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Weekend Report: 'Dolphin Tale' Leaps Into Lead

by Ray Subers
Dolphin Tale
 

 
October 3, 2011

On strong word-of-mouth, Dolphin Tale managed to leap over Moneyball and The Lion King (in 3D) to take first place on its second weekend in theaters. Estimates had faith-based movie Courageous trailing 50/50, though it ultimately leveraged a stronger Sunday to come out ahead when actuals reported. Dream House disappointed in its debut, while What's Your Number? tallied one of the worst numbers for a super-saturated (3,000+ theaters) release ever.

Dolphin Tale eased just 27 percent to $13.9 million, which brought its 10-day total to a solid $37.2 million. It had a better hold than Soul Surfer and was about even with last Fall's Secretariat, albeit with a much higher total than either of those movies at the same point. Still, it couldn't hold a candle to The Blind Side (which actually improved in its second frame), though that was a holiday weekend so it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison.

Moneyball dipped 38 percent to $12 million. That's steeper than The Social Network's 31 percent decline, though it's still very solid in its own right. The Brad Pitt baseball drama has scored $38 million through 10 days in theaters.

After ruling the charts for the past two weeks, The Lion King's 3D re-release fell 52 percent to $10.6 million and had to settle for third place. That week-over-week decline is a fairly steep, though it's not entirely unexpected considering the Blu-ray hits stores on Tuesday and most advertisements pegged the re-release as a two-weeks-only affair. The movie's total has now reached $79.2 million, which brings The Lion King's overall total to $407.7 million. On Saturday, it passed Spider-Man to move in to the Top 10 all-time, and it should be able to climb a few more spots before the end of its run. Thanks in part to The Lion King's impressive performance, Walt Disney Pictures passed the $1 billion mark on Saturday, making it the sixth straight year that the studio reached this milestone.

Sherwood Pictures' Courageous was the only one of the new releases to improve from estimates to actuals, and it passed 50/50 in the process to take fourth place. The movie debuted to $9.1 million from just 1,161 theaters for a strong per-theater average of $7,806. That's up from the studio's last movie Fireproof ($6.8 million), though the average was off just a bit. The opening ranks fifth all-time for a Christian movie, and only trails The Passion of the Christ and the three Narnia movies. Courageous scored a rare "A+" CinemaScore, and the audience was 53 percent female and 77 percent over the age of 25.

Made outside of Hollywood without any major stars, Courageous managed to fly under most radars (including my own) until very recently. It's unfair to ignore the vast majority of church-going Americans for whom typical Hollywood fare isn't of great interest, though, and Sherwood Pictures has impressively found a way to mobilize this subset of the population. It will be interesting to see if Courageous can hold as well as Fireproof did when it went on to earn $33.46 million, or nearly five times its opening weekend, in 2008.

50/50 opened to $8.6 million from 2,458 theaters, which is the lowest debut ever for a Seth Rogen movie. Considering the grim subject matter, though, that's not an entirely awful start, and an "A-" CinemaScore should translate in to decent word-of-mouth in coming weeks. The audience was 54 percent female and 57 percent under 30 years old.

50/50 had a hot young cast, and strong reviews and word-of-mouth, but all of that only goes so far. The marketing was ultimately too lukewarm: by attempting to off-set the cancer plotline and dreary gray palette with random jokes and the uplifting tagline "Beat the Odds," the movie's story and characters were diluted and instead it came off as a somewhat sad buddy comedy. It could hang on well moving foward, though it will be tough to match star Joseph Gordon-Levitt's 2009 hit (500) Days of Summer ($32.4 million).

Dream House scared up a meek $8.1 million. That's just a fraction of haunted house movies like The Skeleton Key ($16.1 million) and The Amityville Horror ($23.5 million), and it's even off a bit from Dark Water ($9.9 million). The movie received a "B" CinemaScore and the audience was 54 percent female and 62 percent under the age of 25. Hispanics were the largest ethnic group in attendance at 38 percent, which tends to be the case with supernatural thrillers.

The combined star wattage of Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts couldn't save Dream House from a vague marketing effort that failed to firmly place the movie in a genre (it seemed to fluctuate between supernatural and psychological thriller) or generate any kind of scares. It doesn't help that it wasn't screened for critics and ultimately wound up with a terrible 5 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Between this and July's Cowboys & Aliens, it's starting to appear like Craig isn't much of a draw outside of the James Bond franchise.

Abduction fell 49 percent to $5.6 million for a total of $19.1 million. Killer Elite dipped 47 percent to $4.9 million and it's total reached $17.5 million.

What's Your Number? wound up in eighth place with a terrible $5.4 million. That's the fifth-worst debut ever for a movie in more than 3,000 theaters, and is just over one-third of the opening of star Anna Faris's The House Bunny ($14.5 million). The movie received a decent "B" CinemaScore, and the audience was 63 percent female and 63 percent over the age of 25.

A brief mea culpa: I gambled by predicting over $14 million for What's Your Number? this weekend and clearly got burned. Honestly, though, it was hard to look at any of the relevant metrics and forecast an opening below $10 million, and there were likely some odd intangibles in play here. Perhaps it's that star Anna Faris has cooled off a bit in the three years since The House Bunny. Or maybe the title's bluntness about sex turned some viewers off. Or it could be that What's Your Number? just looked like an uninspiring retread following a Summer chock-full of successful female-oriented movies like Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher. As is often the case, all of these factors probably added up in one way or another to generate one of the worst wide release debuts in quite some time.

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This Timeframe in Past Years:
2010 - 'Social Network' No Wallflower in Its Debut
2009 - 'Zombieland' Livens Up Horror Comedy Genre
2007 - 'Heartbreak Kid' Gets Hurt, 'Game Plan' Tops Again
2006 - 'Departed' Out-Muscles 'Massacre'
2005 - 'Serenity' Moseys to Tame Start

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