A funny thing happened on the way to Jonas Brothers world domination: a second-place finish.
Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience grossed an estimated $12.7 million Friday-Sunday, failing to live up to the multimedia hype, and failing to unseat Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail as the No. 1 movie at the weekend box office.
Shockingly, the Jonases' movie not only didn't live up to initial projections, it didn't live up to downwardly revised estimates following its underwhelming Friday debut.
"That's kind of what we're trying to figure out," Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock said today.
Exhibitor Relations and other box office trackers figured on the Disney release to dominate the weekend with a $30 million Friday-Sunday gross. Rival studios mostly stayed out of the Jonases' way—a sign that they, too, believed the band's movie would be big.
Then came opening day. The movie grossed an estimated $4.8 million, tops for the day, but barely enough to hold off the week-old Madea Goes to Jail. Exhibitor Relations now figured the movie was on track for a $17 million weekend.
Then came Saturday. Instead of improving on Friday's gross, as family films like the G-rated Jonas effort almost always do, its take dropped, to an estimated $4.5 million.
Today, the film is expected to gross $3.4 million. At this point, Bock said he wouldn't be surprised if the film failed to meet that benchmark, too. And if it does—fail to meet the benchmark—the movie is in danger of falling to third place in the weekend standings behind the Oscar-boosted Slumdog Millionaire, which currently stands in third place, with $12.2 million.
If all this explains how the movie underperfomed, then the larger question remains: Why did it underperform?
A few theories:
1. It's Hannah Montana's fault. The $30 million estimate didn't come out of thin air, it was based on what Disney's Miley Cyrus 3-D/IMAX concert movie did in its opening weekend, which was $31.1 million—and on half as many screens (683) as the Jonas Brothers film (1,271).
As it turned out, there might have been a couple of big overlooked differences between Cyrus and the Jonases.
"The Jonas Brothers don't have a TV show," Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray said today.
Bock argued for the gender gap. "Those tween girls are looking up to girls, not boys, for their source of inspiration," he said.
2. It's the recession's fault. The Cyrus movie was released in February 2008, before the economic meltdown. And while the downturn hasn't yet hurt Hollywood overall—attendance is up 11 percent over this time last year—the jury's out on pricier 3-D and IMAX movies. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, it was the 2-D Paul Blart: Mall Cop that dominated, not the 3-D My Bloody Valentine, which performed solidly but not as big as expected.
"People aren't shilling out top dollar for these like they were a year ago," Bock said.
Gray was less willing to accept the recession theory, pointing out that Coraline, which, notably, lost some of its 3-D theaters this week to the Jonas Brothers, has been steady, boasting a four-week total of $61.1 million.
3. It's the Jonas Brothers' fault. On cable, their Camp Rock was big, but not as big as High School Musical 2, nor as hearty as the original HSM. At the box office, their concert film was big for a concert film (third-biggest opening of all time, per Box Office Mojo stats), but not even half as big as Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus.
"The Jonas Brothers did not live up to the hype," Gray said. "They were treated like the second coming of the Beatles, and they're not."
Nobody said the road to world domination was without its bumps. Or bruises.
A quick look at some other numbers from the weekend:
• Madea Goes to Jail did its best to hand over the No. 1 spot to the Jonas Brothers. Ticket sales dropped a bigger-than-usual 60 percent from its debut.
• In only its second weekend, Madea is already the prolific Perry's biggest-ever hit. Its overall take stands at $64.9 million.
• Slumdog Millionaire added nearly 700 theaters, saw ticket sales jump 45 percent and sprinted past the $100 million mark. The little indie that could, and did, has now grossed $115.1 million overall.
• The Oscar bounce was no myth this weekend. Kate Winslet was an Oscar winner; The Reader ($2.9 million) was up 10 percent. Sean Penn was an Oscar winner; Milk ($1.5 million) was up 37 percent. Mickey Rourke was, well, not an Oscar winner; The Wrestler ($1.4 million) was down 26 percent.
• Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li ($4.7 million), the weekend's only other new wide release, put up one of the Top 10's better per-screen averages.
• Harrison Ford's critically trashed Crossing Over ($75,590 at nine theaters) was solid in limited release.
• Budget-conscious consumers didn't seem to worry about forking over cash for the IMAX movie Under the Sea 3D ($563,000 at 51 theaters). It scored the weekend's highest reported per-screen average ($11,039).
• The Jonas Brothers movie had the weekend's second-highest per-screen average: $9,992.
• After a monster opening, Friday the 13th ($3.7 million) was out of the Top 10 after just a two-weekend stay. Overall, the remake was a hit, turning its reported $16 million budget into a $60.7 million (and counting) gross.
Here's a look at the weekend's top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates from Exhibitor Relations:
(Originally published Mar. 1, 2009 at 10:11 a.m. PT.)