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June 24, 2012

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Brave Hits the Bullseye

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Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter round out the top three.

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This weekend, princess power ruled the North American box office as Disney and Pixar’s Brave opened at number one setting a new record for the biggest debut ever for an animated film centered around a female character. The weekend’s other new releases were not met with as much enthusiasm as the stylish action thriller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter premiered in third place with moderate numbers while Steve Carell’s Seeking A Friend for the End of the World was dead on arrival in tenth place. The overall marketplace was down again from a year ago when Pixar also reigned supreme.

Moms, daughters, and others lined up for Brave which shot straight to the top with an estimated $66.7M to easily command first place more than tripling the gross of its nearest competitor. The PG-rated 3D toon averaged a muscular $16,028 from 4,164 theaters in what was the widest debut ever for Pixar which continued its perfect streak of number one openings for all thirteen of its films dating back to 1995′s ground-breaking hit Toy Story. Brave‘s performance was virtually identical to the debut of the company’s Cars 2 this weekend last year which bowed to $66.1M from slightly fewer locations for a similar average. However, the Scottish princess pic was not a sequel and did not have as huge of a merchandising empire behind it.

Brave managed to beat the $60.3M debut of Madagascar 3 from rival DreamWorks Animation from earlier this month, but did not match the $70.2M of March’s The Lorax from Universal. All were 3D toons. Reviews for Pixar’s latest were good, but not as glowing as those for recent offerings like Toy Story 3, Up, and WALL-E. Still despite that, and the fact that the story skewed more towards girls, Brave broke the $60M mark on opening weekend like eight of the last nine Pixar films have done. And it beat the $48.8M of Disney’s Tangled to post the best debut ever for a female-centric toon. The take also rose higher than the $43.7M of 2010′s How To Train Your Dragon which was also set in medieval Scotland.

Brave kicked off its weekend with a $24.5M opening day on Friday and then slipped 4% on Saturday to $23.5M with Sunday estimated to drop 21% to $18.7M. Last year this weekend with the same calendar, Cars 2 dipped 9% on Saturday and then 27% on Sunday. But Brave has been liked more as its grade from CinemaScore was a glowing A compared to the A- that the Lightning McQueen sequel earned. Females made up 57% of the audience for Brave which was on par with the 56% for this month’s Madagascar.

But one trouble spot was with 3D, and those willing to pay extra for the experience. A very low 34% of Brave‘s gross came from those screens. By comparison, 3D shares for other toons include 40% for Cars 2, 45% for Kung Fu Panda 2, 45% for Madagascar 3, and 51% for Puss in Boots. Even the Pixar brand is not strong enough to prompt a large number of parents to shell out extra for what has now become an ordinary experience. Still, the long-term outlook seems bright. With most kids out of school now, Brave will attract solid mid-week business and with little competition next weekend and promising audience buzz a solid sophomore session could result followed by the Independence Day holiday after that which will keep numbers strong going into the third weekend.

Most markets overseas will open Brave in July and August however the year’s second teen girl archery star debuted in ten territories this weekend with $13.5M for a global weekend of $80.2M.

Despite facing the worst possible new competitor, two-time box office champ Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted held up miraculously well dropping only 41% to second place with an estimated $20.2M. Paramount has now collected a stellar $157.6M over 17 days for the DreamWorks Animation sequel and looks on course to break the $200M mark – a level the studio’s 2011 toons never reached. It will become the top-grossing installment in the series, although higher 3D prices will contribute to the feat. The fact that the talking zoo animals enjoyed such a low decline against the arrival of Pixar’s latest treat speaks to how well-liked it is with families and how strong the kidpic marketplace is right now with most children starting their summer vacations. Plus, Madagascar‘s appeal is not skewed towards one gender making it a boy-friendly alternative to Brave. Overseas saw an impressive $30.1M frame lifting the international total to $208.4M for $365.9M worldwide.

The period action-horror thriller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter debuted in third place with an estimated $16.5M. The R-rated mashup pic offering an alternate take on presidential history averaged a decent $5,309 from 3,108 locations with 3D contributing extra surcharges. As expected, adult men made up the core audience with the breakdown being 56% male and 53% 25 and older. But critics and moviegoers were equally unimpressed with the stylish monster movie as reviews were mostly bad and the CinemaScore grade was a lackluster C+. Saturday sales dipped 10% indicating a rough road ahead. With major EuroCup matches going on overseas distracting bloodthirsty males, Lincoln opened in just a few international markets grossing $8.1M from 17 markets led by $3.9M from director Timur Bekmambetov’s Russia and $1.6M from the United Kingdom where it ranked number one.

Sci-fi epic Prometheus fell 52% to an estimated $10M in its third mission to boost Fox’s total to $108.5M. The Ridley Scott film also captured $12.7M overseas this weekend to raise its international sum to $152.9M putting the global tally at $261.4M. A pair of period pics tied for fifth place with an estimated $8M a piece. Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman dropped 40% and has amassed $137.1M to date while the Warner Bros. musical Rock of Ages declined by a reasonable 45% in its second round for a modest $28.8M in ten days. Look for a $45-50M final.

Fellow sophomore That’s My Boy starring Adam Sandler held up well sliding only 41% to an estimated $7.9M putting it a hair behind the other two. Sony has banked $28.2M and is headed to a $45-50M finish making for the comedian’s worst gross for a broad comedy since 2000′s Little Nicky. Since jumping to the A-list in 1998, Sandler has never had back-to-back broad comedies fail to top $100M. He will now have that with Boy following last November’s Jack and Jill which grossed $74.2M. On the other hand, he could be setting himself up to sweep the Razzies over two consecutive years.

Iron Man and pals came within striking distance of the $600M domestic mark this weekend thanks to a sensational hold for The Avengers in its eighth round. The all-star super hero mega-pak slipped only 21% to an estimated $7M boosting the cume to $598.3M and is on track to surpass its next milestone as early as Tuesday. The Disney smash will become the first non-James Cameron film to ever smash the $600M barrier. Avengers raised its overseas take to a towering 837.9$M and its global treasure to $1.44 billion with Japan still to open in August.

Sony’s summer tentpole Men in Black 3 fell 44% to an estimated $5.6M for $163.3M to date. A final of $175-180M seems likely. International audiences pushed the overseas total up to $414M for a worldwide haul of $577.3M making it the year’s third largest global grosser after Avengers and The Hunger Games.

Audiences rejected Steve Carell’s latest film Seeking A Friend for the End of the World which barely made the top ten with its estimated $3.8M debut. Playing in 1,625 locations, the Focus release averaged a pitiful $2,361 and generated zero excitement with its target audience of upscale adults. Plus with arthouse hits from Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and Shakespeare in Love‘s John Madden already satisfying this exact same audience, there was no room for another option. The audience was 56% female and 56% over 35 with the CinemaScore being a disappointing C+. In addition, reviews for Seeking were only mixed and not impressive enough to win over crowds. The darkly comic doomsday story failed to pull in Carell’s mainstream comedy fans.

Woody Allen scored another summer comedy hit aimed at sophisticated adults with his latest effort To Rome With Love which debuted in only five theaters but grossed an estimated $379,000 for a spectacular $75,874 average. The Sony Classics release did not reach the $99,834 opening weekend average of the director’s Midnight in Paris from a year ago but it was still a sizzling start for what could be a long-lasting hit. Reviews for Rome were mixed and not as stellar as those for last summer’s Oscar-winning Paris but fans in New York and Los Angeles still came out for the Woody Allen brand. How it plays in the rest of the country will be seen in the weeks ahead. Starring Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz and others, Rome expands on Friday into a handful of additional major markets before going nationwide on July 6.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $153.8M which was down 7% from last year when Cars 2 opened at number one with $66.1M; but even with 2010 when Toy Story 3 remained on top with $59.3M in its second weekend.

Follow Gitesh on Twitter.

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