Show me the money!

Love it or hate it US box office results send ripples through the industry. Despite the quality of the film, it’s the main way that studios gauge the success of a film. Return on investment is what keeps the head of studio employed. The other way a studio measures success is with Oscars but that serves actors, writers and directors better than it does the studio as a whole.

Box Office doesn’t just matter to studio heads and producers; it impacts heavily on the films distribution outside of the US. Living in Australia, I’m always amazed at how films that sink at the US box office suddenly get a straight to DVD release here. The perfect example is ‘50/50’ which didn’t set the box office on fire in the US when it was released 30 September 2011. The Australian release date has been pushed back to 8 March 2012 as a result, and this superb film is sure to languish in DVD bargain bins.

The simple solution may be to move to the US but I don’t want to get shot in a Walmart. Box office results are fascinating and in 2012 the team at the Popcorn Junkie is going to feature analysis of US box office results and the possible flow on effects.

First official results for box office in 2012 are in; hit the jump for our analysis.

# Movie title Studio Weeks in release 3 Day Weekend $ Total $
1 NEW The Devil Inside Paramount NEW $34.5 million $34.5 million
2\/ Mission: Impossible GP Paramount 4 $20.5 million $170.2 million
3\/ Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Warner Brothers 4 $14.1 million $157.4 million
4/\ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Sony 3 $11.4 million $76.8 million
5\/ Alvin and the Chipmunks Chipwrecked 20th Century Fox 4 $9.5 million $112 million
6\/ War Horse Dreamworks/Disney 3 $8.6 million $56.8 million
7\/ We Bought A Zoo Fox 3 $8.5 million $56.4 million
8\/ Adventures of Tintin Paramount/Sony   3 $6.6 million $61.9 million
9/\ Tinker Tailor Solider Spy Focus Features 5 $5.8 million $10.4 million
10\/ New Year’s Eve Warner Brothers 5 $3.3 million $52 million 

Winners

Paramount Pictures had the only new release out this past weekend and ‘The Devil Inside’ managed to beat out all the veteran releases with an opening of $34.5 million. With a rumoured budget of only $1 million and zero star power it’s a huge accomplishment, but the studio has not released figures on how much they spent marketing the film so any chatter of an instant return on investment is questionable. Paramount is making a habit of releasing low budget horror films that make huge profits with the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise the jewel in their scream queen crown. It’s doubtful ‘The Devil Inside’ will hold for a second week as it’s gaining a bad reputation for having one of the worst endings of all time and there are rumours of people booing at screenings. Bad word of mouth is spreading via social networking so it’s unclear yet if Paramount has a monster hit on their hands.

‘Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol’ is on track to break the $200 million barrier which it already has surpassed in overseas grosses. It’s a huge boost to the relationship between Paramount and Tom Cruise as well as the future of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise. Filmmaker J.J Abrams is a producer on the film so the results will boost his future projects that are in development and director Brad Bird will have a field day picking his next film (and his pay-grade).

Director David Fincher’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ had a healthy bounce no doubt due to awards buzz around Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander. Sony will be praying that it gets close making back the estimated budget of $90 million and overseas box office will get it there, but it’s still a disappointing result for film based on a bestselling book. The popularity of Stieg Larsson’s book and the star power of Daniel Craig may have been overestimated. Any prospect of sequels and Fincher returning are questionable, but screenwriter Steven Zaillian is working on the screenplay for a sequel so there is still hope. It would be stupid for Sony to drop the franchise and if the sequels are green-lit, major budget cuts will probably be the first order which means Fincher won’t return unless he takes a pay cut.

UPDATE: According to Deadline Sony will go ahead with sequels for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Fincher set to return as director, read the story here

A nice appearance in the top ten by ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ which gained a wider release after being in limited release and like ‘Dragon Tattoo’ is drawing in audiences due to awards hype.

Losers

It looks as though all momentum for ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and ‘War Horse’ have worn off and its strength at the box office outside the US will be its saving grace with ‘Tintin’ already passing $200 million before it opened in America. Director Steven Spielberg is Hollywood royalty so the result will not harm his future productions and here’s hoping the awards will come piling in for his next project ‘Lincoln’ due for release in 2012.

New US Releases for next weekend 14-15 January 2012

– Beauty and the Beast 3D

– Contraband

– Joyful Noise

Our predictions:

The action thriller ‘Contraband’ looks like it’s tapping into the fanbase of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise with a little more brainpower on board. We’re doubtful of Mark Wahlberg’s star power and the R-rating may prevent it from making big money.

‘Joyful Noise’ is a musical/comedy that is very reminiscent of ‘Sister Act’ minus all the nuns. Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah and a cast of young unknown actors with big voices could get people through the door. Based on the current popularity of television shows like ‘Glee’, ‘Joyful Noise’ could tap into the feel-good family audience and blow away the competition.

The re-release of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in 3D by Disney will grab most of the families and based on the success of the 3D version of ‘The Lion King’ it’s a pretty safe bet. ‘The Lion King 3D’ opened with $30 million and grossed over $94 million for a film most people have already seen! 3D is becoming a dirty word but when it comes to Disney you can’t help but be a little curious.

We predict: ‘Beauty and the Beast 3D’ #1

Total studio grosses for releases in 2012 as of 9 January

# Studio # films released Cume
1 Paramount 1 $34.5 million
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