Weekend Box Office – TRON LEGACY Races to the Top with $43.6 Million; HOW DO YOU KNOW Races to Obscurity

     December 19, 2010

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Five, count ‘em, five releases went wide this weekend, including the much anticipated Tron Legacy from Disney.  The 3D spectacle ran circles around the competition – bringing in an estimated $43.6 million in first place, or 62% more than Yogi Bear managed in second.  Meanwhile, How Do You Know could not even live up to the very modest expectations of Sony Pictures, placing eighth for the weekend with just $7.6 million.

Title Weekend Total
1 Tron Legacy $43,600,000 $43.6
2 Yogi Bear $16,700,000 $16.7
3 Narnia 3 $12,400,000 $42.7
4 The Fighter $12,200,000 $12.6
5 The Tourist $8,700,000 $29.5
6 Tangled $8,670,000 $127.8
7 Black Swan $8,300,000 $15.7
8 How Do You Know $7,600,000 $7.6
9 Harry Potter 7A $4,645,000 $265.5
10 Unstoppable $1,800,000 $77.3

tron_legacy_daft_punk_movie_poster_01Even with three new releases and two Oscar-bait expansions, the only movie making big waves on the weekend before Christmas is Tron Legacy.  Disney put a lot of money and effort into promoting the re-launch of its 1982 fanboy fave… and that’s apart from the film’s estimated $150 million budget.  So, how do things stand for Tron after its first weekend?

The film launched worldwide on Friday, with Disney expecting global sales to make up 50% of its overall take.  We won’t have any foreign estimates for another few days but other tech-heavy US films like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen made more overseas that they did domestically.  The Tron reviews, while not overwhelming, have been much better than for those 2009 films.  Add that to all of those Disney merchandising tie-ins and Tron is well-placed going into the Christmas Holiday.

One year ago another film with stunning 3D visuals and even more stunning hype ruled the Christmas box office. It was called Avatar, remember? In that first weekend Avatar brought in $77 million, a big number that was seen as a disappointment at the time.  You probably know how this story ends: Avatar kept gaining momentum through the holiday and eventually became the highest-grossing movie of all time.  I’m not trying to say that Tron Legacy will have a similar trajectory, or anything.  I’m just pointing out that this is perhaps the only weekend of the year that a studio can say that they’re expecting to see big gains over the coming weeks and not be accused of engaging in wish fulfillment.

The promise of Christmas riches probably will not apply to Yogi Bear, however.  The latest 3D release to fail to find much of an audience in its first weekend, Yogi did not even muster the modest $20 million launch that was on the low-end of Warner Brothers’ expectations for the live-action toon.  With a Rotten Tomato score of just 13% and a general lack of interest for a cartoon franchise that went off the air in 1961, Yogi looks like he’ll be just your below-average bear at the box office.

And if the holiday forecast isn’t great for Yogi, it appears down-right dangerous for How Do You Know.  The latest romantic comedy from James L Brooks could not break $10 million, despite its all-star cast.  That cast helped the How Do You Know how_do_you_know_movie_image_owen_wilson_reese_witherspoon_01budget soar over $100 million, making this a big holiday write-off for Sony no matter how you spin it.  Just to give you an idea of how bad things look for the film, Brooks’ Spanglish opened with $8.8 million (not adjusted for inflation) on the same week in 2004.  You all remember where you were when you first saw Spanglish, right?

In its second week The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader continued to sail into history as the last film in the Narnia franchise.  Treader fell off by an estimated 48% this weekend, not quite as steep as the second-week drop of 2009’s Prince Caspian but not enough to ensure a great holiday multiplier either.  The saving grace for the film may be its overseas grosses which are already nearly three times higher than here in the US; putting its worldwide total above $126 million.

Both The Fighter and Black Swan expanded their runs on Friday.  Though they couldn’t bring in the same big numbers they managed in their limited releases, the Oscar contenders both put How Do You Know to shame. The Fighter placed fourth with $12.2 million from 2,503 locations while Black Swan earned an estimated $8.3 million from 959 theatres.

Of course the holiday movie race will not properly begin until we see how the Wednesday releases, Little Fockers and True Grit, fare.  Gulliver’s Travels follows on the 25th, making it a very crowded Christmas season… especially for 3D titles.  But no matter how the holiday movies perform, at this point 2010 will have a hard time matching 2009’s record.  So… Merry Christmas Hollywood!

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