With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, a perfect storm of indifference hit the domestic box office. Blame it on the weather or on a weak crop of new studio releases, the outcome is the same: a slow weekend that fell behind 2011 by more than 10%. Only Argo found a silver lining in the storm, pulling into first place after two weeks in theatres. As for Cloud Atlas – the most closely watched newcomer of the frame – the forecast is a little, um, cloudy.
|4.||Paranormal Activity 4||$8,675,000||$42.6|
|5.||Silent Hill: Revelation 3D||$8,000,000||$8|
|7.||Here Comes the Boom||$5,500,000||$30.6|
I should start by reminding you that these Sunday morning box office reports are based on studio estimates. There is no way to know how many people who planned to go to the movies Sunday night will instead be convinced by their local weatherman to stay home. It is possible that the low totals you see above could fall even lower by Monday morning but, for now, we’ll work with what we’ve got.
Two weeks ago, when Argo debuted in second place, most observers cited the differences between the period drama and director Ben Affleck’s 2010 hit, The Town. The latter opened with $23.8 million on its way to a domestic total of just over $92 million. Argo started lower ($19.4 million) but seemed destined for better holds than The Town. After falling 15% a week ago Argo was down just 25% this weekend, bringing its domestic total up to $60.7 million. That is not far off the $64 million The Town had earned through its third weekend and, though it still seems unlikely that Argo will reach $92 million, who knows? I certainly didn’t see this first place win coming a few weeks ago.
Like many movie fans, I had my hopes pinned on Cloud Atlas pulling out a surprise win. Yes, that was a long shot for reasons that are, by now, well known: the plot is confusing, the film is too long, the R rating limits its audience, Tom Hanks has lost his box office power and the Wachowski siblings are washed up. You’ve probably encountered some, or all, of these arguments in the years it has taken Cloud Atlas to reach the screen. You may have also heard of the difficulties the Wachowskis, and their co-director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), had in financing Cloud Atlas. In this market, a film that is compared to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, in terms of its inscrutability, would be hard to finance.
In the end the Wachowskis found the money to make Cloud Atlas – about $100 million if budget reports are accurate. Originally, the film’s US distributor, Warner Brothers, was hoping for a debut in the mid-teens. That number was scaled back to $10 million on Friday and even there, it fell short. Though the estimates are very close, it looks like Cloud Atlas just missed coming in second behind Hotel Transylvania. Why does this upset me – and why should it upset all movie lovers? Look at the top ten on any given weekend. What jumps out at you? Sequels and more sequels. I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas so it’s possible that the film is awful, but I want to make sure that Hollywood continues to finance films that do not fit a particular formula. It’s either that or accept the inevitability of “Hotel Transylvania 3” or “Here Comes the Boom Again.”
Speaking of unlikely sequels, check out Silent Hill: Revelation 3D at number five. Why unlikely, you ask? Back in 2006 the original Silent Hill was not exactly a runaway hit, earning a worldwide total of $97.6 million with a budget of $50 million. Those are not the kind of numbers that guarantee a sequel and, yet, here we are. Silent Hill made $20.6 million in its debut – without the 3D price advantage of its sequel. Compare that to Silent Hill 2’s $8 million from 2,933 locations and I think we can at least rest assured that “Silent Hill 3” will not make it to a theatre near you.
As bleak as the box office looked for Silent Hill 2, it was even worse for the weekend’s remaining new releases. Paramount’s Fun Size managed to crawl into the top ten after finishing just outside the Friday chart; but, considering the comedy had the widest release of this weekend (3,014 runs) its $4 million estimate was not exactly promising. And then there’s Chasing Mavericks. The surfing adventure from Walden Media & Fox earned an estimated $2.2 million from its 2,002 locations. That put the film at number twelve with a disastrous per-screen average of under $1,100. We have seen worse wide debuts this year – Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure for one – but not many.
Because just the threat of an East Coast storm ravaged this weekend’s box office, it’s hard to say how things will turn out next week. Three new films are set to debut but, if the Weather Channel is to be believed, a good chunk of the Atlantic coast may still be without power by Friday. As long as the lights are on, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph looks like the clear favorite, with The Man with the Iron Fists and the Denzel Washington drama Flight also in the running. We’ll let you know how things turn out… as long as the “Frankenstorm’ doesn’t wash our internet away.