Box Office Guru Wrapup: Cloverfield Crushes Records at #1

'Twas a monster mash at the box office.

Two not-so-pricey films, one aimed at guys and the other for the gals, rocked North American multiplexes leading the marketplace to the biggest Martin Luther King holiday weekend ever. Most holdovers attracted solid numbers too and helped the top ten films surge to nearly $130M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the four-day holiday frame. Among new releases, the sci-fi thriller Cloverfield bowed at number one breaking the January opening weekend record, the wedding-themed comedy 27 Dresses took the bridesmaid spot, and the heist comedy Mad Money made off with only enough for a disappointing seventh place finish.

Following months of hype and anticipation, Paramount's monster flick Cloverfield arrived and generated monster sales grossing an estimated $41M in its first three days of release. Directed by Matt Reeves and produced by J.J. Abrams, the PG-13 film averaged a brutal $12,020 from 3,411 theaters and broke the eleven-year-old record for the biggest opening weekend gross for a film debuting in January. The Special Edition re-release of Star Wars held that record since 1997 when it launched in 2,104 locations to the tune of $35.9M and a scorching $17,066 average. At today's ticket prices however, those figures would be more than $53M and $25,000, respectively.

Still, Cloverfield delivered muscular numbers especially for a film with no well-known stars and a reported production cost of only $25M. The trim 84-minute feature was shot from the perspective of a personal camcorder and tells the story of a group of friends that must fight to survive when a giant beast attacks New York City. Studio research showed that young men were the driving force. Males made up 60% of the audience while 55% were under the age of 25. Critics were mostly pleased and gave good reviews.

Cloverfield also set a new opening weekend record for the MLK holiday frame beating the $28.6M three-day tally of 2002's Black Hawk Down which expanded nationally after three weeks of limited play. Even adjusting for inflation, Hawk's bow would be $33M+ at today's ticket prices giving Cloverfield a clear victory. Distributors rarely program their big-ticket films into the first month of the year.

The monster movie began its marketing campaign last summer with a mysterious teaser in front of Paramount's sci-fi gargantuan Transformers. Curiosity led to endless online hype as the filmmakers purposely withheld key information on the film. Fans became intrigued and attacked the multiplexes on Friday spending $16.9M - the biggest opening day gross ever in the month of January. The disaster pic then dropped by a steep 19% on Saturday which was understandable since upfront demand and grosses from Thursday night midnight shows beefed up the Friday take. The studio estimated that Cloverfield would drop by only 25% on Sunday to $10.3M. Given Sunday's NFL championship games which will distract millions of men, final grosses could see the three-day figure go down. Most other studios incorporated 30-35% Sunday declines into their weekend estimates.

Opening with strength in the runnerup spot was the romantic comedy 27 Dresses with an estimated $22.4M from 3,057 theaters for a sparkling $7,336 average. The PG-13 film is anchored by Katherine Heigl who proved her box office pull with this powerful debut. Her last film Knocked Up was a runaway hit last summer opening to $30.7M before ending with $148.8M, but was sold more on the appeal of director Judd Apatow. Heigl's Dresses launch is in the same neighborhood as romantic comedy bows from the more established Kate Hudson. How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days with Matthew McConaughey debuted to $23.8M in 2003 while 2006's You, Me and Dupree with Owen Wilson and Matt Dillon opened to $21.5M. Dresses boasted weaker male starpower with James Marsden and Edward Burns putting even more pressure on Heigl to deliver a paying crowd.

The audience for the $30M-budgeted 27 Dresses was overwhelmingly female. Studio research showed that a remarkable 75% of the crowd consisted of women, but the audience was evenly split between those over and under 25. Fox made the tactical move of offering sneak previews not once but twice over the past few weeks, first on Thursday December 27 during the holiday season and then again last Sunday January 13 when men were pre-occupied with football playoffs. The studio credits the sneaks with spreading positive word-of-mouth leading up to the opening frame. Reviews were not too encouraging which made the sneaks even more important as 27 Dresses stands as a crowd-pleaser, not a critic-pleaser.

Cloverfield and 27 Dresses combined to inject $63.4M in new business into the marketplace and accounted for half of all ticket sales spent on the top ten movies.

Following its top spot showing last weekend in its first frame of nationwide release, the geezer buddy flick The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman  enjoyed a strong hold slipping only 22% to an estimated $15.2M. Warner Bros. has banked $42.7M to date and looks headed for the vicinity of $90M with an outside chance of hitting nine-digit territory.

The teen comedy Juno fell 25% to an estimated $10.3M in its seventh weekend and placed fourth for the frame. Fox Searchlight's top-grossing film ever has reached $85.4M and should cross the century mark by the end of the month. Following in fifth was Disney's adventure blockbuster National Treasure: Book of Secrets with an estimated $8.1M, down 28%, for a total of $198M. By the end of the week, the Nicolas Cage actioner will become the tenth film released in 2007 to break the $200M mark.

The Ice Cube comedy First Sunday took a beating in its second weekend tumbling 56% to an estimated $7.8M suffering the worst drop in the top ten. Budgeted at $20M, the Sony title has looted $28.5M in ten days and should finish with $40-45M.

Another comedy about likable characters stealing money followed close behind. Overture Films launched its first release Mad Money this weekend and settled for a mediocre seventh-place showing with an estimated $7.7M. Playing in 2,470 locations, the PG-13 film starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes as Federal Reserve Bank employees who steal cash from their work averaged a not-so-impressive $3,126. Reviews were mostly negative. The actresses were on the campaign trail last week popping up on every talk show that would have them, but moviegoers were not too thrilled about spending their greenbacks.

Kidpic sensation Alvin and the Chipmunks continued to dazzle the family audience grossing an estimated $7M in its sixth weekend, down only 25%, for a cume to date of $196.4M. The Fox hit should scurry past the $200M mark next weekend.

Fellow sixth-weekender I Am Legend dropped 38% to an estimated $5.1M to boost its towering total to $247.7M. The Will Smith sci-fi thriller now sits at number 45 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list just behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which grossed $249.4M in 2004. Overseas, the last man on Earth took in an estimated $28.7M vaulting the international total to a stellar $262.4M allowing the global tally to smash through the half-billion barrier. Worldwide gross is now $510.1M and climbing.

Rounding out the top ten was the Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama Atonement which climbed 13% to an estimated $4.8M in its seventh session. Focus added another 341 playdates this weekend to take advantage of the added exposure of the Globe wins (it also won for Original Score) and raised the sum to $31.9M. Atonement has also grossed $50M overseas for a global tally of $81.9M thus far.

Opening to mild results outside of the Top 20 was Woody Allen's latest film Cassandra's Dream which bowed to just $400,000 from 107 theaters for a lukewarm $3,738 average, according to estimates. The Weinstein Co. release starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as brothers on a killing spree was panned by critics. The distributor also reported a four-day holiday estimate of $501,000.

A trio of films fell from the top ten this weekend. The Warner Bros. thriller One Missed Call dropped 53% to an estimated $2.8M for a 17-day cume of $24.4M. Look for a $30M final for the horror remake. The animated adventure The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything grossed an estimated $2.8M, off 34%, and has collected just $7.7M in its first ten days. The Universal release should end with just $15M dipping well below the $25.6M of its big brother Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie from 2002.
 

With the arrival of 27 Dresses, the female audience for P.S. I Love You disappeared prompting the Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romance to tumble by 61% to an estimated $1.9M. With a solid $50.4M grossed to date, the Warner Bros. title should conclude with around $55M.

Paramount Vantage expanded its critically-acclaimed oilman saga There Will Be Blood once again and continued to see strong results in new parts of North America. The Daniel Day-Lewis pic widened from 129 to 389 theaters and grossed an estimated $3.1M climbing from number seventeen up to the number eleven slot for the weekend. The average was a solid $8,023 while the total climbed to $8.2M.

Blood will expand further this Friday to between 700 and 850 locations in a strategic move to capitalize on its expected Academy Award nominations which will be announced on Tuesday morning. The Paul Thomas Anderson film and fellow Vantage-Miramax co-production No Country For Old Men from the Coen brothers are seen as having a lock on nominations in the Best Picture race. Among the many films vying for the other three nods in the top race are Michael Clayton, Juno, American Gangster, Atonement, and the French-language drama The Diving Bell and the Butterfly from American director Julian Schnabel.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $129.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday span which was up a stunning 43% from last year's MLK frame when Stomp the Yard opened at number one with $21.8M; and up a potent 40% from 2006's holiday when Glory Road debuted in the top spot with $13.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Comments

D Man 24

Dan Ellis

Really is any one surprised that Cloverfield set the record?

Jan 20 - 08:41 PM

Floor Man

Floor Man

I'm not surprised at all; there was enough hype. Adjusted for inflation, though, Cloverfield didn't touch Star Wars SE's $50m January weekend.

Jan 21 - 11:10 AM

chadoliver

Chad Oliver

I'm not surprised either. With all the hype surrounding this movie I was a little skepticle going into this movie, but I will have to say that I relly did enjoy this movie. It was different. I'm sure some people will compare it to Blair Witch, but I believe J.J. Abrams really did plan this one out-and it was well planed. 25 million-over 40 million in 3 days, I believe this goes to show that a good story can come from a low budget movie and make for an enjoyable movie.

Jan 20 - 09:37 PM

Cowboyninja

Paul Chien

I'm not surprised. It was skillfully promoted and proved that you can make a decent action/sci-fi without having to pay for over-paid actors or throwdown millions. If this trend continues, they have no reason to keep ticket prices so f*****g high.

Jan 20 - 09:47 PM

rt_hire_me

Teague Bates

Crushes records and crushes my heart. The critic from kpbs.org says it all. I'm through with you, J.J. Will Smith is my new true love. I should have just gone to Legend again.

Jan 20 - 10:10 PM

Flip5quad

Phil Ohl

Legend SUCKED! I love Will Smith too and he helped save that peice of sh*t. Cloverfeild was way better. It may not have been an original premise, but the way it was done was original. I am Legend was the 3rd time to do the same movie, just with better CGI... which they misused that too. Think about it...

Jan 21 - 08:59 AM

Flip5quad

Phil Ohl

Legend SUCKED! I love Will Smith too and he helped save that peice of sh*t. Cloverfeild was way better. It may not have been an original premise, but the way it was done was original. I am Legend was the 3rd time to do the same movie, just with better CGI... which they misused that too. Think about it...

Jan 21 - 09:05 AM

GoldbergsVariations

Z Gold

Have not seen I am Legend, but why would I want to see a movie that is a 3rd incarnation?

Jan 21 - 02:21 PM

Dinobot77

Anthony Timineri

Obviously it is no surprise that cloverfield took the #1 spot. The true test will see how much of a hit it takes between weeks one and two. With Rambo and Untraceable opening this comming weekend, it will be interesting to see just how much of a drop-off Cloverfield takes. Fortunately, for all of us who are yelling for more, Abrams has already been talking about a second installment in the Cloverfield saga. Especially since the movie ended without any news clippings on the fate of the monster and the success of the bombing descision.

Jan 20 - 10:13 PM

Chiefmegadeth

shae mcfadyen

Well i went to see it day 1,and millions of others will even if its terrible!
I hated cloverfield so much i made a profile on this website just to give it crap...
Anyway.Ill give it to them,they promoted this movie well!

By the time people realize what crap this movie is.It will
drop of so fast.
I want my money back?

Jan 20 - 11:10 PM

larrysims

Laurence Simner

I don't quite understand why people go to movies if they need every detail spoon fed to them ("none of the who, what, where, why questions are posed, let alone answered"). Sometimes, it is refreshing to have to use a bit of imagination from time to time. If this were a real scenerio, you wouldn't know any more than these people did, so why should we know more? The whole point was to be placed right in the midst of this terrifing situation, not to get a natural history lesson about the origin of monsters. It's too bad that some people could not see the intention of the film makers. They missed a fantastic experience.

Jan 21 - 11:20 AM

DivineCC

Bill Pyle

Dinobot,
After the credits there is a message heard. It sounds like it says "help us" but when played backwards, it says "Its still alive." So I hope that answers that question.

Jan 20 - 11:12 PM

itsaysicanuse25characters

Daniel Hougey

I literally threw up. OK, I was already feeling a little sick, but the cinematography didn't help. And I actually did get my money back. Well, a free movie pass. That's one half of a date!

Jan 21 - 12:05 AM

TheIceGhost

Harry Myland

I thought it was good.. pretty great even, considering how old the giant-monster-attacking-city story is.

I like how it didn't explain stuff. How the audience knew exactly how much those poor souls being stomped and eaten knew. It was kind of the point, really.

My only real complaint would be that they showed too much of the monster in the beginning. And from the helicopter part, on - it became a little silly. The last act turned into an amusement ride, what with the big, "money shot" and all.

And honestly, I sort of hope this movie sparks a trend of getting no-name actors for movie roles. It makes things more, believable, when you don't know about their real-life kids with stupid names or how many Oscars they've won.

Jan 21 - 12:13 AM

OldsCool

Randy Ott

Worse than rotten. Cloverfield is easily the worst movie I've seen, except maybe Blair Witch. From the nauseating nonstop camera shake and off-subject images, to the lack of any depth to the story (none of the who, what, where, why questions are posed, let alone answered) Cloverfield never delivers for more than a few moments. To be fair, there's one positve: it lasts only 84 minutes. Save your money--it's not even a rental!

Jan 21 - 12:24 AM

dOiNk

jason padinske

lol, stop trying to act like some high and mighty critic, your opinion sucks. The movie was awesome and well worth the hype... Sad to see those who can't appreciate a very well-made monster movie

Jan 21 - 07:39 AM

Bardego

Robert Hamer

I'm very happy that Cloverfield was successful. Now maybe other studios will follow in its footsteps and try to be more clever with its advertising, instead of just revealing the whole damn plot in the trailer.

Jan 21 - 02:34 AM

llaltoo

Lindsay L

I didn't think Cloverfield was bad; as far as a monster movie goes, it was decent enough. However, I was expecting more, especially with all the hype surrounding it. I wished it could have been more suspenseful, instead of it being a pretty foregone conclusion right from the start that everyone was going to die.

Jan 21 - 03:49 AM

loves2spoolge

connor story

i thought that cloverfield was awesome the camrea was really saky in th ebeginning but was an awsome movie u guys are fags if u thought it was stupid and a ***** if u threw up tthe only thing i wish for if it was longer i hate 90 minute movies but it went by slow so thats good

Jan 26 - 09:10 AM

Bridger

G.W. Bridge

maybe as a rental it will be less on the eyes. but over all this movie was lame the reason the promotion was the way it was if they showed any more noone would have wasted a night to go.i sat with bout 100 other and except for a few laughs at huds comments they were all the same at the end. thank god it was over.

Jan 21 - 04:01 AM

Bridger

G.W. Bridge

maybe as a rental it will be less on the eyes. but over all this movie was lame the reason the promotion was the way it was if they showed any more noone would have wasted a night to go.i sat with bout 100 other and except for a few laughs at huds comments they were all the same at the end. thank god it was over.

Jan 21 - 04:27 AM

Gimy

Gimy Moo

i think the people that got sick sat too close. and honestly...serves you right for being that stupid. i got a little "uuurgh" feeling during the trailers so i got there early(i NEVER get to the theater early) just to get a decent seat. it paid off. not once did i have that "what'd i eat for breakfast...oooh i'm 'bout to find out" feeling.

"maybe as a rental" is a stupid thing to say. this is a theater movie, period. much the same way Transformers was and every other BIG action flick is. this was way more entertaining than half the sh3t i've seen out in the past few years. and to compare it to Blair Witch is simply retarded. this will have the same sort of "i hate it" "i loved it!" vibe Trans did because so many people hate bay. seems alot of snooty people wanted to hate this before it got started anyway. i went to the theater to be entertained and i got just that. if you weren't entertained...i feel sorry for ya, you missed out on a great 35 minute action flick. and yeah...i'm pretty sure it was only 35 minutes...

Jan 21 - 05:08 AM

deason

Dave Eason

I agree with Gimy gotta see it in theater, and I for one am glad that i am not a person who hate everything to be cool. Miss out on lot of fun. But hey you guys like oldscool are so brilliant I cant wait to see the movie you develop. Much better than Blair witch, and if you werent prepared for camcorder view thats your own fault.

Jan 21 - 05:50 AM

deason

Dave Eason

I agree with Gimy gotta see it in theater, and I for one am glad that i am not a person who hate everything to be cool. Miss out on lot of fun. But hey you guys like oldscool are so brilliant I cant wait to see the movie you develop. Much better than Blair witch, and if you werent prepared for camcorder view thats your own fault.

Jan 21 - 05:50 AM

Jenster234

Jenna $$

I'm totally surprised, the whole thing was on a camcorder, not my favorite movie. Although it did have some great action scenes, it couldv'e been better. I loved the part when they were in a helicopter and they drop a bomb, then you see the monster fall. And everyone is like "We got it! Yay!" Then it jumps up and bites the helicopter! I saw it with my Boyfriend and I was hiding behind him for 5 minutes after that scene! FREAKY!

Jan 21 - 07:14 AM

bethehero7404

Paul Wulff

Saw 27 Dresses with my wife and it was a cookie cutter script. Easily Katherine Heigl could have been replaced with Jennifer Aniston, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Garner, Julia Styles or Julia Roberts. It was that type of film. The best friend in it was in 13 Going on 30 so it was a direct type casting and cookie cutter "best friend" role. Plot was predictable, dialogue was strained and the sister role could have easily gone to Kate Hudson but I guess she was busy.

It seemed all of the A-listers were busy when the script to this movie went around.

Katherine Heigl is better than this script. She needs to hold out for better ones.

Gave the film a grade of 'C' It was a cute date movie though.

Jan 21 - 07:37 AM

dOiNk

jason padinske

lol, stop trying to act like some high and mighty critic, your opinion sucks. The movie was awesome and well worth the hype... Sad to see those who can't appreciate a very well-made monster movie

Jan 21 - 07:39 AM

MattBaerFTW

Matt Baer

cloverfield for the win

Jan 21 - 07:46 AM

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