Giving it Chicken Little's 3.3x multiplier gives Wreck-It Ralph a terrific $162 million domestic total. Giving it The Incredibles's 3.77x multiplier means a $185 million gross while a leggier run along the lines of Monsters Inc.'s 4.11x means $201 million. All of this means that $200 million domestic, which among non-Pixar Disney toons only The Lion King, Aladdin, and Tangled have accomplished, is not a guarantee, although the 4.3x multiplier of Puss In Boots (which dropped about $1 million between weekends, which won't happen here) gives the film $211 million. What's noteworthy is how low Disney seems on the animation totem pole when it comes to domestic box office. If Wreck-It Ralph ends up with $160 million, that puts it behind the likes of Brave ($235 million), Madagascar 3 ($216 million), and The Lorax ($214 million) and neck-and-neck with Ice Age: Continental Drift ($160 million). To be fair, three of those were sequels or adaptations of beloved childrens' stories while Wreck-It Ralph was an original designed arguably to appeal more to parents than kids (the film is kid-friendly, but full of video game references that play to the Nintendo generation). Of course the Disney secret remains Disney merchandising, which the likes of Dreamworks and Blue Sky have yet to match at this juncture. Brave, Tangled, and even the allegedly disappointing Princess and the Frog ($104 million domestic) sold hundreds-of-millions worth of princess merchandise based on their lead characters and it will be interesting to see if Disney can leverage a similar niche for its female supporting character. Oh, and it earned $12 million in six markets overseas, giving it a $61 million worldwide debut.Flight (review), which inexplicably opened on just 1,800 screens but still had a comparitvely massive opening. With a higher per-screen average ($13,270) than Wreck-It Ralph, Robert Zemeckis's return to live-action filmmaking became Denzel Washington's 13th $20 million debut. The film's $25 million opening is Washington's fifth-biggest debut ever (four of those 13 debuts are at exactly $20 million while three of them are at $22 million), even as the film had 2/3 the normal theaters for this kind of release. The film cost just $30 million, so it's going to be quite profitable, but I still question the release strategy. Even with apparently strong word of mouth (an A- from Cinemascore) and a superb 3.1x weekend multiplier, the legs are still somewhat in question. In short, A) it's not what the trailers are selling, B) it's not a very good movie, and C) the older moviegoers are going to race to Skyfall (review) next weekend anyway.
Still, it's a win for old-school, R-rated, major-studio character dramas no matter how it does from here out. The film played 88% over 25 years old and 51% male. My issues with the film aside, it's probable that it becomes the second-choice for older filmmakers over the next month, which means it may still have a shot at $100 million. Paramount sold the film they wanted and not the film they had, teasing the intense plane crash sequence and advertising a mystery element that the film doesn't remotely contain. Whether or not they get 'punished' for this misdirection is immaterial when the budget is this low. Worst case scenario the film collapses and crawls to $60 million while it does another $60 million overseas, giving Paramount a solid win. Denzel Washington again proves himself as the last real 'open it by yourself' movie star of the my generation (essay).
Speaking of Russell Crowe, he actually co-stars in the third big opener, Universal's The Man With the Iron Fists. Directed and written by and starring musician RZA, this Eli Roth-produced and co-written homage to grindhouse martial arts films opened with $8.2 million. The good news is that the film cost just $15 million, yet another case of reasonable budgeting reaping respectable rewards. There's not much more to say on this. It's a film tailored to a very specific audience, and Russell Crowe clearly was not attempting to reaffirm any box office clout by signing on. He'll get that chance with the all-star Les Miserables. The film played 64% male and 53% under 30 years old. I'd argue that three years ago RZA would have gotten someone to pony up $60-$90 million and then wondered why only hard-core genre fans showed up, but the low budget is yet another symptom of a studio system that seems to come to its senses regarding financial sanity.
For holdover news, including second weekend box office for Skyfall in the UK, go to Mendelson's Memos.