Beowulf

Normally, I would have written a huge analysis piece last night, but, I only managed to get numbers posted. As of this morning, Box Office Mojo is reporting some Saturday and weekend numbers lower than my projections, and it’s possible that they’re right, but it’s also possible that Dreamworks/Paramount is involved in a bit of gamesmanship.

The bigger the movie, the more likely the actuals will finish higher than the estimates. For example, Dreamworks execs and Shangri-La’s Steve Bing, who put up 2/3 of the budget for Beowulf, may be vaguely disappointed by the film’s opening weekend. I reported 3 weeks ago that early tracking pointed toward a possible $50M opening. Even as of this past Thursday, there were whispers that Shangri-La still held out hope for a weekend number that started with a 4.

When this dymanic exists, the numbers-crunchers sometimes under-report in the press on Sunday, then provide good news to nervous studio execs, investors and powerful producers and directors on Monday when they can announce that the actuals have come in higher than the Sunday estimates.

I have Beowulf, the motion-capture animated epic doing $11.5M+ on Saturday and just over $30M for opening weekend while Box Office Mojo and Dreamworks/Paramount have been pushing a softer $10.5M Saturday and $28.1M for the 3-day. Don’t be surprised if the Robert Zemeckis-directed medieval yarn suddenly tops $30M when grosses become official tomorrow.

In any event, Beowulf has easily won the weekend, and the $150M-budgeted movie will be one of the top 3 Zemeckis movies of all time.

ALL-TIME TOP 10 OPENINGS FOR ROBERT ZEMECKIS-DIRECTED MOVIES
1. Beowulf – $30M opening (estimate)
2. What Lies Beneath – $29.7M opening
3. Cast Away – $28.8M opening
4. Back to the Future II – $27.8M opening
5. Forrest Gump – $24.4M opening
6. The Polar Express – $23.3M opening
7. Contact – $20.5M opening
8. Back to the Future III – $19M opening
9. Death Becomes Her – $12.1M opening
10. Who Framed Roger Rabbit – $11.2M opening

It should be noted that 3 of those Zemeckis films went on to win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects – Forrest Gump, Death Becomes Her and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – and that Beowulf is his most impressive visual achievement to date.

One of the forces working against Beowulf from the beginning has been the animation world. The early days of animation featured hand-drawn cels. The painstaking process of hand-drawing each frame of an animated picture was both time-consuming and expensive. Most of the modern animated movies are computer generated or CG, and those “artists” now comprise the bulk of the “animation establishment.”

Traditional CG animators loathe motion-capture technology (Mocap). It wasn’t lost on the CG guys that 2 of the 3 nominees for Best Animated Film – Monster House and Happy Feet – were both Mocap, and they are invested in the failure of Beowulf. The animation establishment will be pushing for CG offerings like Ratatouille (Disney) and The Simpsons Movie (Fox) and the hand-drawn Persepolis )Sony Classics) to be represented at the upcoming Academy Awards, and they want Beowulf left out in the cold.

Here’s a list that shows how Mocap movies have fared on their opening weekends. (Keep in mind, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy used Mocap, notably for the character Golum, and Jackson’s King Kong was also a Mocap creation.)

ALL-TIME TOP OPENINGS FOR MOVIES FEATURING MOTION-CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – $72.6M opening
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – $62M opening
3. King Kong – $50.1M opening
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – $47.2M opening
5. Happy Feet – $41.5M opening
6. Beowulf – $30M opening (estimate)
7. The Polar Express – $23.3M opening
8. Monster House – $22.2M opening
9. Arthur & the Invisibles – $4.2M opening
10. Sinbad: Beyond Veil of Mists – $6,429 opening

We’ll wait for the actuals to see how Beowulf performed “officially.” Other weekend highlights:

*American Gangster (Universal) will top $100M today.

*Bee Movie continues to perform very strongly, and it’ll pass $100M on Tuesday or Wednesday, and $150M+ now seems likely.

*Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Fox) and Love in the Time of Cholera (New Line) both had sickly openings. These are bad movie titles, and, although I know it would be difficult to change the title of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it’s hard to sell tickets to the general public with the name of a disease on the movie poster.

*The Coen Brothers potentially have the biggest hit of their careers with No Country For Old Men, which had a spectacular $22,000+ PTA on just 148 screens this weekend. It’ll go much wider on Wednesday.

*Great start for Noah Baumbauch’s follow-up to The Squid & the Whale. Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage) finished the weekend with $42,000+ per location on 2 Manhattan screens.

*Both Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (IDP Films) and Brian DePalma’s Redacted (Magnolia) are essentially finished. A sub-$2,000 weekend PTA for Southland and a dismal $1,500 or so on even fewer screens for Redacted spell disaster for any wider expansion.

*The box office results continue to boost the Oscar prospects for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Thinkfilm) actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, and maybe even Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei. The same goes for writer/director Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch and Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage), which has now topped $14M domestic, and writer Nancy Oliver and Ryan Gosling for Lars & the Real Girl (MGM), now with more than $4M in US box office.

EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS EARLY SATURDAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $11.64M – $3,692 PTA – $21.34M cume
2. Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $7.02M – $1,762 PTA – $90M cume
3. Fred Claus (Warner Bros) – $6.07M – $1,685 PTA – $33.1M cume
4. American Gangster (Universal) – $5.95M – $1,916 PTA – $97.6M cume
5. NEW – Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Fox) – $4.47M – $1,415 PTA – $7.12M
6. Dan in Real Life (Disney) – $2.01M – $1,060 PTA – $36M cume
7. Lions for Lambs (MGM/UA) – $1.3M – $587 PTA – $10.8M cume
8. No Country for Old Men (Miramax) – $1.28M – $8,659 PTA – $4M
9. Saw IV (Lionsgate) – $1.03M – $494 PTA – $61.2M cume
10. NEW – Love in the Time of Cholera (New Line) – $725,000 – $851 PTA – $1.35M cume
11. The Game Plan (Disney) – $645,000 – $469 PTA – $87.1M cume
12. Michael Clayton (Warner Bros) – $510,000 – $734 PTA – $36.9M cume
13. Bella (Roadside Attractions) – $435,000 – $954 PTA – $4.7M cume
14. 30 Days of Night (Sony) – $430,000 – $470 PTA – $38.9M cume
15. Gone Baby Gone (Miramax) – $405,000 – $764 PTA – $18.2M cume
16. Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate) – $402,000 – $639 PTA – $54.1M cume
17. P2 (Summit Pictures) – $390,000 – $201 PTA – $3.4M cume
18. Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage) – $385,000- $753 PTA – $13.6M cume
19. Om Shanti Om (Eros Entertainment) – $370,000 – $3,246 PTA – $2.7M cume
20. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Thinkfilm) – $310,000 – $1,771 PTA – $2M cume
*Across the Universe (Sony) – $250,000 – $539 PTA – $23.1M cume
*Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight) – $250,000 – $877 PTA – $10.1M cume
*Lars & the Real Girl (MGM) – $235,000 – $963 PTA – $4M cume
*Martian Child (New Line) – $200,000 – $267 PTA – $7M cume
*The Assassination of Jesse James… (Warner Bros) – $123,000 – $1,464 PTA – $3.8M cume
*Lust Caution (Focus) – $70,000 – $909 PTA – $3.9M cume
*Saawariya (Sony) – $65,000 – $765 PTA – $759,000 cume
*NEW – Southland Tales (IDP Films) – $50,000 – $794 PTA – $87,000 cume
*NEW – Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage) – $33,000- $16,500 PTA – $56,000 cume
*Control (MGM/Weinstein) – $20,000 – $741 PTA – $618,000 cume
*Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney) – $10,500 – $583 PTA – $73.5M cume
*Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (IFC Films) – $9,794 – $753 PTA – $136,000 cume
*NEW – Redacted (Magnolia) – $8,288 – $638 PTA – $14,567 cume
*War/Dance (Thinkfilm) – $4,933 – $1,644 PTA – $31,000 cume
*NEW – What Would Jesus Buy? (Independent) – $3,974 – $3,974 PTA – $7,258 cume
*The Life of Reilly (Reel Diva Consultants) – $3,125 – $781 PTA – $9,295 cume
*Darfur Now (Warner Independent) – $2,685 – $122 PTA – $84,000 cume
*NEW – Smiley Face (First Look) – $2,208 – $2,208 PTA – $4,179 cume

EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS REVISED 3-DAY ESTIMATES
1. NEW – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $30.07M – $9,537 PTA – $30.07M cume
2. Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $15.4M – $3,873 PTA – $94.9M cume
3. American Gangster (Universal) – $13.64M – $4,387 PTA – $101.4M cume
4. Fred Claus (Warner Bros) – $13.13M – $3,646 PTA – $36.9M cume
5. NEW – Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Fox) – $10.17M – $3,216 PTA – $10.17M
6. Dan in Real Life (Disney) – $4.6M – $2,423 PTA – $37.1M cume
7. No Country for Old Men (Miramax) – $3.26M – $22,034 PTA – $5M
8. Lions for Lambs (MGM/UA) – $2.93M – $1,323 PTA – $11.6M cume
9. Saw IV (Lionsgate) – $2.39M – $1,142 PTA – $61.9M cume
10. NEW – Love in the Time of Cholera (New Line) – $1.82M – $2,143 PTA – $1.82M cume
11. The Game Plan (Disney) – $1.35M – $988 PTA – $87.5M cume
12. Bella (Roadside Attractions) – $1,11M – $2,438 PTA – $5.1M cume
13. Michael Clayton (Warner Bros) – $1.08M – $1,562 PTA – $37.2M cume
14. 30 Days of Night (Sony) – $981,600 – $1,073 PTA – $39.1M cume
15. P2 (Summit Pictures) – $894,500 – $462 PTA – $3.6M cume
16. Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage) – $889,500- $1,741 PTA – $13.9M cume
17. Gone Baby Gone (Miramax) – $882,050 – $1,664 PTA – $18.4M cume
18. Om Shanti Om (Eros Entertainment) – $867,500 – $7,610 PTA – $3M cume
19. Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate) – $842,120 – $1,339 PTA – $54.4M cume
20. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Thinkfilm) – $702,000 – $4,011 PTA – $2.2M cume
*Across the Universe (Sony) – $600,000 – $1,293 PTA – $23.3M cume
*Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight) – $567,500 – $1,991 PTA – $10.2M cume
*Lars & the Real Girl (MGM) – $544,800 – $2,233 PTA – $4.1M cume
*Martian Child (New Line) – $466,000 – $623 PTA – $7.1M cume
*The Assassination of Jesse James… (Warner Bros) – $314,100 – $3,739 PTA – $3.9M cume
*Lust Caution (Focus) – $160,700 – $2,087 PTA – $4M cume
*Saawariya (Sony) – $151,450 – $1,782 PTA – $807,000 cume
*NEW – Southland Tales (IDP Films) – $120,500 – $1,913 PTA – $120,500 cume
*NEW – Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage) – $84,050 – $42,025 PTA – $84,050 cume
*Control (MGM/Weinstein) – $47,578 – $1,762 PTA – $633,000 cume
*Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney) – $23,434 – $1,302 PTA – $73.5M cume
*Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (IFC Films) – $22,280- $1,714 PTA – $142,000 cume
*NEW – Redacted (Magnolia) – $19,955 – $1,535 PTA – $19,955 cume
*War/Dance (Thinkfilm) – $12,981 – $4,327 PTA – $34,169 cume
*NEW – What Would Jesus Buy? (Independent) – $10,039 – $10,039 PTA – $10,039 cume
*The Life of Reilly (Reel Diva Consultants) – $7,098 – $1,744 PTA – $11,327 cume
*Darfur Now (Warner Independent) – $7,050 – $320 PTA – $85,164 cume
*NEW – Smiley Face (First Look) – $5,613 – $5,613 PTA – $5,613 cume

EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS EARLY SATURDAY PTA ESTIMATES
1. NEW – Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage) – 2 locations – $16,500 PTA
2. No Country for Old Men (Miramax) – 148 locations – $8,659 PTA
3. NEW – What Would Jesus Buy? (Independent) – 1 location – $3,974 PTA
4. NEW – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) – 3,153 locations – $3,692 PTA
5. Om Shanti Om (Eros Entertainment) – 114 locations – $3,246 PTA
6. NEW – Smiley Face (First Look) – 1 location – $2,028 PTA
7. American Gangster (Universal) – 3,110 locations – $1,916 PTA
8. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Thinkfilm) – 175 locations – $1,771 PTA
9. Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) – 3,984 locations – $1,762 PTA
10. Fred Claus (Warner Bros) 3,603 locations – $1,685 PTA

EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS REVISED 3-DAY PTA ESTIMATES
1. NEW – Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage) – 2 locations – $42,025 PTA
2. No Country for Old Men (Miramax) – 148 locations – $22,934 PTA
3. NEW – What Would Jesus Buy? (Independent) – 1 location – $10,039 PT
4. NEW – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) – 3,153 locations – $9,537 PTA
5. Om Shanti Om (Eros Entertainment) – 114 locations – $7,610 PTA
6. NEW – Smiley Face (First Look) – 1 location – $5,613 PTA
7. American Gangster (Universal) – 3,110 locations – $4,387 PTA
8. War/Dance (Thinkfilm) – 3 locations – $4,327 PTA
9. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Thinkfilm) – 175 locations – $4,011 PTA
10. Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) – 3,984 locations – $3,873 PTA

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