Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 03-21-11

“The Lincoln Lawyer” – In Theaters March 18

“The Lincoln Lawyer” – In Theaters March 18

Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen

Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen

Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper in “Limitless”

Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper in “Limitless”

Adult audience: Looking at boxoffice numbers it’s easy to forget that ticket sales reflect purchases by people who care about how they spend their time and money.

With that in mind, there’s an interesting message to be found in last weekend’s grosses where adult appeal films performed particularly well.

Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment’s R rated thriller “The Lincoln Lawyer,” for instance, tracked best with 25+ females, who were charmed by Matthew McConaughey. Its second strongest tracking quadrant was 25+ males, who like guilty-or-innocent legal storylines involving double homicides and the dangers of trying to solve them. Over 90 percent of “Lincoln’s” audience was 25+ and, even more impressively, over 50 percent was 50 or older, an audience Hollywood’s written off for years as being non-moviegoers.

That adult appeal gave “Lincoln” a better than expected fourth place opening of about $13.4 million. An indication of its adult support came with Saturday’s ticket sales, which were up about 37 percent vs. Friday.

By comparison, Universal and Relativity Media’s R rated sci-fi comedy “Paul,” which tracked best with under-25 males, was up only about 15 percent Saturday. “Paul” ranked third in the grosses for Friday, which is typically the biggest night for under-25 moviegoing, but fell to fifth in the grosses for Saturday, which is typically the biggest night for moviegoing by the 25+ crowd.

“Lincoln,” on the other hand, ranked fifth in Friday’s grosses, but rose to fourth on Saturday.

Because adults typically take longer to catch up with films they want to see, “Lincoln” should enjoy good playability in the coming weeks. It should also benefit from favorable word of mouth (A- from CinemaScore) and decent reviews (81 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

There also was good adult interest last weekend in Relativity Media and Virgin Produced’s PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller “Limitless,” which tracked best with under-25 males — to whom Bradley (“The Hangover”) Cooper was the big draw — but tracked nearly as well with 25+ males — many of whom are longtime Robert De Niro fans. About 60 percent of its audience was 25+. That additional boxoffice punch from adult males was enough to help it win first place with about $19 million.

Both Relativity and Lionsgate were innovative in marketing their films to get their messages across to younger and older moviegoers. Relativity attracted Internet attention with a viral video campaign for “Limitless” via New York based Thinkmodo. Lionsgate included Groupon discount coupons as part of its “Lincoln” marketing.

But is Hollywood getting the message that it needs to make more films targeted to adults? For too long now the industry’s focused on cranking out movies targeted almost exclusively to teens and young adults. Conventional wisdom has it that you’d better cater to the under-25s because nobody else goes to the movies.

The point isn’t to forget about the youth audience, but rather to explore whether Hollywood’s mix of movies should be adjusted to include more that have adult appeal since it’s clear that adults will turn out to see films they think they’ll enjoy.

This year’s soft boxoffice — we’re down about 20 percent from last year — suggests that under-25s are doing less moviegoing than before. It may be they’ve got less disposable income in what are still hard times for many people or, perhaps, they’re just spending more of their available leisure time watching digital downloads on their iPhones and iPads or on laptops connected to their flat screens at home.

Meanwhile, the time/money equation for moviegoing seems to be working better for adults these days. Adults tend to have more disposable income to spend to see a movie even in tough times. And because they’re less savvy technically they’re probably less inclined to be watching digital downloads.

Bottom line: Hollywood needs to keep adult audiences in mind when it pushes the green light button.