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By Daniel Garris

It was an impressive weekend at the box office, as both Fox's Gone Girl and Warner's Annabelle over-performed in what turned out to be a very tight race for first place between the two new releases. Gone Girl ultimately took first place with $37.51 million, while Annabelle placed in an extremely close second with $37.13 million. The two films were separated by only $378,854 for the frame.

With $37.51 million, Gone Girl exceeded pre-release expectations, which had increased as the film's release neared thanks in part to strong reviews and strong pre-sales. The critically acclaimed David Fincher directed film starring Ben Affleck delivered the tenth largest opening weekend performance of all time for the month of October (without adjusting for ticket price inflation). Gone Girl represented the largest debut ever for Fincher (his previous best being the $30.06 million debut of 2002's Panic Room) and the third largest start ever for Affleck (behind only 2001's Pearl Harbor and 2003's Daredevil). The film opened an impressive 67 percent stronger than the $22.45 million launch of 2010's The Social Network.

Gone Girl opened with $13.18 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.3 million from late night Thursday shows), increased 15 percent on Saturday to gross $15.18 million and declined 40 percent on Sunday to gross $9.63 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.85 to 1. Gone Girl received a so-so B rating on CinemaScore, but the film's strong critical reviews strongly suggest that the film will hold up well going forward.

With $37.13 million, Annabelle exceeded expectations in a big way. Given its lesser expectations and significantly lower price tag than Gone Girl, Annabelle had the more impressive start this weekend. However, it is also highly likely that the low-budget spin-off to The Conjuring won't hold up as well as Gone Girl will going forward. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Annabelle registered the eleventh largest opening weekend ever for the month of October. Annabelle clearly benefited in a big way from the audience goodwill generated by The Conjuring. The film opened just below the respective $41.86 million and $40.27 million starts of The Conjuring and Insidious Chapter 2.

Annabelle started out in first place on Friday with $15.45 million (which included an estimated $2.1 million from late night shows on Thursday), decreased a very reasonable 9.5 percent on Saturday to take in $13.98 million and declined 45 percent on Sunday to gross $7.70 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.40 to 1, which is encouraging for a horror film. The film's B rating on CinemaScore is also a solid early sign given the film's genre. Annabelle had clear four-quadrant appeal as the audience breakdown for the film was nearly evenly split between genders (51 percent female, 49 percent male) and skewed towards moviegoers under the age of 25 (54 percent).

On the heels of last weekend's strong start, Sony's The Equalizer was down two spots and 45 percent this weekend to place in third with $18.75 million. The Denzel Washington led action thriller had a solid second weekend hold, especially when taking into account the strong debuts of Gone Girl and Annabelle. The Equalizer continues to perform towards the higher end of its lofty expectations with a ten-day take of $64.24 million. That places the film 6 percent ahead of the $60.74 million ten-day gross of 2010's The Book of Eli, which fell 52 percent in its second weekend to gross $15.73 million.

The Boxtrolls held up very nicely in its second weekend with a fourth place take of $11.98 million. The latest stop motion animated film from Focus and Laika was down a slim 31 percent from last weekend. 2009's Coraline and 2012's ParaNorman both displayed terrific holding power and The Boxtrolls is now on course to do the same after this weekend's strong hold. The Boxtrolls has grossed a stronger than expected $32.09 million in ten days, which places the film 14 percent ahead of the $28.26 million ten-day take of ParaNorman (which fell 39 percent in its second weekend to gross $8.64 million).

Fox's The Maze Runner also held up nicely this weekend with a fifth place gross of $11.63 million. The successful young adult adaptation was down just 33 percent from last weekend. The Maze Runner continues to display strong holding power for a young adult adaptation and has grossed a stronger than expected $73.56 million through 17 days of release. Both The Maze Runner and The Boxtrolls appear to have received an added boost this weekend from the Yom Kippur holiday.

Freestyle's Left Behind debuted in sixth place with $6.30 million. The faith based thriller remake starring Nicolas Cage opened towards the lower end of its modest expectations. Left Behind opened 32 percent below the $9.22 million launch of Freestyle's God's Not Dead earlier this year and will be hard pressed to hold up anywhere near as well as God's Not Dead did. Left Behind opened with $2.39 million on Friday, increased a slim 1 percent on Saturday to take in $2.43 million and declined 39 percent on Sunday to gross $1.47 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.63 to 1. Left Behind received a lackluster B- rating on CinemaScore.

In limited release, Warner's The Good Lie was off to a slow start this weekend with $0.841 million from 461 locations. That gave the Reese Witherspoon led drama a soft per-location average of $1,825 for the frame. The Good Lie certainly wasn't helped out by the break-out performances of Gone Girl and Annabelle this weekend.

On the platform front, Paramount's Men, Women & Children was off to an even more lackluster start with $47,553 from 17 locations. That gave the Jason Reitman directed film featuring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner a per-location average of just $2,797. Men, Women & Children has grossed $60,843 since debuting on Wednesday and after this weekend's disappointing start, will have a tough time going forward as it expands into more locations.

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gone-girl02.jpgGone Girl was the weekend’s big winner at the global box office this weekend, taking the #1 spot in North America and the overseas box office at large. A $24.6 million bow from 39 markets launched the film’s $62.6 million global debut. The UK was the top overseas earner with a $6.9 million haul from 950 screens. Gone Girl expands to 15 additional markets next weekend, including France, Spain, Belgium and Taiwan.

Bollywood flick Bang Bang enjoyed a $25.4 million worldwide haul in its opening weekend, including a fantastic $19.3 million bow from 4,200 screens in India. The film screened in 271 screens in North America, where it grossed $1.35 million.

Dracula Untold saw the light of day in an initial roll-out across 25 territories this weekend. The film finished its first frame overseas with a $21 million cume ahead of its North American release next weekend. Mexico was the only significant territory where the film finished in first place, claiming $5 million from a 4-day weekend across 640 dates and taking 44% of the market share. Russia and South Korea will open the film next weekend along with North America.

Annabelle added $20 million from 24 markets over the weekend to reach a $23 million cume outside of North America. The film’s strong North American debut puts the film’s global haul at $54 million.

The Maze Runner ran away with $16.5 million from 61 markets to take its overseas cume up to $119.1 million. The film has grossed $193 million worldwide with top markets UK and Italy on tap for next weekend. France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Venezuela and China are on the schedule for later this month.

The Equalizer enjoyed a #3 debut in France, where it grossed $2 million from 376 screens to take over the #3 spot in the market. The film finished the weekend with $13 million from 70 territories. The Equalizer has grossed $39.6 million overseas and $104 million worldwide.

The Boxtrolls added $6 million from 22 territories to reach a $26 million overseas cume. The animated film has grossed $58.5 million with 35 territories left on the agenda.

Lucy added $5.2 million from 60 territories to reach a $280.5 million overseas cume. The film has grossed $406.3 million worldwide.

Spanish comedy Torrente 5 captured the top spot in its home market with a $4.8 million debut. The latest installment in the Spanish comedy franchise opened 36% ahead this year’s Spanish box office megahit Ocho Apellidos Vascos and registered the biggest opening weekend of the year in Spain.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took the #1 spot in its Venezuelan debut with a $1 million haul from 68 locations en route to a $3.5 million frame overseas from 37 territories. The film has now grossed a total of $160.8 million outside of North America and $349.1 million worldwide with key markets Belgium, Germany, Spain, China, and Japan left on its schedule.

Sex Tape added $3 million from 38 markets to reach an $82.7 million overseas cume. The raunchy comedy has grossed $121.2 million globally.

A $2.4 million weekend from 33 territories helped Guardians of the Galaxy reach a $330.4 million overseas cume. The film has now surpassed the overseas cumes of Iron Man 2 ($312M), The Wolverine ($282M), Thor ($268M), Iron Man ($267M), and Captain America: The First Avenger ($194M). The latest Marvel release has grossed $653.8 million worldwide, edging out the global haul of last year’s Thor: The Dark World ($644M). Top markets include the UK ($46.9M), Russia ($37.5M), and Australia ($24.2M) with a release coming in China and Italy later this month.

As Above, So Below earned $1.8 million from 42 territories to reach a $17.3 million overseas total. The film’s global cume stands at $38.5 million.

Deliver us from Evil took $1.4 million from 27 territories to reach a $54.7 million cume overseas. The horror flick has grossed $85.2 million globally.

Hercules added $1.2 million from 20 territories to reach a $153.3 million overseas cume. The film has grossed $225.8 million worldwide with a release in China and Japan scheduled for late October.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes added $1.2million from 6 markets to reach a $491.4 million overseas cume. The film has grossed a total of $699 million worldwide.

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MPAA_Logo.svg.pngJoan Graves

SVP, Chairman

Classification and Rating Administration at the MPAA

What role do parents play in the ratings process?

There are no MPAA members on the board, just parents. We are separate from the MPAA in that we are separately funded, and CARA hires parents directly to make up the committee. CARA is an independent entity under the umbrella of the MPAA and has existed since 1968.

We're charged to rate the film in the way we believe the majority of American parents would rate the film. To keep up to date, we survey parents on how they feel about violence, drug use, sexuality, and so on. Obviously we do this across the country, since different pockets of the U.S. feel differently about some of these issues.

We try to hire parents from different parts of the country and of different backgrounds, usually with kids aged 5 to 15, since that's the age range that parents make content decisions about. It's not a permanent job, because you do get desensitized to the material after a while, so there is turnover. There are usually about 10 to 13 parents on the board, and they live in Los Angeles while on the board. We all see the film at the same time and vote privately. Votes are collected by the senior rater, and there is a discussion held about the vote. During that discussion we decide on the final rating and descriptors.

What role do the descriptors, which accompany a rating, play?joan_graves.png

The rating gives the level of content, and the descriptor gives everything present at that rating level. So if you have an R for violence, for example, that means the language and sexuality in the film are not at an R level, or otherwise they would be listed as well. We really want to reach out to parents and instruct them on how to use these descriptors, because they really provide the best information. What does an R mean if you don't know what it's for? Every set of parents has different values; some families don't care as much when it comes to language, others are more concerned about violence, and vice versa. The descriptors allow parents to make the best choices, so we encourage them to use them whenever they can. They give parents a more complete understanding of why a film received the rating that it did.

Unfortunately, there remains a misunderstanding of this at the media level. A lot of the media just say, "It's R for this" and go on and on about why they think it's rated a certain way without bothering to even look at the descriptors. The descriptors are part and parcel of the whole thing.

Why do you think that misunderstanding prevails after all these years, that CARA is sometimes mistaken for a censorship organization?

[Former MPAA Head] Jack Valenti told me many times, there had to be a better system than the MPAA telling studios what had to go into a movie. He strongly believed filmmakers should be able to put anything they want in a movie-no censorship. That's really what the voluntary rating system does-allows filmmakers to make movies the way they want to make them. It gives them more creative latitude to include what they want to include, while also making sure parents are aware of the content.

What leads to the misunderstanding that we are somehow a censorship board is that the distributors or producers, they are a business. They have the bottom line in their heads of what they expect to get out of their investment, and they often have a filmmaker sign a contract for a certain rating. Even though our system is built to allow the filmmaker do whatever they want, and we just put a label on it to indicate the type of content, what happens is that the filmmaker has a separate arrangement with their employer-not with us. That agreement is between the filmmaker and the person paying them. We don't care if the filmmaker decides to edit down the film or not; as far as we're concerned, they can leave the film just as it was presented to us.

These media "scandals" come up every now and then. How do you tackle them?

I think one of the main reasons we have been successful is because we treat every film as an attorney would treat a client. We don't talk about it apart from stating what it's rated and why. But because we don't talk about the film, we can get caught in some pretty unfair stories that get floated to the media-people assuming a rating was handed down for one reason or another.

Do you take into account the potential economic impact that your rating decisions can have on specific films?

One of the things we're careful not to pay any attention to is money. It shouldn't matter to the parents if a film will or won't make any money, and we don't pay attention to the financial aspect in our rating decision.

Do you believe alternative content will seek out ratings as much as commercial films have?

The only alternative content that has been submitted to us have been concerts, and we rate them accordingly. Operas have come in as well, but we're not seeing too much alternative content. We're a voluntary system; you don't need to go through the process unless you are looking for our rating. There does have to be commercial intent, however; one time we got a submission from a man wanting us to give a rating on the home-video footage of the birth of their child. We politely declined.

What is the level of engagement and discussion you have with exhibitors?

The exhibitors are very cooperative, because they're first down the line if a parent is not happy. The more information they can get out there, the more informed their clientele will be, and the better off everyone is.

How would you describe the relationship with NATO?

The cooperation with NATO has been vital since the very beginning, back in 1968 when Jack Valenti formed the system. NATO agreed to enforce the ratings so the voluntary nature of the ratings system would be taken seriously. It's important for us to collaborate with NATO members so they can best know how to inform their customers about the ratings. I see the whole thing as a win-win if we all do our job. If parents are not surprised in a negative way by the content, they are more likely to return to the cinema with their families more often.

I understand NATO takes part in the appeal process.

They do. When we give a rating to a submitter, they have several choices: they can accept it; if they think we're right but don't want to release the film with that rating, we can engage in a discussion on how to edit or change it to get a lower rating, and they submit it again; if they think we're wrong, they can go to the appeals board, a separate entity made up of different exhibitors and distributors with NATO filling up half that board.

Are you aware of the impact of a film's rating internationally? For example, does a foreign film's rating in its home country influence your own, or have you noticed that your rating usually carries over to other territories?

Certain countries have told me that it does influence them, but you have to be very careful about this. There can be different versions of a film that play in different countries, so you don't know if you're actually comparing apples to apples or oranges to apples.

Through CARA you're in a unique position to watch many of the films that are released in the United States each year. Do you keep track of certain trends that pop up now and then in cinema?

Oh, there can be some awful trends. One year it was scenes involving people throwing up, another it was showing characters actually going to the bathroom-that stuff I notice! Genres come in and out. For a while we had everyone wanting to make a horror movie, and I see that calming down lately; Halloween doesn't look as packed with horror movies as it used to.

 

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2428_D035_00022R-620x400.jpgDracula Untold saw the light of day in an initial roll-out across 25 territories this weekend. Mexico registered the film's top performance with a #1 finish in a 4-day weekend that netted $5 million from 640 dates and 44% of the market share. The UK took a #2 debut with $2.7 million from 450 dates. Elsewhere in Europe, the film claimed a #3 finish in Germany with $2.4 million from 495 dates and a $2.1 million bow from 303 dates in France, good enough for second place in the market. Australia contributed $1.9 million from 213 dates and Malaysia brought in $1.3 million from 108 dates in their respective opening frames. Dracula Untold opens in North America on October 10.

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Annabelle_3.jpgAnnabelle is off and running overseas. The horror film is already ahead of The Conjuring over the same territories, finishing with a $3.4 million haul from 21 markets on Thursday. Annabelle enters the weekend with a $7 million overseas cume.

Australia posted a $443k opening day from 166 screens, registering the strongest per-sceen average among the top 5 films in the market and coming in 71% ahead of The Conjuring.

South Korea opened to $606k from 390 screens, 7% ahead of The Conjuring.

The film is currently in second place in Italy iafter a $181k bow from 232 screens.

Thursday night sneaks in Taiwan brought in an estimated $322k, part of a stellar opening campaign throughout six Asian markets that has netted $1.15 million from 803 screens.

Annabelle opened in first place in Colombia, Chile and Bolivia on Thursday with a collective take of $342k from 270 screens, surpassing the opening day of The Conjuring by a wide margin.

 

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