So far this weekend, the wealth is spread around several diverse films and grosses are down slightly from last weekend –which was bolstered by the huge opening of "Taken 2." After leading on Friday, "Sinister" fell to third. The ultimate success of the weekend's most anticipated release — Ben Affleck's "Argo" – -won't be known until longer into its run, but its strong start indicates a chance to become a breakout hit.
Grosses are way up from a year ago: $118 million for weekend to last year's $73 million for the top ten. Three films grossed over $18 million for the first time in two months. After a dispiriting couple of months, the October revival surges on.
1. Taken 2 (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #1
$22,500,000 (-46) in 3,706 theaters (+45): PSA (per screen average): $6,071; Cumulative: $86,759,000
Welcome to the fall Oscar season! Last week, this French film outgrossed in one weekend what last year's French best picture did during its entire release. This weekend, "Taken 2"'s second outing is beating the opening of one of the leading candidates for this year.
Although still grossing well, the falloff indicates that this sequel will likely fall just short of the $145 million the first entry grossed in the US/Canada. However, with a budget of only $45 million, and most of the world as well as additional grosses yet to come, this already will be one of the most profitable films on Fox' slate this year (along with producer Luc Besson).
What comes next: It will be star Liam Neeson's call if the series is to continue.
2. Argo (Warner Brothers) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Metacritic score: 86
$20,120,000 in 3,232 theaters; PSA: $6,225; Cumulative: $5,930,000
A big Saturday jump erased initial minor concerns about Friday's gross. With the Cinemascore indicating that audiences reacted as strongly as critics (the best reviews for any wide-release film for the year so far), this indicates that strong word of mouth is already lifting Ben Affleck's third film as a director. The based-on-fact Iranian hostage crisis drama so far seems to be drawing mainly older viewers, who can create a solid base, and then hope for a wider audience to make it even bigger.
Considered a leading Oscar contender, this gross is in the range of two comparable films, both of which had initial wider appeal. "The Social Network," with slightly better reviews, similar festival acclaim and high awards expectations, opened to a $22.4 million first weekend (ending up at $97 million). Affleck's "The Town" had a $23.8 million opening, getting to $92 million, both #1.
With a $44-million reported budget and likely sustained run (this will be clearer next weekend), this looks like a return to form (assuming solid international results) for Oscar-winning producer Graham King ("The Departed"), who also partnered with Affleck on "The Town." His recent travails have been well documented — his last four films were the expensive and underperforming "Hugo" and "Dark Shadows" as well as flops "The Rum Diary" and "The Land of Milk and Honey," though he also had "Rango" last year. Whatever happens, this film enhances the resumes of all its participants.
What comes next: The next three weeks (with Halloween dominating release patterns) give this a clear field to reach upscale and other audiences before other more adult-oriented studio films come along. The gross total, not the ranking, is the important thing here — and even more how it holds up in upcoming weeks.
3. Sinister (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic score: 55
$18,250,000 in 2,527 theaters: PSA: $7,222,000; Cumulative: $18,250,000
With Thursday night shows pushing its gross, Lionsgate has yet another strong horror opener. While it fell in rank for the full weekend, this already looks like a good investment for Lionsgate, which releases several horror films every year (this makes four for 2012). This was an acquisition made by partner Summit last year and just now, in prime pre-Halloween playtime, capitalized on a week with no other new scary movies. (It premiered in March at SXSW.)
This found-footage crime investigation film marks the first horror entry in Ethan Hawke's almost quarter-century career. Hawke tends to favor independent, off-beat, sometimes foreign films. His last full-weekend #1 film was "Training Day" in 2001.
For director Scott Derrickson, this is a return to the genre that first got him attention with the sleeper hit "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." He then made Fox's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" which managed a $233-million gross worldwide, then returned to his horror roots for this indie. Producer Jason Blum comes from the "Paranormal Activity" series, which rebooted the found-footage movement that remains a staple in the genre.
What comes next: With "Paranormal 4" and "Silent Hill Revelation" still to come before Halloween, this will fade quickly.
4. Hotel Transylvania (Sony) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #2
$17,300,000 (-36%) in 3,375 theaters (+23): PSA: $1,244; Cumulative: $102,193,000
A strong hold for this thriving animated horror comedy. This has overperformed since the start, and is sustaining its strength as it continues.
What comes next: With Halloween still to come, this has a long way to go.
5. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 41
$12,000,000 in 3,014 theaters: PSA: $3,980,000; Cumulative: $12,000,000
For star Kevin James and director Frank Coraci, this is a disappointment. James' last seven live-action films had opening weekends of between $17 and $40 million. Other than his stumble with "Around the World in 80 Days," Coraci has had steady success, with four collaborations with Adam Sandler grossing $80 million or more.
It made sense to counterprogram a comedy this week, but the elements for this didn't lead to repeating earlier successes, at least initially. However, the A Cinemascore and the increase of business from Friday to Saturday indicate that this might hold better than some of these earlier films.
What comes next: A normal falloff would make this a two-week-and-out film at many locations.
6. Pitch Perfect (Universal) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #3
$9,336,000 (-37%) in 2,787 theaters (+17): PSA: $3,350; Cumulative: $36,085,000
Decent hold for this musical comedy as it continues to find a response with its intended more female audience.
What comes next: As a lower-budget film, it looks like Universal has maximized its appeal and is heading toward profit.
7. Frankenweenie (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #5
$7,014,000 (-38%) in 3,005 (unchanged) theaters; PSA: $2,334; Cumulative: $22,035,000
Too much competition remains a problem for this Tim Burton 3-D animated film (particularly from "Hotel Transylvania") which is fading fast. It also followed "ParaNorman" as an animated horror entry. Timing was not on "Frankenweenie"'s side.
What comes next: This could have a hard time holding on in most theaters through Halloween.
8. Looper (Sony) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #4
$6,300,000 (-46%) in 2,605 theaters (-388): PSA: $729; Cumulative: $51,442,000
Though Rian Johnson's film has critics behind it and some fervent fans, it is falling steadily now, not sustaining its impressive earlier performance.
What comes next: As a lower-budget film boasting significant early foreign performances, this remains a success for Sony.
9. Seven Psychopaths (CBS) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 66
$4,275,000 in 1,480 theaters: PSA: $2,889; Cumulative: $4,275,000
A lower-budget wide release film (under $15 million) with a similar off-kilter appeal as director Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges" (which though a successful specialized film and better international performer ended up just under $8 million in US/Canada), CBS opened a bit more limited than is planned for its second week to a barely decent gross. But the point is to generate word of mouth, so with decent initial sampling this stands a good chance of repeating the appeal it showed when it won the Peoples' Choice award for favorite midnight film at the Toronto Film Festival.
What comes next: A close look at the full weekend to determine the extent of the expansion and increased marketing layout. The key is whether audience reaction in a crowded marketplace will be similar to the enthusiasm its screenings at Toronto had.
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Lionsgate) – Week 4; Last Weekend #11
$2,166,000 in 726 theaters (+505); PSA: $2,983; Cumulative: $6,151,000
Pushing forward with a big increase in theaters this week, "Perks" continues to perform steadily. The PSA fell by more than half as the number of theaters nearly tripled, a normal pattern.
What comes next: At this level of performance, some further expansion seems logical, but at the moment, this looks like a good performing niche film than a likely crossover wide-audience hit.