‘Inception’ holds strong, ‘Salt’ opens well, ‘Kids are All Right’ excels in wider release

By Scott Mendelson

hollywoodnews.com: It was another ‘everybody wins!’ weekend at the box office, as holdovers held well and openers opened to reasonable expectation-levels. Inception was again number one, with $43.5 million in its second weekend. That’s a borderline-shocking drop of just 30%, which is almost unheard of in this day and age of mega-openers. At $143.66 million at the end of day ten, the film is far exceeding the ten-day totals of other huge-opening original films (‘Bruce Almighty,’ ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ 2012, and ‘Signs’). Only ‘Avatar’ ($212 million) and ‘Hancock’ ($167 million) had more at the end of their second weekends, and ‘Hancock’ had a Wednesday holiday opening (its actual ten day total was just below ‘Inception,’ with $143.2 million).

Obviously this film is playing to the masses and becoming the sort of film that everyone has to see in order to participate in the discussion. Heck, my brother and his wife saw it last night, and they immediately called me to make sure they ‘got it’ (they did). The film had the 36th-biggest ten day total, just ahead of the $143.64 ten-day take of ‘Star Trek’ last year. The film’s second weekend was 27th on the all-time list, 11th for a non-sequel, 7th for a live-action non-sequel, and the second-biggest second weekend for a live-action original not based on any known property (‘Avatar’ pulled in $75 million in its second weekend). Barring a complete collapse for reasons unknown, Chris Nolan’s picture is looking at $250 million at this point. No one should be expecting ‘Dark Knight’ grosses here, but I think this thing could get a lot closer to $300 million that any of us were reasonably expecting.

Opening in second place was the Angelina Jolie vehicle ‘Salt.’ With $36.5 million, the film marked the fourth-largest live-action opening weekend in Jolie’s career, behind ‘Wanted’ ($50 million), ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ ($50 million), and ‘Tomb Raider’ ($47 million). Some might crow about the disparity between number three and number four on the list, but ‘Salt’ didn’t have much to sell besides Angelina Jolie kicking ass and jumping off trucks. ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ had the tabloid-frenzy surrounding it, ‘Tomb Raider’ was based on a popular video game, and ‘Wanted’ had that whole ‘curve the bullet’ bit to sell in the ads. ‘Salt’ was more of a throwback to the mid-90s star vehicles that director Phillip Noyce is known for (‘Patriot Games,’ ‘Clear and Present Danger,’ ‘The Saint,’ and ‘The Bone Collector’). Point being, from a modern marketing perspective, all the picture had was Angelina Jolie, so she gets credit for every dollar earned this weekend. The picture had a 2.89x weekend multiplier, meaning that it played all weekend to a wide audience. Point being, Angelina Jolie is one of the few truly bankable leading ladies left in this industry, and she’s certainly one of the last action stars standing. And since Sony was smart enough to spend just $75 million on this old-fashioned thriller, Salt will be a big money maker in the long run (it’s the kind of perfectly ‘okay’ B-movie that will run forever on TNT, USA, and FX).

Not to be outdone by Inception’s 30% drop, the two current animated titans, ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Toy Story 3,’ dropped just 26% and 24% in their respective third and sixth weekends. With $161 million in the till, ‘Despicable Me’ will likely cross $200 million and become Universal’s highest-grossing non-sequel since ‘Bruce Almighty’ back in 2003 ( grossed’ King Kong’ $212 million in late 2005, a number this new cartoon should exceed). Currently, it’s already the studio’s highest-grossing film of any kind since ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ ($227 million) back in 2007. ‘Toy Story 3’ is just shy of $380 million, meaning that a $400 million+ final domestic gross is all-but inevitable. Both films will have to weather the loss of 3-D screens next weekend, when Warner Bros opens ‘Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.’ Of course, since Disney’s ‘The Sorcerer’s ‘Apprentice is dropping fast (-46%, $42 million in twelve days), maybe Disney would be better off keeping screens for the Pixar toon. It’s a shame, as the Nic Cage fantasy is actually funnier and more light-footed than I was expecting, and it probably would have found an audience if the marketing hadn’t emphasized the least interesting things about it (the CGI creatures, the various magical fireballs, etc).

The only other wide opener this weekend was Fox’s ‘Ramona and Beezus’, which is based on a kid-lit series that my wife has apparently read. Anyway, the Selena Gomez vehicle opened with $8 million on 2,942 screens. Nothing to write home about, but I can only presume that this film costs pennies to produce and will have a decent shelf life. In limited-release news, ‘The Kids Are All Right’ expanded to 201 screens and racked up a $13,174 per-screen average. So far, the indie sensation of the summer has grossed $4.9 million in just three weeks. ‘Cyrus’ crossed the $6 million mark this weekend and ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ is at $2.9 million, meaning it will likely equal the $7 million domestic haul for ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’ In other holdover news, ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ is at $279 million, ‘The Last Airbender’ is at $123 million, and Predators is at $46 million.

That’s all for this weekend. Join us next weekend when ‘Dinner For Schmucks’ tries to break out in a summer starved for comedies, one weekend before the much-publicized ‘The Other Guys.’ The above-mentioned ‘Cats and Dogs 2’ to be the film that the first film wanted to be, since they know have the money and technology to really do an animal action film. And Zac Efron will hope that ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ plays more like ’17 Again’ and less like ‘Me and Orson Welles.’ Until then, take care.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos

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