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Weekend Box Office: Summer 2011 Ends With a Hurricane, Kneecapping Three New Releases (Colombiana, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Our Idiot Brother) and All Holdovers

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It's a tough thing to accurately gauge how well a movie would have done if not for an unforeseen variable, such as in this case a massive hurricane that threatened much of the East Coast of the country and shut down hundreds of movie theaters over the weekend.  As such, it feels a little unfair to pick on movies that didn't open all-that well, since who is to say how they would have performed under normal conditions.  So, for the sake of not kicking people while they are down, this summary will be focused on the positive developments over the weekend.

While it was not number one this weekend, Sony's EuroCorp pick-up Colombiana opened with $10.3 million for a solid second place.  The Luc Besson-produced vehicle (which I'll hopefully be seeing tonight) would likely have opened between $12-15 million without the storm issues.  But even that smaller number is worth noting.  Point being, the film confirms the genuine bank-ability of Zoe Saldana, who co-starred in Avatar and Star Trek in 2009 and had supporting roles in The Losers, Takers, and Death at a Funeral in 2010.  Saldana's face was pretty much the entire poster, and the marketing campaign centered entirely around her.  This is the biggest opening weekend I can recall for a female-led pure action picture (as opposed to sci-fi/horror) that isn't based on a comic book or a video game. Even with the diminished numbers, this is still a larger opening weekend than the far-more high-profile Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, and One Day from last weekend.  Point being, there is indeed a market for action pictures starring minorities and/or women. Maybe the market isn't big enough to support $100 million+ productions, but as long as the budget is reasonable (in this case, $40 million), we damn-sure should be seeing more of this kind of thing.  The film earned an A- from Cinemascore and played 65 percent over-25 and 57 percent female.

The actual first place finisher was once again The Help, which dropped just 30 percent even in the face of weather issues and some... negative publicity (Why said criticisms are not about the movie itself -- HERE).  The picture is tracking ahead of even Bridesmaids, which had $85 million after its third weekend compared to the current $96 million cumulative for The Help.  It is already poised to be one of the biggest-grossing pure-dramas released in any summer season ever, and $150 million is currently all-but guaranteed, with $170-$190 million possible depending on how long it can hold onto theaters.  Of note, this weekend marks the first time that I can recall that the top two films of the weekend box office both centered around minority actors, let alone women of color (feel free to point out if I'm forgetting something... ).

Anyway, the other two openers were small performers that were probably never going to break out.  Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was a small-budget remake of a 1970s TV movie that had no real stars (Guy Pierce and Katie Holmes are not exactly box office dynamos).  The film's main selling point, the fact that Guillermo del Toro was producing, didn't count for much, and it's just another reason why Universal was right to cancel the $150 million R-rated In the Mountain Of Madness earlier this year.  The film had the double-edged sword of being a film intended for a PG-13 that nonetheless got stuck with an R purely for intensity.  So you lose the younger audiences who flock to PG-13 horror, and you lose the gore-hounds who knew there would be little onscreen violence and/or graphic bloodshed.  As such, $8.6 million for the $25 million production was not a rousing figure, but it could have been a lot worse.
The last major opener was Our Idiot Brother, the Weinstein Company comedy starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Rashida Jones.  Kudos for the Weintsteins for giving this apparently somewhat arty comedy a mainstream release, as this is just the kind of star vehicle that has inexplicably been regulated to the arthouse over the last few years (I'm probably seeing it tomorrow).  And even though the film opened with just $6.8 million, it has already nearly-outgrossed Ceder Rapids and Cyrus (two such victims of the above trend) in just three days, meaning that you really can make a profit for a semi-wide release in cases such as this.  In holdover news, all of last weekend's releases dropped like stones, as did Final Destination 5 (-68 percent, $37 million cumulative) which would have happened without the storm.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes now has $148 million, which means it will soon be Fox's first $150 million domestic performer since Avatar. Bad Teacher may fail to hit $100 million stateside, but it has crossed $200 million worldwide, which is uber-impressive.  With all the talk about the death of star power, Cameron Diaz powered this one all-by herself.  In the realm of 'bad news here, good news overseas', the two big animated films of summer are firing on all cylinders overseas.  Kung Fu Panda 2 sits with $625 million worldwide, meaning it will surpass the first film's $630 million worldwide gross.  Cars 2 may be the first Pixar film to not cross $200 million domestic since A Bug's Life in 1998, but the film has $709 million thus far worldwide, meaning it will soon pass the $731 million worldwide gross of Up to become Pixar's third-biggest worldwide grosser, behind Finding Nemo ($867 million) and Toy Story 3 ($1 billion).

That's it for this weekend and for summer 2011.  The Fall season starts on Wednesday with the release of The Debt, and continues this Friday with the absolutely moronic head-to-head scheduling that is Shark Night 3D vs. Apollo 18.  Anyway, check out the first of a few summer recap articles (Part I: The Moments That Mattered)  HERE and look out for more in the coming week.

Around the Web

Colombiana Movie Review: Riveting - Movie Fanatic

'Colombiana': Movie review - latimes.com

Colombiana - Rotten Tomatoes