Three juggernauts grossing $28 million or more dominated a strong post-Christmas weekend, all jockeying for position since last Tuesday. The shakeout led to the top film on December 25 ("Les Miserables") falling to third by the weekend, beat out by top dog "The Hobbit" followed by "Django Unchained." But all three films contributed to a weekend total more than 20% above last year's results.
A fourth new release, "Parental Guidance," ended up overperforming despite receiving virtually none of the attention nabbed by the top three. These numbers managed to push total annual box office to a new record –an estimated $10.8 billion–by a small margin.
Because of the strong weekend, we are reporting a Top 13 List, as the business spread around a much wider number of films than most other times of the year. Another new release — Paramount's "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" –managed only a 15th place finish ($2.4 million on just 840 screens).
Several major new limited releases showed varying degrees of strength, led by Sony's "Zero Dark 30," which grossed $315,000 in only five theaters. Further analysis of this and other significant new films in Arthouse Audit.
1. "The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey" (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$32,920,000 (-11%) in 4,100 theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $8,029; Cumulative: $222,703,000
Impressively beating off the challenge of two strong new openers, "The Hobbit" rebounded from its third place Christimas Day showing to make an unexpected journey back to number one. While this domestic performance pales when compared to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, overseas the prequel has already passed $600 million –with the holidays not yet over.
As a blockbuster, "The Hobbit" lags behind other major hits this year. "The Hunger Games," "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" also were #1 on their third weekend, and all grossed more (as well as opening much larger). "Avatar" for its third weekend did more than double the "Hobbit"'s numbers.
But maintaining the top position against such rigorous holiday competition is no small feat, and suggests that banking on three films to maximize revenues should pay off.
What comes next: A fourth weekend at #1 isn't out of the question, although grosses will drop considerably post-holiday.
2. "Django Unchained" (Weinstein) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 81
$30,688,000 in 3,010 theaters; PSA: $10,195; Cumulative: $64,008,000
Weinstein's Christmas release has turned out far above expectations, as "Django Unchained" has soared from a great opening day to an even more impressive followup. Clearly benefiting from terrific word of mouth, even at 1,000 fewer theaters, it's right behind "The Hobbit" for the weekend.
The three-day figure isn't quite what "Inglourious Basterds" yielded ($38 million), but that was a Friday opening. "Django" already had grossed nearly as much for its three pre-weekend days, putting its six-day total at more than half of what "Basterds" did for its whole run. Even with its high-end production cost ($100 million), this looks well on its way to substantial success, assuming international response is at least as strong as domestic.
What comes next: A strong chance to make #1 next weekend. Will this enhance its uncertain Oscar chances? Hard to say how the Academy feels about the violence and –perhaps more importantly– the foreshortened voting deadline just a few days away. But among the best picture nominees, it is likely that only "Lincoln" will be a bigger-grossing film.
3. Les Miserables (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 64
$28,000,000 in 2,808 theaters; PSA: $9,960; Cumulative: $67,400,000
Despite its third place showing and some falloff from its stellar opening day, "Les Miserables" is an unquestioned success. Playing well despite lesser appeal to prime under-25 audiences, with an incredible 2-1 female audience breakdown, it already has left other recent Broadway musical adaptations "Nine," "Rent" and "The Producers" far behind.
The closest recent comparison is "Dreamgirls" six years ago. Paramount/DreamWorks, after a brief platform run, expanded to 852 theaters on Christmas Day, with the following weekend taking in $14,100,000. Its PSA, at fewer than half the theaters, was $16,500. But that film — which didn't land a top five best picture slot– struggled to pass $100 million.
"Les Miserables" should go past that easily. It already has nearly 2/3s of that amount in the till, should easily score a best picture and other nominations and justify further big-scale ads.
The modest $62 million budget and major international success ahead guarantee that this will be hugely profitable for all involved.
What comes next: The slippage from its huge first day and its less impressive weekend suggest that business was front-ended, with those who most wanted to see it going early. This suggests that word of mouth–despite an A Cinemascore– is not entirely positive. But with further awards attention and repeat viewings from passionate fans, there's plenty of mileage left on this one.
4. Parental Guidance (20th Century-Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 36
$14,800,000 in 3,367 theaters; PSA: $4,396; Cumulative: $29,589,000
This defines a sleeper. Opening under the radar, this PG-rate comedy with a talented but not close to "A-list" cast (Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei) earned lousy reviews and seemed likely to be an afterthought against the three massive holiday event films. Instead, the $25-milliion counterprogrammer managed to fill the niche of safe film for the whole family which can sometimes click above expectations over Christmas, and gained strength after its Tuesday opening.
Director Andy Fickman isn't a stranger to mid-level success. His last three films were for Disney, with "The Game Plan" scoring best ($90 million total). Surpisingly, this is Billy Crystal's first starring role in the decade since "Analyze That." For Bette Midler, it's been four years ("The Women"). Yet again, this shows that casting to the senior demo can bring added value for a wide-release film.
What comes next: The next week will tell if this got only a holiday boost or whether word of mouth can turn this into a real hit. But at this level so far, it has exceeded expectations.
5. Jack Reacher (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend: #2
$14,010,000 (-10%) in 3,352 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,180; Cumulative: $44,661,000
Falling off a bit from its first weekend, but not disastrously (though the weekend after Christmas often shows a jump for the strongest new releases), this seems to be a modest success. It certainly is something of a comeback after Tom Cruise's earlier 2012 dud "Rock of Ages," with international grosses and the rest of its domestic run–but it will never reach $100 million here.
What comes next: It does need those foreign grosses (most yet to come) to make back its $60 million cost (before marketing), but that seems likely.
6. This Is 40 (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend: #3
$13,200,000 (+14%) in 2,912 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,525; Cumulative: $37,200,000
Holding its own amid major competition, Judd Apatow's family comedy/drama is showing signs of minor success. It will likely exceed the gross of his previous film "Funny People" (which opened at $22 million, aided Adam Sandler, before slipping quickly to a $51 million total). And with a fairly low cost ($35 million), even with the extra expense of a holiday release this appears set to stick around for a few weeks.
What comes next: If word of mouth is decent, the lack of many new comedies over the next few weeks will work in its favor.
7. Lincoln (Buena Vista) Week 8 – Last weekend: #5
$7,509,000 (+36%) in 1,966 theaters (-327); PSA: $3,819; Cumulative: $132,039,000
In its eighth week, there are new superlatives to add to those already attached to the amazing run of "Lincoln." Even though it lost more theaters, the gross was up more than a third over last weekend, adding to solid weekdays that have its total gross still continuing to climb and more than holding its own against newer competition.
What comes next: This should sustain most of these theaters until the Oscar nominations in 11 days. And as the likely leading contender, the biopic will perform steadily for some time to come.
8. The Guilt Trip (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend: #6
$6,700,000 (+24%) in 2,431 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,756; Cumulative: $21,102,000
As its opening weekend showed, this continues to be weak, lagging far behind most other films in holiday interest. Its failure to do half of the less-anticipated "Parental Guidance" gross is shocking. It did climb above its opening figures, but they were so weak that the improvement still makes this lackluster. Clearly audiences did not embrace the idea of spending two hours in a car with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen.
What comes next: This will be the first of the Christmas releases to drop off after another week of playtime.
9. Monsters, Inc 3D (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend: #7
$6,363,000 (+33) in 2,618 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,431,000; Cumulative: $18,490,000
Doing the low-end of business for a just-released kids film for this time of year, the Disney roll-out of 3-D redos of recent animated hits continues to fall short of what was hoped for. The second weekend of "Finding Nemo 3D" – in the middle of usually slow September – grossed 50% more, and was considered disappointing. Ouch.
What comes next: Other do-overs are in the works, but this increasingly is looking like an iffy bet, and may be cheapening the whole concept of 3-D for resistant parents.
10. Rise of the Guardians (Paramount) Week 6 – Last weekend: #4
$4,900,000 (-17%) in 2,055 theaters (-976); PSA: $2,384; Cumulative: $90,230,000
Making the top ten Christmas week after its disappointing Thanksgiving opening is a positive, but this is underperforming. Still not at $100 million (which it should pass by a small amount), this lags far behind several other animated hits that went far above the $150 million level, as many successful animated films do these days.
What comes next: This wraps up DreamWorks Animations' time with Paramount with a disappointment. Next year they return with distribution new partner 20th Century Fox.
11. Skyfall (Sony) Week 8 – Last weekend: #8
$4,600,000 (-2%) in 1,637 theaters (-728); PSA: $2,810; Cumulative: $289,600,000
In a weekend where the total worldwide gross passed $1 billion, the first time for a Bond film, the domestic number, despite a further loss of screens, remains solid deep into the run. The gross is three times greater than "Quantum of Solace"'s take on its first post-Christmas weekend (its seventh week).
What comes next: Is this enough, combined with the great reviews, to propel this into some Oscar attention? Most likely not, but that would be about the only disappointment about this film's performance.
12. Silver Lining Playbook (Weinstein) Week 7 – Last weekend: #10
$4,110,000 (+131%) in 745 theaters (+374); PSA: $5,517; Cumulative: $27,361,000
Doubling its theaters, but still quite limited, this did decent business, more so since half of its run has been playing for several weeks now. The total so far is hardly close to what its anticipated potential is, but the game plan at work here — slow rollout, letting word of mouth grow, then going wide just as the Oscar nominations come out — will likely get this to a gross of over $35 million before the first major TV campaign starts.
What comes next: It remains to be seen if this pattern is the best approach to maximizing this film. But its continued success suggests that audience interest continues, with much more will follow.
13. The Life of Pi (20th Century Fox) Week 6 – Last weekend: #9
$3,825,000 (-5%) in 1,178 theaters (-572); PSA: $3,247; Cumulative: $84,695,000
Losing a third of its remaining theaters, the gross only fell slightly, a credible showing still for this hardly automatic mass-audience appeal film.
What comes next: International so far has already grossed twice as much. With pending Oscar nominations, this still seems likely to hit the $100 million for the U.S., which combined with the worldwide total will make this $120-million film profitable.