“Green Lantern” Opens with $52 million Weekend Box Office

HollywoodNews.com: When is a $52 million three-day opening a genuine disappointment? Well, in the world of box office, all things are relative. And when it comes to opening weekend, the quality and estimated staying power has to be taken into account. Green Lantern debuted at number one this weekend with $52.6 million. On the surface, that’s the fourth-biggest DC Comics opening ever, and the second-biggest non-sequel DC Comics film (behind Watchmen’s $55.2 million). But like Watchmen, a seemingly glorious opening (a $55 million debut for a 2.5 hour R-rated superhero drama based on a cult property) is considered troubling due to fears about its staying power and overspending. Green Lantern cost about $200 million to produce, with another $150 million going towards marketing efforts. The film had a poor 2.4x weekend multiplier and earned only a B from Cinemascore. This does not guarantee that Green Lantern will follow Watchmen’s lightning-fast downward trajectory (the film didn’t even double its opening weekend, ending with $107 million). But with mediocre word of mouth, generally poor reviews, and brutal competition coming just down the pike (Cars 2 next weekend, Transformers: Dark of the Moon a few days after that), the best that Warner can hope for domestically is an around 3x multiplier for a $155 million finish. Warner and DC Comics will have to be counting on overseas numbers to carry the day.

The core problem, as it often is, was the decision to spend ‘sequel money’ on an original film. Point being, you generally try to hedge your bets with the first film and blow your wad on the second picture. Spider-Man 2 may have cost $220 million, but that was only after the $130 million-budgeted Spider-Man grossed $400 million domestic. But with rewrites and extra money allocated for a rushed and FX-heavy shoot, Martin Campbell’s attempt to create a new superhero franchise ended up costing about what Green Lantern 2 should have cost. As for marketing costs (which is technically separate from production budgets), it was yet another case of saturation marketing that was painfully unnecessary since most of the film wasn’t complete until late in the game. The studio released a terrible teaser last November and had been playing catch up ever since. Later, more outer-space themed trailers played better with the hardcore fans, but Warner struggled with selling the visuals while explaining at least part of the Green Lantern mythology to those not already in the loop. There was allegedly some disagreement about how much to sell the film as a standalone Hal Jordan adventure versus selling it as the first chapter of a full-blown Green Lantern saga (later previews heavily emphasized other Green Lantern corps members who barely appear in the finished film). Of course, Green Lantern was not just one film intended to launch one franchise, and that’s where the problem truly lies if the film plays out like the numbers suggest.

Yes, this is just one movie and Warner will be printing money with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II next month. But this was a key release that was to be the opening salvo in Warner’s attempt to frame the DC Comics library as the dominant studio franchise to replace the Harry Potter series. Obviously if the film becomes inexplicably leggy and it ends up closer to Thor’s $176 million than Van Helsing’s $120 million (and does well overseas to boot), this will all be moot. But this feels like a similar situation to the latter 2004 Hugh Jackman monster adventure, which was so unpopular and unsuccessful that it killed off Universal’s attempt to revive the entire classic horror monsters franchise (Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, etc). Warner and DC Comics now run the risk of delegitimizing their entire line-up. Sure, Warner will always have Batman and Superman, but Green Lantern was supposed to be the first shot in a lineup that theoretically included The Flash, Hawkman, Hawgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and/or a Justice League movie of some kind. Imagine if Marvel Comics’ Iron Man opened in May of 2008 to lousy reviews and grossed barely $50 million in the opening weekend while dropping 15% on Saturday, and you get a pretty good idea of where Warner and DC Comics is right now. Of course, if by some miracle, the film drops below 50% next weekend, all involved will be breathing a sigh of relief. Oh, and the film played 45% 3D, which seems to be the new normal, but is still a shame as Green Lantern had the best live-action 3D since Avatar and is easily the best 3D conversion ever.

The other wide opener was Jim Carrey’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The film opened with $18 million, which is fine and dandy for the $55 million kiddie comedy. It’s been nearly a decade since Jim Carrey out-and-out ruled the box office, but in that time he’s morphed into an actor who plays around in different genres (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Number 24, I Love You Philip Morris) while occasionally retreating to the broad comic mugging that is his signature (Fun With Dick and Jane, Yes Man, etc). The film earned an A- from Cinemascore, so it may very well have legs, especially if families desire a 2D family film in the coming weeks. Point being, Jim Carrey is no longer in a place where his films should be expected to set records, but such freedom has been beneficial to him as an actor and a performer. Opening semi-wide was the Fox Searchlight dramedy, The Art of Getting By. The Freddie Highmore/Emma Roberts vehicle felt almost like a satire of arsty-fartsy ‘sensitive young man comes of age with help of an out-of-his league hottie’ films that have been all the rage over the last decade, and the picture pulled in just $700,000 on 610 screens.

Coming in just above the Carrey vehicle was last weekend’s champ, Super 8. The 70s/80s Steven Spielberg homage grossed $21 million in its second weekend. It dropped 40% in weekend two, which in this marketplace counts as legs. The film now has $72 million in ten days (same as District 9), so $100 million should be a slam dunk. Whether it gets to $120 million or $150 million is a matter of holding onto screens and weathering the blow of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. X-Men: First Class was hit hard by Green Lantern, dropping 52% in weekend three and grossing $11 million. With $119 million after twenty-one days, the film is starting to trail the original X-Men. With screen-bleed a likely factor over the next two weeks, $150 million may alas be a pipe dream. Worldwide, it still has a shot at crossing $300 million. Speaking of worldwide, The Hangover part II has surpassed the international take of the first film and the two-film franchise is nearing the $1 billion mark worldwide. Domestically, it’s at $232 million, meaning it will pass the $234 million gross of Beverly Hills Cop in just a few days, thus becoming the fourth-biggest R-rated earner ever.

Also nearing the $1 billion mark worldwide is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which sits with ‘just’ $220 million in the US but an astonishing $711 million overseas (the fourth-biggest overseas total ever). Kung Fu Panda 2 is still hanging in there, ending this weekend with $143 million domestic and $423 million worldwide. It should end up with about $160 million in the US and about $450 million worldwide, so cross your fingers for Kung Fu Panda 3. Bridesmaids continued its journey towards the top of the Judd Apatow filmography, as it now has $131 million. It’s $18 million away from being the top-grossing film that Apatow has been involved with in any capacity (directing, writing, or as in this case, producing). Midnight In Paris dropped just 10% as it climbs up the ranks of Woody Allen’s top grossers. It’s now at $21 million, with a decent shot at crossing $40 million. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life continues to expand with impressive results. The Brad Pitt/Sean Penn gross-out comedy expanded to 114 screens and earned $1.14 million in its fourth weekend for a new cum of $3.4 million. It won’t go wide until July 8th, but it’s worth the wait for those so inclined.

That’s it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the debut of Pixar’s Cars 2, otherwise known as At Last, A Pixar Movie that Won’t Make You Violently Sob In Front Of Your Kids. It will square off against the Cameron Diaz vehicle Bad Teacher. Until then, take care and keep reading and commenting.

Ro read more go to Scott Mendelson
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