It’s still got a long way to go to profitability. But at least Brad Pitt’s zombie pic World War Z isn’t the dud everybody thought it would be. Paramount announced today it’s the #1 film worldwide this weekend with $100M international grosses and $263M global box office after just 10 days in release. The PG-13 film co-financed with David Ellison’s Skydance Productions in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films grossed a big $70.1M foreign this weekend to bring the international cume to a strong $135.3M. Domestically the film earned $29.8M in its second weekend, with a cume to date of $123.7M. With approximately one-third of the international market still to release, the roll-out continues next week with France and then Spain and Japan opening later this summer. Directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof, this pic from Pitt’s Plan B banner is based on the popular novel by Max Brooks. Paramount moguls are giddy with relief after all that pre-release bad buzz which forced them to fix the movie before it came out. Much has been made of the film’s mega-cost: between $220M-$230M brought down to $200M by tax incentives in locations Scotland, Malta, England, and Hungary, or so the studio claims. But the media focused on the pic’s budget, plot, and production problems, including revamps and reshoots. Still hard to see how this film can earn out. But it won’t be a total write-off. Now a sequel is in the works.
The successful debut of the zombie apocalypse tentpole marks the actor’s biggest box office opening to date and could put him at the helm of his own studio franchise.
Has Brad Pitt caught franchise fever?
With the successful $111.8 million worldwide debut of zombie extravaganza World War Z — a passion project for the actor — Paramount actively will turn to developing a sequel, studio vice chairman Rob Moore tells The Hollywood Reporter. The tentpole earned $66 million in North America, the best opening for an original live-action tentpole since Avatar, and $45.8 million from its first 25 foreign markets.
World War Z initially was envisioned as a trilogy, but those plans were shelved when the movie ran into trouble, requiring extensive reworking of the last act. Initially set to open in December 2012, the movie’s release date was pushed back to June, prompting many in Hollywood to anticipate a blood bath.
But in a happy reversal of fortune, World War Z is off to a strong start, both in terms of its commercial and critical appeal. It will need to stay strong to make up for its $190 million budget, however. Paramount appears confident it will, judging by the fact that its reviving plans for further installments. It’s the biggest debut of Pitt’s career.
Skydance Productions co-financed World War Z, which also was made in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films. Pitt produced via his company Plan B, with Marc Forster directing.
Franchises are incredibly important to Hollywood studios and can likewise reap huge rewards for talent in terms of pay. And a World War Z series could mark a big win for Pitt in terms of his aspirations as a producer.
Pitt — one of the world’s most recognizable stars — has spent much of his career pursuing prestige projects, versus more commercial event pics. Exceptions were Troy and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, although those were ensemble films.
His previous best box office opening, not accounting for inflation, was Mr. & Mrs. Smith in summer 2005 ($50.3 million). A year before, in May 2004, Troy opened to $46.9 million, now his third best debut.
Pitt has starred in a number of two-handers (Spy Game, Interview With a Vampire, The Devil’s Own), as well having a relatively small — but memorable role — in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. His last two films were indie mob pic Killing Them Softly, which bombed, and the critically acclaimed Moneyball.
Pitt aggressively helped market World War Z, attending numerous screenings across the country, as well as turning up at industry events, such as CinemaCon, the annual convention of theater owners in Las Vegas. He also has jetted around the world to attend various premieres of the movie.
“The great thing about this process was that it showed what a great partner and producer Brad is,” says Moore. “He made a true commitment.”
Moore said that when the studio deemed that there problems with the movie, Pitt and Forster worked closely with Paramount Film Group president Adam Goodman to “find the right movie. He stayed and worked when he could have gone off and shot another movie.”
The result — World War Z drew a fairly even ratio of males (51 percent) and females (49), while 33 percent of those buying tickets were under the age of 25, and 67 percent were over.
In addition to Pitt’s appeal, Moore says that females were drawn to the film’s storyline. In World War Z, a U.N. worker who is torn between protecting his family and leaving to find a cure for a worldwide pandemic turning humans into zombies.
Last week, when attending the Moscow premiere, Pitt himself hinted at a sequel and said there is plenty of material left over from Max Brooks’ novel, upon which the movie is based.
“I think the movie captured the public’s imagination with something that is fresh and different,” says Moore. “And certainly, Brad gave a superb performance.”
The zombie apocalypse title is expected to gross more than $60 million in its debut.
After this weekend, Mr. and Mrs. Smith will no longer be Brad Pitt’s biggest opening weekend earner.
The actor’s World War Z is set to surpass the $50 million brought in by the 2005 spy film, which co-starred Angelina Jolie. Paramount expects the zombie apocalypse film, which earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, to gross more than $60 million in its debut.
BOX OFFICE REPORT: ‘Monsters University’ Scares Up $30.5 Million on Friday
WWZ earned $25 million on Friday, placing the title at No. 2 on the domestic box office chart behind Disney/Pixar’s Monsters University at $30.5 million.
The film, co-financed with Skydance Productions, underwent a reportedly arduous production process that included numerous reshoots before finally making its way into theaters. The Marc Forster-directed film marks the Pitt’s return to summer action tentpoles after starring in smaller titles like 2011’s Moneyball and Tree of Life.
Pitt’s last summer action film was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which opened to $38 million in Aug., 2009. He also starred in Steven Soderbergh’s 2007 heist sequel, Ocean’s Thirteen, which opened to $36 million in June. And the actor opened the mythology epic, Troy, to $46 million in May, 2004.
Hello everyone! The World Premiere of World War Z is happening at London today. The movie opens on June 21st. Here are pictures:
Edit at 7h24 EST: More pictures added