Box office: A blowout weekend, but no blowout openers

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Tyler Perry, Todd Phillips and a cartoon supervillain all got what they came for at the box office this weekend -- but not by a particularly wide margin.

A crowded field at the multiplex saw DreamWorks Animation’s 3-D comedy ‘Megamind’ win the weekend, but with a studio-estimated $47.7 million, it did so with a number at the lower end of observers’ expectation range.

A decent figure at the conservative end of forecasts also characterized the weekend’s two other wide openers. ‘Due Date,’ a reunion between ‘The Hangover’ director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis, grossed $33.5 million, according to Warner Bros., while Tyler Perry’s female-centric drama ‘For Colored Girls’ landed in the third position with a Lionsgate-estimated $20.1 million.

If they cut into each other’s audience a little bit, the three wide openers also contributed to an overall weekend tally of $154 million -- the highest ever for the first weekend in November, just ahead of the $153 million mark set seven years ago.


Industry insiders had estimated that ‘Megamind,’ which cost between $130 million and $145 million to produce and features characters voiced by Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, would open to about $50 million. Among other animated non-sequels that opened in November, the movie’s $47.7 million sits in the middle of the pack -- it’s slightly ahead of ‘Chicken Little’ and ‘Happy Feet’ (neither of which had the advantage of 3-D premium ticket prices) but well behind mega-hits ‘Monsters, Inc.’ and ‘The Incredibles,’ the latter of which also put a new spin on the superhero genre.

‘Megamind,’ which concerns a superhero who decides to hang up his cape, did generate a strong ‘A-' Cinema Score, suggesting it could play well long after its opening, a la DreamWorks Animation’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ But it will need to get over the hump of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.’ That movie, which opens in two weeks, is expected to dominate the box office when it comes out, particularly the younger audience that makes up the ‘Megamind’ core fan base.

International performance, also of prime importance for Hollywood animated movies, has thus far looked strong for ‘Megamind.’ The movie performed solidly in a number of smaller Asia territories and had a strong second weekend in Russia. (It won’t be out in most major markets in Europe and South America until early December.)

Meanwhile, ‘Due Date’ a road-trip odd-couple comedy sandwiched between Phillips’ two ‘Hangover’ movies, landed just below the $35 million some observers had projected. Its $33.5 million represents a solid return for a comedy, even one that is estimated to have cost an unusually high $65 million. [Update, 1:52 pm: The film performed very well overseas, tallying $21.5 million in 36 countries, a number close to the early performance of ‘The Hangover’ internationally.]

The movie was not, however, able to compete on the domestic front with Phillips’ and Galifianakis’ last collaboration, which opened to $45 million in the spring of 2009. This film didn’t have nearly the word-of-mouth as ‘The Hangover’ did coming into its opening, and with an overall ‘B-' Cinema Score, it’s unlikely to play as strongly in the weeks to come.

With a pregnancy and family themes as well as the presence of Downey, the raunchy R-rated comedy was able to appeal to women, a group that comprised nearly half (47%) of the audience.

Meanwhile, Tyler Perry has shown that his fans will follow him to darker territory, they won’t follow him in the same numbers.

The $20.1-million opening for ‘For Colored Girls,’ Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s stage play and the first drama he’s ever directed, was slightly below industry forecasts that had it closer to $25 million. The movie’s tally is lower than his previous three openings -- including his record-best $41 million for ‘Madea Goes to Jail’ and last year’s $29 million for ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’ But it was also higher than his lowest-performing comedy, the $17.3 million opening for ‘The Family That Preys.’

‘Colored Girls’ will be an unassailable financial triumph for Lionsgate, which spent only about $21 million to produce the film. And the drama could enjoy strong word of mouth and a long run at the box office -- the movie garnered an ‘A’ Cinema Score and could generate awards talk for its ensemble of A-listers that includes Whoopi Goldberg and Janet Jackson. It also will be helped by an older fan base -- 87% of the audience this weekend was over the age of 25 -- which tends to wait until the second and third weekends to see new movies.

The weekend’s lone second-week holdover, horror-franchise entry ‘Saw 3-D,’ had a steep drop of 66% to notch $8.2 million.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s ‘127 Hours’ was the big winner, averaging a whopping $66,500 on each of the four screens on which it opened for a weekend total of $266,000. The Danny Boyle film, which stars James Franco as stranded canyoneer Aron Ralston, appears not to have been hurt -- and in fact may have been helped -- by pre-release publicity that the movie featured graphic scenes that had caused some filmgoers to faint.

Also in limited release, Summit opened the Valerie Plame political drama ‘Fair Game’ to a more modest but still-respectable $15,200 average on each of its 46 screens for a total of $700,000.

[Update, 11:32 a.m.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international ticket sales when available, according to studio estimates and]

1. ‘Megamind’ (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): Opened to $47.7 million
domestically. It notched a second-week drop of just 26% in Russia, where its total is now $14.6 million.

2. ‘Due Date’ (Warner Bros./Legendary): Opened to $33.5 million domestically. Internationally, the film was strong, grossing $21.5 million in 36 countries, with the United Kingdom and Germany among the standouts.

3. ‘For Colored Girls’ (Lionsgate): Opened to $20.1 million domestically.

4. Red (Summit): $8.9 million in its fourth weekend, down 17%. Domestic total: $71.9 million.

5. ‘Saw 3D’ (Lionsgate): $8.2 million on its second weekend, down 66%.
Domestic total: $38.8 million.

6. ‘Paranormal Activity 2' (Paramount): $7.3 million on its third weekend, down 56%. Domestic total: $77.2 million.

7. ‘Jackass 3-D’ (Paramount): $5.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $110.8 million.

8. ‘Hereafter’ (Warner Bros.): $4.02 million on its fourth weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $28.7 million.

9. ‘Secretariat’ (Disney): $4 million on its fifth weekend, down 20%. Domestic total: $51 million.

10. ‘The Social Network’ (Sony/Relativity): 2.6 million on its sixth weekend, down 20%. Domestic total: $85 million -- Steven Zeitchik