Box Office: ‘Contagion’ Gives No Cure For a Sick Box Office

The Reject ReportAmerica had a fever…and the only cure…was more fever. Not cowbell this time. Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion hit audience wallets hard this weekend bringing the director his biggest opening outside of films starring Julia Roberts. Maybe there is something to that American darling. Contagion was pretty well on par with analysis, knocked The Help off of its three-week pedestal, and ended up taking the #1 spot with a feverish vengeance. Okay, enough quips about sickness. Well maybe one or two more.

As far as disaster movies go, the $60m star-studded film was pretty middle of the road, fitting in as far as opening weekends go between Poseidon‘s $22.1m and Knowing‘s $24.6m. Of course, looking at that reported budget, you can tell the film will be just fine in the long run. Most of the disaster films that have much bigger openings are Summer blockbusters, most of them involving some sort of alien being blowing up national monuments. But Soderbergh proved that even with a whimper you can create an effective end-of-the-world scenario and still rake in some decent cash.

The same can’t be said for MMA fans or for Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior. Despite huge word of mouth and plenty of ad space bought up, Lionsgate released the film on only 1800 screens. That was one factor in Warrior barely even registering this weekend, but it should be taken into account how young the sport is. It isn’t like boxing that has decades and decades of legacy built up, nor does it have the recognition of films involving other sports like football or baseball. Still, the strong buzz surrounding Warrior could give it some decent longevity especially when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray and if it ends up pulling in the Oscar nominations some are already anticipating for it. Even still, it’s going to take some serious upswing in how well Warrior does down the road before we see many MMA-involved films get the green light.

You can probably say the same thing for Nick Swardson. Even though Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star was co-written and produced by Adam Sandler, the film was only able to garner $1.4m on 1500 screens landing it out of top 10 at #15. Laugh at My Pain, a stand-up concert of Kevin Hart – no, I hadn’t heard of him before now either – did better, making $2m on only 97 screens. That gives that film a staggering $20,619 per screen compared to the $967 per screen average Bucky Larson was able to make. Sounds like there was a lot of pain but no one laughed, amirite?!?

And then there’s Creature. Released by The Bubble Factory (?) on 1507 screens, you would have thought it could have done better than $331,000. You’d be wrong, though, because that’s precisely how much the horror film made this weekend. At $220 per screen, Creature had the second lowest per screen average for a nationwide film in history behind 2008’s Proud American. Still, that’s over $300,000 The Bubble Factory probably wouldn’t have made had they gone the expected route and simply released it straight to DVD/BD. Can’t blame a studio for trying. Failing? Yes, you can certainly blame them for that.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. Contagion – $23.1m NEW
  2. The Help – $8.6m (-40.5%) $137m total
  3. Warrior – $5.6m NEW
  4. The Debt – $4.9m (-50.5%) $21.9m total
  5. Colombiana – $4m (-46.4%) $29.7m total
  6. Rise of the Planet 0f the Apes – $3.8m (-51%) $167.8m total
  7. Shark Night 3D – $3.5m (-58%) $14.7m total
  8. Apollo 18 – $2.9m (-66.5%) $15m total
  9. Our Idiot Brother – $2.7m (-49.3%) $21.4m total
  10. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World – $2.5m (-48%) $34.2m total

And that’s how you score $61.6m, the lowest grossing top 10 since early September 2008 when Bangkok Dangerous topped the charts with a whopping $7.7m. Contagion did its damnedest to hold everything afloat, but it just wasn’t enough. A number of 50% and even 60% drops from last weekend didn’t help matters, and Warrior ranking far lower than expected sealed the deal for a steadily declining box office.

Maybe next weekend will be better. We’ve got two gritty action movies, Drive and Straw Dogs, The Lion King re-release in 3-D and some movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker. However, that movie has neither “sex” nor “the city” in its title, so it’ll probably end up being a failure, as well.

We’ll be back on Thursday to see how the weekend is shaping up.

Jeremy's been writing about movies for a good, 15 years, starting with the film review column of his high school newspaper. He stands proud as the first person in his high school to have seen (and recommend) Pulp Fiction. Jeremy went on to get a B.A. in Cinema and Photography with a minor in journalism. His experience and knowledge of film is aided by the list of 6600 films he has seen in his life (so far). Jeremy's belief is that there are no bad films, just unrealized possibilities. Except Batman and Robin. That shit was awful.

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