Weekend Box Office: Real Steel Wins Over the Kids, While Ides of March Does the 'Clooney Average'

There were two major releases
, and both of them more-or-less did what was expected of them.  Disney/Dreamworks unleashed the robot-boxing/father-son drama
Real Steel
, which easily topped the weekend.  Of course, as always, ranking is irrelevant except for their use in second-week ads, so the real question is whether or not its $27.3 million debut is a good number.  First of all, the film scored a solid A from Cinemascore, with an A+ from audiences under 25 (which again, only means something if it opens well in the first place).  Second of all, the film indeed did play like a family film, with an $8.5 million Friday giving way to a solid 3.2x weekend multiplier (family films generally see a boost on Saturday as the kids flood the matinees). The weekend multiplier and audience polling could mean that the Hugh Jackman film will have decent legs as the family film of choice until
Puss In Boots
opens on October 28th (yes, by moving the film one week up, Dreamworks Animation/Paramount has potentially hurt Dreamworks/Disney).  As for whether or not the film is a hit at this point (check out the movie that it seems to oddly resemble
), that depends on who you ask about the film's budget.
The official word from director Shawn Levy is a bit over $80 million, while others (possibly rival studio-executives) are screaming anywhere from $110 million to $140 million.  The film certainly may be on the cheaper end as the only special effects elements appear to be the CGI robots, which represent a relatively self-contained special effect (think the
Alvin and the Chipmunks
movies, where only the actual CGI critters pump up the budget).  Anyway, if the film ends up with legs (hard to predict in this front-loaded age) and/or does its killing overseas (it's done $49 million worldwide thus far), then this budget talk will be irrelevant.  The film had surprisingly decent reviews but had to deal with the fact that the premise itself (
Rock Em Sock Em Robots: The Movie!
) was so patently goofy that it became a classic example of a 'No wait, it's really good!' movie.  By that I mean, it was a movie that had the disadvantage of being presumed terrible by all but the core young-boy audience for one reason or another before it was even screened.
More important (in my opinion) is what this opening weekend means for the relatively new relationships that Disney has formed.  While it is admirable that Disney would try to launch a franchise picture of this nature in October, this doesn't even enter the top-ten of all-time October opening weekends.  And when it comes to pure-genre fare, this is the third relatively underwhelming opening weekend (after
I Am Number Four
's $19 million debut last February and
Fright Night
's $7.7 million opening in August) for the Dreamworks/Disney combo this year.  Both Dreamworks and Marvel Studios used to have their films primarily distributed via Paramount and, as I've written before (
), the strength of Paramount's marketing may be more important to the success of the likes of
Iron Man
Kung Fu Panda
then is generally credited.  If I were Marvel Studios, with
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
on-tap, I'd be a little worried about the seeming inability of Disney to launch any new action franchises over the last few years (among the DOA -
I Am Number Four, Prince of Persia
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
, probably
).  Is the marketing might of Paramount a key factor, or will
The Avengers
sell itself to the non-geeks?  
The only other wide release was the George Clooney drama,
The Ides of March
.  The political tale, which also stars Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marissa Tomei, grossed $10.5 million over the weekend.  There's not much to say here.  The film scored a B+ from Cinemascore and opened just below the normal $11-13 million range that 90% of all George Clooney 'passion projects' find themselves with (I've been
).  Like most of his personal films, this one cost just $12 million, so even if it doesn't have the usual strong legs of the likes of
Michael Clayton
($10.4 million opening, $49 million finish) or
($12 million opening, $50 million finish), it will still be a solid moneymaker for Sony.  Still, this proves the limited bank-ability of 'flavor of the month' Ryan Gosling and gives folly to those who blamed the under-performance of
Green Lantern
on Ryan Reynolds (IE - a more respected actor wouldn't have opened it any better).  As for the movie, which I haven't had time to review, it's a solid B-movie, that suffers from a presumption of importance (it isn't saying anything that Primary Colors didn't say in 1998), a serious case of the 'tell-not-shows' (we're constantly told that Gosling is a master political operative, yet we never see him in action except when he's screwing up), and a second half that goes from serious and realistic political drama to 'uh oh, the pretty young girl is gonna get everyone in trouble!' soap opera.

The article continues at Mendelson's Memos. As always, the numbers contained are estimates and are subject to change on Monday afternoon.