While Annapurna Pictures backed a number of ambitious films this year including John Hillcoat's bootleggin' “Lawless,” Paul Thomas Anderson's challenging “The Master” and Andrew Dominik's bitter “Killing Them Softly,” the financial rewards were far less than expected. But Megan Ellison's production company has kicked off 2013 strong with Kathryn Bigelow's “Zero Dark Thirty” grossing a solid $24 million in its first weekend of wide release after selling out independent theaters in the last two weeks. After scoring five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Sony timed this expansion perfectly, and the film laid the smackdown on a couple of strong competitors.
The natural comparison is “Black Hawk Down,” which expanded wide in a similar period and brought down some serious January dollars with $28.6 million in its first weekend. These numbers aren’t as strong, particularly given that picture saw release twelve years ago (feel old yet?), but that film was sold as a rah-rah action picture, and this is poised as more of a military procedural, with a topic that still feels thorny and divisive to some. That picture was also sold as being from the director of “Gladiator”; Kathryn Bigelow may be known as the Oscar winner behind “The Hurt Locker,” but that’s one of the lowest-grossing Best Picture winners of all-time. You probably can’t sell a movie as a Kathryn Bigelow Film (Joint? Happening?) quite yet, but this helps.
Considering buzz was muted for “A Haunted House,” this opening is spectacular, with the film scoring the second-highest per-screen average in the top ten, and beating out the much starrier and expensive "Gangster Squad." Producer/writer/star Marlon Wayans independently gathered the under-$10 million financing for this film, with the domestic rights sold to Open Road, giving them one of their all-time biggest openers. It’s not likely to be a strong performer in coming weeks due to the history of genre spoofs and the fact that it’s kind of terrible, but this opening likely guarantees a decent profit for the distributor, who had solid hits last year with “The Grey” and “End Of Watch.”
Stronger results were expected from “Gangster Squad," and while word-of-mouth could carry (it earned an A- Cinemascore), the reviews and release date probably scared several audiences away. “Gangster Squad” was a hot property for a long time, with WB looking at several potential directors tackling the project, but the loaded cast certainly makes one do a double take; why is this being dumped in January? Studios will continue to gamble on Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling as bankable leading men, but the only proven box office attraction in this cast was Emma Stone, and she was relegated to being “the girl.” With three major new releases next week, the picture’s going to need major legs to stay afloat.
We watched it through Christmas, and now it’s happened definitively: “Django Unchained” has solidly lapped competitors “Les Miserables” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” after one or both had outpaced the Christmas Day release for a short spell. 'Django' and 'Hobbit' were neck and neck last week, with Quentin Tarantino’s film passing the fantasy adventure, but with the Oscar nominations announced, 'Django' has become QT’s biggest domestic performer of all-time. There’s no official word yet, but whatever Quentin’s next film is, it’s sure to be a massive box office event.
“Les Miserables” and 'The Hobbit' have hung around strongly, both collecting bountiful tallies into the new year. The former is unquestionably a hit, with the profits overshadowing the film’s expected Oscar success, and it might even spell a coming flood of Broadway musical adaptations: could Gore Verbinski’s “Cats” be far behind? 'The Hobbit,' meanwhile, is making a reach for $300 million domestic, though this time, early ’13 international results have carried the day and the picture seems dead certain to finish over a billion dollars. Reports of this franchise’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and the WB has to be satisfied with these returns.
Leading Oscar contender “Lincoln” benefitted from the increased exposure, out-performing last week’s tally and pushing the film comfortably over $150 million. Considering how the ten-week-old release has stabilized, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the biopic threaten $200 million. It stayed ahead of “Parental Guidance,” which is now comfortably over $60 million and how in the hell did that happen? Did “Parental Guidance” pick up some Oscar nominations of which we’re unfamiliar last week? Perhaps Most Dated-Looking Movie? Ironic that Billy Crystal would see this increased rep on a year in which he’s NOT hosting the Oscars.
The Oscar bump is real, and the film that felt it the strongest was “Silver Linings Playbook.” The Weinstein Company expanded the film softly, from 745 to 810 theaters, allowing the comedy-drama to cross $40 million. The real test if this film can break through from sleeper hit to actual hit will be seen next weekend when it finally expands into wide release, but as the Oscar nominations for the movie proved: never, ever count out Harvey Weinstein. Even though the film has been around for nine weeks in theaters, it still feels like the freshest of the Best Picture nominees and particularly in a month lacking in quality releases, this big crowd pleaser should find a healthy audience.
Lastly, last week’s number one film, “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” took a tumble from the number one position all the way out of the back end of the top ten. Horror is usually pretty top heavy, but this sort of plummet is still pretty ugly. Given that the film opened with $20 million, this second week showing suggests audiences completely abandoned the picture, placing doubt as to whether Twisted Pictures will be interested in a follow-up.
Most indie theaters benefitted from the return, or expansion, of the Oscar nominees, so it was a quiet week on that front. The major winner is likely Best Picture honoree "Amour," which went from three to fifteen locations, grossing a muscular $270k with the week's best per-screen average of $18k. The only other notable indie holdover was Oscar shut-out "Rust And Bone," which moved from 39 to 79 locations, pocketing $198k and bringing the film's total over $1 million. Support your local arthouse theater.
1. Heroes Fart Dirty (Sony) – $24 million ($29.5 mil.)
2. A Haunted House (Open Road) – $18.8 million
3. Wankster Squad (Warner Bros.) – $16.7 million
4. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $11.1 million ($125.4 mil.)
5. Les Miserables (Universal) – $10.1 million ($119.2 mil.)
6. The Hobbit: This Shit Ain’t Never Gonna End (Warner Bros.) – $8 million ($277 mil.)
7. Daniel Day-Lewis Like A Boss (Disney) – $6.3 million ($152.6 mil.)
8. Parental Guidance (Fox) – $6.3 million ($61 mil.)
9. Texas Chainsaw 3D (Lionsgate) – $5.2 million ($30.8 mil.)
10. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $5 million ($41.3 mil.)