Weekend Box Office: Real Steel and Footloose

HollywoodNews.com: In a somewhat surprising turn, Real Steel (review) repeated at the top of the box office, defeating a Footloose remake and a prequel to The Thing. But, it should be stressed, the numbers are close enough that the order could switch tomorrow, and (as always) it’s not about the ranking but about the numbers themselves.

So it appears that audiences do want SOME originality in their mainstream film-making, even if its merely choosing a shameless rip-off of other movies over a pure remake. Anyway, Real Steel cashed in on its solid audience word-of-mouth and its kid-appeal to earn $16.3 million in its second weekend. That’s a drop of just 40%, which in this day-and-age qualifies as leggy for a major genre entry. The film, which allegedly cost either $80 million or $140 million (I believe the former), has now grossed $51 million. It’s not going to be an uber-smash without a few more holds like this weekend, but it now has an outside chance at reaching $100 million domestic, with similar-or-better results to follow overseas. Point being, it’s actually a decent movie, putting its admittedly generic but effective father/son drama before robot-fighting spectacle, which at least partially explains the strong hold this weekend.

Coming in at a very close second was Craig Brewer’s remake of Footloose, which opened with $16.1 million (obviously the rankings are subject to change when the final numbers roll in). The film earned relatively solid reviews, but audiences didn’t see an overt need to see a remake for a film that is still timely and holds up pretty well thirty years later. On the plus side, the film cost only $24 million, so it will still be profitable in the end. This is a case of a remake appealing not to the kids of today, but mostly to the adults who have fond memories of the original. It played 75% female and 46% over 35 years old, although 27% did come from kids under 18.

The film scored an A from Cinemascore, but that only matters when you get the opening you wanted. Ironically, if this weren’t a remake, it would be a solid example of the kind of movies we claim we want: a small-scale, character-driven drama with a strong moral point of view and a somewhat challenging subtext. The original Footloose opened with $8.5 million, which would be around $20 million today. Still, this result should be a warning to Lionsgate about spending too much on that proposed Dirty Dancing remake (essay). When the original still holds up and is still culturally relevant, there is that much less of a reason for a remake.

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