Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Resident Evil: Retribution - $21.1 million
2. Finding Nemo 3D - $17.5 million
3. The Possession - $5.8 million
4. Lawless - $4.2 million
5. Paranorman - $3.039 million
6. The Expendables 2 - $3.030 million
7. The Words - $2.88 million
8. The Bourne Legacy - $2.87 million
9. The Odd Life of Timothy Green - $2.5 million
10. The Campaign - $2.4 million
The Big Stories
The numbers at the U.S. box office looked a lot better than last week. Probably because it introduced stuff people wanted to see. Even if both of this week's wide releases were just remolded and refitted from previous models, their numbers seemed to add up to a very respectable $38 million between them in the month of September. Or was it?
Best September combo openings:
Sweet Home Alabama/The Tuxedo ($50.6 million), Flight Plan/Corpse Bride ($43.7), Eagle Eye/Nights in Rodanthe ($42.5), Open Season/The Guardian ($41.6), The Town/Easy A ($41.5), The Lion King 3-D/Drive ($41.4), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs/The Informant ($40.7), The Game Plan/The Kingdom ($40.0), Rush Hour/One True Thing ($39.6), Jackass Number Two/Fearless ($39.5), Moneyball/Dolphin Tale ($38.6), Resident Evil: Retribution/Finding Nemo 3-D ($38.0)
Yes, those statistics are a bit goofy and offer very little reflection on how well the new openers did. Consider the following though:
Resident Evil May Become a Billion-Dollar Franchise
In the history of the Resident Evil franchise dating back to 2002, Retribution is the first film to not outdo the previous one ($17.7 million, $23.03, $23.6, $26.6 for the last four, respectively). If history serves it should also fall right into its unimpressive final gross multiplier range between 2.13 and 2.26 times its opening for somewhere around $43-46 million (or: its weakest total since the original). Even with a generous increase internationally, it may still take a sixth film to officially make this a billion-dollar franchise. Did you hear that? Screen Gems' Resident Evil series - the same one they haven't pre-screened for general press since 2002 - is on the verge of becoming a billion-dollar franchise.
How Successful Are These 3D Rereleases?
Finding Nemo certainly didn't challenge last year's surprising Lion King 3D opening of $30.1 million and its numbers continue to suggest a ceiling for these rereleases. January's Beauty and the Beast release only mustered up about half of The Lion King's $94.2 million total gross and now Disney's latest had the weakest opening since their 3D double feature of the first two Toy Story films. Since last year, this studio tactic has brought in an additional $43-58 million to the final grosses of Beauty, The Phantom Menace and Titanic and, even with Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie just a few weeks away, that is precisely where Nemo should fall. If the trend holds, that will put Revenge of the Sith and Jurassic Park in the $400 million territory during their respective rereleases in October and April of 2013.
2016: Obama's America Is Now the Year's Highest-Grossing Documentary
Rocky Mountain Pictures' latest release, Last Ounce of Courage, about a small town fighting back on some supposed war on their religion (not to be mistaken, of course, with the film riling up the Middle East), battled its way into the top 15 this week with a pretty decent $1.7 million. They can also brag that 2016: Obama's America has now officially become the highest-grossing documentary of 2012 over Disney's Chimpanzee.
The Master (of limited release)?
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest critically praised drama, The Master, opened in just five theaters this weekend before expanding on the September 21. More than good enough to grab the highest per-screen average on the charts, but is the number that impressive for PTA? Yes, it is.
The Master ($729,745 / five theaters / $145,949 average)
There Will Be Blood ($190,739 / two theaters = $95,370 average)
Punch-Drunk Love ($367,203 / five theaters = $73,440 average)
Magnolia ($193,604 / seven theaters = $27,657 average)
Boogie Nights ($50,168 / two theaters = $25,084 average)
The brilliant filmmaker has always fared well with critics. His directorial efforts have all ranked between 79-92% on Rotten Tomatoes, and his films have received 14 Oscar nominations, including five just for himself as a writer, director and producer. Box office success has, unfortunately, eluded him to this point with films that have never opened on more than 1,620 screens and averaged $26.3 million in wide release.
The Master represents his first coalition with the Weinsteins, who have nurtured their award contenders above all else, but have only had five films in their company's history gross more than There Will Be Blood's $40.2 million. How wide they will take The Master's divisive narrative is anyone's guess. As is whether with Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained as major award contenders on their schedule the Weinsteins can take the film's second highest per-screen opening weekend average in history (for at least a five-theater launch and trailing only Pocahontas' $448,285 average start) to a golden finish as well.