This Weekend’s Winner: With no other new films in competition at the box office, Snow White and the Huntsman out-performed the modest tracking predictions of its studio, Universal (whose execs even in the middle of last week had been forecasting that it would open as low as $34 million), and took the lead with an estimated $56.3 million domestic haul in its opening weekend.
This Weekend’s Loser: Piranha 3DD (directed by Project Greenlight winner John Gulager!) grossed $179,000, but calling it a "loser" seems redundant. Did anyone expect people to actually attend a sequel that's predecessor underwhelmed in the U.S., and this time had even lower-wattage stars? Its theatrical release was more of a token gesture anyway; it was also simultaneously released on VOD (though not in 3-D), so perhaps it will prove to be a big hit among Hasselhoff-fan-club-member shut-ins. You can't underestimate the power of their purse. Seriously, try: No matter how low you go, you can't underestimate it.
How It All Went Down: Spurred by NRG tracking that suggested weakness with older male moviegoers (and thus, an opening in the low to mid $30 million range), Universal fired up an extra $20 million in last-minute television advertising, blowing Snow everywhere. This did the trick in securing the fourth-highest domestic opening of the year, behind The Avengers, The Hunger Games, and Universal's own The Lorax.
However, continued business will be tempered by the fact that while women gave it a favorable B+ CinemaScore, men were not as impressed, weighing in with a B-; this could be a problem next week when Snow faces off against Fox’s hotly anticipated male-magnet Alien prequel, Prometheus. Snow White's international results highlight the film's tough road ahead: It grossed an additional $39.3 million in 45 international territories over the weekend, but by comparison, Prometheus opened this past weekend in just fifteen territories and managed to gross $35.3 million. In other words, Snow White had three times more exposure than Prometheus, but managed to come up with only $4 million more. (In the U.K., where moviegoers had a choice between the two opening films, Prometheus outperformed Snow White by a whopping 320 percent.)
Prometheus's full-force arrival in theaters around the world next weekend could severely cut into Snow White's week-two gross, with two distribution executives at rival (non-Fox) studios interviewed by Vulture suggesting that the audience for Snow could melt by around 50 to 55 percent. And that may mean a hard road to breaking even for a film that cost $170 million, according to the studio (a price tag that doesn't include a big marketing outlay). And not helping things is that in order to win the bidding war to land Snow White in the first place, Universal gave producer Joe Roth — who had just scored the fairy-tale megahit Alice in Wonderland — a "first dollar" gross profits participation of 7.5 percent, meaning he gets paid before anyone else does.