Weekend Report: 'Tron' Recycles the Power

Twenty-eight and a half years after the original Tron disappointed, Walt Disney Pictures tasted some box office revenge with Tron Legacy, which blasted off with energizing numbers over the weekend. The other new nationwide releases were largely modest by comparison, and overall business was off over two percent from the same weekend last year when Avatar was unleashed.

Tron Legacy raked in $44 million on approximately 5,600 screens at 3,451 locations, more than doubling the opening weekend gross of Speed Racer and posting initial attendance comparable to past December release The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). Those may sound like low hurdles, and one could point out how Tron Legacy fell short of Avatar's $77 million first weekend or the Star Trek reboot's $75.2 million. But Tron Legacy had a greater uphill battle than those titles, given the potential niche appeal of its techno-fantasy premise and the status of its 1982 predecessor. Legacy appears to have sold around two and a half times the number of tickets that the original Tron did in its first weekend.

Disney tackled the challenging sell of Tron Legacy by bombarding the public with a massive marketing campaign, hoping to hook viewers with its father-son storyline and the razzle dazzle of its visual effects, even if it didn't make a lick of sense to the uninitiated. Predictably, Legacy's audience skewed heavily male (66 percent), according to Disney's exit polling, and 75 percent was aged 18 years and older. The 3D illusion was a big part of Tron Legacy's advertising, and 2,424 locations presented the picture in the format, accounting for 82 percent of the gross. That included 234 IMAX 3D venues, which made up 24 percent of the gross. Last year, Avatar had a 71 percent 3D share at a smaller 3D location count (2,038).

Yogi Bear wasn't better than your average talking-animal movie, snaring $16.4 million on close to 4,900 screens at 3,515 locations. That was a fraction of what the first Alvin and the Chipmunks earned on the same weekend in 2007, but it was bigger than Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore's $12.3 million. Yogi Bear's advertising lacked the storyline and jokes to draw people beyond fans of the original cartoon, young children and the most devoted talking-animal lovers, and bears aren't as cute and accessible as chipmunks (in general, the smaller the talking animal, the greater the box office). Yogi Bear's release included 2,011 3D venues, which accounted for 57 percent of the gross. Distributor Warner Bros.' research showed that 52 percent of the audience was under 25 years old and 53 percent was male.

Marketed with a clear boxing/family drama premise, The Fighter packed a solid punch in its expansion to around 3,000 screens at 2,503 locations, winning $12.1 million. While that was less than Invincible's $17 million start, Fighter had better pre-Christmas positioning. According to distributor Paramount Pictures, 87 percent of the audience was aged 25 years and older (nearly half was 25-34 years old), and 53 percent was female.

Pitched as a twisted psychological thriller, Black Swan wasn't as spectacular nationwide as it was in limited release but nonetheless posted $8.4 million on nearly 1,150 screens at 959 locations, bringing its tally to $15.8 million in 17 days.

Despite the presence of big-name actors Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson, How Do You Know was the biggest bust, collecting $7.5 million on 2,800 screens at 2,483 locations. That was less than Morning Glory last month and worse than the last movie from director James L. Brooks, Spanglish, which made $8.8 million on the same weekend in 2004 (or the equivalent of over $11 million adjusted for ticket price inflation). How Do You Know suffered from its nondescript, noncommittal title and a low-key, low-stakes ad campaign. Distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling indicated that 60 percent of the audience was female and 55 percent was aged 30 years and older.

Among holdovers, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had a better second weekend percentage hold than The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Golden Compass and Eragon. The fantasy sequel slowed 48 percent to $12.4 million. Its $42.8 million tally in ten days was still below par, but the movie pulled ahead of Golden Compass, which had $40.8 million at the same point. In attendance, though, Dawn Treader trailed Golden Compass and Eragon. Dawn Treader maintained its 3D site count (1,989), though its 3D share fell to 47 percent (from 54 percent last weekend).

Demonstrating no staying power, The Tourist tumbled 48 percent in its second weekend, grossing $8.5 million for a tepid $30.6 million sum in ten days.

Meanwhile, Tron's Disney stable mate Tangled lost most of its 3D venues (dropping from 2,300 to 800) yet still held well. The animated comedy was down 39 percent to $8.8 million, around 27 percent of which from its 3D showings. With $127.9 million in 26 days, it exceeded the final gross of Enchanted, though it has quite a ways to go to match it in attendance.

More Analysis

Weekend Briefing: 'Tron' and Four Others Enter Nationwide Arena

Last Weekend

'Narnia' Fails to Tread Water, 'Tourist' Trips

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2009 - 'Avatar' Soars in Debut

• 2008 - 'Yes Man,' 'Seven Pounds' Lead Quiet Pre-Christmas Weekend
• 2007 - 'I Am Legend,' 'Chipmunks' Enliven Box Office• 2006 - 'Pursuit' Overtakes 'Eragon,' 'Web'

• 2005 - 'King Kong' Mighty But No Monster

• 2004 - 'Lemony' Licks Competition

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2010 Grosses