Jessica Chastain: A-List star? Following a Best Actress Oscar nomination for "Zero Dark Thirty," the leading lady stars in the top two films at the box office despite a fairly crowded weekend. Cheapie horror film "Mama" blew away a couple of newcomers to open strong at the top spot, followed by the second weekend of Kathryn Bigelow's Best Picture nominee, both movies showcasing the actress in very different roles. It's not enough that Chastain's films would finish 1-2, but rather that in the horror picture, she plays an ineffectual goth surrogate mother, and in the military thriller, she assumes the role of a government-approved dealer of death. Swank, thy name is Chastain. Not Hilary Swank, though, don't get it twisted.
"Mama" was oddly marketed on the strength of producer Guillermo del Toro more than it was on Chastain starring. Considering his biggest film is the $82 million-grossing "Blade II" in 2002, and he hasn't directed anything since "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" four and a half years ago, this remains something of a puzzling, and puzzlingly effective strategy. The last genre picture heavily marketed on del Toro's name was "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," which collected a quiet $24 million in 2011, but this effort has easily outgrossed that effort within three days, and it could even land at $30 million with the four-day weekend factored in.
"Zero Dark Thirty" registered a strong second weekend hold as it slid softly out of the top spot, and is now Bigelow's highest-grossing effort, besting the $43 million earned by "Point Break" 22 years ago. The picture continues to play in the face of controversy, or "controversy" as the general public largely has no opinion on the use of torture in a movie, particularly considering 'Thirty' follows an entire decade of post-9/11 action films showcasing torture as a viable option in the War on Terror. Unless "Zero Dark Thirty" were to go supernova, its box office success likely doesn't matter much as far as contending for an Oscar, given that this year is populated by a number of high-grossing nominated films.
Punching its way into the top three was "Silver Linings Playbook," which added 1,713 engagements in its tenth week of release, boosting the screen count to 2,523. The per-screen average wasn't exactly muscular, but the film benefitted from the added awards exposure and scooted over $50 million domestic. With word-of-mouth, The Weinstein Company is going to do their best to goose this to $100 million. The picture vaulted above "Gangster Squad," which dropped about half its weak first weekend audience and looks to be treading water on the way to basic cable purgatory.
Debuting quietly was "Broken City," which couldn't hit the sweet spot of Mark Wahlberg's last January release, "Contraband." That picture premiered to $24 million last year, but this latest release looks like it will need the full four-day weekend to cross $10 million. This was a former Black List script given secondhand treatment by the studio, gifted to half of a not-that-great directing team in Allen Hughes, and marketed as a low-key potboiler with a plot obscured by generic action spots. Wahlberg has nothing to worry about, with "2 Guns" and "Pain And Gain" coming later this year, and particularly in the wake of "Ted" grossing $500 million last year. Not to mention, he'll be starring in the fourth 'Transformers' film.
What this means for Russell Crowe is up for debate. While he featured in the ensemble for "Les Miserables," there seemed to be nothing but negative press regarding his singing voice, which was below the standard of his classically-trained co-stars. And he hasn't had a hit since "Robin Hood," which arguably could be said underperformed taking $320 million worldwide on a $200 million budget. His supporting role in "Man Of Steel" should work to his advantage, but producers of the big-budget "Noah" might be a bit nervous. But then again, that's a film that will be sold more on concept + Darren Aronofsky, than its star.
"A Haunted House" had its first weekend, and looks to be on the way out after taking the largest drop in the top ten. Right below are "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables," both putting together solid numbers with general audiences and diehards alike. 'Django' has yet to be 'Unchained' overseas (it just opened this weekend in the U.K. with more territories to come) and while it's outgrossed the $120 million of "Inglourious Basterds" domestically, can it surpass the whopping $200 million overseas tally of that film? Meanwhile, if momentum continues, "Les Miserables" will comfortably surpass $200 million overseas, adding to its muscular stateside total that will prompt some dull-witted studio exec to crow "musicals are back!" and somehow hire Adam Shankman again.
The sixth weekend of 'The Hobbit' wasn't newsworthy unless you note that it was able to beat out the startlingly weak opening take of "The Last Stand." The return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen looks like it excited no one, finishing well below the other two big ticket attractions this weekend. Schwarzenegger's last fully-fledged leading role before becoming Governor of California was "Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines," and it can be argued that film pulled in $433 million due to the strength of the marriage between franchise and star. Before that, however, Schwarzenegger's stock was falling hard — after "Eraser" in 1996, his only film to gross more than $66 million domestic was "Batman And Robin" before he put on the shades once more, suggesting his appeal was waning for an entire generation.
It can be argued that the younger filmgoers had no love for Schwarzenegger and his past films. After all, the last two years have featured two remakes of Schwarzenegger films in "Conan The Barbarian" and "Total Recall" that bombed and/or underperformed (though "Total Recall" did ace business overseas), never mind "Terminator Salvation" (which featured Schwarzenegger in a very brief cameo, but mostly tried to persevere without its signature star). And few have generous comments to make about his political career, and especially the extramarital affairs that tainted his reputation. "The Last Stand" should have been pushed as an event, but Lionsgate plugged this film as a tacky b-movie neo-western, giving equal emphasis to wacky non-action co-star Johnny Knoxville as it did its monosyllabic lead star. Then again, Schwarzenegger is a hefty 66 and looks it — maybe the general public simply understands the guy's far too old to be starring in action films. He's got "The Tomb" with the slightly-more-bankable Sylvester Stallone coming this fall, and "Ten" coming next year, but this dismal showing casts doubt on Schwarzenegger's planned "The Legend Of Conan." Then again, he's not going to be doing action pictures much longer, and are YOU gonna be the movie executive who tells Arnold he can't make one more action movie?
The highest per-screen average of the week belonged to "Amour," which branched out from fifteen to 36 theaters and pulled in $431k, passing the $1 million mark. Close behind was "Quartet," which moved from 30 to 32 locations, grabbing a muscular $32k. The lone indie debut was "LUV," which opened at 45 theaters, but only grossed $90k. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Mama (Universal) – $28.1 million
2. Zero Dark Drrrrrrty (Sony) – $17.6 million ($55.9 mil.)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $11.3 million ($55.3 mil.)
4. Celebrities Playing With Toy Guns (Warner Bros.) – $9.1 million ($32.2 mil.)
5. Broken City (Fox) – $9 million
6. Marlon Wayans Tells Some Jokes About Ghost Rape (Open Road) – $8.3 millio ($29.9 mil.)
7. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $8.2 million ($138.3 mil.)
8. Lesser, Miserable (Universal) – $7.8 million ($132.1 mil.)
9. Peter Jackson's Middle Earth Emporium: Yeah, We've Got That (Warner Bros.) – $6.4 million ($287.3 mil.)
10. The Last Bland (Lionsgate) – $6.3 million