Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Wreck-It Ralph - $49.1 million
2. Flight - $25.0 million
3. Argo - $10.2 million
4. The Man with the Iron Fists - $8.2 million
5. Taken 2 - $6.0 million
6. Cloud Atlas - $5.2 million
7. Hotel Transylvania - $4.5 million
8. Paranormal Activity 4 - $4.3 million
9. Here Comes the Boom - $3.6 million
10. Silent Hill: Revelation - $3.3 million
The Big Stories
In 1996 the beginning of the summer movie season received its first big push back from its Memorial Day unveiling when Twister opened on May 10 and took the box office by... no, I'm not going to say it. While Thanksgiving was the holiday season's big start for years, things began to change in 1997 when Starship Troopers opened to a healthy $22 million the first weekend of November. After The Waterboy started with $39 million a year later at the same time, this was a weekend that was now in play to really kick things off for studios. So here we are again with the 13th animated or family-themed title, the fourth Denzel Washington film and the second Robert Zemeckis effort released on this unofficial kickoff to the holiday movie season.
Disney's Wreck-It Ralph was an easy winner this weekend to no one's surprise. The really funny tribute to video games had the fourth best launch among animated or live-action films on this weekend and has at least two more weekends of solid business before being challenged by Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians over Thanksgiving. Your Top 10 over this weekend is as follows:
The Incredibles ($70.4 million), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($63.1), Monsters, Inc. ($62.5), Wreck-It Ralph ($49.1), The Matrix Revolutions ($48.4), Megamind ($46.0), American Gangster ($43.5), Charlie's Angels ($40.1), Chicken Little ($40.0), The Waterboy ($39.4)
High Score for WIR?
Being bested by two Pixar titles and a sequel is something Ralph can live with. Especially when it considers its long-term prospects. If we eliminate the best family-themed multiplier (Elf - final gross 5.57 times its opening) and the worst (Martian Child - 2.22), the average amongst the other 10 comes to 3.77. That would put Wreck-It Ralph in the vicinity of a $185 million finish. Plus consider that none of the other titles on this list have quite the path that Ralph does through the month of November.
Monsters, Inc.; Megamind; Chicken Little and Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol all had to contend with the opening of a Harry Potter in their third weekends or earlier. The Incredibles managed to hold off Zemeckis' The Polar Express in weekend two, but was then beat by both National Treasure and The Spongebob Squarepants Movie in weekend three. People chose The Santa Clause 3 over Flushed Away in 2006. Neither film went on to gross $100 million, but multiplied 4.33 and 3.43 respectively. Bee Movie was bested by American Gangster in its first weekend and it's 3.33 multiplier may have been even higher had so many family films not been released that month. It held off Martian Child in weekend one and then Fred Claus and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium in weekend two (seriously, how could it not?). Then (while not a family film) Zemeckis' Beowulf opened in weekend three and Enchanted in weekend four. To date, only Pixar's The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. have hit the $200 million mark when opening the first November weekend. But Wreck-It Ralph, much like the movie itself, has a good shot at being the next one even if it falls a bit behind the standard set by Pixar.
"Flight soars" - says Richard Corliss of Time Magazine
That's his quote, not ours. There are far better superlatives to use in describing this exemplary film. Despite being heavily advertised for weeks though, Paramount only launched Robert Zemeckis' return to live action on 1,884 screens. Last week, we crunched the numbers on films opening in this range. Flight ranks third on the list for 2012 and is only the 15th film since 2000 to open to more than $20 million when opening on between 1500-2200 screens (where it ranks sixth overall.) Four of the films ahead of it are Tyler Perry films. Also on that list, though, was Remember the Titans which started with $20.9 million on just 1,865 screens back in 2000 and it is part of an incredible run that Denzel Washington has had in this new century.
Flight becomes the 13th $20 million-plus opening of Washington's career (and second this year after Safe House.) Since 2000, only one film with Washington in a starring role (Out of Time) has opened to less than $20 million. (The other two were his directorial efforts, The Great Debaters and Antwone Fisher.) Surprisingly enough, only four of his films (including Titans and Safe House) have grossed over $100 million. (The other two were American Gangster and The Pelican Brief.) Not counting Cry Freedom, Washington's previous November releases have never had less than a 2.94 multiplier (The Siege) and have averaged 3.57 which would give Flight around $89 million provided word of mouth is good. With an "A" rating from Cinemascore there is nothing to suggest that won't be the case.
Borat ($31,607), Monsters Inc. ($19,331), The Incredibles ($17,917), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($15,559), The Waterboy ($14,795), American Gangster ($14,264), The Matrix Revolutions ($13,842), Flight ($13,270), Charlie's Angels ($13,213), Wreck-It Ralph ($12,793), Love Actually ($11,955), Megamind ($11,668), Jarhead ($11,499), Chicken Little ($10,960)
Those are the best per-screen averages for wide releases since 1997 (and actually beyond) for the first full weekend in November. The last Robert Zemeckis film to open on so few screens was 1997's Contact, which started with $20.5 million on 1,923 screens and wound up with nearly $101. Since 1984's Romancing the Stone, Zemeckis has only had three other films not end up with the magical nine digits (including Beowulf and Back to the Future Part III) and only one gross less than $75 (Death Becomes Her). Let us hope that Flight does indeed take a page from Corliss' rhetoric and joins the amazing success records of both Zemeckis and Washington.
Argo continues to be one of the best word-of-mouth successes of the year, dropping only 15% in its third weekend for a total of $75 million. Paranormal Activity 4 in its 17th day has yet to match the $52.5 million that part three grossed in just three. It took 21 days for Kevin James' Here Comes the Boom to outgross the opening weekend of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Taken 2 has maintained a pretty steady run and is only $20 million away from matching the $145 of the original, though James Bond is likely going to take away most of its audience next weekend.
RZA joins Prince, Madonna and Zombie as musicians transitioning into the director's chair. The Man with the Iron Fists is liable to only make back about half of its $15 million budget for Universal, but a decent overseas take could save it. Meanwhile, poor Cloud Atlas and its $18 million gross awaits its own release overseas to keep it from being one of the biggest bombs of the year. We are $1.25 billion away from matching 2011's box office total haul for the fourth year in a row passing $10 billion. Can audiences summon another $1.67 billion to make 2012 the biggest box office year on record? Skyfall, Breaking Dawn Deux, Rise of the Guardians and The Hobbit should be enough to bridge at least half of that. Does the rest of the year have enough to make up the difference?
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]