Weekend Box Office: ‘Help’ Me, Irene

The box office was pretty tepid this week, but lucky for Hollywood PR types, they can use the Hurricane Irene roadshow to cover their losses. While the hurricane probably took a nice chunk from the overall box office, I doubt it did much to change the order of films vying for the top.

The Help was the winner for the second week in a row, turning into the powerhouse film everyone wanted it to be. This should do nothing but help Oscar buzz, as it will cross the $100 million mark next weekend (if not this week).

Colombiana was the most successful debut this week, taking in $10.3 million and claiming second place. I remember thinking the preview was interesting, but until now I forgot this movie even existed. Zoe Saldana seems like she is trying to build her name as an action star, and it may be working.

Coming in third with $8.7 million was Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the supernatural horror/thriller that used Guillermo del Toro’s writing/producing credit to maximum impact in the marketing…which turns out wasn’t much.

The other new debut was Our Idiot Brother, the Paul Rudd-headlined indie, which came in fifth place. It didn’t seem like it found an audience, making only $6.6 million, yet the film is already a financial “success,” gaining back it’s paltry $5 million budget.

Overall, none of the weekend’s new films were ever going to be major hits, and for now, we continue to lumber through the transition to fall’s strong roster of Oscar contenders.

All numbers courtesy Box Office Mojo.

Weekend Box Office: Everyone Drinks, Nobody Wins

Aside

I think it’s safe to say Summer is officially over at the box office folks. After a dismal weekend of returns for new films like Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night, I, for one, am ready for the Fall onslaught of Oscar contenders. Although Fright Night was a real treat, and I’m disappointed it’s not getting the attention it deserves. There’s nary a glittery vamp in sight, I promise! Go see it!

A sampling of the Box Office (Box Office Mojo):

The Help with $20 Million

Planet of the Apes with $16 Million

Spy Kids with $12 Million

Conan the Barbarian with $10 Million

Fright Night with $8.3 Million

One Day with $5.1 Million

CinemaScore: The Secret to Box Office Success?

As I get more and more into the minutiae of movie news, I occasionally come across something that really confuses me. Many times when reading about a movie’s box office performance, I’ll see a particular film’s CinemaScore mentioned.

For example, “Tate Taylor’s The Help got off to an impressive start at the Wednesday box office, grossing at least $5 million in its first day and earning a rare A+ CinemaScore from delighted moviegoers.” Or something like that. I’ve begun to wonder just what a CinemaScore is and where they come from. So I decided do a little research. Here is what I’ve found out:

A CinemaScore is a letter grade rating system as determined by the Las Vegas-based market research firm of the same name. Founded in 1982, they survey film goers attending mainstream releases on opening night for their demographic information, their letter grade review of the film, and whether they would purchase it for home video release. Since opening-night crowds are always the most enthusiastic about a release, the average CinemaScore rating is commonly assumed to be a B+, which on most scales would be quite high. Therefore, a C grade is “bad news” for studios, and is basically considered a failure with audiences. Rarely, if ever, do films earn an F from audiences. A recent example was the 2009 Cameron Diaz flop, The Box. Ed Minz, founder of CinemaScope, said audiences hated the film’s ending, which severely affected the film’s rating.

An actual CinemaScore survey - by M@sh on Flickr

CinemaScores have not always been easy to come by for the general public. Originally offered privately to studios, CinemaScores used to basically only travel by word of mouth (ironic!). However, Entertainment Weekly has been offering CinemaScores to it’s readers as far back as 1991. Back then you had to call, and there was a $1.95 charge for the first minute, and .95 each minute after! More recently, Grady Smith of The Box Office Junkie has a pretty extensive collection of CinemaScores for recent releases.

As with any film rating system, CinemaScore isn’t necessarily a determination of a film’s quality, as there have been plenty of great films that have gotten terrible scores. For example, Hanna, (which we loved) got a C+ overall. It got an A from audiences under 18, but a D+ from the over-50 crowd. Another spy tale, The American, (which we also loved) got a D-, and the rare F from women! Both of these are worthy films, and two of the more challenging major releases of the past 12 months.

On the other end of the spectrum, THR has a list of 15 movies that received the coveted A+ from CinemaScore, including last weekend’s The Help, and last year’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech. 

The purpose of a CinemaScore isn’t to judge a film, but to try to give studios an advance peek of what they can expect from the weekend box office. Since the Scores are usually available by 11 PM eastern, the studios can begin to prep their Sunday morning press releases when the box office estimates usually come out.

Weekend Box Office: Apes, Help

Films used to stay dominate in theaters for a long time, especially back in the days before home video, but in a summer where every weekend seems to bring another studio tentpole, Rise of the Planet of the Apes pulled a rare feat and stayed on top of the box office for a second week with $27.5 million. The new film was only the third movie of the summer to do so, after summer opener Thor and Independence Day weekend Transformers. Though the film experienced a 50% drop off, that was not as steep as other summer sequels like X-Men: First Class.

The other big winner this weekend was The Help, which brought in $25.5 million in its first weekend. This put the movie ahead of the last two August female-driven book adaptations, Julie and Julia ($20 million) and Eat, Pray, Love ($23 million), both of which had bigger star power headlining. This is extra impressive since the film actually opened last Wednesday (our review) and has taken in a quick $35 million in its first five days. Because the film is skewing toward an older demographic than most summer films, plan on this one hanging around for a few weeks, especially given the Oscar buzz already being generated.
Debuted this week was Final Destination 5, which opened to a franchise-falling $18.4 million. While it experienced the highest 3D to 2D ratio of the summer (75% of the gross was from 3D), the overall take was lackluster. This is what happens when you market the movie as more of the same…after you promised the 2009 installment was the last film in the series.

Next weekend seems wide-open, so tune in here Monday morning to see the showdown between the Conan reboot, the Fright Night remake, and Spy Kids 4D!