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Weekend Box Office: ‘The Croods’ Notches Best Animated Opening Since November

Weekend Box Office: 'The Croods' Notches Best Animated Opening Since November

Normally, we’re besieged by animated fare during all months, but not so far in
2013. The only animated film of the year thus far was “Escape From Planet Earth,”
a production from The Weinstein Company that was treated like a last minute
dump, posting numbers that only counted as a hit compared to the film’s small
budget and meager ad campaign. Before that, DreamWorks kept “Rise of the
” active in over 3,000 sparsely-attended engagements, though over the
holidays it seemed kids would rather toss snowballs around than watch a weirdly
oppressive, vaguely non-denominational holiday movie. Which meant that all Fox
had to do was not embarrass themselves with “The Croods,” supplying the kids
market with a 3D diversion that stands as the second biggest opening of the
year, far ahead of the middling ‘Guardians’ debut. And yes, to some of you
adults reading this, there’s a movie out there called “The Croods.” Don’t worry,
it’s for kids.

DreamWorks caught a lot of flak for the weaker showing of ‘Guardians,’
putting pressure on “The Croods” as the first DW production to be released
under Fox to break the studio out of the doldrums. DreamWorks always saw
themselves as reasonable competitors to Pixar’s hefty box office tallies, but
the last few from them have proven their second-tier craftsmanship places them
closer to Blue Sky, who themselves have a home at Fox. It does seem like DreamWorks
Animation has something of an opening weekend ceiling, as “The Croods” is
premiering with numbers in the ballpark, if somewhat lower, than “How To Train
Your Dragon
” and “Megamind.”

There was a full court press for this film, however, with a
massive 4,000 plus screen release and a heavy ad budget that attempted to
obscure the reviews, notably poorer than the average CG-‘toon. Overseas results
have been solid but unspectacular, suggesting this is one premise that
just won’t travel too far. But it’s a family picture, and when they open big a
week before a major holiday, they usually carry that strength over another extra week. With Easter in its sights, “The Croods” could produce a hold that’s
ultimately the difference between a $150 and $200 million haul.

Gerard Butler lives! The formerly hot leading man had been
left for dead after a string of non-performers, particularly last year’s deadly
double deuce of “Chasing Mavericks” and “Playing For Keeps.” Then again, it’s
one thing when the films you make are turkeys, earning publicity for losing
tons of studio cash. It’s another if they’re one of Butler’s sparsely attended efforts, as the last few
did so poorly that even snarky publicists who talk about “flops” without
actually seeing them couldn’t slander them. For a large chunk of his fanbase,
Butler merely took a vacation after “Law Abiding Citizen,” returning for “Olympus
Has Fallen
,” which is the year’s first R-rated red-meat actioner to play successfully to its core audience.

The Last Stand,” “Bullet to the Head,” “Parker” and “A Good
Day to Die Hard
” – a sea of R-rated action, and FilmDistrict’s White House
terrorism picture topped them all handily. It’s hard to say this is Butler’s
doing, as the premise was very clearly communicated through ads developed in a
fairly compact time frame shortly after the new year. The picture is also
loaded not necessarily with leading men, but familiar faces that put audiences
at ease. You can’t put Morgan Freeman or Aaron Eckhart in the lead and expect blockbuster numbers: put them together, and not only are they
attractive to audiences based on prior associations but, subliminally, it’s a ‘Dark
‘ reunion! Sometimes movies bank on one mega-star, but, like cooking or
lovemaking, it’s the exact combination of ingredients that makes a film an
exciting proposition to filmgoers.

There seemed to be a peace treaty signed by Sony and
FilmDistrict, as no ad materials have been released for this summer’s “White
House Down
” to distract from the opening of ‘Olympus.’ FilmDistrict has to
count themselves lucky in this regard, as it was a risk making their most
expensive production ($70 million plus) so quickly in an attempt to beat a
bigger project to theaters – the script for ‘Olympus’ was sold only twelve
months ago. As a result, they have their biggest opening weekend in studio
history, though fingers crossed it can withstand “G.I. Joe Retaliation” next

Oz the Great and Powerful” continues to speed along
towards $200 million domestically, losing about half its audience as it sits comfortably as
the year’s highest grossing film thus far. You’d have to be a Disney accountant
to determine whether the $325 million plus expenditure on both production and
prints and advertising means a likely $220 million final domestic tally is a “success,”
but regardless if Disney is going home “still obscenely rich” or “slightly less
obscenely rich,” even with international numbers added in this is a mildly disappointing result considering this was green lit with the $1 billion total
of “Alice In Wonderland” on the studio’s minds. By turning down a sequel early,
Sam Raimi wisely excused himself from spending the next few months being asked
about a second installment that might not even happen, while James Franco, that
rascally chameleon, already has another movie currently in release that has
earned the promotional attention of his hyperactively public persona.

Check out “The Call,” comfortably sailing over $30 million
in just ten days of release. Most thought the film would tap out at that
generous total, but it has played strong to its demographic, a low-key
crowd pleaser putting up numbers in a marketplace bereft of chillers. What
happened to suspense thrillers? They don’t seem to make very many of them
anymore, but considering this one comes with a high-visibility star eager to do
promotion (work it, Halle Berry) and a small budget, expect a couple more like
this to possibly hit the multiplex in the next couple of years. Congratulations
to WWE Films as well, as it took three days for this to be their
highest-grossing release of all time. We’ll ignore that it took them seventy
billion terrible movies for them to get to that point.

Admission” barely broke into the top five because, yup, no
one cares. On one level, the specificity of this story, involving an Ivy League
admissions officer attempting to get an oddball student into Princeton, is a
topic few filmgoers have any direct experience with. On another, look at the racial
makeup of this cast: studio films catch a lot of deserved negativity for
casting minorities as sidekicks, villains and wallflowers, but the fact is that
diverse racial makeup is naturally pleasing to the average moviegoer as a
default now. It’s exceptionally unusual for a middle or lower class filmgoer to
confront a primarily white demographic at a place of work, education, recreation
or worship. For the most part, you can make a film with a predominantly black or
mixed cast and attract the attention of general audiences. But an entirely white cast
in a film taking place at an Ivy League school almost seems like a purposely
exclusionary concept to most moviegoers in 2013. Also, racial commentary aside,
the ad campaign was awful.

Spring break forevah! After selling out indie theaters last
weekend, ebullient youth doomsday picture “Spring Breakers” burst upon the
scene onto 1,104 screens. Considering the per-screen average isn’t comparable
to the chatter generated by one of the year’s most talked about films, upon
first glance these numbers aren’t too impressive. But distributor A24 took a
huge leap in a bold, borderline futuristic ad strategy: the film essentially
ignored television, allowing its stars to do promotion for the film without
sinking a budget in 30-second spots to convey a concept best illustrated
through breathless social media outlets. With a $2 million budget, this picture
represents another feather in the cap of producers Chris Hanley, Jordan Gertner, and Charles-Marie Anthonioz as well as executive producer Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures
because MEAL (Megan Ellison is Allergic to Losing).

Now you see it, now you don’t, said audiences for “The Incredible
Burt Wonderstone
” (el oh el!). The middling opening likely led to a spread of
nasty word of mouth, leaving this one for dead. Magic just isn’t cool, fellas,
and it’s doubly uncool when it’s in a comedy where the main joke seems to be
how completely uncool magic is. Quit outthinking yourselves, Warner Bros., ‘Wonderstone’
was one of the few releases it slotted under their New Line Cinema shingle,
another being “Jack the Giant Slayer.” Not a good year to work at New Line,
said that one guy still keeping the lights on at New Line. That being said,
they still have two more ‘Hobbit‘ pictures to release, though New Line seems to
exist only for ceremonial purposes these days with Warner Bros. running the
show out there – poorly, it seems.

Identity Thief” spent its seventh week in the top ten, and
it looks like it’s finally ready to exit the marketplace. ‘Oz’ remains the highest grossing 2013
release, but ‘Thief’ might register as the biggest hit, considering it only
cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million, which likely would have paid
for only a couple of 5-minute patches of ‘Oz.’ Meanwhile, audiences have
finally stopped “Snitch”ing. The action thriller should hit $40 million
domestic by the end of Sunday, rounding out a respectable total for an
off-season actioner, particularly considering the aforementioned deflated
market for musclebound action heroes.

1. The Croods (Fox/DreamWorks) – $44.7 million
2. White House Down: Bodega Edition (FilmDistrict) – $30.5 million
3. Oz: The Mildly Profitable (Disney) – $22.5 million ($176
4. The Call (Sony) – $8.8 million ($31 mil.)
5. Paul Rudd Is Awkwardly Cute And Kissable Again (Focus) –
$6.4 million
6. Look At Mah Shit! (A24) – $5.2 million ($5.6 mil.)
7. The Forgettable Burt Wonder… something (Warner Bros.) – $4.2
million ($17 mil.)
8. Jack The Giant Racist Jerk Who Always Ruins Parties (Warner
Bros.) – $2.7 million ($59 mil.)
9. Identity Thief (Universal) – $2.5 million ($128 mil.)
10. Snitch (Lionsgate/Summit) – $1.8 million ($40 mil.)

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