Updated August 1, 2011 1:17PM PST: Cowboys & Aliens did in fact beat Smurfs for the top spot in the box office. The actuals came out and Cowboys & Aliens had a tally of $36,431,290 while Smurfs had $35,611,637. Still, the damage has been done as C & A were probably hoping for something in the range of $50+ million and for Smurfs to be far behind. Universal will be able to spin this into “#1 at the box office” news this week but they shouldn’t be too proud of themselves at their narrow win, it has a long way before it becomes profitable.
After the dust settled, the box office battle of the weekend came to a draw after the estimates came in. A winner will be declared later in the day even though it can already be viewed as a win for the Smurfs and a big disappointment for Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens. Both films knocked Chris Evans and Marvel’s First Avenger: Captain America down to third, and Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2 became the highest domestic grossing film of the franchise, while climbing over the $1 billion landmark globally in just 19 days tying James Cameron Avatar as the fastest film to do so.
So what exactly happened that allowed The Smurfs to sneak in and steal C & A‘s thunder? One thing could be movie fatigue. It seems like every week is skewed to the action and sci-fi crowd. After Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Captain America and an entire summer full of movies shooting to be the next big blockbuster, moviegoers might have seen this weekend as a break to catch their breath. Cowboys & Aliens was a 2 for 1 combo mixing the western genre with sci-fi. That was going to be a tough sell for younger audiences and in fact 75% of the box office was over 25 years old and of that 75%, a large 39% were over the age of 50. Maybe this film should have come out on Father’s Day weekend?
Harrison Ford, a box office draw in the past, needs to find a way to appeal to younger audiences. He is not exactly the best salesman when it comes to promoting the film and neither is Daniel Craig. Let’s not forget Hollywood’s most powerful helped make this film. Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer produced, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the screenplay, oh and the budget is anywhere from $160-200 million. There’s a lot of egg on a lot of faces this morning, one of which may be Favreau wondering why he just didn’t stay in the Marvel Studios stable to work on Iron Man 3.
Meanwhile The Smurfs capitalized on C&A‘s marketing downfalls and 80′s nostalgia as it made for an easy decision for those Generation X-ers who grew up “tra-la-la-la-ing” who now have toddlers of their own. Smurfs got a CinemaScore of A as opposed to Cowboys‘ B score–the little blue guys and gal could do no wrong. If the Smurfs do wind up on top after the actuals come out, it should have long enough legs to make some money on the domestic market since general audience films with talking animated characters (see Alvin & the Chipmunks) tend to last much longer than genre-action films.
Smurfs wasn’t the only film to surprise audiences. Crazy, Stupid, Love. also got solid numbers for an opening romantic comedy finishing 5th. Along with the vulgar comedies and family films, a strong romantic comedy can stick around longer than most action films. Crazy, Stupid, Love. stars Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Marisa Tomei to name just a few. The formula’s is not new, but it’s clear that it snagged the women moviegoers that Cowboys and Aliens were hoping to lasso with Daniel Craig as the lead.
Captain America went over $100 million and fell slightly off Thor’s numbers for 10-day box office numbers. There’s a good chance it breaks even on domestic soil before the foreign box office numbers (which have been encouraging so far) are added to the fold. Warner Brothers might want to take notice, that Cap made more in 10 days than what Green Lantern made in 7 weeks. Ouch. With the summer winding down, Marvel Studios produced three films that combined will make around $500 million, while Harry Potter and Transformers will likely finish the year #1 and #2, each as billion dollar juggernauts. Marvel will be tapping the same crowd again next year when The Avengers is released. It’s reasonable to think The Avengers should repeat Marvel Studios opening weekends with at least $65 million, but right now it’s doubtful it will be much larger than that given how this summer of super hero films have performed.
On the indie front, Midnight in Paris is still churning butter, Sarah’s Key did well in its first limited expansion while BuzzFocus favorite Attack the Block gave Sony / ScreenGems good vibes in its extremely limited debut. We’ll continue to chart its reception once it expands to more markets.
Here’s the estimates of the weekend of July 29-31, 2011 according to Box Office Mojo.
1. Cowboys & Aliens (Universal) $36.4 M
2. The Smurfs (Sony) $35.6 M
3. Captain America: The First Avenger (Paramount) $25.5 M
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros.) $21.9 M
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) $19.1 M
6. Friends with Benefits (Sony/ScreenGems) $9.3 M
7. Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros.) $7.1 M
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount/Dreamworks) $6.0 M
9. Zookeeper (Sony/Columbia) $4.2 M
10. Cars 2 (Disney/Buena Vista) $2.3 M
11. Winnie the Pooh (Disney/Buena Vista) $1.7 M
12. Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) $1.2 M
13. Bridesmaids (Universal) $845,000
14. Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) $800,000
15. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount/Dreamworks) $658,000