“Inception” from Warner Bros. proves that smart and summer can actually go together as it tops the chart for the second straight weekend.
With another $42.7 million this weekend, Christopher Nolan can be called “Mr. July” since he pretty much owns the month of July every two years. In 2008, “The Dark Knight” was the July box-office champ and it can be expected that in 2012 when the next “Batman” installment hits theatres, that it will be the film to beat as well. Unquestionably challenging, visually stunning and just plain old brainy fun, “Inception” performed well all week long and crossed the $100 million mark last Wednesday in just seven days of release (the fastest for any non-sequel 2-D movie this year). The film is now up to $142.9 million in domestic box office. A minimal 32% drop based on great word-of-mouth was responsible for this strong second weekend showing and the film should continue to do well in the coming weeks. IMAX again is an integral part of the film’s success with $4.9 million plus or an impressive 12% of the second weekend gross and down just 31% vs. opening weekend.
Coming in second in a very tight race was Sony’s Angelina Jolie action vehicle “Salt” which pulled in a solid $36.0 million and proved that a woman can be as much of a box office draw as a man as the lead in an action movie. As she proved with 2008’s “Wanted,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the “Tomb Raider” series, Jolie certainly has the “street cred” with audiences to pull this off and make it look good at the same time. “Salt’s” relatively short running time (99 mins), fast-pace and summer-style action combined with a terrific marketing campaign made this one a late-July winner.
At number three is Universal’s family animated favorite “Despicable Me” which has now crossed the $160 million mark in just 17 days of release. With $23.7 million for the weekend, a 28% drop and another strong set of mid-week grosses, the film is being embraced by the family crowd and the date crowd alike and the results have been spectacular. Look for this one to remain a staple of the top five and the top ten for many weeks to come.
In the fourth spot is Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with $9.7 million in its second weekend of release and a domestic total of $42.6 million. The film has benefitted from its PG-rating since it is the newest of a string of such rated live action adventures following as it has in the wake of Sony’s “The Karate Kid” and Paramount’s “The Last Airbender.”
Residing in the top five for the sixth straight week with another $8.9 million is the incredible Disney/Pixar 2010 box office favorite "Toy Story 3.” Adding to a really bad week for Mel Gibson, “Toy Story 3” on Friday passed “The Passion of the Christ” to now become the 14th highest grossing film of all-time and by the end of the weekend leap-frogged over both “Spider-Man 2” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” to become now the 12th highest grossing film of all-time with $379.4 million! Notable as well that it is the highest grossing film of the year and the summer thus far. Congratulations to both Disney and Pixar on this amazing and well-deserved achievement.
Debuting just outside of the top five is Fox’s G-rated family film “Ramona and Beezus,” based on the best-selling books by Beverly Cleary. Delivering $7.8 million, the film should eventually wind up profitable with its modest budget and strong eventual home video potential. As one of only two wide release G-rated films in the marketplace (along with “Toy Story 3”), the film will hopefully continue to find favor with audiences looking for a true family experience at the movie theatre.
A month of “up” weekends vs. last year has improved the summer box office outlook considerably and takes the YTD revenue advantage up to 4.5% over last year and the Summer-to-date advantage on revenue up to 3%. Attendance, while still lagging behind last summer has had a boost over the past few weeks and as a result is only at a 3.4% deficit vs. a 4.3% downturn through last weekend. This weekend look for “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore” in 3D (PG) from Warner Bros., “Charlie St. Cloud” starring Zac Efron from Universal and from Paramount, “Dinner For Schmucks” starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.
"The Long Kiss Goodnight." Four words that conjure images of ass-kicking action centered around a female protagonist that took the elements of the typical testosterone driven, male-dominated action movies and turned them on their feminine ear. The year was 1996 and perhaps the world was not yet ready to see a buffed out, wild-eyed and cold-blooded killer embodied in the female form of Geena Davis (though a number 3 debut with $9.1 million and a total domestic gross of $33.5 million was not bad in 1996). Renny Harlin was seemingly ahead of his time, though clearly he had seen director Luc Besson's 1991 "La Femme Nikita" and thought he could re-imagine his own action sensibilities as developed on 1990's "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and apply them to his then-spouse Davis. Fun fact: Besson was married to "Nikita" star Anne Parillaud when he directed her in that film. Evidently, Harlin and Besson liked to watch their wives beat the crap out of people on screen.
That brings us to Sony's espionage action thriller "Salt." Director Phillip Noyce is a veteran of the action genre having helmed 1992's "Patriot Games," and 1994's "Clear and Present Danger" among others. A taught and effective summer ride, Angelina Jolie proves once again that a woman can bring as much to the action table as any man and look really fine doing it. As Lara Croft, Mrs. Smith and the beautiful assassin Fox in 2008's "Wanted," Jolie has made a career out of portraying super hot, ultra-dangerous women on screen and the audience seems to totally buy into the idea ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Wanted" both debuted with over $50 million). "Salt" may be the perfect manifestation of all the disparate parts that make this joyride of a film so enjoyable. With women driving such a huge part of the box office revenue in recent years, "Salt" may prove quite effective in getting both women and their male-counterparts into the theatre. It seems like not much arm-twisting will be required to get guys excited to see the film; in fact it may be the guys dragging their girlfriends to see "Salt."
On the flip side of the PG-13 action represented by "Salt," is Fox's G-rated "Ramona and Beezus" which is based on the book "Ramona Forever" and featuring characters from the Ramona series of children's novels by Beverly Cleary. With a terrific trailer and marketing campaign plus a super-appealing ensemble cast including John Corbett, Josh Duhamel, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sandra Oh and Bridget Moynahan the film is the perfect family summer film. Of course Joey King as Ramona and singer-songwriter and Disney channel mainstay Selena Gomez as her big sister Beezus, have great sisterly chemistry and are truly the heart of the film. Even with lots of competition for the family film audience with "Despicable Me," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "Toy Story 3," "The Last Airbender" and "The Karate Kid," all in the marketplace, "Ramona and Beezus" should still have a solid shot at making its mark at the box-office this weekend.
A very competitive box office environment has certainly developed over the past few weeks and Warner Bros. "Inception" is clearly the film to beat this weekend. With a Monday gross of $10.2 million it is evident that word-of-mouth is strongly favoring the film and that it will present a formidable competitive challenge to the newcomers in the weekend derby; even if the film dropped 50% we are still looking at a $31 million plus weekend for the mind-bending, visual tour-de-force. One thing is certain, with the combination of "Inception," "Salt," "Despicable Me," "Toy Story 3," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Ramona and Beezus," this should be another strong weekend at the nation's theatres.