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Sunday, December 26, 2010

HOLIDAY BOXOFFICE: 'LITTLE FOCKERS' Mediocre #1 'TRUE GRIT' Surprise #2 'TRON' Only #3


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By NIKKI FINKE

Here are North American box office estimates for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the 5-day holiday weekend. Christmas Eve always means very soft moviegoing while Christmas Day gets going late in the day. An East Coast blizzard should hurt Sunday's moviegoing totals overall. Fox's unanticipated Gulliver's Travels starring Jack Black opened Saturday in 2,546 theaters and did the expected poor business of $3.5 million, showing that 3D higher ticket prices are no help if the movie isn't any good. The Weinstein Co's Oscar-touted The King's Speech widened to 700 runs after platforming 4 weeks and finished in 11th place. Interesting to note that, one week after opening and already Jim Brooks' How Do You Know bomb for Sony has fallen out of the Top 10 (below) despite a top cast.

1. Little Fockers (Universal) NEW [3,536 Theaters]
Wednesday $7.2M, Thursday $7.1M, Friday $5M, Saturday $14.5M
3-Day Weekend $34M, Cume $48.3M
This was supposed to be the big get-out-the-audience Christmas weekend family comedy, and exit polling showed the audience was 57%/43% female vs. male, and 53%/47% under vs over age 30. Granted, the Christmas Day total was almost 3 times Christmas Eve. But these are Universal's own less-than-encouraging numbers as well as 3-day weekend and 5-day holiday cumes for this third in the Meet The Parents/Meet The Fockers franchise starring Robert de Niro and Ben Stiller, with the Friday and Saturday estimates for Little Fockers only about 75% of the take for the same exact play period of Meet The Fockers which also opened during the Christmas holiday. Watching the sausage being made when it came to this major studio laugher wasn't pretty. At one point, Universal contemplated replacing director Paul Weitz with producer-writer John Hamburg on The Little Fockers. But that would have resulted in a Directors Guild dust-up. Plus, Adam Fogelson had just taken over as Uni Pictures chairman and didn't want to throw the already traumatized studio into a worse funk. So the decision was made to fix the movie in post. Weitz, Hamburg, Stiller, and Jay Roach spent two months going through the footage and finalized a week of pickups with all the principal cast. So Universal scheduled more than half a dozen full-blown scenes, including 4 with Dustin Hoffman who originally had been written out of the threequel when the studio couldn't reach a deal with him. But Hamburg and Roach helped convince Dustin to reprise his role opposite Barbra Streisand and he didn't come cheap. This is now at least a $100M budget film. Universal continued to spin that Little Fockers could have gone out "as is" but the studio "wanted to make it better as an investment in the future of the franchise." I always thought this threequel would kill the studio's golden goose -- and with only 9% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and a "B-" CinemaScore, it likely did.

2. True Grit (Paramount) NEW [3,047 Theaters]
Wednesday $5.5M, Thursday $5.6M, Friday $4.7M, Saturday $10.4M
3-Day Weekend $25.6M, Cume $36.8M
Given that Christmas Eve is more of an adult moviegoing time, it's not surprising that the writer/director Coen Brothers' Oscar-touted 2D Western take on the Charles Portis novel (and they claim not to have watched the first movie that won John Wayne his Oscar in 1969) jumped into the No. 2 spot Friday. But it stayed there Saturday, which was a shock. Turns out this is the biggest opener for a Coen Brothers film (passing Burn After Reading's $19.1M) and bigger even than that other Oscar-touted pic The Social Network's $22.5M weekend opener. "It almost doubled people's expectations and it beat Tron: Legacy 3D for 2nd which no one saw coming," a Paramount exec gushed. With only a $38M budget and a big 95% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, plus great acting and quirky dialogue, this pic has a good shot of making coin. Not bad for a movie that no one could understand why anyone would want to remake in the first place. (And, yes, I consider this a remake.)

3. Tron 3D (Disney) Week 2 [3,451 Theaters]
Wednesday $5.6M, Thursday $6.1M, Friday $3.9M, Saturday $7.8M
3-Day Weedend $20.1M (-54%), Cume $88.3M
There's no doubt that Tron: Legacy 3D will pass $100M domestic grosses before the end of this year. But with a budget estimated as $150M, and a global marketing push estimated at another $120M, this Christmas gift from Walt Disney Studios' previous Dick Cook administration but premoted by the present-day Rich Ross crew in charge will have to depend on international overperforming to break even. Abroad, Tron: Legacy is currently in release in 34 territories representing 65% of the international market and has done $65.5M, for a worldwide total now of $153.8M.
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