Box Office Briefs: It's Victory for Battle: L.A. ... and the Agony of Defeat for Mars Needs Moms

Box Office Briefs: It's Victory for Battle: L.A. ... and the Agony of Defeat for Mars Needs Moms

Mar 15, 2011

Call it a tale of two space-alien movies

Sony scored big this weekend with Battle: Los Angeles, a $70 million Independence Day-meets-Blackhawk Down war movie that won the domestic box office with a better-than-expected gross of $36 million.

As for Disney's Mars Needs Moms, lets just say the studio has been to the Red Planet, and it is full of red ink. The Robert Zemeckis-produced movie grossed just $6.8 million but cost more than $150 million to make. For the major studios, bombs don't come much bigger. And this one is almost historically bad.

Warner Bros., meanwhile, was the other studio premiering a big movie, Red Riding Hood, which didn't do as well as expected. The $39 million film, which stars Amanda Seyfried as the forest-venturing title character, and Gary Oldman as the big bad wolf, grossed just $14.1 million.

The big story this weekend was the sheer disaster that was Mars Needs Moms (more on that in a sec), but the weekend belonged to Battle: L.A., a $70 million thrill ride starring Aaron Eckhart, Avatar's Michelle Rodriguez and a bunch of people many of us have never heard of (which made it easier when they, er, succumbed.

I went and paid matinee money for this non-3D flick on my day off Friday ... and lets just say the audience was filled up with middle-aged dudes in shorts who could pass for the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons (guilty as charged). I'm not happy to belong to that "demo," but you are what you are.

Certainly, Sony is happy to have goobers like us around. The film achieved its solid opening on on the backs of an audience that was 68 percent male and 55 percent over the age of 25. The studio isn't saying anything yet -- it's too early -- but look for a sequel. The film over-performed (it was only supposed to do around $30 million) and there are all sorts of logical narrative jumping-off points to do a second film.

In short, it's a fun movie that's going to make a decent amount of money for Sony, which was also counting $16.7 million in foreign receipts Sunday.

As for Mars Needs Moms, nobody I knew had any attraction or affection for the cold motion-capture characters we saw in the trailers for this film, which matched Disney's research. More than 70 percent of the moviegoers the studio surveyed knew the film was coming out, but only about 3 percent really wanted to see it.

Of course, this isn't the first Zemeckis motion-capture flop for the studio -- 2009's A Christmas Carol was marginally successful at the box office, but costs way too much to make -- but it will be the last

Under new management, Disney closed Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital shop last year, rendering Mars Needs Moms a bit of a lame duck.

The studio didn't exactly abandon the picture, giving it a rather choice spring-break premiere slot -- the same one used with great success by Alice in Wonderland last year. But again, nobody wanted to see this movie.

Competition wasn't kind to Mars Needs Moms, which voice stars Seth Green and went up against weekend No. 2 of Paramount's Rango (voice star: some guy named Johnny Depp). Rango lost little momentum in its second weekend, grossing $23.1 million and finishing second at the box office.

Certainly, the 2D Rango dispelled any notion that the family audience chooses movies based on whether or not they're in 3D. One thing Mars Needs Moms had going for it was rather spectacular 3D images, rendered using Zemeckis' state-of-the-art technology. But the 3D only served to hike the ticket price and keep more people away.

Here's how the box office finished this weekend compared to our Thursday-afternoon predictions:

Battle: Los Angeles Made: $36.0M We predicted: $30.0M
Rango Made: $23.1M We predicted: $22.0M
Red Riding Hood Made: $14.1M We predicted: $18.0M
The Adjustment Bureau Made: $11.5M We predicted: $12.0M
Mars Needs Moms Made: $6.8M We predicted: $13.0M
Beastly Made: $4.5M We predicted: $5.1M
Hall Pass Made: $5.1M We predicted: $6.0M
Just Go With it Made: $4.0M We predicted: $3.0M
The King's Speech Made: $3.6M We predicted: $3.0M
Gnomeo & Juliet Made: $3.5M We predicted: $3.5M

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