Welcome to the world of the new blockbuster. Would Hollywood studios learn to make good movies, or make smarter fiscal decisions first? Given that we're looking at "A Good Day To Die Hard" ruling over the box office, the latter is true, with the fifth installment in the action series winning a very close horse race on this Presidents' Day weekend. The fact that this opening is significantly smaller than the one for "Live Free Or Die Hard" and that the picture is assuredly the worst in the series turns out to be irrelevant.
Fox broke the bank with a triple-digit budget on the more high-tech "Live Free Or Die Hard" five and a half years ago, but this time the Russia-set actioner reportedly only clocked in at $92 million. The ad campaign offered smirky Bruce Willis, with the acknowledgement that "Die Hard" was no longer a high concept but an institution of sorts. The overseas setting is part of an added worldwide hook for the series, as the last film nearly posted a 2:1 international/domestic split gross. This one is expected to be even bigger in foreign territories, but that said, despite the film earning scathing reviews from critics, audiences stamped it with a B+ CinemaScore. The film could approach $40 million by the end of the holiday weekend, which isn't a smash success but should at least assure the movie is profitable.
Bruce Willis continues to show some durable staying power as he works steadily enough for fans to forget the straight-to-DVD films he churns out from time to time. He's got "Red 2" coming after "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," so he's avoided the traps that claimed fellow 'Expendables' Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone with this year's "The Last Stand" and "Bullet To The Head" by diversifying in ensemble work. Though, perhaps the audience in that case isn't relating to something regarding Q-ratings, but mortality – they're too old to be doing those types of things! Willis is younger, comparatively, but how much will the audience tolerate a bulletproof fifty-something John McClane traipsing around another CGI-enhanced "Die Hard" background? It's likely Fox will want to find out with another film eventually, given international projections for this film.
Showcasing a muscular hold was last week's number one "Identity Thief." It scored the still-biggest bow of the year even with the Northeast overcome with a snowstorm, so some audiences were responding to their first opportunity to see the laffer. A soft fall for the film keeps it in play to return to the top spot should "Die Hard" falter, which is nothing if not an accomplishment. "Identity Thief" is now 2013's biggest film thus far, and could finish well over $100 million, a tidy sum for a film that reportedly cost in the neighborhood of $35 million in spray tan, hair curlers and the rights to a sea of terrible pop tunes.
Romantics of a particular color celebrated Valentine's Day with "Safe Haven," which tailed off after a strong opening day but should still produce another success for the Nicholas Sparks Hit Factory. The lack of star power limited appeal, keeping this from opening near 2010's "Dear John," but it's still in line with last year's Zac Efron-powered "The Lucky One." Relativity, like all of us, is going to ignore that they released "Movie 43" earlier this year, and if "21 And Over" can replicate this medium-budget success next month, it'll greatly help this mini-major break out into the big time.
It was a remarkably low profile release for "Escape From Planet Earth," but given that the kiddie marketplace hadn't been served with a wide-release 'toon in a considerable while, the Weinsteins were able to capitalize. This opening is below the standards of the genre, but this also came in at a budget ($40 million), so even if it lays an egg here, it should perform overseas, where CGI animation thrives.
Kudos to "Warm Bodies," which didn't lose much steam on its way to $50 million. It even batted back another young adult adaptation, the ballyhooed Southern Gothic romance "Beautiful Creatures." This may be a case of material that simply doesn't adapt to big blockbuster filmmaking: the story is talky and uneventful, the crux of the film deals with a girl's "claiming" (look it up, we won't bother), and the third act climax hinges on the characters spending months doing research in an underground library. Though this may be a case of audiences sussing out an attempt to cynically engineer a formula, with ads even featuring a critic quote that boasted, "It's 'Twilight' Meets 'The Hunger Games.' " Enjoy your blurb spotlight, Nobody from the Whistlestop Gazzette.
Again, the lowest drop in the top ten belonged to "Silver Linings Playbook," which held steady from last weekend even as it lost a good chunk of screens. It could conceivably pass $100 million domestic by the end of Presidents' Day. "Side Effects" seems to be reaching its upscale adult demographic if this hold continues to bear fruit in the coming weeks. "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" is on the cusp of $50 million domestic (and should pass $150 million worldwide by next weekend), while "Zero Dark Thirty" makes its way down the top ten, with Sony holding out hope that one final Oscar boost can get it over $100 million.
In limited release, the biggest draw was again "Quartet," which grossed $1.3 million in its sixth week of release, bringing its total to a hair under $7 million. More spectacularly, the picture has banked on the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" audience overseas, grossing a little under $30 million internationally. Opening on four screens, "No" pulled in $74.5k while "Like Someone In Love" grossed $22.9k at three locations.
Strong showings from holdovers included documentary "The Gatekeepers," which pulled in $46.9k at four theaters, while "Lore" collected a surprisingly strong $36k at eight theaters. Finally, documentary "Happy People: A Year In The Taiga" grossed $24.7k on four screens. Support your local arthouse theater.
1. In Russia, Terrible Is A Good Day To Die Hard (Fox) – $25 million ($33.2 mil.)
2. Rex Reed's Fatbusters! (Universal) – $23.4 million ($70.7 mil.)
3. Safe Haven (Relativity) – $21.4 million ($30.2 mil.)
4. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $16 million
5. Warm Bodies (Lionsgate/Summit) – $9 million ($50.2 mil.)
6. Beautiful Linens Worn By Jeremy Irons (Warner Bros.) – $7.4 million ($10 mil.)
7. Side Effects (Open Road) – $6.3 ($19.1)
8. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $6 million ($98.4 mil.)
9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) – $3.4 million ($49.6 mil.)
10. Zero Sharks, Quinty! (Sony) – $3.1 million ($88 mil.)