The holiday season came to an end, but the box-office served up yet another big surprise. Despite lacking any additional holiday boost, the Top 12 of the box-office amounted to $126.2 million which is only a 9.6% step down from the last weekend which received a heavy New Year’s boost. Compared to the similar weekend last year when True Grit rose to the top spot in its third outing the box-office was up a whopping 28%. This great cume was achieved despite only one significant opener which broke out big time. What helped even more is that this opener, The Devil Inside, despite delivering huge numbers, still targeted very limited demographics which allowed for most of the holdovers to thrive. A more comparable weekend to this is the identical first weekend of 2006 when Hostel was the sole opener in the Top 12. This frame was up 19.1% from 2006.
As mentioned above, The Devil Inside, a newest entry in the “found footage” horror subgenre scared up $33.7 million at the box-office and easily captured the top spot. The first wide release of 2012 averaged an amazing $14,763 from just 2,285 locations. The movie is already a tremendous success as Paramount acquired distribution rights for it for just $1 million. The opening is beyond impressive. Its Friday gross was an amazing $16.8 million, but the daily pattern over the weekend showed signs of extreme frontloading and bad word-of-mouth. The film declined 29.7% on Saturday and another 55.9% on Sunday. Nevertheless, there is no way whatsoever to paint this badly. The opening is huge for any horror movie, even moreso for an R-rated one in January. The Devil Inside managed the third-biggest opening weekend ever in January (behind Cloverfield and the reissue of Star Wars in 1997). Unlike The Devil Inside those two weren’t R-rated, though which makes the horror film’s breakout even more impressive. On top of that, The Devil Inside actually managed an opening weekend PTA higher than that of Paranormal Activity 2. Of course it is still a far cry away from Paranormal Activity 3’s $50+ million start, but that is an established franchise, whereas almost no one even heard of The Devil Inside before a trailer for it appeared in front of the most recent Paranormal Activity film.
So what factors led to this film’s tremendous success and where is it heading from now on? Well, both questions aren’t hard to answer. While not many have predicted such a huge opening for The Devil Inside, it would have been unreasonable to expect anything less than a good opening. The beginning of January has always been extremely kind to horror movies. One just has to think back to White Noise ($24.1 million), Hostel ($19.6 million) and The Unborn ($19.8 million). All those films opened to pretty much no competition and had extremely solid marketing. This brings me to the second point of explanation. Paramount did a perfect job marketing The Devil Inside by putting the trailer in front of Paranormal Activity 3’s showings and cutting an extremely effective trailer at that. After that the exposure has been very broad, but it was basically the attachment to Paranormal Activity 3 that ensured great success. In a way, it is a very comparable case to Lionsgate’s Hostel. The trailer for that film was also attached to a similar movie that was already part of an established franchise (Saw II). In The Devil Inside’s case it was an effective trailer for a “found footage” movie attached to another hugely successful “found footage” horror film. The future prospects aren’t looking too bright, though. The film’s word-of-mouth seems to be as toxic as are its reviews. The Devil Inside has the honor of joining the ranks of only six movies that achieved a CinemaScore of “F”. The other movies are Solaris, Darkness, Wolf Creek, The Box and Bug. Considering the amount of frontloading it suffered over its opening weekend, the opening-to-total multiplier will be terrible. Even Hostel which was much better received didn’t manage to reach a 2.5 multiplier. Right now, I expect it to die a quick death at the box-office even despite its next weekend being the long Martin Luther King weekend. It should wind up with an amazing $65-70 million in its pockets which is enough to put The Devil Inside 2 on the map very quickly. Of course the sequel will decrease in gross significantly, but considering how cheap it’ll likely be that won’t matter.
After two weeks at the top spot, this winter’s breakout hit Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol slid down to #2 while bagging $19.9 million in the process (down 32.5%). The running total of the fourth instalment in the successful spy series stands at $169.6 million now. In its third week of wide release the Tom Cruise actioner is still going extremely strong, while showing no signs of slowing down. A $200+ million finish is an absolute given now after this tremendous hold and it still has its aim set at passing M:I-2’s $215.4 million gross. The circumstances are great for it right now. It is still the major must-see blockbuster in the marketplace and while there will be plenty of action movies opening throughout the next weeks, almost all of them will be rated R (Contraband, Underworld: Awakening, Haywire). They won’t present themselves as direct competition and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol will remain the big PG-13 movie with great mass appeal. Thanks to this situation I see it reaching a $210-220 million total eventually.
The other successful sequel that saw a December 2011 release was Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. After a really slow start the Guy Ritchie-helmed sequel recovered really well and added another $13.7 million to its total this weekend. As the film lost 34.4% of its audiences it also dropped one spot down to #3 of the box-office. The film’s cume is now at $157 million which is more than some (including myself) expected it to reach after its unimpressive sub-$40 million opening weekend. It is tracking almost exactly $23 million behind the first film now and has delivered a far bigger fourth weekend than that too. That shows that the gap will definitely get smaller as time goes by. The movie almost reached a multiplier of 4 now and like Mission: Impossible it will greatly benefit from a lack of direct competition throughout the month. It is currently still on track to a $185-195 million finish with an outside chance at $200 million if many of the new releases just disappoint. In any case, combined with a remarkable overseas number this should guarantee another Sherlock Holmes film soon.
The weekend’s biggest winner among the holdovers was David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Among all non-expanding holdovers it managed the best hold in the Top 12 as it dropped just 23.3% to $11.4 million and held on to the 4th spot of the box-office. Similar to Sherlock Holmes, the movie got out of the gate rather slowly showing some signs of frontloading. But it looks like the good WoM, as indicated by the “A” CinemaScore, finally spread and should assure a great run from now on. The movie stands at $76.9 million now, but with its awards buzz finally heating up, a large chunk of its gross might be yet to come. While the movie was completely ignored by the Screen Actors Guild and mostly overlooked by the Golden Globes, the Writers’ Guild, the Directors’ Guild and the Producers’ Guild revived it with important nominations. Now the film seems to have solidified its position as an almost certain Best Picture nominee and Fincher might go on to receive his third nomination. This means that additionally to its good WoM, it’ll also receive some sort of an awards boost after the nominations are out on January 24th. Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button grossed more than $23 million after its scar nominations have been announced. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should manage that at least as the movie is enjoying better WoM and has received better reviews too. Thanks to this amazing recovery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo against stands a chance of becoming Fincher’s highest-grossing film ever. It needs to pass Benjamin Button’s $127.5 million in order to do that. It looks like a stretch at this point, but I wouldn’t rule it out. A safe projection puts its final gross in the $115-125 million range depending on how much the Academy will love it.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked grossed another $9.5 million (down 42%) over the weekend, putting its running total at $111.6 million. The film occupied the 5th spot of the charts. While it is a great number that the threequel stands at, it is a far cry from the $183.5 million that its immediate predecessor made over the same number of days. The third Alvin and the Chipmunks movie has absolutely no chance of getting anywhere close to that number when all is said and done, but by itself, it is a very solid performance. The movie will soon hit the multiplier of 5 and will go on to finish with $135 million by the end of its run.
Residing at #6 this weekend, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse dipped an unexpected 39.8% to $8.7 million and a $56.9 million total after 15 days in release. It definitely looks like a good number for a movie like this, but given its strong opening day, apparently good word-of-mouth and the genre its holds really haven’t been very good so far. Now the studio still hopes for a Best Picture nomination which might very well happen with the expanded field of the nominees, but as the movie missed important DGA and WGA mentions, it is no longer extremely likely. It definitely needs that major nomination to have any shot left at $100 million. At the moment it looks like it’ll end up with just $86 million in its pockets. This is still more than some have expected for it, but less than its strong start indicated.
Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, on the other hand, is still doing pretty well. Its 37.3% drop to $8.3 million and the 7th spot this weekend isn’t great, but considering that it is in no way an awards contender and that it opened to mixed reviews, its legs are more than impressive so far. Its third weekend is barely lower than its first. Its $56.4 million gross puts it just behind Midnight in Paris as the 13th-biggest movie to never enter the Top 5. Since I don’t expect it to make it there during its run, it definitely has a shot at dethroning Everest as the highest-grossing movie to achieve that “feat”. That is far from a lock, though. However, I certainly expect it to reach the Top 5 as it will top out with around $78 million. That’ll give the film a tremendous multiplier above 8.
Steven Spielberg’s second movie in the Top 10, The Adventures of Tintin, isn’t faring much better than War Horse domestically. The mo-cap adventure eased 41.2% to $6.7 million and dropped to the 7th spot of the charts in its third weekend. Its running cume stands at $62 million. Given the rather small popularity of the source in North America it is still a solid number, but of course it doesn’t compare to the $269 million that the film conjured overseas. That number, however, makes it a big global hit that will ensure the production of the second movie. Afterall, you don’t just let a $350+ million worldwide hit without a sequel. The first film will end up with a respectable $81 million.
Tomas Alfredson acclaimed John Le Carré adaptation Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy finally went wide after a very successful limited release. It made an impressive $5.5 million from 809 venues for a strong $6,772 average per theatre. Its total gross is now $10.1 million thanks to its good run in a limited number of theatres. Its performance is moreso impressive if you keep in mind that despite strong reviews and solid marketing it doesn’t really feature certified box-office draws and the hoped for awards buzz just never came to fruition. Still, the interest seems to be there and I expect further expansions to come on the film’s way to a $25-30 million. That is unless the tide turns and it does surprisingly become an awards player afterall.
Summit’s The Darkest Hour rounded off the Top 10 with a surprisingly potent 25% hold which led to a $3.1 million weekend and an $18.7 million total after 15 days. Obviously it is still not setting the box-office on fire, but thanks to its meagre $30 million budget and solid numbers overseas, it won’t up a sherer disappointment. It’ll collect around $24 million in the US and quite a bit more overseas.
Down to #11 New Year’s Eve dropped like a rock after New Year’s. The ensemble romcom garnered another $3.1 million (down 50.9%) over the weekend and brought its unimpressive total gross to $51.9 million. I expect the freefall to continue throughout the next few weeks as it’ll soon be playing in barely any theatres. It still strikes me as crazy that this film might not even make in total what Valentine’s Day, its unofficial predecessor, made opening weekend. With some luck it’ll end up with around $55 million in the bank.
At last, but not least Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is still doing fairly well. At #12 this weekend, The Descendants took in $2.6 million and dropped just 23.9%. Its running cume stands at $44 million. For a movie that has yet to play in 900 theatres or more this is an impressive number. After the Oscar nominations’ announcement on January 24th t should see another major expansion. I still feel its hype building and it will almost definitely overtake Sideways by grossing $70-85 million in the process.
As for the limited releases, The Iron Lady remained the big player making around $176,000 from just five theatres for a $35,275 average. Meanwhile, The Artist is playing in 172 theatres and once again delivered a $1+ million weekend. Its total gross has passed $7 million already. Focus Features’ Pariah made around $110,000 from 11 theatres this weekend.