‘The Dark Knight Rises’ sends a reminder at box office

by Amy Kaufman

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

6 August 2012


LOS ANGELES — Many moviegoers forgot about “Total Recall” at the box office this weekend, as the reboot of the 1990 amnesia classic failed to prove as memorable as “The Dark Knight Rises.”

For the third consecutive weekend, the final entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy claimed the No. 1 position at the multiplex. This weekend, the film starring Christian Bale as the iconic superhero took in an additional $36.4 million, lifting its overall tally to $354.6 million domestically, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros.

Although the film’s ticket sales are impressive, the movie has still grossed about $39 million less than its predecessor, “The Dark Knight,” during the same time period in 2008.

Meanwhile, a pricey reboot of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit “Total Recall” failed to connect with moviegoers. The new version, which stars Colin Farrell as a man who toys with his memory via a chemically induced procedure, opened with a soft $26 million. That was at least more than “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” made, as the movie took in $14.7 million in its first weekend — far less than the two prior entries in the children’s franchise started off with.

Overall, ticket sales were down roughly 28 percent compared with the same weekend last year, when “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” opened with more than $50 million.

Though “The Dark Knight Rises” is lagging behind the second Batman film in the United States and Canada, it is performing at a faster pace of business overseas than “The Dark Knight” did. This weekend, the film grossed $67 million in 58 foreign markets, lifting its international tally to $378.4 million. That’s 31 percent ahead of where “The Dark Knight” was during the same point in its release, using exchange rates from four years ago. Thus far, the movie is doing best in the United Kingdom, where it has sold more than $60 million worth of tickets to date.

“Clearly, the massacre in Denver was a huge issue to deal with on the domestic side,” Warner Bros.’ Executive Vice President for Domestic Distribution Jeff Goldstein said Sunday, alluding to the July 20 Colorado shooting in a post-midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Moviegoing quieted down, and that opening weekend was so devastating that it’s hard to bounce back from that. At the end of the day, we’ll be behind domestically and dramatically ahead internationally.”

Although “Total Recall” met industry tracking projections, it will be a challenge for the film to be considered a hit. Sony Pictures spent at least $125 million to produce the picture and many of those who saw it this weekend disliked it, assigning it an average grade of C-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. If poor word-of-mouth damages the movie’s domestic prospects, it will need to do massive business internationally to become financially successful.

The movie also draws into question Farrell’s ability to lure audiences to the box office. Although the 36-year-old actor has appeared in a handful of well-received independent films, his attempts at more commercial fare have often fallen flat. Last year, he starred in a remake of the horror flick “Fright Night,” which tanked at the multiplex with $18 million in sales. His last serious action-star role, 2004’s “Alexander,” also flopped, as the sword-and-sandals epic grossed a disappointing $34 million stateside.

In 1990, the original “Total Recall” opened with almost as much as the reboot did: $25.5 million. The film, released at the height of the governator’s popularity as an actor, went on to gross more than $260 million worldwide.

Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution president, tried to stress that the studio has always considered the reboot to be a “world play.”

“I believe we’re going to be absolutely happy with the final result,” Bruer insisted Sunday. “We haven’t really started in a big way internationally yet, but the tracking looks really terrific all over the world.”

This weekend, the reboot opened in a dozen foreign territories and grossed $6.2 million. It was No. 1 in all but one location — Hong Kong — and performed best in Taiwan and Malaysia, collecting more than $1 million in each country.

The latest “Wimpy Kid” film couldn’t top $20 million in its opening weekend — a feat its two predecessors were able to accomplish. But the movie received an average grade of A-minus from audiences, indicating it could maintain some momentum at the box office in the coming weeks. Plus, the movie didn’t cost 20th Century Fox much to make — the film’s budget was around $22 million.

Based on author Jeff Kinney’s popular illustrated book series, the “Wimpy Kid” franchise has been modestly successful for Fox. The series about a middle-school student launched in 2010, when the original took in a total of $64 million in ticket sales. Though the second’s overall gross declined to $52.7 million, Fox thought a third film — set in the summer — would be able to capitalize on a fan base of kids who were out of school. But the first and the second films, both released in March, earned better reviews than “Dog Days.”

“In the spring, I think moviegoing becomes so concentrated on the weekends, whereas during the summer, you’ve got families taking vacations and there are other things going on,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution. “The beauty of the summer is that we will play for a longer period of time, and see a really strong multiple.”

Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane’s R-rated comedy “Ted” crossed the $200 million mark at the domestic box office after six weekends in theaters. The film starring a crass talking teddy bear is also faring well overseas, grossing an additional $32 million from 20 foreign countries this weekend and raising its international total to $77.3 million.

The raunchy flick did brisk business in the United Kingdom and Germany, and had the biggest opening for a Hollywood comedy ever in Russia with $5.5 million. The film has yet to open in 38 foreign markets.

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