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Box Office Top Ten: DreamWorks Scores Hit & Miss, ‘Veronica Mars’ Scores Day-and-Date Landmark, ‘Grand Budapest’ Soars

Box Office Top Ten: DreamWorks Scores Hit & Miss, 'Veronica Mars' Scores Day-and-Date Landmark, 'Grand Budapest' Soars

So far 2014 has boasted depth and variety, and this less-than-stellar weekend still shows the elements that have led to a 9% increase in gross so far. For the 16th consecutive weekend (going back to Thanksgiving), total grosses are up (around $97 million compared to $93 last year) despite the week’s two weak openers going wide– “Need for Speed” and “Tyler Perry’s Single Woman’s Club.” Luckily, holdovers did well enough to make up for this, even though neither “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” nor “300: Rise of an Empire” will be among the year’s top domestic successes.

Amid the variable wide releases, two more limited ones had varied results: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” reached #8 despite being on a mere 66 screens, showing far greater interest than anticipated, while the Kickstarter-financed “Veronica Mars” squeaked into the Top 10. This marks the best gross, though not best PSA, for a film released in theaters day-and-date with Video on Demand outlets.

1. “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #2

$21,200,000 (-%) in 3,951 theaters (+17); PSA (per screen average) $:5,366; Cumulative: $63,180,000

The lack of strong new films allowed a rare jump to #1 for a second-week of a release (not coincidentally, last achieved by a similar 3D animated film, “Frozen”). On its own level, the 35% drop is normal. It actually is about the same as DreamWorks Animation’s last release (through Fox) “Turbo,” but fortunately for them at a 50% higher gross level. Before this weekend, this had already taken in $70 million overseas. With a budget over $140 million before marketing costs, this remains a work in progress (a worldwide total of over $300 million will be needed to contribute to ultimate profit).

What comes next: With most upcoming weeks including spring vacations in some locales, this could have a better than average hold ahead, needed to get this to the total needed for profit. Jumping to #1 is positive, but keeping drops to 30% or less ahead will be more important.

2. “300: Rise of an Empire” (Warner Bros.) Week 2 – Last weekend #1

$19,105,000 (-58%) in 3,490 theaters (+20); PSA: $5,474; Cumulative: $78,311,000

Here’s another case where Top 10 placement isn’t quite as impressive when compared to the weekend change. The 58% drop is more than the 53% second weekend fall for the first “300,” which in turn opened much higher than the sequel. Like “Mr. Peabody,” this is another case where domestic grosses will be important to ultimate success, but international will ultimately determine the final result. With foreign at $87 million before the weekend combined with domestic so far, this continues to look like it will get to the level needed to justify the $110 million initial cost, but it could be a close call.

What comes next: “300” took in $210 million domestic. This will pass $100 million, but not by that much, so international needs to get over $200 million.

3. “Need for Speed” (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 39

$17,808,000 in 3,115 theaters; PSA: $5,717; Cumulative: $17,808,000

A disappointing result for this video-game transition into feature film (something that rarely works, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” is the exception that proves the rule), and another weak effort from Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks. Other than his “Lincoln,” the company hasn’t had a film reach much above $30 million since “Real Steel” in late 2011. In fact, they managed to provide both the two lowest-grossing BV releases of 2013 (“Delivery Man” and “The Fifth Estate”) and the lowest of 2012 (“People Like Us”). “Need for Speed” should fare better with a likely $40-million final domestic take, but opening at this level and at #3 is weak, more so with a $65 million budget.

Along with its well-known game brand, this actioner featured “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul in his first big-budget film leading role, directed by “Act of Valor”‘s Scott Waugh ($70 million). Co-producer and writing contributor John Gaitins got an Oscar nod for “Flight” and had previous success with “Coach Carter” and “Real Steel.” But despite this pedigree and the video game familiarity, this attempt to replicate the “Fast and Furious” formula was doomed to fail.

What comes next: International (not handled by Disney) is going to have to deliver strong numbers to give this any chance to break even — dicey considering the lack of a name lead.

4. “Non-Stop” (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #3

$10,600,000 (-33%) in 3,183 theaters (+70); PSA: $3,335; Cumulative: $68,800,000

Coverage of the missing Malaysian plane provided real-life competition for this Liam Neeson-airline suspenser, which had a normal drop to keep it in decent if not great position for its third weekend. This isn’t holding nearly as well as its prototype “Taken,” which opened lower than “Non-Stop” but was already at $77 million at the same point of its release.

What comes next: Universal’s domestic release of this pickup looks like a success, with once again the ultimate international haul, where it has been rolling out more slowly, set to determine whether this could become a second Neeson-centered franchise.

5. “Tyler Perry’s Single Mom’s Club” (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 30

$8,300,000 in 1,896 theaters; PSA: $4,378; Cumulative: $8,300,000

Lionsgate and Tyler Perry have had a great run together since 2007, but the weakness of this opening — the least of any of their joint efforts — explains why they recently announced that other than projects already committed they are ending their exclusive partnership. “Daddy’s Little Girl” early in the deal at $11 million was the previous low opener. This is also a rare effort to open as low as #5. It comes despite apparent positive audience response (A- Cinemascore). The audience though is limited — 79% female and 80% over 25 among signs of little crossover appeal.

What comes next: It has been a lucrative arrangement for both sides (it also included Perry’s overseeing of Lionsgate’s release of “Precious”) but the signs of declining audience interest have been apparent of late. Even with the lower (secret) budget of these films, this level of gross is below what is needed to sustain two to three new films a year.

6. “The Lego Movie” (Warner Bros.) Week 6 – Last weekend #4

$7,705,000 (-30%) in 3,040 theaters (-250); PSA: $2,535; Cumulative: $236,932,000

This continues to hold well, and looks to possibly overtake “Gravity”‘s domestic gross as best among Warners’ recent hits.

What comes next: Springs vacations and the usual than average holds for kids’ films should keep this around for about a month more.

7. “Son of God” (Twentieth Century Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #5

$5,400,000 (-48%) in 2,990 theaters (-281); PSA: $1,806; Cumulative: $50,875,000

$50 million + is impressive for what is basically found money (marketing costs the main expense for this theatrical version of a TV miniseries). The drop suggests it won’t be able to play easily until the possible boost leading up to Easter next month, but even so, this looks like win for all involved.

What comes next: A long life on DVD and cable after theatrical is done.

8. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Fox Searchlight) Week 2 – Last weekend #17

$3,640,000 (+349%) in theaters (+66); PSA: $55,152; Cumulative: $4,779,000

Last weekend’s record-breaking opening for Wes Anderson’s latest film wasn’t a fluke (which was the case when Weinstein expanded “The Master” after stunning initial grosses). The $55,000 PSA would be considered excellent for four initial theaters. For 66, it’s stratospheric. The most recent film to compare would be the third week expansion of “Zero Dark Thirty” post New Year’s-2013, which in 60 theaters had a PSA of $45,000 (on its way to almost $100 million, aided by Oscar nominations). More significantly, the $55,000 PSA is just above what Anderson’s previous hit, “Moonrise Kingdom,” achieved in its second weekend in only 16 (with the larger number of theaters  for “Budapest” making its greater result particularly impressive).  We are in uncharted territory, more so for this early in the year, but this will be a significant crossover specialized success.

What comes next: Fox Searchlight’s biggest concern now is managing their achievement and resisting the demands of exhibitors to expand quickly. This remains a somewhat limited audience/niche film, but at this point it seems likely to exceed “Moonrise Kingdom”‘s $46 million domestic take (which was enhanced by summer playtime and multi-month play that came from strong word of mouth). Forty new markets will be added this week for a total of around 300 theaters.

9. “Frozen” (Buena Vista) Week 17 – Last weekend #8

$2,117,000 (-28%) in 1,466 theaters (-194); PSA: $1,444; Cumulative: $396,356,000

Its 16th Top 10 week is no threat to the modern record holder (“Titanic” at 26), but otherwise this stands alone as a recurrent entry as Disney’s Oscar winner heads toward its inevitable $400 million domestic total.

What comes next: This might be its last time in the Top 10, but it still might have $10 million or more to add to its heft.

10. “Veronica Mars” (Warner Bros.) NEW – Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 62

$2,021,000 in 291 theaters; PSA: $6,944; Cumulative: $2,021,000

This is the best gross, though not best PSA, for a film released in theaters while also available on Video on Demand outlets. Warner Bros. paid for theaters (mainly from AMC, the one major nationwide exhibitor willing to take their money), which means all the gross reverts to them. It isn’t an inexpensive proposition — the rental deals aren’t known, and with $2.5 million for the full week being a good guess, not where most of the earnings for this will likely come. Since details of download receipts aren’t yet known, it’s hard to make a judgment on whether this is a success. The gross suggests that about 250,000 fans of the TV show (updated by creator Rob Thomas with most of the original cast after a successful Kickstarter financing campaign) were willing to see something that they could also have purchased. This isn’t in itself a big number, but the theatrical play plus all the additional media attention might have enhanced interest in the other venues. We await further details.

What comes next: Warners will need to decide how many screens to continue to rent with AMC. At this point, the total gross looks like it could come in under $4 million, far less than the $7.9 million reached by “Arbitrage” (Roadside Attractions) it its multi-week mostly mixed theatrical/VOD run.

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