Company Town: ‘Megamind’ orchestrates a box-office win
An abundance of wide openings was good for moviegoing this weekend — but not great for any individual film. Three movies with discrete audiences each performed reasonably well, if hardly above expectations, as the film business appeared to take in more dollars than on any other first weekend of November.
DreamWorks Animation’s 3-D comedy “Megamind,” a Will Ferrell- and Tina Fey-voiced film about a supervillain who loses his superhero nemesis, won the weekend with a studio-estimated $47.7 million. But the number was on the lower end of observers’ forecasts, which had projected an opening of about $50 million.
Landing in second place was “Due Date,” a reunion between “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis. The film, an odd-couple comedy costarring Robert Downey Jr., as a man who must get home to his pregnant wife, grossed $33.5 million, according to Warner Bros., slightly shy of the $35 million some experts had predicted. And Tyler Perry’s first-ever directorial drama, “For Colored Girls,” the adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s gritty stage play, landed in the third position with a Lionsgate-estimated $20.1 million, at the low end of projections.
With an estimated $155 million in total box office (the exact number probably won’t be known until Monday afternoon), the weekend appeared to surpass the record for a November opening weekend. The previous mark was set in 2003, when “The Matrix Revolutions” and “Elf” contributed to a $153-million weekend, although this year’s numbers were boosted by premium 3-D ticket prices for “Megamind.” DreamWorks Animation estimated that the animated film did about two-thirds of its business at 3-D theaters.
But in contributing to an overall lucrative weekend, the films might have taken a little something from one another. “It was a very competitive environment,” said Anne Globe, DreamWorks Animation head of global marketing and products, noting that the “Megamind” totals might have been dinged because of urban audiences who went to see “For Colored Girls” and comedy-minded filmgoers who opted for “Due Date.” “But the record breaker of the entire weekend is a good sign for the movie business,” she added.
Among other animated nonsequels that opened in November, the $47.7 million for “Megamind” puts it in the middle of the pack — slightly ahead of “Chicken Little” and “Happy Feet” but well behind mega-hits “Monsters, Inc.” and “The Incredibles,” the latter of which also put a new spin on the superhero genre. (None of those films had the benefit of 3-D ticket prices.)
DreamWorks Animation and distribution partner Paramount will hope for a long run with the Ferrell film, a trick they managed earlier in the year on “How To Train Your Dragon,” whose word of mouth was so strong it was able to bounce back after several losing weekends to win the weekend in its fifth week of release. The studios already have garnered a strong omen with an A- CinemaScore for “Megamind.” But in just two weeks the film must face the juggernaut that is " Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” which will undoubtedly dominate the young audience that makes up much of the “Megamind” fan base.
Given the competition and the R rating, “Due Date” performed solidly. Warner Bros. executive Jeff Goldstein touted the film topping “Borat” for the biggest all-time November opening for an R-rated comedy. The movie was not, however, able to match Phillips’ and Galifianakis’ last collaboration, which opened to $45 million in June 2009. And with an overall B- CinemaScore, it’s unlikely to sustain momentum the way the Las Vegas buddy comedy, which reached an astonishing $277 million in domestic box office over more than four months in theaters, was able to do.
One of the most intriguing questions of the weekend concerned Perry — namely, would fans who embraced his comic romps in the “Madea” and “Why Did I Get Married?” franchises follow him into much darker territory?
As it turned out, many did, although he also lost fans along the way too. The “For Colored Girls” 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 that of his lowest-performing comedy, the $17.3-million opening for " The Family That Preys.”
Perry’s new movie tells a difficult story in which rape, abuse and murder figure prominently. But Lionsgate believes that fans trust Perry unequivocally and are not likely to distinguish between comedy and drama. “Women everywhere realize this guy delivers,” said Lionsgate distribution chief David Spitz.
“For Colored Girls” skewed even older than most Perry films. Where previous movies from the filmmaker saw filmgoers over 25 constitute 80% of the audience, moviegoers in that age bracket made up 87% of the “For Colored Girls” audience. The drama could enjoy strong word of mouth and a comparatively long run at the box office — the movie garnered an “A” CinemaScore and could generate awards talk for its ensemble of big names that includes Whoopi Goldberg and Janet Jackson.
It wasn’t just “For Colored Girls” that drew in females — women gravitated to both new comedies as well. “Megamind” counted women as 57% of its opening-weekend audience as mothers turned out to see the film with their children. Maybe more surprisingly, “Due Date,” despite being an R-rated comedy, was able to capitalize on the presence of Downey and the pregnancy and family themes, to bring out women, who constituted nearly half of its opening-weekend audience.