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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Trailer

Magician Burt Wonderstone splits from his longtime stage partner after a guerrilla street magician steals their thunder. By spending some time with his boyhood idol, Burt looks to remember what made him love magic in the first place.

PT2M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2fnfy 620 349

It has been a rough start to 2013 for a movie studio unaccustomed to taking one on the chin. And in this case, there has been more than one haymaker.

Warner Bros. has released five films in a row that have underperformed at the box office, including Jack the Giant Slayer, a roughly $195-million production that has flopped, tallying $55 million in domestic receipts after three weeks of release.

Ewan McGregor, centre, stars in <i>Jack the Giant Slayer</i>, with Nicholas Hoult as Jack, far right.

Ewan McGregor, centre, stars in Jack the Giant Slayer, with Nicholas Hoult as Jack, far right.

The film's tepid performance and last weekend's disappointing opening for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone mark an unusual rough patch for Warner Bros., which has historically been among the most successful studios. Buoyed by franchises such as Harry Potter and The Dark Knight, the company is typically No. 1 or No. 2 in the annual box-office ranking.

Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said he wished that all of the company's 2013 releases, which also include Gangster Squad, Bullet to the Head and Beautiful Creatures, had performed better.

"I look at what we do as a sports season — what matters is where you are at the end of the season and if you are in the playoffs and win the championship," said Robinov, who since 2011 has had the final say on which movies the studio makes. "This isn't our fastest start, but as I look to the last three-fourths of the year it looks incredibly strong."

Shoot 'em ups ... <em>Gangster Squad</em> doesn't take itself or gunlpay too seriously.

Shoot 'em ups ... Gangster Squad doesn't take itself or gunplay too seriously.

The studio's rocky start now puts more pressure on forthcoming films to deliver strong returns. Warner Bros. can look to the May release The Hangover Part III and June's Superman origins story Man of Steel as safe bets. But ahead of those releases are the Jackie Robinson biographical baseball picture 42 and director Baz Luhrmann's 3D take on The Great Gatsby — both considered riskier propositions than the franchise fare.

It doesn't help that on the whole it has been a down year at the box office, with the total take down 12 percent compared with last year.

"I have just seen the box office go from bad to worse this year," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com, who noted that films targeting the typically reliable young male audience have not found wide support from the group.

Sylvester Stallone stars in new film 'Bullet to the Head'.

Sylvester Stallone's new film Bullet to the Head fails to please at the box office.

Warner's Sylvester Stallone drama Bullet to the Head has grossed only $9.5 million. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a Steve Carell-Jim Carrey comedy, opened to a weak $10.2 million.

"I think (Warner Bros.) is just falling victim to what every other studio is facing — a malaise in the marketplace, particularly with pictures aimed at the male audience," Dergarabedian said.

The Burbank-based studio, a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., has only recently come under the control of a new CEO.

Kevin Tsujihara, 48, previously president of the studio's home entertainment unit, took over the studio March 1 after a two-year competition for the top job against Robinov and Warner Bros. Television Group President Bruce Rosenblum.

While Warner Bros. is known for its stability — Tsujihara is the 90-year-old studio's fifth CEO ever — film industry gossip has centered on whether Robinov would depart the studio.

"I don't have any plans to leave at all," said Robinov, 54, who has a reputation for nurturing relationships with directors such as Dark Knight helmer Christopher Nolan and running a group that ably markets movies like recent Academy Award best picture winner Argo.

But Tsujihara was involved in bringing the recent blockbuster The Hobbit to the big screen, which included helping head off labor problems in New Zealand during its filming schedule.

"Kevin understands the economics, and creatively he's got a very good opinion," Robinov said.

Some industry observers view the studio's box-office slump as an opportunity for Tsujihara to put his stamp on the film group, whether through a change in philosophy or personnel.

But Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser, who covers the media sector, said that in this sort of situation, he wouldn't expect drastic changes.

"Rocking the boat in a well-established business is not necessarily a wise thing," he said.

Tsujihara declined to comment.

The financial effect of Warner Bros.' poorly performing films is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the studio only served as a distributor and marketer on two of the movies: Bullet to the Head, which was made by Dark Castle Entertainment, and Beautiful Creatures, a fantasy film from Alcon Entertainment that has grossed $19.2 million domestically.

And Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema division made Burt Wonderstone for just $32 million, though the film is a long way from being profitable.

The studio also shared the cost of the New Line-produced Jack the Giant Slayer with producer Legendary Pictures, and had a similar arrangement with Village Roadshow Pictures for crime film Gangster Squad, which cost an estimated $60 million. That film grossed $46 million domestically but has been helped by a $53-million overseas take.

Robinov is hopeful a strong international run for Jack the Giant Slayer, which has yet to open in all territories, will help it make up some ground. So far, the film has taken in only $37 million overseas.

He also stressed films such as the August release 300: Rise of an Empire, and the next Hobbit picture, which will open in December, as key to the studio's overall success.

Los Angeles Times