Weekend Box Office (October 28 - 30, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The animated comedy Puss in Boots debuted at number one over the pre-Halloween frame while other new releases failed to generate much excitement averaging under $4,000 a piece. The overall marketplace got hit hard by a double whammy of game seven of the World Series on Friday which attracted over 25 million viewers followed by a powerful winter storm hitting the highly populated northeast region of the country on Saturday affecting tens of millions of people with unusually early snowfalls. Films with better word-of-mouth may grab some of that lost cash in the weeks ahead if good buzz can spread.

With its second top spot debut from a franchise film in as many weeks, Paramount hit number one with the launch of its Shrek spin-off toon Puss in Boots which debuted to $34.1M according to final studio figures. The figure was one of the lowest debuts for a high-profile 3D toon in recent years and was a far cry from the openings of other DreamWorks titles like last year's triumvirate of Megamind ($46M), the leggy How to Train Your Dragon ($43.7M), and Shrek Forever After ($70.8M) which was the last installment of this franchise. Even this year's earlier non-sequel animated entries like Fox's 3D Rio and Paramount's 2D Rango debuted higher with $39.2M and $38.1M, respectively. The PG-rated cat pic averaged $8,603 from 3,952 theaters including 2,827 offering 3D.

However, all indicators point to Puss in Boots having good legs in the weeks ahead despite the slow start. Weather and also pre-Halloween activities for kids helped to softened the bow but audiences and critics alike are giving high marks to the product suggesting good buzz will keep it relevant. Reviews were quite good and an encouraging A- CinemaScore grade bodes well for the weeks ahead. Studios typically pick the first weekend of November as the time to launch the holiday season's first high-profile animated entry or kidpic as it's been for the last ten consecutive years. In fact, Puss was originally slated for November 4 but was moved earlier one week to have a longer run before competitors roll in. Led by the voice of Antonio Banderas, the toon has clear sailing until Happy Feet Two arrives on November 18.

Puss in Boots claimed the record for best Halloween weekend opening of all-time. The milestone is not exactly one that comes with much bragging rights since the holiday falls on a different day each year and its activities often cause distractions that reduce box office activity. Horror films typically are the ones that excel with the previous top three best debuts for the holiday being recent installments of the Saw franchise. Studios rarely program big non-horror titles around Halloween.

Puss in Boots skewed more to moms with females making up 59% of the crowd and 55% being 25 and older. Banderas and co-star Salma Hayek helped to mobilize the Latino-American audience which accounted for 35% of business spending nearly $12M this weekend. 3D screens including 270 IMAX locations accounted for 51% of the gross giving the film a higher share than recent animated films like Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and The Smurfs.

Overseas, Puss in Boots launched to spectacular results in Russia which led the three-market debut of $17M this weekend. $15M came from the increasingly important Russian market making it the second biggest DreamWorks bow ever after the fourth Shrek as well as the third largest debut of 2011 after the latest 3D sequels for Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers which were both monster hits there. With its international cast and setting, Puss in Boots should do robust business overseas where animated films typically perform incredibly well accounting for 70-75% of global box office.

After scoring the best opening ever during the September-October corridor, the horror threequel Paranormal Activity 3 fell sharply in its second frame dropping 66% to $18.1M. That gave the $5M production a stellar $80.9M after only ten days of release with Monday's Halloween holiday likely to deliver another solid day of business since horror films historically draw big audiences during evening shows on the pumpkin holiday. The Paramount hit has already come close to the $84.8M of the last installment of the lucrative franchise and is headed for a finish in the neighborhood of the $107.9M of the first chapter in the series. Overseas, the third Paranormal grossed an estimated $17M boosting the international tally to $54.2M and the global haul to $135M with top-tier markets Japan and Germany still to open. The trilogy as a whole has now grossed a mammoth $506M worldwide plus tons more on DVD.

Justin Timberlake's sci-fi thriller In Time opened in third place with a mediocre $12.1M averaging a moderate $3,860 from 3,122 theaters. The PG-13 film about a world in the near future when only the wealthy can afford to buy time to extend their own lifespans played evenly across genders and skewed older with 58% being 25 and up. Reviews were more on the negative side and moviegoers were not that much more impressed as the Fox release got a B- CinemaScore. Timberlake has been growing his resume in the world of film with supporting turns in The Social Network and Bad Teacher followed by a lead role in the romantic comedy Friends With Benefits which had a nice late summer run grossing $55.8M.

The dance remake Footloose followed in fourth place with $5.5M, down 47%, giving Paramount $38.5M after 17 days. A final gross near $50M seems likely.

Johnny Depp stumbled into fifth place with his new offering The Rum Diary which bowed to a weak $5.1M. Playing in 2,272 locations, the R-rated drama about a New York journalist relocating to Puerto Rico averaged a poor $2,260 per theater. The older-skewing FilmDistrict release did not wow critics and even ticket buyers were disappointed as the troubling C CinemaScore and tiny 4% Saturday jump indicated large declines ahead. The opening for Rum was reminiscent of the debuts for many of Depp's quirkier dramas prior to Pirates of the Caribbean vaulting him to the level of the top box office draws in the world. Those included $6.6M for The Ninth Gate, $4M for The Astronaut's Wife, $3.3M for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and $4.6M for Don Juan de Marco.

Two-time chart-topper Real Steel got clobbered in its fourth round falling 56% to $4.8M boosting Disney's cume to $73.9M making it the fourth biggest grosser of the fall after The Lion King 3D ($93.2M), Paranormal Activity 3, and Contagion ($74.1M) which it will surpass later this week. Audiences also fled from The Three Musketeers which tumbled 60% in its second frame to $3.5M for a dull ten-day tally of $14.8M for Summit. A $20M final may result.

Sony filled up the rest of the spots in the top ten with its fall slate. George Clooney's Oscar hopeful The Ides of March grossed $2.8M, down 42%, for a $33.6M total. Brad Pitt's Moneyball fell 40% to $2.4M while the faith-based hit Courageous dipped only 26% to $1.8M. Totals stand at $67.4M and $27.7M.

In limited release, Sony's Shakespeare drama Anonymous generated a lukewarm response from American audiences with $1M debut from only 265 theaters for a lackluster $3,856 average. The PG-13 film was originally set for a nationwide bow but the studio shifted gears less than two weeks before opening day to a moderate release instead. Anonymous earned a good A- CinemaScore from those few that did come out and pay to see it, but overall interest domestically had never been high at all. The audience breakdown was 51% female while 65% was 30 and over. Reviews were mixed.

Doing well in platform release was the award-winning Sundance drama Like Crazy which debuted in just four theaters with $123,140 for a solid $30,785 average. Reviews were generally good for the PG-13 Paramount release which toured a number of film festivals generating buzz before heading into its commercial release.

The top ten films grossed $90.2M which was up 8% from last year when Saw 3D debuted in the top spot with $24.2M; and up 16% from 2009 when This Is It opened at number one with $23.2M.

Compared to projections, Puss in Boots and Rum Diary both opened below my respective forecasts of $44M and $9M, while In Time and Anonymous were both on target with my predictions of $13M and $1M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top October Openings and watch the NEW trailer for Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

For a NEW review of Puss in Boots and a NEW DVD review of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the comedies Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas both open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Oct 28 - 30 Oct 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Puss in Boots $ 34,077,439 3,952 1 $ 8,623 $ 34,077,439 Paramount
2 Paranormal Activity 3 18,144,516 52,568,183 -65.5 3,329 2 5,450 80,919,170 Paramount
3 In Time 12,050,368 3,122 1 3,860 12,050,368 Fox
4 Footloose 5,502,026 10,351,207 -46.8 3,224 3 1,707 38,544,825 Paramount
5 The Rum Diary 5,135,369 2,272 1 2,260 5,135,369 FilmDistrict
6 Real Steel 4,783,149 10,824,512 -55.8 2,914 4 1,641 73,941,416 Disney
7 The Three Musketeers 3,507,359 8,674,452 -59.6 3,017 2 1,163 14,847,237 Summit
8 The Ides of March 2,804,435 4,853,051 -42.2 1,572 4 1,784 33,600,618 Sony
9 Moneyball 2,387,049 3,981,852 -40.1 1,631 6 1,464 67,408,099 Sony
10 Courageous 1,838,096 2,494,020 -26.3 1,134 5 1,621 27,681,975 Sony
11 Johnny English Reborn 1,693,915 3,833,300 -55.8 1,554 2 1,090 6,465,685 Universal
12 R.A. One 1,654,023 189 1 8,751 1,654,023 Eros
13 Dolphin Tale 1,633,429 4,217,260 -61.3 1,838 6 889 67,035,293 Warner Bros.
14 50/50 1,408,150 2,835,208 -50.3 1,194 5 1,179 31,339,863 Summit
15 Anonymous 1,021,768 265 1 3,856 1,021,768 Sony
16 The Thing 857,325 3,069,875 -72.1 1,394 3 615 16,075,075 Universal
17 Margin Call 721,316 561,904 28.4 140 2 5,152 1,482,563 Roadside Attr.
18 Dream House 397,815 1,132,170 -64.9 585 5 680 20,834,395 Universal
19 The Help 392,658 713,429 -45.0 450 12 873 166,904,059 Disney
20 The Way 358,267 506,522 -29.3 258 4 1,389 1,610,024 PDA
Top 5 $ 74,909,718 $ 87,271,405 -14.2
Top 10 90,229,806 105,208,900 -14.2
Top 20 100,368,472 116,051,538 -13.5
Top 20 vs. 2010 100,368,472 90,960,391 10.3

Last Updated: October 31, 2011 at 9:15PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.