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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (February 1-3, 2013)

Despite unreasonable scheduling by the studios and therefore multiple films performing well below their potential, 2013 still managed to deliver solid box-office numbers (not least thanks to the December Oscar-nominated holdovers from November and December). However, eventually the messed up schedule, overfilled with R-rated movies and light on family-oriented fare had to take its toll. It did, this weekend. The Super Bowl is never easy on the box-office, usually leading to most movies dropping more than 60% on Sunday. While the full impact of the Super Bowl this year won’t be entirely clear until tomorrow, the estimates are already showing the effect with worse-than-usual holds across the board despite only two widely released newcomers, of which only one made a significant impact. The Super Bowl weekend has proven to be kind towards genre flicks. Last year, for instance, Chronicle and The Woman in Black both bowed to more than $20 million, despite upper Bowl attracting more than 100 million viewers. The year before, The Roommate opened to $15 million. This year, it was the combination of a female-oriented theme and horror genre elements that allowed Warm Bodies to open at #1. However, even with its solid opening, the box-office suffered. The Top 12 amounted to $68.5 million, down 22.6% from last weekend and a whopping 29.4% from the same weekend last year.  What’s even worse is that this weekend’s Top 12 cume was the lowest since the post-Labor Day weekend last year and the worst Super Bowl frame at the box-office since 2000! This is hardly surprising, given that most movies currently in the marketplace are aiming at adult male audiences – precisely the demographics affected the most by Super Bowl.


Warm Bodies cleared the top spot without any difficulties, bringing in $19.5 million over the weekend from 3,009 theatres and averaging $6,482 per location. Additionally, the Summit Entertainment release bagged around $0.5 million from the nationwide 10 pm previews on Thursday, thus accumulating $20 million by Sunday. This means the 7th-biggest Super Bowl opening weekend ever and falls perfectly in line with the starts of The Woman in Black ($20.9 million) and Chronicle ($22 million). For Summit, Warm Bodies delivered the 3rd-best opening weekend outside of the Twilight-franchise and their best since 2010’s Red. It is an important success for Summit, which needs to show that it can still deliver hits now that the Twilight series is done. With its mixture of PG-horror elements and a love story against all odds, Summit went for similar audiences, though putting more effort into luring male audiences into theatres as well. They succeeded. Warm Bodies still skewed heavily female (60%), but far less than any of the Twilight movies (which all had a share of female audiences higher than 75%). Unsurprisingly, the film’s audiences were rather young, with 65% falling below the age of 25.  One of the main reasons why Warm Bodies was able to open as well as it did, was the fact that it was just the second (!) wide PG-13 release this year (the first being Mama). With the marketplace critically oversaturated with R-rated flicks, Warm Bodies was one of the very few options that teen audiences could check out. While there were other PG-13 films that ranked in the Top 10 this weekend, Lincoln and Les Misérables are hardly attractive to young audiences. Therefore, Warm Bodies came just at the right time, filled the right gap and was also given a proper marketing push. This will result in the $30 million production becoming a formidable success for Summit. The audiences awarded it a solid “B+”-CinemaScore, but the target audiences were even more impressed, giving it an “A”. With the two openers next weekend being rated R, Warm Bodies should at least experience a great 2nd weekend-hold. How far it can go, will depend on how well it’ll stomach the heavily female-oriented competition from Beautiful Creatures and Safe Haven over the Presidents Day weekend. Either way, Warm Bodies is looking good to pass Source Code and become Summit’s 4th-biggest non-Twilight film to date with a total gross around $55-65 million. That might not quite be enough to launch a new franchise, but enough to show that Summit is capable of producing hits on its own.


Last weekend’s top choice, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, dropped an expected 53.2% to $9.2 million and brought its 10-day-total to a respectable $35.5 million. Of course, given the $50 million price tag, it is not much to write home about, but frankly, a trashy fun like this that has been sitting on the shelf for months - things could have turned out much uglier. Being heavily male-oriented, it is among the films hit hardest by the Super Bowl. Now it could very well become this January’s highest-grossing R-rated release, something not many would have expected in advance. Moreover, the film is doing gangbuster business overseas that will turn it into a very profitable investment for Paramount. Domestically it probably doesn’t have a very long life ahead. It will have to contend with another two R-rated releases next weekend and the weekend after, A Good Day to Die Hard will aim squarely at its target audiences. From then on, it’ll all go downhill. However, I still believe that it will wind up in the $50-55 million range.


Silver Linings Playbook might be already in its 12th week on release, but once again the eight-time Oscar nominee proved itself to be the weekend’s big winner. Down an incredible 14.1%, the film defied gravity and delivered the best hold in the entire Top 10. The Weinstein Company added another 168 theatres this weekend, bringing its total theatre count to 2,809. Even more remarkable is that the film held this well despite finally getting competition for female audiences (granted the R-rating separates this from Warm Bodies). An $8.1 million weekend brought Silver Linings Playbook’s running total to $80.4 million and pushing it ahead of fellow Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty (which ironically stars Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence’s biggest competitor in the Best Actress category). As stupid and inexplicable as it looked a month ago, the Weinsteins’ seemingly too cautious approach to expansion paid off big time. Of course we will never and out, how the movie would have performed, had it gone wide over Christmas. Certainly, it would have been very big as well. However, holing it off until the Oscar nominations and then fully benefitting from the lack of female-oriented films in theatres was a very smart decision as well afterall. Silver Linings Playbook should continue to play well all the way until the Oscars ceremony, even though it hasn’t shown itself to become a frontrunner in the race. Nevertheless, it is widely considered to be one of the frontrunners and tremendously positive word-of-mouth does the rest. It should play particularly well over Valentine’s Day and the Presidents Day weekend. It will take the film no effort to pass $100 million before the big Oscar night. In fact, I believe the movie’s great holds so far have locked up a $110 million total. More likely, it will finish with $115-125 million, though a Best Picture win (as unlikely as it seems right now), would push it beyond $140 million.


Faced with direct PG-13 female-oriented competition, Mama dropped two slots down to #4 and decreased 48.6% to $6.7 million with its total gross standing at $58.3 million after 17 days in release. Mama has already outgrossed last year’s high-grossing horror film (The Woman in Black) and has turned out to be a bona fide hit for Universal. At this point, Mama looks to become the first non-sequel horror film to gross more than $70 million since the first Paranormal Activity back in 2009. While Mama will soon succumb to competition over the Presidents Day weekend, I still expect it to finish with around $72 million in the bag.


Zero Dark Thirty was one of the films most heavily affected by the Super Bowl on Sunday. Despite Oscar buzz and five Oscar nods (including Best Picture), its legs haven’t been remarkable thus far. In its fourth weekend in wide release it dropped two spots to #5 and lost 45.4% of its last weekend’s audience. Over the Friday-Sunday frame it grossed an additional $5.3 million, bringing its running cume to $77.8 million. With Side Effects also aiming at similar adult audiences next weekend, Zero Dark Thirty will have a hard time recovering before the Oscars ceremony. The $100 million barrier seems so close and yet so far once again. Even though the film still enjoys awards buzz, it has become clear by now that it is out of the Best Picture race and might very well go home empty-handed. By Oscars-Sunday, Zero Dark Thirty will have probably reached around $90 million. The question that arises is, will the audiences still push it above $100 million once it wins nothing significant and awards buzz cools down? I no longer think they will. This weekend’s mediocre hold might have sealed the deal. It will still have to take on multiple upcoming R-rated flicks, while it is also no longer considered to be among the frontrunners for Best Picture. Unless Chastain can win the Oscar for her performance, Zero Dark Thirty will have to settle for a $95 million finish.


Opening at #6 to a miserable $4.5 million from 2,404 venues, the Sylvester Stallone solo-vehicle Bullet to the Head joined the long sad list of male-oriented, action-laden box-office duds this winter. The film averaged a measly $1,872 per theatre and scored a less-than-promising “B-“-CinemaScore. The film skewed particularly older, with 81% of the moviegoers being above the age of 25. It is the third similar box-office disappointment in a row. The Last Stand (budgeted at $45 million), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in what was supposed to be his major comeback role, kicked off the flop series, with the film currently at $11.7 million after three weeks and quickly disappearing from most theatres. Last weekend, Parker opened to $7 million on a $30 million budget giving Statham his worst opening weekend in years. However, Bullet to the Head takes it all further. With a purported budget of $40-55 million (depending on the source), it looks to be the biggest bomb among the three. These films also serve as a perfect example for something being more than the sum of its parts. Arnie, Sly and Statham seem incapable of drawing significant numbers on their own and yet The Expendables and its sequel were solid success stories in North America. It looks like for a male-oriented old-school action flick to pull good numbers, it needs a good hook – something that none of the three aforementioned films had. Bullet to the Head also settles the question, whether the success of Rocky Balboa, Rambo and The Expendables films made Stallone somewhat of a box-office draw again. Obviously that didn’t happen. With A Good Day to Die Hard just around the corner, a bad PTA and a mediocre CinemaScore to boot, Bullet to the Head will disappear from almost all theatres before the end of the month, finishing with $10 million at most.


Film District’s Parker somehow managed not to drop off the face of the earth despite direct competition courtesy of Bullet to the Head and the Super Bowl. The Jason Statham-starrer went down two spots to the 7th spot this weekend, dipping 54.1% in the process. All things considered, it was a decent decrease. It led to $3.2 million in its sophomore weekend and $12.4 million after ten days (already pulling ahead of The Last Stand’s total). This is a slightly positive surprise, showing that WoM is as good as the “B+”-CinemaScore has indicated. However, A Good Day to Die Hard will still annihilate it in two weeks. I expect it to end up with around $17 million in the bank, about on par with Safe, Statham’s previous solo-effort.


Django Unchained held surprisingly well, dropping just 38.6% despite Super Bowl most likely hitting it very hard. Over the three-day frame it grossed $3 million and passed the $150 million-mark, settling for a six-week-total of $151 million. True Grit has begun catching up on it quickly, now tracking mere $2 million behind it in the same time frame. I don’t see Django having a shot at topping True Grit’s $171.2 million total or even getting all that close to doing so. Much like Zero Dark Thirty, Django is no longer in contention for any major Academy Awards. It will leave the theatres with $162 million in its pockets, becoming the 20th-biggest R-rated film at the domestic box-office.


Les Misérables held on to the 9th spot of the box-office as it eased 42.2% to $2.4 million, Its running cume currently stands at$141.5 million. It doesn’t look to have much gas left in its tank, but the combination of persisting Oscar buzz, good WoM and the PG-13 rating is still keeping it afloat. I see it winding down with $149 million in the bag.


After two weeks outside of the Top 10, Lincoln re-entered it at #10 with $2.4 million (down 37.6%). It is pretty impressive for this film to rank in the Top 10 again after 12 weeks in wide release. In that time, it has accumulated a total gross of $170.8 million, making it the 8th-biggest film ever that never took the #1 spot at the box-office. What is more impressive is that Lincoln got this far without having actually won any major awards for the film or its director, with most of its wins awarded to its actors. With Argo having moved firmly into the position of the Best Picture frontrunner, Lincoln probably won’t get that much of a boost after the Oscars (although the acting win for Day-Lewis should still inflate its gross a little). The film will be approaching $180 million by the time of the Oscars and should find its way towards a $183 million total. A Best Picture win, would of course make $200 million possible again.


Right now, however, everything is pointing at Argo as the big winner. Re-expanding into a further 300 theatres, Argo jumped 15.9% and handily re-entered the Top 12 at #11. Over the weekend Argo made $2.1 million for a running total of $120.4 million. Provided it wins Best Picture at the Oscars, I see it hitting $135 million by the end of its magnificent run.


Meanwhile, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey spent another week at #12 with $1.9 million (down 43.6%), pushing its running cume to $296.2 million. The fantasy prequel will finally reach $300 million by the end of the month and stop its run with around $302 million.

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