Saturday, December 15, 2007

Will Smith Interview, I am Legend

SATURDAY AM: Some amazing numbers were posted Friday for this weekend's No. 1 and No. 2 movie releases. Warner Bros' I Am Legend opens closer to $80 million than the studio's hoped-for $50 million from Friday through Sunday after making a whopping $29.6 million Friday in 3,606 theaters for first place. This more than demonstrates that Will Smith is now the biggest U.S. box office stud bar none and breaks his previous opening record (I Robot's $62 mil in summer). This also will easily be the biggest December movie opening ever. Not only did I Am Legend soar past the numbers for King Kong's and Narnia's December debuts, but it looks likely to pass all three of the Lord Of the Rings trilogy's Christmas-timed openings as well, including Return Of The King's record-setting $72.6 mil.) The humongous hit is a badly needed life preserver for Warner Bros' drowning movie division, which I'm told didn't even have time to do a research screening on the film since it came in so late.

I won't have exit polling until tomorrow, but Smith is one of the few, if not only, Hollywood stars right now who tracks extremely well with both African-American and Hispanic audiences as well as whites. That accounts for why I Am Legend's numbers went through the roof even though its "last man on earth who's not alone" subject matter is a downer. (Charlton Heston starred in The Omega Man, a 1971 adaptation of I Am Legend, the post-apocalyptic novel by Richard Matheson.) "But put Will Smith into it, and it really changes the equation," a Warner Bros source told me. "It's definitely tracking four quadrant." I'm told the movie played broadly -- almost equally male/female, under age 25/over 25, ethnic/non-ethnic -- and playability was strong with all audiences being at or above the norms with males slightly stronger than females. That was evident even going into Friday, I was told, when the PG-13 thriller had definite interest among young males (74%), older males (67%), young females (56%) and older females (49%). The only question now is whether the East Coast storms will affect Saturday and Sunday turnout there, prompting one Warner exec to rue not having a degree in meteorology.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox had a lot to celebrate this holiday season as well since its remake of baby boomer favorite Alvin And The Chipmunks will wind up #2 and closer to $40 million than the $20 million that the studio anticipated for the weekend. The PG pic hauled in $13.2 million Friday in its 3,475 venue debut. Indications are for the Saturday matinees to be huge since Moms especially feel pleasantly predisposed to take their kids to see The Munks. (I love the little guys. But can anyone actually understand anything that Alvin says?) Another reason that Fox is thrilled is because the studio claims the kiddie pic cost only in the high $50 millions. Although tracking had been slow at first, the pic's marketing did a good job of closing the gap by Friday when The Munks had 91% awareness.

The only other newcomer this weekend was Yari Film Group's PG-rated family comedy The Perfect Holiday which opened December 12th and then placed 8th after earning $700K Friday from just 1,307 dates.

And in only its second weekend in release, the bottom fell out of costly domestic flop The Golden Compass from New Line, which forked over $200+ million to make it. I know, I know, the pic is doing OK overseas, earning $50.9 mil from 27 territories December 7th-9th. But the fantasy epic is so lost domestically it earned only an anemic $2.6 million Friday from 3,528 nearly empty runs for 3rd place and a new cume of just $34.5 mil. I hear studio topper Bob Shaye once again is blaming everyone but himself -- including the movie's director Chris Weitz, and also New Line's own prez of production Toby Emmerich.

The rest of the Top 10 were holdovers. Here's the chart:
Here's the Top 10 chart:
1. I Am Legend $29.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. (cume $29.6M)
2. Alvin And The Chipmunks $$13.2M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($13.2M)
3. The Golden Compass $2.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($34.5M)
4. Enchanted $1.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($87.9M)
5. No Country For Old Men $850K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($31.4M)
6. This Christmas $750K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($44.9M)
7. Fred Claus $710K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($67.3M)
8. The Perfect Holiday $700K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($1.3M)
9. August Rush $610K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($26.8M)
10. Atonement $520K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($1.6M)

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