BOX OFFICE WAS SUPER, TOO
If studio predictions turn out to be correct, the box office competed effectively against the Super Bowl on Sunday, with the thriller flick Taken taking in $24.6 million, making it the second-highest earner ever on a Super Bowl weekend. It is difficult, however, to estimate the effect on ticket sales of the Super Bowl. Studio executives believe that Taken's audience was 52 percent male and 60 percent over the age of 60. Ordinarily, top Super Bowl weekend films are primarily attended by kids and women. (Last year's Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour remains the top earner for a Super Bowl weekend.) But two new films targeting those groups appeared to falter, with the horror film The Uninvited taking in about $10.5 million, and the romantic comedy New in Town, about $6.8 million. Oscar nominees performed poorly for the most part. Frost/Nixon and Milk barely lapped up $1.4 million. The Reader garnered just $2.4 million and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button managed $3.6 million. However, Slumdog Millionaire, which added a new award from the Directors Guild of America over the weekend, continued to perform solidly, earning $7.7 million to bring its total to $67.2 million.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:
1. Taken, $24.6 million; 2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $14 million; 3. The Uninvited, $10.5 million; 4. Hotel for Dogs, $8.7 million; 5. Gran Torino, $8.6 million; 6. Slumdog Millionaire, $7.7 million; 7. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, $7.2 million; 8. New in Town, $6.7 million; 9. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, $4.3 million; 10. Inkheart, $3.7 million.
JANUARY SETS BOX-OFFICE RECORD
According to box-office trackers Media by Numbers, this was the biggest January at the box office on record, with the top 12 films grossing $129 million, slightly ahead of last year's $127.7 million. The biggest earner for the month was the Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which took in $83 million over the last three weeks. Somewhat surprisingly, however, three of the five films nominated for best-picture Oscars -- Milk, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon -- failed to contribute much to the overall results. Daily Variety today (Monday) devoted a feature to the poor performances of those films and cited one unnamed specialty distributor as saying, "These are three niche films that aren't breaking out. The award nominations didn't rejuvenate business, nor revive it," The trade publication observed that Fox Searchlight's The Wrestler and Miramax's Doubt, which earned Oscar nominations for their stars but failed to make the best-picture cut, will probably outperform Frost/Nixon, Milk, and The Reader.
NETFLIX MAY ADD PREMIUM ONLINE SERVICE -- AT A COST
Netflix, which already allows its subscribers to watch thousands of older movies online without additional charge, is considering adding a "premium tier" to its streaming service that, for a fee of around $10.00, would give them access to newer films and original programming from HBO, the website Ars Technica reported Sunday. It said that Netflix had sent out a survey to "a handful" of customers asking whether they would be willing to spend an additional $9.95 per month to receive the premium content. Results of the survey were not disclosed.
SLOWER DVD SALES MAY PROMPT WRITE-DOWNS
Faced with a 32-percent drop in shipments of DVDs during the fourth quarter of last year, the media conglomerates that own four studios may wind up writing down the value of their movies, Bloomberg News reported late Friday, citing several entertainment analysts. The drop was the biggest ever, the wire service said. As a result of competition from rental services like Netflix and other online video sites, "making a movie just won't be as profitable as it once was," Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente told Bloomberg News. Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co told the wire service that an additional 11 percent downturn in DVD sales could cause the conglomerates -- Time Warner, Disney, Viacom and News Corp -- to miss internal forecasts. DiClemente said that sales of Blu-ray high-definition disks won't offset the drop in DVD sales. "We don't think Blu-ray is the savior," He added: "Investing in Blu-ray, especially in the teeth of a recession, isn't what the consumer wants."
PANDA DEFEATS ROBOT
In a surprise result, DreamWorks's Kung Fu Panda beat out the favored WALL-E as it picked up 11 Annie Awards, including best animated feature, Friday night at the 36th annual awards presentation of the International Animated Film Society. The film's other awards included best voice acting in an animated feature for Dustin Hoffman. Despite nominations in eight categories, Wall-E, which remains the favorite to take home the Oscar for best animated film, was shut out.