Box Office Guru Wrapup: Girlpower Rules Again with Princess at #1

Invictus gets a red card.

Fairy tales came true as mothers and daughters powered the animated film The Princess and the Frog to the number one spot in its first weekend of nationwide release. But the frame's only other wide opener, Clint Eastwood's Nelson Mandela drama Invictus, suffered a soft debut in third place. Overall, the North American box office remained ahead of the same frame from a year ago as 2009 continued on its record pace towards shattering the $10 billion mark for the first time ever.

In a cartoon world ruled by computer animation and 3D wizardry, Disney went old school with its traditionally drawn pic The Princess and the Frog which won the box office crown with an estimated $25M this weekend. Following two weeks of exclusive play at solo theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the G-rated tale set in 1920s New Orleans won over kids with a powerful $7,280 average from 3,434 theaters. Kidpics rarely break $20M on opening weekend in December unless they bow over the Christmas holiday frame. With holiday shopping and other activities becoming a top priority, parents often become less available for moviegoing at this time of year, but invade the multiplexes in large numbers come the 25th.
The Mouse House has a decades-long history of making princess movies, and even in the 1990s had multicultural female leads in major toons like Mulan, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. But Disney finally has its first black princess and audiences are giving her a big thumbs up. The bayou pic earned a solid A grade from CinemaScore indicating encouraging word-of-mouth ahead. Studio research showed that 64% of the audience was female, not surprisingly, and that 53% was under 25. Disney reported that the gender split began evening out on Saturday and that more males are expected to come out over the long run. Princess continued a four-week streak of femme-skewing films ruling the charts following The Blind Side and New Moon.

Sandra Bullock rushed past the $150M mark for the second time this year as her surprise football hit The Blind Side enjoyed another fantastic hold grossing an estimated $15.5M in its fourth weekend. Off a very slender 23%, the Warner Bros. hit lifted its domestic total to $150.2M becoming the record fifteenth movie of 2009 to break the century-and-a-half barrier - the most in any one year. Only eleven films surpassed that level in 2008. With Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, and other potential blockbusters still to come, that figure is sure to grow. Blind Side is on course to race past the $200M mark too.

The news wasn't as good for Warners in third place where its Clint Eastwood film Invictus ended up on its opening weekend. The Morgan Freeman-Matt Damon pic bowed to an estimated $9.1M from 2,125 theaters for a mild $4,275 average. The Nelson Mandela film debuted just like another Africa-set drama that the studio launched in mid-December - 2006's Blood Diamond. That Leonardo DiCaprio pic debuted to $8.6M from 1,910 sites for a $4,528 average on its way to a $57.4M final cume. Invictus is already a bigger player during awards season than Diamond ever was so it is likely to enjoy better legs in the weeks ahead.
Outside of last winter's Gran Torino, Eastwood's directorial efforts never post large openings but rather attract a loyal older audience over time. Warner Bros. is expecting the same here looking at this weekend as just a chance to set the film up in the marketplace so as awards and nominations come in, it can immediately benefit. The Oscar-winning director saw debuts of $9.4M for last year's Changeling, $10.2M for Flags of Our Fathers, and $10.4M for 2003's Mystic River so he is in the same neighborhood once again. Even Million Dollar Baby opened to just $12.3M in its first wide weekend in late January of 2005 just days after it scored seven major Academy Award nominations.

Still, Invictus is no easy-sell with its story of South African politics and rugby plus its not-so-marketable title. Budgeted at $60M, the PG-13 film will need to rely on Best Actor kudos that Freeman is expected to receive for his acclaimed performance in order to attract a larger audience. He's already won in that category with the National Board of Review (in a tie with George Clooney for Up in the Air) and is expected to earn a Golden Globe nomination this Tuesday. A windfall of Globe nominations including Best Picture is what Invictus is hoping for to keep it relevant with movie audiences against a wave of much bigger films about to flood theaters over the holidays.

Dropping 48% to fourth place was The Twilight Saga: New Moon which pulled in another $8M, according to estimates, boosting the cume to $267.4M. The Summit release is the fifth biggest blockbuster of 2009 and still has a shot at reaching the triple century mark to challenge Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the number two spot for the year. James Cameron will also try to get in on that action with Avatar which invades theaters on Friday riding a hot wave of anticipation and stellar early reviews. New Moon now sits at number 43 on the all-time blockbusters list in between the first Shrek and second Potter.
Disney's animated holiday treat A Christmas Carol followed in fifth with an estimated $6.9M slipping a mere 12% in its sixth round for a $124.5M cume. The Jim Carrey starrer is performing just like the last motion capture Christmas flick from Robert Zemeckis, 2004's The Polar Express. That Tom Hanks vehicle dipped an identical 12% in its sixth weekend to a slightly better $8.4M pushing its total after six weekends to a similar $123.4M. But Carol has the advantages of five years of ticket price increases plus 3D surcharges so it is actually attracting a smaller audience. A final take of around $155M could be possible.

Lionsgate's solider story Brothers fell 48% in its second mission to an estimated $5M raising the ten-day total to $17.4M. A $30M final could result. Disney's star-driven comedy Old Dogs with John Travolta and Robin Williams slipped only 36% to an estimated $4.4M for a $40M sum.

The doomsday thriller 2012 grossed an estimated $4.4M, down just 35%, and climbed to $155.3M from North America. Sony's big-budget disaster flick ranks number 12 for the year having just zipped past the $155.1M of Fast & Furious. The foreign total climbed to an astounding $556M repping 78% of the $711.3M global gross. 2012 is the fourth largest worldwide blockbuster of 2009 and the biggest non-sequel of the year.
Violent actioners rounded out the top ten with Armored and Ninja Assassin taking in estimates of $3.5M and $2.7M, respectively. The Sony heist film dropped 46% and has made off with only $11.7M in its first ten days. Warner Bros. saw a 47% fall for its martial arts pic and has banked a decent $34.3M to date.
In limited release, Paramount's awards contender Up in the Air starring George Clooney continued to impress in its second weekend shooting up to number 11 with an estimated $2.5M despite still in a small number of theaters. The Jason Reitman-directed pic expanded from 15 to 72 locations and averaged a sturdy $34,028 per site. The well-reviewed film should continue to post muscular numbers in limited play especially after it nabs some Golden Globe nominations this week. The wide break is scheduled for Christmas Day when it will have to compete for adult audiences against the debuts of Sherlock Holmes and It's Complicated. Air's cume is now $4M.

Two new releases enjoyed strong openings in their platform bows on Friday. Paramount's Peter Jackson-directed fantasy The Lovely Bones was met with some harsh reviews but scored an estimated $116,000 from just three sites for a powerful $38,667 average. The Weinstein Co. enjoyed a $24,036 opening weekend average for its Colin Firth drama A Single Man which debuted in nine locations to an estimated $216,000. Each film will expand to more cities in the weeks to come with Bones not scheduled to go wide until January 15.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $84.4M which was up 8% from last year when The Day the Earth Stood Still opened in the top spot with $30.5M; but down a steep 43% from 2007 when heavy hitters I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks debuted on top with $77.2M and $44.3M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

Comments

inactive user

Jared King

Here I was thinking that "The Princess and the Frog" would be Disney's return to traditional animation. I was wrong. It's just the last time they'll do it I assume, since their next film will be CGI. You know what? That makes me MAD! Still, I wish this film the best.

Dec 13 - 02:21 PM

saicam

onaivatco5 november

Actually here's how it'll be like
Rapunzel, 2010, cg
Winnie the Pooh sequel, 2011, 2d
King of the elves, 2012, cg
Snow Queen, 2013, 2d
Get the pattern?

Dec 13 - 10:10 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, I get the pattern. But I still want them to just computer generated animation to the other Disney department, Pixar.

Dec 14 - 01:05 AM

Alex Vo

Alex Vo

It's rumored Disney's next traditional animated movie is going to be The Snow Queen in 2013.

Dec 13 - 02:31 PM

Zeppelin047

Ryan Branson

incorrect the world ends in 2012

Dec 13 - 02:43 PM

Hamboner

Brian Lorenzen

Clint Eastwood is almost as bad as Sean Penn in terms of always making Oscar-bait films. I know that that is supposed to mean a good thing... but to me it is just boring and pretentious.

Dec 13 - 02:44 PM

Apfelstreudel

Megan Glow

I actually agree with you on that. As some people have said, Eastwood almost gets a "free pass" into all the awards shows during the season, just because he's Eastwood. He's a legend, and icon, and a talented, hardworking man, but there comes a time when we need to recognize the new talent and hard work that's out there.

Megan

Dec 13 - 03:08 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

No, boring & pretentious is the constant nonsense of poorly mediocre, insufficient if not incompetently inadmissible to downright catastrophically atrocious material that keeps getting made like "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" & "Transylmania" for just two small examples. That's boring & pretentious.

Clint Eastwood understands & has the adeptness & knowledge of the craft of filmmaking, it's storytelling & the 26 elements of establishing high quality storytelling. Yeah, a craftsman who has the fundementals to create solidified films is boring & pretentious. Give me a f***** break. Comments like yours shows why a sizable portion of today's filmmaking & films is shoddy, lazy, dull-witted & underdeveloped because you support such crap.

Dec 13 - 03:43 PM

lildmon13248

Jovanni Ibarra

I AGREE 110%!!!!!!! There is so much garbage being made that I barely go to the movies anymore. Clint Eastwood is an iconic actor and a brilliant storyteller. It's a shame that people would rather spend their 10 bucks to see a movie made by a talentless @$$ like Michael Bay but won't go to see Eastwood's films. MICHAEL BAY CAN'T TELL A STORY FOR HIS LIFE YET HIS FILM IS THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM OF THE YEAR!!! There is something wrong with that!!

Dec 13 - 05:18 PM

Throw An Onion

Joshua Mills

Oscar bait is stupid and annoying because no one but critics think they're entertaining and their only purpose is to garner awards. Clint Eastwood's films may be Oscar bait but they sure are entertaining oscar bait. The man doesn't get a free pass he just makes better movies than most.

Princess and the Frog, Invictus, Lovely Bones. December is a great month so far.

Dec 13 - 09:01 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

The difference is a lot of Eastwoods stuff is commecially successful too. Best of both worlds.

Dec 13 - 03:57 PM

inactive user

Jared King

There's a place in this world for "Oscar bait" films, but I see what you're saying.

Dec 13 - 05:47 PM

Apfelstreudel

Megan Glow

I actually agree with you on that. As some people have said, Eastwood almost gets a "free pass" into all the awards shows during the season, just because he's Eastwood. He's a legend, and icon, and a talented, hardworking man, but there comes a time when we need to recognize the new talent and hard work that's out there.

Megan

Dec 13 - 03:08 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

No, boring & pretentious is the constant nonsense of poorly mediocre, insufficient if not incompetently inadmissible to downright catastrophically atrocious material that keeps getting made like "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" & "Transylmania" for just two small examples. That's boring & pretentious.

Clint Eastwood understands & has the adeptness & knowledge of the craft of filmmaking, it's storytelling & the 26 elements of establishing high quality storytelling. Yeah, a craftsman who has the fundementals to create solidified films is boring & pretentious. Give me a f***** break. Comments like yours shows why a sizable portion of today's filmmaking & films is shoddy, lazy, dull-witted & underdeveloped because you support such crap.

Dec 13 - 03:43 PM

lildmon13248

Jovanni Ibarra

I AGREE 110%!!!!!!! There is so much garbage being made that I barely go to the movies anymore. Clint Eastwood is an iconic actor and a brilliant storyteller. It's a shame that people would rather spend their 10 bucks to see a movie made by a talentless @$$ like Michael Bay but won't go to see Eastwood's films. MICHAEL BAY CAN'T TELL A STORY FOR HIS LIFE YET HIS FILM IS THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM OF THE YEAR!!! There is something wrong with that!!

Dec 13 - 05:18 PM

Throw An Onion

Joshua Mills

Oscar bait is stupid and annoying because no one but critics think they're entertaining and their only purpose is to garner awards. Clint Eastwood's films may be Oscar bait but they sure are entertaining oscar bait. The man doesn't get a free pass he just makes better movies than most.

Princess and the Frog, Invictus, Lovely Bones. December is a great month so far.

Dec 13 - 09:01 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

Add-On: Comments like yours shows why a sizable portion of today's filmmaking & films is shoddy, lazy, dull-witted & underdeveloped because you support such crap & not the films that should deserve it. I'll take Clint Eastwood making "Oscar-bait" films anyday of the week over the sizeable portion of the dense & deficient material that gets produced & distributed.

Dec 13 - 03:52 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

The difference is a lot of Eastwoods stuff is commecially successful too. Best of both worlds.

Dec 13 - 03:57 PM

Cutler to the rescue

Ted kruts

Isnt Repunzel traditional animation?

Dec 13 - 05:04 PM

inactive user

Jared King

According to Animation World Network, the director (Lasseter) was "too commited to 3D" to change it to 2D.

Dec 13 - 05:15 PM

inactive user

Jared King

According to Animation World Network, the director (Lasseter) was "too commited to 3D" to change it to 2D.

Dec 13 - 05:15 PM

lildmon13248

Jovanni Ibarra

I AGREE 110%!!!!!!! There is so much garbage being made that I barely go to the movies anymore. Clint Eastwood is an iconic actor and a brilliant storyteller. It's a shame that people would rather spend their 10 bucks to see a movie made by a talentless @$$ like Michael Bay but won't go to see Eastwood's films. MICHAEL BAY CAN'T TELL A STORY FOR HIS LIFE YET HIS FILM IS THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM OF THE YEAR!!! There is something wrong with that!!

Dec 13 - 05:18 PM

inactive user

Jared King

There's a place in this world for "Oscar bait" films, but I see what you're saying.

Dec 13 - 05:47 PM

Ryan G.

Ryan Gullickson

Actually the 6th Harry Potter is the highest grossing film of 2009 (so far) but I totally agree with you! I cannot believe how much New Moon has made whe it is such an AWFUL movie (I went to it and wanted to die and demand my money back), however there have been some really good smaller films this year, including The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds (brilliant). I am still waiting to see Avatar...like Roger Ebert said, Cameron is the only directer who knows how to spend $200 Million dollars to make a film. Michael Bay is a pathetic directer and should stop making films. Period.

Dec 13 - 05:52 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

good stuff

Dec 13 - 06:08 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

The biggest problem with corporate movies (and music as well), is that the prevailing notion is that anything that makes money is good, and anything that doesn't is bad.

That's a huge reason why the best movies and music aren't made by these huge mega-corporations in America.

Add to that there are millions of people in this country who don't seem have to any discerning taste for movies, and you get awful movies, such as Transformers Revenge and New Moon, raking in big bucks.

It's really pathetic to see the ignorant masses proclaiming that those two films are the best ever. Just because one is in their teens doesn't mean he/she has to be rather mindless when it comes to movies.

Dec 13 - 06:43 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Hope Princess gets the traditional animation department at Disney booming again so we can see some great 2d animated movies, I've missed them. And DAMN IS THE BLIND SIDE BLOWING AWAY ALL EXPECTATIONS!!!!! lol.

Dec 13 - 07:33 PM

JettaJameson

James Lowell

I finally saw The Blind Side tonite and absolutely loved it. It was a very good movie. I was shocked to see how crowded the theater was in the films 4th weekend of release. Positive word of mouth must be spreading like wildfire. And I can see why. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. Next on my list is The Princess and the Frog, followed by Avatar, Up In The Air and then It's Complicated.

Dec 13 - 07:53 PM

nerioalberto

nerio gonzalez

This is not the last time that Disney is having the traditional drawing, I can see that you are not a Disney follower!!! next year will be Rapunzel! And the studios are getting a revamping!

Dec 13 - 08:31 PM

Cutler to the rescue

Ted kruts

Way too attack everyone mykalroze, you sir are a ****ing moron. Just because something is corporate or just because you dont like it does not mean it is **** or that people are ignorant because they like it. I will say one thing, indie music is indie because it is not GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE IT TO THE BIG TIME. Go away you loser.

Dec 13 - 08:35 PM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

Really happy to see Princess make its money this weekend. Still unsure if it's worthy of being in the "classics kliq" as far as WDA films go, but this film is an important outing for them as they try to prove that 2D animation can still sell tickets. So far, so good.

Also glad to see Blind Side is still doing well. The film was fantastic. I hope both of these movies can put up a respectable fight against all the Avatar hype next weekend.

Dec 13 - 09:00 PM

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