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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (January 11-13, 2013)

After falling short of last year’s first weekend, 2012 is catching up again. Even though the box-office this weekend was down 1.8% from last to $121.8 million, the Top 12 cume was still 5.8% higher than the same weekend last year, even though that weekend last year was the long Martin-Luther-King-weekend, inflating the films’ weekend takes. One factor that helped the box-office this weekend a lot was the unusually early announcement of the Academy Award nominations on Thursday. These led to inflated business for several films over the weekend, while the two newcomers to the movie theatres did at least decent numbers as well. However, the effect of bad January scheduling is starting to show as the plentitude of R-rated movies in theatres is leading to these films cannibalizing each other at the box-office. The top four movies of this weekend are rated R and six R-rated movies can be found in the Top 10. Next weekend, two more R-rated high-profile movies will open and Silver Linings Playbook (also rated R) will finally go wide. A weekend later, the marketplace will see three more R-rated releases. This will inevitably lead so some movies’ legs being cut short and others just being DOA thanks to some terrible scheduling by the studios.


Riding on hype that has been building for weeks, five Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) and controversy surrounding this film in press, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker follow-up, Zero Dark Thirty expanded into 2,937 theatres this weekend and took in $24 million over the weekend. Per theatre the thriller about the search for and the assassination of Osama bin Laden averaged a solid $8,172. Since its limited opening on December 19th the movie has collected a total of $29.5 million. Even though the film has surprisingly missed a crucial Best Director nomination at the Oscars, it is still regarded as one of the stronger films in the race, at least by the general public. While the opening was a far cry from another, January-released war-related flick, Black Hawk Down, which bowed to $28.6 million 11 years ago, it is still a respectable outcome for a much less accessible 2.5-hour film that is low on intense action sequences and can be mostly described as a procedural thriller. The film’s current total already puts it more than 70% above the final domestic total of Bigelow’s Best Picture-winning predecessor The Hurt Locker and makes it the director’s third-highest grosser ever (behind Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker). While the number of Oscar nominations for this movie came in lower than expected, the audiences seem to be reacting well to the film. They awarded it an “A-“-CinemaScore which indicates good legs in the future. As expected, the movie skewed male (59%) and older (62% of its opening weekend audiences was above the age of 30). This also usually bodes well for good legs. However, the film will face a major obstacle over the upcoming weeks. As mentioned earlier, there will be a large number of R-rated movies coming to theatres over the next two weeks. The majority of them (Broken City, The Last Stand, Parker) also appeal to adult male audiences, creating direct competition to Zero Dark Thirty. The film’s Oscar buzz might be its salvation and if it performs well at tonight’s Golden Globes, that might give it the needed push too, but $100 million is still far from certain. Right now, it looks likely to finish with $80-95 million, which, given the competition and the nature of the film, would be a terrific outcome. No other movie related to the Iraq/Afghanistan wars in any way or form has ever made this much at the box-office. The $45 million production is a certain hit whichever way it goes.


Open Road Films seems to have good luck with their January releases. After the young studio struck gold last January with The Grey ($51.6 million), this weekend saw another hit for them with A Haunted House. The Marlon Wayans-starring spoof of supernatural horror films like The Devil Inside and Paranormal Activity opened at #2 with $18.8 million from just 2,160 locations for the highest per-theatre-average of all wide releases ($8,712). The $2.5 million production is an instant hit despite its restrictive R-rating, showing that Wayans’ and well-marketed spoofs still have some pull at the box-office. A Haunted House managed the highest opening weekend for a straight-up spoof since Scary Movie 4 almost seven years ago, besting the Friedberg/Seltzer features such as Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Vampires Suck. The critics didn’t take kindly to the film (it currently stands at 9% at The audiences were somewhat more welcoming, awarding it a “B-“-CinemaScore which is at least slightly above the usual CinemaScore for these parodies, but not exactly promising either. The film is obviously appealing to a certain niche (48% of the audiences was African American, 30% was Latino), so this particular appeal might help it, though I wouldn’t bank on it. Movie 43 will provide direct R-rated comedy competition in two weeks and the spoof genre has usually proven to be fairly frontloaded in the past. Nevertheless, a $40-45 million total means a great return on investment for the studio.


Gangster Squad came in third this weekend with an underwhelming $16.7 million weekend take from 3,103 venues for an average of $5,385 per theatre. The film clearly lost the battle of the newcomers to A Haunted House despite playing in almost 1,000 more theatres. Ruben Fleischer just can’t follow up his surprising success of Zombieland ($75.6 million) with another hit. Two years ago, 30 Minutes or Less disappointed with just $37.1 million and now Gangster Squad doesn’t look to make back its $60 million production cost either, at least not domestically. The pulpy gangster actioner was supposed to hit theatres last September, but was postponed due to reshoots that resulted n the wake of the Aurora shooting. However, January was just the wrong time to put this film on release. Cluttered with R-rated male-oriented releases, some were bound to suffer and Gangster Squad did. Despite its all-star cast featuring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and a strong marketing campaign, it opened well below expectations. Even the good “B+”-CinemaScore that it scored with the audiences won’t help its legs, as it will be hit by Broken City and The Last Stand next weekend and will probably not recover after that. It is looking at a $42-47 million range for its final gross.


Django Unchained lost two spots and placed fourth this weekend. Despite scoring five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, the revenge-themed western by Quentin Tarantino didn’t seem to have received much of a boost, losing 44.7% of its audiences for an $11.1 million weekend. After 20 days, the film’s running cume stands at $125.4 million, having surpassed Inglourious Basterds’ $120.5 million domestic total and become Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing film in North America unadjusted for inflation. It has also moved up to the 5th spot of last year’s biggest R-rated films at the box-office and to #3 of the most successful western ever (behind Dances with Wolves and True Grit). Right now, Django is tracking $14 million ahead of True Grit, but the latter is quickly closing the gap. On top of that, Django Unchained is also just $10 million away from topping The King’s Speech and becoming The Weinstein Company’s highest-grossing release ever. However, this weekend’s decline is certainly disappointing given the films solid performance with the Oscars. It appears that even the Oscar boost couldn’t make up for the audiences that it lost to harsh competition from Gangster Squad and Zero Dark Thirty. Moreover, of the Best Picture-nominated movies it is probably regarded as one with the lesser buzz and a practically non-existent chance to win anything big, thus the boost here wasn’t as significant. One could hope for it to recover over the next weeks, but it seems frankly unlikely due to the amount of upcoming R-rated competition. It will certainly benefit from the long Martin-Luther-King-weekend, but after that, I expect more sharp drops. The film is still a lock to pass $150 million, but hitting True Grit’s total now seems like a stretch. Unless it delivers a miraculous hold despite competition next weekend, it’ll probably fall short and settle for (still great) $155-165 million.


Les Misérables could benefit somewhat more from its eight nominations, dropping 36.8% to $10.1 million and #5 of the weekend. It brought its running total to $119.2 million after 20 days on release, making it already the 5th-biggest live-action musical ever domestically. Nevertheless, the hold still seems disappoint ting given its number of Academy Awards nominations and the fact that, unlike Django Unchained, the adaptation of the successful Broadway musical did not face direct competition from any of the new releases. The movie should still be the marketplace’s top choice for female audiences, at least until Silver Linings Playbook goes wide next weekend. The so-so hold after the Oscar nominations just shows the frontloadness of the film, resulting from its avid fanbase. It looks like the film will still have to fight its way to $150 million which doesn’t look like a sure thing anymore. I could see it ending up anywhere between $145-155 million, depending on how well it can hold on to its theatres until the Oscars ceremony.


Despite being one of the few major PG-13 releases in theatres, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey still dropped hard in its 5th frame, declining 48.2% to $9.1 million and dropping three spots to #6 of the charts in the process. So far, the fantasy prequel has accumulated $278.1 million at the box-office, putting it $41 million behind Return of the King and $12 million behind The Two Towers, but still a solid $42 million ahead of Fellowship of the Ring after the same number of days. The film’s legs so far left a lot to be desired, but I believe that it is still well on its way past $300 million. Sooner or later, it will start making benefit of the fact that the market will be filled with R-rated releases and this will be pretty much the only alternative for family audiences to watch. It might no longer be able to reach $300 million before the end of this month, but as long as it gets well past $297 million (which it inevitably will), I believe that Warner Bros. will give it a firm push above the $300 million barrier. Afterall, a sub-$300 million gross would make this seem like a disappointment given the inflation, IMAX-grosses and the 3D-premium and wouldn’t bode well for the two follow-ups to be released this year and next. Therefore, it will cruise past $300 million and finish somewhere around $303 million. However, it looks like it might lose the domestic box-office battle for #4 of 2012 to Skyfall afterall.


Lincoln was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Oscar nominations this weekend. Riding on its tremendous 12 nominations, Steven Spielberg’s historical drama added 126 theatres and jumped a great 16.6% to $6.3 million in its 10th weekend, climbing one spot at the box-office to #7. Thus far the movie detailing the final months of Lincoln’s life has made $152.6 million at the box-office and that with the Academy Awards ceremony not due for more than a month! With Zero Dark Thirty and Argo having disappointed at the Oscars, Lincoln has established its position as the absolute frontrunner even more and should remain this way up until the actual awards. That and the fact that it is not rated R should give it terrific legs all throughout the rest of January and February. Even in the worst-case scenario (meaning that it’ll lose Best Picture at the Oscars), the film is not leaving the theatres with anything less than $180-185 million. Should it, however, perform according to expectations and snatch the big prize, it’ll find itself crawling past $200 million sometime in March or April.


Parental Guidance dropped three spots down to #8, but declined just 37.1% to $6.1 million for the weekend’s best hold among movies that did not get the awards boost last Thursday. The family-oriented comedy has already made $60.7 million in 20 days, a great number for the $20 million flick. With very little competition ahead until mid-February, I believe this will develop very good legs for the rest of its run. It should go on to finish with a very healthy $78 million by the end of its surprising run.


Texas Chainsaw 3D tied the ominous record set by The Crow: City of Angels in 1996 as the biggest chart position drop for a #1 opener. Like the sequel to The Crow, Texas Chainsaw 3D also dropped from #1 in its opening weekend to #9 in its sophomore frame. Its awful 76.3% decline is on par with the terrible drop that The Devil Inside received last year which is surprising, considering that The Devil Inside scored an “F”-CinemaScore, whereas Texas Chainsaw 3D at least got a “C+”. Over the weekend, the horror sequel drew $5.2 million, bringing the film’s total to $30.8 million after ten days. With plenty of R-rated competition ahead, Texas Chainsaw 3D certainly won’t get a chance to recover and will quickly wrap up its run with $36 million, failing to even reach the multiplier of 1.7. Financially speaking, it is still a decent performance for the movie that cost $20 million, but don’t expect a follow-up anytime soon as these legs indicate some terrible word-of-mouth. Despite a significantly stronger opening, it will still finish below the total gross of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning ($39.5 million).


Silver Linings Playbook rounded off the Top 10 with its best weekend yet. The movie could benefit a ton from its surprising eight Oscar nominations. The studio just added 65 more theatres, but the movie jumped a terrific 38.2% to $5 million, bringing the film’s total to $41.3 million. This is a terrific number as long as you keep in mind that it has never played in more than 810 theatres. Its weekend PTA was also its highest ever since its third weekend on release (and back then it was just playing in 371 theatres). Next weekend, a rollout into more than 2,500 theatres is planned. With the Golden Globes tonight and the status as the potential candidate to upset Lincoln at the Oscars, I expect a very long life for it in theatres. Moreover, even though it is also rated R, unlike most of the other upcoming R-rated movies, Silver Linings Playbook heavily appeals to women and will stand apart from the competition. I also expect it to play really well over Valentine’s Day. Even though the extremely slow rollout strategy is still questionable in its effectiveness from my point of view, there is no denying that, at least in parts, it worked. Right now, I expect no less than $85-90 million as the film’s total, however, it is still a good candidate to top $100 million. Should it upset Lincoln and win Best Picture, then it’ll be good for more than $120 million.


Jack Reacher was visibly hurt by competition and dropped 45.9% and five slots to #11. It took in $5 million over the weekend, bringing its running total to $72.8 million after four weeks in theatres. The Tom Cruise-starrer is now tracking less than $4 million behind Valkyrie, while coming off a stronger weekend. I expect it to close the gap and finish with a pretty much identical total to it at around $84 million. This is certainly solid, but also nothing to make Paramount really excited about the prospects of a sequel.


This Is 40 placed 12th this weekend, dipping 46.1% to $4.5 million. Its current cume stands at $61.6 million after four weeks. Given the film’s mediocre reception that is already more than some have expected. With the film’s strong female appeal in the currently very male-oriented marketplace, it should be able to hold decently over the next couple of weeks and eventually cross $7 million on its way to a $71 million finish, giving it a terrific opening-to-total multiplier of higher than 6.


As for the remaining Oscar hopefuls: Life of Pi, fresh off its 11 Oscar nods, climbed one spot to #13 and declined mere 4.6% despite losing more than 200 theatres. A $2.7 million weekend put its running total at $94.8 million, The strong Oscar buzz will ensure that it’ll easily fly past $100 million, even though it almost certainly won’t wind up winning anything major. Currently I see it finishing with around $107 million. Even though it could score just one Oscar nomination (Best Actress), The Impossible still thrived this weekend at #14. Summit Entertainment added 236 theatres for the disaster drama, bringing its theatre count to 808. In the course of that, the Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor-starrer decreased just 7.5% to $2.6 million. The film has grossed $6.9 million by now and is looking at a decent $14-17 million finish. Argo was re-expanded into a total of 621 theatres this weekend, adding 319 locations. The movie was nominated for seven Oscars on Thursday and thanks to the awards buzz and the expansion, it jumped 57.1% to $1.2 million over the weekend. It current total stands at $111.6 million. The movie looks to end up with around $117 million in the bank. The surprising Best Picture-nominee Amour added 12 theatres and brought its theatre count to 15. In the wake of that it increased 352.6% to $271,000, averaging $18,040 per theatre. A long run is still ahead for this favorite in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

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