Well the first step is to make it 3D. Not that audiences, even post-Avatar, seem to care that strongly about or prefer 3D to 2D, but if offered, they are willing to pay ticket prices that–thanks to a hike last weekend in some markets–are now a third or even half-again more than regular admission. That makes it very easy for a film that might normally open around $30 million to suddenly leap into the $40s. Of course it doesn’t hurt if your movie is also terrific, which How to Train a Dragon is.
How to Train Your Dragon knocked Alice in Wonderland (also padded with extra 3D profits) out of its three-week spot atop the box-office charts. Still, Dragon‘s $44 million opening is being considered a big disappointment compared to Monsters Vs. Aliens–a fellow DreamWorks Animation 3D jaunt that brought in $59 million on its first weekend around this same time last year. Which is sad, since How to Train Your Dragon is the far superior film.
The rush to release every big film in 3D and reap those tasty cash rewards is also leading to a theatrical bottleneck. Alice, which came in second with $18 million, got bumped off of some of its 3D screens this weekend to make room for Dragon–of course Alice did the same to Avatar a few weeks earlier. And this coming weekend brings Clash of the Titans in 3D, which will have to squeeze in somewhere. Theater owners are adding 3D screens as fast as they can–and jacking up those ticket prices to strike while the dark plastic glasses are hot.
The weekend’s other new wide release, the raucously R-rated and often stupidly hilarious Hot Tub Time Machine, also had a somewhat disappointing first outing, coming in third with $14 million. Both Hot Tub and Dragon could and should benefit from decent word of mouth, but the hype pipeline is getting crowded as Clash arrives–it would be a shame if they got lost in the shuffle.
Nor did very good word of mouth help Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which fell a hefty 54% its second weekend, down to fifth place–its youthful demographic no doubt chewed up by the flashier Dragon. The Bounty Hunter was in fourth place, but last weekend’s other big release, Repo Men, tumbled from fourth to ninth.
Like I said, this weekend brings the mighty Clash of the Titans, which is sure to dominate the charts. However, for counter-programming there will be Miley Cyrus and Nicholas Sparks’s unholy union, The Last Song, an interesting test of both commodities’ box-office draw: It’s Cyrus’s first starring role as someone other than Hannah Montana, and it’s the first time Sparks has written a book specifically created to be a film, rather than adapting an already beloved quantity.
(For the record, as far as my personal wants go, if both that faux-sincere moron Cyrus and that talentless egotist Sparks were fed to Clash‘s gigantic Kraken and never heard from again, I’d do the Snoopy Happy Dance for days.)