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Weekend Box Office: ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ Provides Box Office’s Last Gasp Before ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

Weekend Box Office: 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' Provides Box Office's Last Gasp Before 'The Dark Knight Rises'

And lo, there was an ‘Ice Age‘ franchise. “Ice Age: Continental Drift” looks like it will continue the winning tradition of animation studio Blue Sky’s crown jewel, opening at a decent $46 million. Despite the fact that the lead characters of this franchise should be extinct by now, this past-due series still managed to generate solid opening numbers despite a summer that has already seen openings from “Brave” and “Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted.”

Even with inflated 3D prices, this first weekend is significantly less than both the $48 million haul of the original “Ice Age,” as well as the spectacular $68 million opening three day gross of “Ice Age: The Meltdown.” However, CG-animated films, and particularly the ‘Ice Age’ entries, are not the most predictable box office performers – consider the last installment, “Dawn Of The Dinosaurs,” which only pulled in $66 million over the five day July 4thweekend in 2009. Not only did it become the most successful domestic entry in the series thus far, but it grossed $690 million overseas, the highest tally ever for an animated film in international regions. The third film’s weaker opening likely derived from being the first ‘Ice Age’ film not opening in the spring, launching in a more competitive period, but eventually having the legs to outlast its competition.

Before this weekend, ‘Continental Drift’ had already amassed $240 million, tango-ing with “The Amazing Spider-Man” overseas, and with a few more regions to come, there’s no reason a global total over $700 million isn’t possible. Then again, there’s a storm coming – Mr. Wayne. “The Dark Knight Rises” emerges next week and could very possibly have the same effect as “The Avengers” did earlier this summer, as a a massive box office hit that cuts the legs out of any recent release, and proceeds to cannibalize everything released afterwards. At the very least, much more so than the coming August releases, ‘Ice Age’ will learn to endure, Mr. Wayne. And without having to burn down a single Burmese jungle.

He’s Amazing, he’s Spectacular, and he’s got legs. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is best served being compared to “Spider-Man 2,” which opened over the July 4th weekend eight years ago. Well, okay, guess it’s not an airtight comparison, at least in regards to inflation. Regardless, the holiday puts a premium on a spaced-out box office bonanza as opposed to the conventional emphasis on the three-day weekend, leading to the potential for films to have a bit more box office stamina. And while ‘Amazing’ is very much behind the total of “Spider-Man 2” after a less-impressive opening, it came at a cheaper cost and looks like it’s bound to have a second weekend hold stronger than “Spider-Man 2” and certainly “Spider-Man 3.”

With international receipts benefitting from the overseas embrace of the 3D format, Sony is expecting this entry to come in at $800 million globally. If you were to spin that negatively, you could say that comes in less than the overall receipts of “Spider-Man 3” and the much-cheaper original “Spider-Man,” despite years of inflation, the artificial fattening of lowered attendance with the 3D surcharge, and a wild explosion of the international marketplace since part three’s release. But attendance comes in a very distant second to profits, and with ‘Amazing’ showing Sony a significant return on the reportedly $230 million budget (give or take massive marketing dollars), the stage is set for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which already carries a 2014 release date. We have seen the box office future, and it is reheated half-remakes, 3D prices and near-immediate sequels.

It’s weekend three for “Ted,” which has maintained strong legs in the wake of a much-bigger-than-expected opening, and now looks like a strong play for $200 million domestic. No one could have expected this, least of all Fox, who passed on the $50-$60 million comedy despite the involvement of billionaire golden boy Seth MacFarlane, essentially responsible for an entire night of Fox television programming. Then again, Fox turned “Ted” down before Mark Wahlberg entered the picture, unaware of the rise of one of the more unlikely action-comedy leading men.

The mistake people make in the Death Of The Movie Star meme is that they don’t realize stars are in the same boat as executives – as long as a movie is not too expensive, some names can guarantee a ROI (Return On Investment). In that respect, Wahlberg is pretty much golden, purposely avoiding massive-budgeted films (with the exception of “Planet of the Apes,” which still made a pretty penny) and usually guaranteeing a core audience will come to grungy actioners like “Contraband” and “Shooter.” With “Date Night” and “The Other Guys” (as well as, in some ways, “The Fighter”), Wahlberg has revealed a strong comedic timing that has expanded his base to the point where “Ted” could become his highest grossing starring vehicle yet. The next person who invests in MacFarlane after having written and directed one of the biggest comedies of all time should probably wonder if the popular comedian wasn’t following in the Funky Bunch’s footsteps, riding ol’ Marky Mark’s coattails.

“Brave” is on the precipice of $200 million domestic, and should eventually pass the $206-million-grossing “Ratatouille” amongst Pixar efforts, though the $223 million take for “Wall-E” may be a bit too much to overcome. That would put “Brave” as the ninth-ranked Pixar film as far as gross, which is somewhat less impressive considering inflation and 3D are obscuring that its last two efforts were amongst Pixar’s least-attended.

The question is should Pixar worry? International receipts are stronger than ever (though “Brave” has yet to open in several key markets), and “Brave” gives the studio ten $200 million domestic hits in eleven years, an improbable streak. Pixar films tend to run a bit more expensively than other studios’ CG-animated efforts – “Brave” reportedly cost $185 million after a director change and major story restructuring, which has become commonplace at the studio. Compare that to the efforts of Blue Sky, who make sure none of the ‘Ice Age’ films, or the recent “Rio,” ever eclipse $100 million during production. Pixar is ensconced in the Disney family, though you wonder if there may be less autonomy or page-one rewrites if the Mouse House becomes concerned about shrinking profits.

Still dancing in all our hearts is “Magic Mike,” soon to pass $100 million domestic. Though ostensibly something of a crowd-pleaser, ‘Mike’ was a sub-$10 million indie production, with the domestic rights sold to Warner Bros. for a high seven-figure number. More importantly, however, “Magic Mike” was a zeitgeist film, an attention-getting skinfest that gave Channing Tatum his third hit of the year following “The Vow” and “21 Jump Street.” Ideally, this is the beginning of a renaissance of movies made for adults, by adults, tackling adult themes. Ideally, we would also live in candy houses.

Savages” was not long for this Earth, and while the second weekend hold was decent, Universal had to sacrifice one turkey this Thanksgiving. That’s a saying, right? They were not counting on the success of “Ted,” moved to the late June slot at the last minute (much like “Savages” moved from fall to July), causing one title to dive. After the massive “Ted” success (not to mention another huge R-rated adult film on the market in “Magic Mike”), the studio felt more comfortable downgrading the “Savages” release to less than 3,000 theaters, some of which were much smaller, less-accommodating engagements. It’s not politics, conspiracy seekers, just merely the ravages of the average studio schedule. Sometimes the resources aren’t there, and sometimes that means sacrificing optimal exposure for a $45 million crime movie with significant stars.  

Madea’s Witness Protection” and “Katy Perry: Part Of Me” are wrapping up their runs, ‘Madea’ with another $50 million domestic gross to his/her/that’s name. ‘Katy Perry’ is looking less like the Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana concert efforts, and more like the ignored “Glee The 3D Concert Movie” that you thought you hallucinated but actually happened. Both held steady over “Madagascar,” which became the first film in that series to cross $200 million domestic, while “Moonrise Kingdom” continued to play strongly at only 924 locations, comfortably crossing $30 million and registering the lowest drop in the top ten.

The biggest winner in the indie market was “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” which had a $9.5 per-screen average on 81 screens for a $775k take in its third week of release, and a total of $1.7 million. Also slowly adding screens was “The Intouchables,” which held steady with $354k, an increase of 23% from last weekend as it moved from 60 to 83 locations, made even more impressive considering the picture is in its eighth week of release stateside. The French hit has pulled in $3.6 million in the US.

Take This Waltz” did nearly identical business from last weekend, with a third week take of $150k on 47 screens, bringing it’s total to $632k. It was well ahead of a pack of new releases, none of which set the box office on fire. Documentary “The Obama Effect” found little support at 25 locations with a feeble $73k, right ahead of the four-screen engagement of “Farewell, My Queen,” grossing $72k.

On a much smaller scale, “Trishna” grabbed $30k at three locations, “Easy Money” scored some with $23.8k at two theaters and documentary “The Imposter” boasted a stellar single screen engagement of $20k. All were more impressive than the surprisingly quiet two-theater bow for “Red Lights,” which gathered $10k. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.  

1. Ice Age IV: It’s Pretty Much Madagascar 3D (Fox) – $46 million
2. Spider-Man Redux 3D (Sony) – $35 million ($200.9 mil.)
3. Bearlover (Universal) – $22.1 million ($159 mil.)
4. Brave 3D (Disney/Pixar) – $10.7 million ($195.6 mil.)
5. Michael The Magician (WB) – $9 million ($91.9 mil.)
6. Savages (Universal) – $8.7 million ($31.5 mil.)
7. Madea’s Not Even Trying Anymore (Lionsgate) – $5.6 million ($55.6 mil.)
8. Katy Perry: Essentially Disposable 3D (Paramount) – $3.7 million ($18.5 mil.)
9. Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) – $3.6 million ($32.4 mil.)
10. Madagascar: It’s Pretty Much Ice Age 3D (Paramount/DreamWorks) – $3.5 ($203.7 mil.) 

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