Platinum Dunes let go of the rights to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise after the second film grossed less than half of the first, a downward trend they had no interest continuing. To turn things around, they were going to need a whole new approach, which involved the folks at Twisted Pictures, home of the now-defunct “Saw” series. And with an ambitious plan involving numerous sequels (of course), Leatherface is back, and it seems audiences are interested. The critically roasted moovie is the first number one film of 2013.
Strip away the 3D surcharge and factor in inflation, and it reveals this first weekend barely matches that of 2006’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” which collected $18.5 million in its first three days, itself a comedown from the $28 million grossed by 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” So even with the enhanced prices, suddenly “Texas Chainsaw 3D” looks weak compared to predecessors. With horror films usually being frontloaded, and a raft of potential Oscar nominees still in the multiplex, a 70% second-weekend drop could re-kill this series. But laugh as you might at his name, Trey Songz is credited with drawing in 33% of the audience under 25. No matter how the movie does, it's not going to be the last we see of him on the big screen. It’s a foreboding start to a new year that many analysts worry won’t match the record 2012 take: even last year began with the much-stronger bow of another boo-worthy horror effort, “The Devil Inside” at $34 million.
Maybe it’s the ad campaign, maybe it’s the controversy, maybe it’s just something about the colder season that makes audiences crave a bit of bloodshed: “Django Unchained” managed to move ahead of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” after a week and a half as the bridesmaid. The Quentin Tarantino slavery comedy/drama/rabble-rouser easily blazed past $100 million domestic and should pass “Inglourious Basterds” by next weekend to become Tarantino’s highest-grossing film. While whispers circulated throughout Hollywood that the film was a troubled shoot (par for the course for gossip-magnet The Weinstein Company), there can’t be any hard feelings when it comes down to a likely $150 million plus domestic gross.
'The Hobbit' should end the weekend having passed $800 million worldwide even as it drops out of first place. It’s very likely the film becomes the fourth of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epics to cross $300 million domestic, though with inflation and 3D-inflated prices, that feat is slightly less impressive. But the international numbers are doing the heavy lifting, and it seems as if the picture may have the muscle power to cross a billion in global sales.
The $100 million domestic mark has been bypassed by “Les Miserables,” which is not only the first musical since “Mamma Mia” (yeesh) to cross nine figures in America, but is also doing Godzilla-sized numbers overseas. Even with the lengthy runtime, the film is benefitting from association from one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time, and it should continue to bring in bushels of cash next week, once it picks up Oscar nominations in Best Costume Design and Best Makeup. Also, others.
“Parental Guidance” wasn’t necessarily approved by critics and audiences, and yet here we are – the picture is registering powerful holds as it threatens to cross $60 million domestic (and likely more by the time its run is through). Some in the industry likely think it’s some sort of Christmas miracle that this film wasn’t released direct-to-DVD. Others wouldn’t credit St. Nick with being so cruel as to put this film in 3,000 theaters. Whatever the case, films released during the same period as “Parental Guidance” starring Seth Rogen, Tom Cruise and Matt Damon are outside of the top five, below the Billy Crystal vehicle, and tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1992.
Each week keeps suggesting that the hopes of a “Jack Reacher” franchise were premature, and that reality will likely be cemented as the film works its way down the top ten. The picture should eventually do solid-to-spectacular business overseas, but if Paramount cannot goose this to $100 million stateside, we probably won’t be seeing Tom Cruise 'Reach' around again. Not a huge loss for Cruise, who’ll be seen in “Oblivion” and “All You Need Is Kill” soon – though no plans are afoot, Cruise and Paramount will likely want to get started on another “Mission: Impossible,” given the last one was Cruise’s biggest hit ever. Even if 'Reacher' did 'Jack' off audiences, when was the fifty-year-old Cruise going to get around to a follow-up? With so many books in the 'Reacher' series, it would have been stretching credulity to see Cruise play this character into his late fifties. Then again, Tom Cruise will outlive us all.
“This Is 40” hasn’t connected at quite the level of Judd Apatow’s “The 40 Year Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up,” but at least it’s not being rejected like “Funny People,” which it will outgross in the next few days. Relevance is currently not a friend of Apatow the director, but all it will take, for a well-liked guy like him, is one more hit. “Lincoln” continued to pack them in with the smallest drop in the top ten – it’s likely going to emancipate audiences from $180 million of their cash before it winds down. “The Guilt Trip” might leg it out to $40 million, the film’s too-generous budget number, while “Monsters Inc. 3D” provided a cheap babysitting option for its third and final week in the top ten.
Outside the top ten, “Promised Land” played to 1676 theaters (up from 25 last week) and… guys, can we pretend to not be surprised that no one went to see the Gus Van Sant movie about fracking? The title is vague and timid, Matt Damon works enough that his movies aren’t events, and the poster had him in the middle of an open field looking off into the distance. The picture looks like it will make a little under $3.9 million, a pittance considering the film had a larger-than-expected ad campaign. Said ad campaign also seemed to depend on critical and award support the film hasn’t received: we swear one commercial boasted it was “Nominated for… awards.” Damon still dabbles in bigger movies, and he’ll get another shot at the blockbuster crowd with next year’s “Elysium” and George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men.” Gus Van Sant probably drank decaf this morning instead of regular.
The biggest film in limited release was again “Zero Dark Thirty” as it expanded from five to sixty theaters, averaging over $45k per-screen and collecting nearly another $3 million. The real test will be when it enters wide release next weekend – will audiences respond to a narrative film detailing the killing of Osama Bin Laden? More importantly, are audiences prepared for ANOTHER awards-season picture that flirts with a three-hour runtime? If the Oscar nominations that are expected come through on Thursday morning, none of those questions will matter. Also hoping for Oscar gold is “Silver Linings Playbook,” which brought in $3.6 million in its eighth weekend for a $35 million total, while “The Impossible” bumped up from fifteen theaters to 572, but only collected $2.5 million for a total just under $3.2 million. And loud was the flop that was “Not Fade Away”’s expansion: the David Chase-directed music pic bumped its theater count to an aggressive 565, but will finish well under $300k for the weekend. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. Malleable Horror Franchise 3D (Lionsgate) – $23 million
2. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $20.1 million ($106.4 mil.)
3. Magical New Zealand Travelogue (Warner Bros.) – $17.5 million ($263.8 mil.)
4. Sing For Your Oscars (Universal) – $16.1 million ($103.6 mil.)
5. Billy Crystal: Box Office Dynamite (Fox) – $10.1 million ($52.8 mil.)
6. Jack Reacher (Paramount) – $9.4 million ($65 mil.)
7. This Is A Forty (Universal) – $8.7 million ($55 mil.)
8. Lincoln (Disney) – $5.4 million ($144 mil.)
9. The Guilt Trip (Paramount) – $4.7 million ($31 mil.)
10. Monsters Drink 3D (Disney) – $3.9 million ($28 mil.)