What happened this weekend? The Jonas Brothers, with their 3D concert movie on the heels of a career that has blazed a trail through tweener girl culture, were meant to burn up the box office for Disney.
They didn’t. Instead, “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” took a back seat to “Tyler Perry: Madea Goes to Jail” in its second weekend – by a whole lot.
The Jonas Brothers took in $12.7 million. Madea took in an astonishing $16.5 million in for Lionsgate, according to Media By Numbers.
And the Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” had a windfall this weekend, taking in $12.1 million and playing in nearly 3,000 theaters, having crashed through the $100 million barrier at the domestic box office earlier this week.
Disney had made it clear that it did not expect “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” to outperform its predecessor, “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour.”
But the brothers took in less than half of the $31.1 million “Hannah” made on its opening weekend last February.
Chuck Viane, president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, said box-office research groups set the bar too high for the Jonas concert documentary.
“Their information was flawed,” Viane said. “Somebody floated a $40 million number. And you’re sitting there going, ‘What information do they have that we don’t have?’
It’s not an exact science. When they miss and you’re lower than their estimate, you’re considered not to have succeeded.”
But Disney took a different approach with Jonas than the studio had with Miley. The Miley Cyrus concert documentary was booked to run on only 680 screens for only one week and opened just days after her sold-out tour concluded. Miley Cyrus’ show of the same name had also been playing on the Disney Channel for three years where it built a rabid following.
By contrast, the Jonas film opened on 1,271 theaters, and does not have the limitation of a one-week run.
“This time we went in without the urgency of seven-days-only because we learned last time that it could probably play two, three or four weeks. So, we put ourselves behind the eight ball by not having that hook,” Viane said. Not surprisingly, 85% of the Jonas audience was female; 65% was 17 or under.
Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers said he like many others overestimated “Jonas,” but called its $10,000 per screen average “very strong.”
“Hannah Montana was a one-of-a-kind thing. It was the only reference point,” Dergarabedian said.
One rival industry exeutive, who requested anonymity, said he and his colleagues were “shocked, quite frankly, by how little [revenue] it did.”
“We all thought it would be in the 20s,” the source said. “I think the Jonas Brothers are still an up-and-coming act. They’re on their way up, but they’re nowhere near where ‘Hannah Montana’ was when she had her success.”
Perhaps Disney should have stuck with the same distribution and marketing strategy. The insider noted, “’Hannah’ felt like an event, this one felt just like a movie release.”
Meanwhile, Tyler Perry continues to prove he is his own franchise, and quite possibly his very own mini-industry. “Madea Goes to Jail” was number one for the second week in a row.
Steve Rothenberg, Lionsgate’s president of domestic distribution, pointed out that another comedy, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” is the only other film this year to be number one for two weeks in a row.
He attributed this to the unhappy economic climate.
“It’s very depressing for people to look at their checkbooks and savings accounts, so I think it’s not a surprise that the only two films that have repeated number one so far are very broad-based comedies,” Rothenberg said, adding that “Jail” has grossed more in ten days than any previous Tyler film has made to date.
The box office as a whole continues to be strong while the economy continues to weaken. Theaters saw 11% more business than this time last year. This year’s biggest moneymakers, “Taken” ($107 million), “He’s Just Not That Into You” ($78 million) and “Paul Blart” ($128 million) are still going strong, rounding out the top six after “Slumdog."
And the flourishing box office is likely to take an even bigger leap into blockbuster territory with the release of the much-anticipated “Watchmen” next weekend. Box office observers are predicting Zach Snyder’s long-awaited epic, based on the graphic novel, will open with over $50 million for the weekend. His last film “300” opened at $70.1 million and “The Dark Knight” nabbed $158 million in their opening weekends.