There were no blockbusters on this September frame but, after last weekend’s dismal returns, it’s hard to feel disappointed. Aided by 3D technology, Resident Evil: Retribution reigned with $21.1 million – more than twice what The Possession earned in first place last weekend. Finding Nemo 3D also had a ticket-price advantage although, in this case, the 2003 Pixar classic could not match the gross of last year’s 3D The Lion King re-release.
|1.||Resident Evil: Retribution||$21,100,000||$21.1|
|2.||Finding Nemo 3D||$17,504,000||$17.5|
|6.||The Expendables 2||$3,030,000||$80.2|
|8.||The Bourne Legacy||$2,875,000||$107.8|
|9.||Odd Life of Timothy Green||$2,511,000||$46.2|
Overall, the domestic box office remained down 18% from 2011 levels but, because we’ve gotten used to down weekends over the past month, the return of the $20 million-plus debut with Resident Evil: Retribution was reason enough to celebrate. The decade-old Resident Evil franchise has been a mid-September staple since 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Resident Evil debuted in March 2002) and has remained a consistent performer for Screen Gems ever since. In terms of domestic openings and worldwide grosses, the RE series got a little more lucrative with each new entry – the dream for any studio harboring franchise fantasies.
Even so, by 2009, it seemed that Resident Evil had run its course. 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction earned a domestic total of $50.6 million (short of the $51.2 million of Apocalypse) and, though international earnings remained the life-blood of the series, it was difficult to see how a fourth feature could be justified. As it happened, the 3D revolution gave producers all the justification they needed. Along with bringing back original director Paul WS Anderson for 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife, the series added 3D effects to the formula, making Afterlife the crown jewel of the series with its worldwide total of $296.2 million.
At the same time, the Resident Evil budgets have remained reasonable. With a reported price of $65 million, Retribution represents a slight increase from Afterlife’s $60 million price tag; but, as long as international audiences keep lining up for 3D features, it’s hard to imagine that the extra money won’t be validated by another sizable worldwide gross.
One week ago, it looked like the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo would receive top billing at this weekend’s box office. One year after the 3D reissue of Disney’s The Lion King reigned with over $30 million, it was not hard to imagine that the first Pixar feature to receive a 3D makeover since 2009’s Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature would become the must-see movie of the week. Instead, Finding Nemo 3D earned an estimated $17.5 million from 2,904 locations – slightly less than Beauty and the Beast 3D took in back in January. Of course, Finding Nemo boasted a worldwide gross of over $850 million before its 3D re-release, so most Americans were already well-acquainted with the 2003 classic The fact that such a beloved property failed to break $20 million on a weekend with almost no significant family-oriented competition can be taken as yet another sign that the days when ‘3D’ could guarantee a big opening weekend are long gone.
If the return of the double-digit debut was enough to save box office watchers from despair, the bravura opening of The Master, in just five locations, qualified as an event. Flush from its success on the festival circuit, director Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama earned an impressive $730,000 over its first three days, or a per-theatre average of $146,000. That qualifies as the ninth-highest per-theatre average of all-time and leaves The Master well-placed for the long Oscar season to come.
Happy as we all are to say goodbye to the past few weeks and their meager box office totals, it is far from certain when 2012 will be back in the black. No less than four new titles will make their way into theatres next weekend – led by the R-rated Dredd and Clint Eastwood in the baseball drama Trouble with the Curve. Though Moneyball was a hit on the same weekend one year ago, projections give the edge to Dredd; though that does not guarantee that overall grosses will end up ahead of 2011’s levels.