already from 15 markets abroad, including the U.K. Now the question remains, as it's been met with somewhat mixed reviews (many glowing, but centering on the fact that it ultimately falls short of its potential greatness), will the film still become a mega blockbuster, a blockbuster or sub-par blockbuster at the box-office and can reviews derail its thunderous buzz?
Meanwhile, in limited release, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" — which set a record for the all-time highest per-screen average in movie history last weekend– continues to kick ass. Expanding from from four to sixteen theaters, the film grossed $849k this weekend, boasting a $53k per screen average and pushing its total to $1.7 million so far. With only sixteen theaters, it was right behind current indie hit "Bernie," which brought in $937k at 300 locations, approaching $3.7 million after six weeks in theaters.
The results weren't nearly as strong for other limited releases. "Piranha 3DD," inexplicably given a tiny theatrical release in lieu of a DVD debut, couldn't benefit from 3D prices, grossing $179k at seventy nine locations. On twenty two screens, "Hardflip" hardly made its presence felt with $55k in grosses, while Oscar favorite "A Cat In Paris" fared better, with $36k on six screens. And then there's the two-hundred theater debut of the long-delayed "High School." Despite it's (ahem) high concept premise, the film collected a meager $80k, which averages out to a piddling $403 per-screen. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. Snow White And Jon Huntsman (Universal) – $56.3 million
2. Diminishing Returns 3D (Sony) – $29.3 million ($112 mil.)
3. Marvel's ATM Machine (Marvel) – $20.3 million ($553 mil.)
4. Battleship (Universal) – $4.8 million ($55 mil.)
5. The Dictator (Paramount) – $4.7 million ($51 mil.)
6. The Sexiest Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – $4.6 million ($25 mil.)
7. What To Expect When You're Sex-Texting (Lionsgate) – $4.4 million ($31 mil.)
8. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $3.9 million ($71 mil.)
9. The Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros.) – $3 million ($14 mil.)
10. For Greater Glory (ArcEnt) – $1.8 million