Weekend Box Office – REAL STEEL Goes Unchallenged with $27.3 Million; THE IDES OF MARCH a Distant Second

     October 9, 2011


It may not be the overwhelming win that its pricey PR push promised, but America’s new number one movie Real Steel did score the highest debut of any truly ‘new’ release since Rise of the Planet of the Apes two months ago.  With $27.3 million from its 3,440 locations, the family-friendly robot boxing movie also earned almost three times what its nearest competitor, George Clooney’s The Ides of March, saw on its first weekend.

Title Weekend Total
1 Real Steel $27,300,000 $27.3
2 The Ides of March $10,400,000 $10.4
3 Dolphin Tale $9,160,000 $49
4 50/50 $5,500,000 $17.3
5 Courageous $4,600,000 $15.8
6 The Lion King 3D $4,550,000 $85.9
7 Dream House $4,500,000 $14.5
8 Moneyball $3,230,000 $49.2
9 What’s Your Number? $3,050,000 $10.3
10 Abduction $2,900,000 $23.3

Real-Steel-posterIf you’ve been paying attention to the box office for the past two months you know that there was almost no question that Real Steel would come out on top this weekend.  It wasn’t that the PG-13 film had strong tracking (it didn’t) or a built-in fanbase (well, maybe just the devotees of Mattel’s “Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots”); nope.  Real Steel’s ascendency was pre-ordained by the fact that audiences had run out of holdover titles to favor.

The past nine weeks have seen just two new releases hit number one, not including the re-release of The Lion King 3D: the aforementioned Apes and Contagion.  The law of diminishing returns demanded that a newbie step up and, goofy trailers or not, the boxing robots of Real Steel were really the only option.  With a first place finish a lock, the only question was how big a domestic opening the Shawn Levy pic could command.

All along, projection’s seemed to have the picture stalling in the $25 million range – slightly disappointing considering Real Steel’s $100 million-plus budget.  On Saturday, however, the film surged 27% over its Friday opening, indicating that the family audiences Disney/Dreamworks had courted were actually showing up.  In addition, US audiences gave Real Steel a ‘A’ Cinemascore, despite the fact that reviews had been just so-so.  Bottom line?  Real Steel cannot call itself an unqualified hit; but there is a strong chance that it could have decent legs in the US and become an even bigger hit overseas – where it opened this weekend in territories like India and Australia.

ides-of-march-movie-image-ryan-gosling-1For a movie like The Ides of March, we need to use an entirely different way of assessing performance.  The fourth feature from director George Clooney, the film was a big hit at festivals in Toronto and Venice.  Even more importantly, Ides of March reportedly cost just over $12 million to complete, meaning it doesn’t have as far to go as Real Steel before it becomes profitable.  With that in mind, the $10.4 million the film brought in from its 2,199 locations was pretty much expected.  It was a little lower than the $12.6 million of Clooney’s Leatherheads but on target with the $10.3 million of 2007’s Michael Clayton.

Since holdovers have occupied so much of my time in the past months, it is worth noting that both Dolphin Tale and Moneyball are nearly past the $50 million mark this weekend.  Seems like they should be higher though, doesn’t it?  As for the film that almost singlehandedly made last month the highest-grossing September on record, The Lion King 3D took the expected 57% hit that the Tuesday’s DVD release promised.  Ads for Disney’s combo pack have been calling the film the “number one animated film of all time.”  That’s true.  If you ignore computer animated films like Shrek 2.  As of Sunday’s estimate, The Lion King is just shy of second place on the overall animated list with $414.5 million collected over 17 years and three releases.

Real Steel helped this weekend stay well ahead of 2010 levels, when The Social Network was enjoying its second week at number one.  Next weekend things do not seem quite as promising, however, as the combined take from 2010’s top two films alone was over $70 million.  That means that at least one of our three new releases – The Big Year and re-imaginings of Footloose and The Thing – would have to break out in a big way.  We’ll let you know what happens there.


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