July 16, 2024

Holiday Box Office Sputters Domestically but Explodes Overseas

The holiday period, a marquee sales time for movie studios, saw Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks bomb in the romantic comedy “Larry Crowne” and the third installment of the “Transformers” series fall notably short of its predecessor in North America. But the international box office continued to sizzle, with fans flocking to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Between Tuesday night and Sunday, that Paramount Pictures movie sold an estimated $210 million in tickets overseas, a 51 percent increase over the same opening stretch for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” the franchise’s previous entry, in 2009.

Paramount said that tickets for 3-D shows, which carry a price premium, drove the strong overseas performance for “Dark of the Moon,” which set sales records in seven countries, including South Korea with an estimated $28 million. It was Paramount’s biggest international opening (in dollars unadjusted for inflation).

“To see this kind of gigantic international start is simply amazing,” said Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman. Overseas sales for “Revenge of the Fallen,” which was not released in 3-D, totaled $434 million, and “Dark of the Moon” could sharply improve on that.

The film was shown at many Imax theaters abroad, and Imax, which broke its global sales records, was jubilant. “It’s out of control,” said Greg Foster, its chairman of filmed entertainment.

Still, North America was a muddy picture. “Dark of the Moon” took in about $162 million between Tuesday night and Sunday, compared with $200 million for “Revenge of the Fallen” during the comparable period, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles ticketing statistics. Monday sales for “Dark of the Moon” were estimated at $18.8 million, lifting its domestic total to $181 million.

Analysts attributed the shortfall — which came despite higher ticket prices — to several factors. Audiences in the United States have started to tire of 3-D. About 60 percent of the domestic total for “Dark of the Moon” came from 3-D screenings; the format made up about 70 percent of sales overseas.

Americans, still feeling the pinch of a weak economy, have been going to the movies less often. For the year, domestic ticket sales stand at $5.2 billion, an 8 percent decline from the same period in 2010; attendance is down 9.4 percent.

But confusion overload from “Revenge of the Fallen” and its hard-to-decipher plot was probably the biggest factor. “We needed to win the audience back by telling a better story,” Mr. Moore said.

The good news for Paramount, aside from the overseas total, involves audience reaction to “Dark of the Moon.” Exit polls show that moviegoers are more satisfied with the film than with its predecessor, which should lead to favorable word of mouth. Sales increased from Friday to Saturday, a sign of positive chatter among fans of the series.

“Dark of the Moon,” directed by Michael Bay, cost about $200 million to make and centers on robot aliens clashing over a hidden spacecraft. (The 3-D effects alone contributed about $30 million to the budget.) It was easily No. 1 at the North American box office for the weekend.

Cars 2,” from Pixar Animation Studios, was second in its second weekend with about $25 million in sales (excluding Monday estimates) for a new total of $116 million. “Bad Teacher,” the raunchy Sony comedy starring Cameron Diaz, was third with about $14 million for a two-week total of $59.5 million.

Ms. Roberts and Mr. Hanks limped along in fourth place in “Larry Crowne,” distributed by Universal Pictures and taking in about $13 million. Vendome Pictures spent about $30 million to make it. The two stars have opened to lower results: “Charlie Wilson’s War” sold about $10 million in tickets during its first three days in 2007. But that was a drama released in winter, and analysts had higher expectations for the two in a summer comedy.

The disappointing returns could have been the result of negative reviews and a warm-and-fuzzy marketing campaign that made the film look like something akin to a movie of the week.

Mr. Hanks directed the film, which he wrote with Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”). To help get the movie made he agreed to play the male lead. The story centers on a middle-aged man who goes back to college after losing his job and develops a crush on his teacher, played by Ms. Roberts.

Monte Carlo,” an inexpensive comedic romance from 20th Century Fox starring Selena Gomez, was fifth, taking in about $7.6 million.

The coming weeks will be crucial for Hollywood’s hopes of ending its domestic box office slump. Aside from continued sales for “Dark of the Moon,” the industry is counting on a potential multiplex monster: Warner Brothers will release “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in 3-D on July 15.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=351aec446cc8611fcedb125ac0459fca

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