Weekend Box Office (March 7 - 9, 2014)
THIS WEEKEND Exactly seven years after the record-breaking opening of the blockbuster Spartan battle pic, the historical action sequel 300: Rise of an Empire conquered the global box office with international growth helping to make up for understandable domestic shrinkage. The brutal R-rated war epic debuted to $45M in North America, according to final studio figures, capturing the top spot with ease driven by a carnage-loving male fan base. Warner Bros. averaged a strong $12,979 from 3,470 locations including 343 IMAX screens (up from only 62 on the first film) which did tremendously well.
Rise opened 37% weaker than the $70.9M debut of 300 from 2007, however it was never expected to come close to that runaway smash. The first film offered a different graphic novel style to the worn out genre of historical epics and became a ground-breaking smash with one of the best trailers from the past decade. Rise featured a mostly new cast and a new director while 3D was added to the fun. With much of the film and backgrounds being computer-generated, that format lent itself well to the audience as the 3D share of the gross was 63% - very high by today's standards.
Reviews were lackluster for the $110M-budgeted production, but moviegoers came out for the action, intense war violence, and special effects. In fact, it opened better than several recent VFX-driven action movies - some with A-list stars - including Elysium, Oblivion, Riddick, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as Wrath of the Titans which was another Warner Bros. period action sequel opening in March. Breaking $40M on opening weekend for action movies has become difficult these days except for super hero flicks or top literary brand like The Hunger Games and The Hobbit.
Long-term playability looks tough for Rise of an Empire. Its lukewarm B grade from CinemaScore shows that customer satisfaction is not too high, plus sequels like these are usually very front-loaded. IMAX screens contributed a robust $6.8M of the weekend gross accounting for a high 15% of the tally with an average of nearly $20,000. Males made up 62% of the crowd.
Overseas, the new 300 launched in 58 markets and captured $88.8M which was 10% better than comparable results for the Gerard Butler flick. Global opening was a towering $134M since Wednesday. Factor out higher ticket prices today and 3D surcharges and the attendance was still extremely close to the first film's making for a remarkable performance for this follow-up. The brand is still strong and with international markets growing significantly in recent years, especially for 3D and IMAX formats, Rise could be on its way past the $400M global box office mark just like its predecessor.
The DreamWorks Animation offering Mr. Peabody & Sherman enjoyed a respectable debut in second place with $32.2M from 3,934 locations for a solid $8,187 average. The PG-rated comedy based on the 1960s cartoon characters opened in the same range as other 3D toons like Epic ($33.5M) and both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies ($30.3M, $34M) and edged out the five-day $31M debut last summer of the studio's last film Turbo.
Reviews were very positive for the Fox release and audiences liked the film too as evidenced by its A CinemaScore grade. Studio research showed that females made up 56% of the audience and 52% were over 25. The genius dog and his boy should have smooth sailing for the next week with no kidpics opening next weekend, but will face competition on March 21 when Disney rolls out the heavily-marketed The Muppets Most Wanted. But Peabody does seem to be on track to join 300 in becoming the latest $100M+ domestic grossers for 2014 with plenty of international potential as well.
Liam Neeson enjoyed a moderate hold for his latest action hit Non-Stop. The airline thriller fell 45% in its second weekend to $15.8M for a ten-day cume of $52.6M. Look for the Universal release to end up with around $90M. Toon juggernaut The LEGO Movie took a big hit from the new DreamWorks competition and dropped 48% in its fifth round, the largest decline of its month-long run. The Warner Bros. smash grossed $10.9M and boosted its total to a hefty $224.9M.
The Jesus pic Son of God tumbled 60% in its sophomore weekend to $10.4M suffering the worst drop of any film in the top ten. Fox has banked $41.9M in ten days and is headed for a $60M final. The George Clooney hit The Monuments Men grossed $3.1M, off 38%, for a $70.6M total.
The Kevin Costner actioner 3 Days to Kill followed with $3M, down 39%, putting Relativity at $25.5M. Double Oscar winner Frozen eased only 19% to $3M boosting the phenomenal domestic cume to $393M. The Best Animated Feature champ has now spent 15 consecutive weekends in the top ten which is even more than Avatar. The global tally rose to $1.009 billion with Japan set to open this Friday as its final major market.
The winner of the top trophy at the Academy Awards, 12 Years a Slave, more than doubled its screens and jumped back into the top ten for the first time since November with $2.1M more than doubling last weekend's take. Fox Searchlight has taken in an impressive $53M for the indie film. Rounding out the top ten was the Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy hit Ride Along which was down 33% to $2M for a robust $130M cume for Universal.
Wes Anderson's latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel rocked the specialty box office soaring even higher than his usual muscular standards with a platform bow of $811,166 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for an eye-popping $202,792 average. Most locations were triple-screening the well-reviewed comedy helping it score the best average in box office history among regular film releases. Budapest's average was significantly better than the $130,749 registered by the director's last film Moonrise Kingdom from May 2012, also in four theaters, which itself was phenomenal. The director has long had a large and loyal fan base. Fox Searchlight will expand quickly on Friday into most major markets nationwide into about 75 total playdates.
The top ten films grossed $127.5M which was up 2% from last year when Oz the Great and Powerful opened at number one with $79.1M; and up 10% from 2012 when The Lorax took the top spot with $38.8M.
Compared to projections, 300: Rise of an Empire rose higher than my $33M forecast while Mr. Peabody & Sherman debuted very close to my $31M prediction.
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For a NEW review of 300: Rise of an Empire visit The Chief Report.
Watch the NEW trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Need for Speed and The Single Mom's Club both open.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: March 10, 2014 at 7:55PM ET
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