Schedule management is underrated. Your studio might have a film that screams “hit,” you might market the picture like a genius, and you might have the hottest actor in the world. But sometimes, films are filling a void left empty for casual audience goers, and the demand is pent-up not for a specific film, but rather a specific type of film. In this case, we’re talking about “Identity Thief,” now in line to score the year’s biggest three-day opening with $36 million, making it the best R-rated comedy opening ever in February.
The negative reviews didn’t bother Universal, who had run a big, loud and colorful ad campaign that clearly illustrated the premise. It helps that the movie brought back two recognizable attributes of 2011’s most beloved R-rating comedies: director Seth Gordon was re-teaming with his “Horrible Bosses” star Jason Bateman (again playing a white collar schlub – versatility!), while Melissa McCarthy hadn’t had a major cinematic showcase since “Bridesmaids” netted her an Oscar nomination. Audiences who prefer comedies must have been parched by the slim multiplex offerings this year (“Movie 43” and "A Haunted House" don’t count, nor shall they ever), and “Identity Thief” had to benefit from simply being simple, broad and available at 3,141 locations.
While it does seem like Jason Bateman is less bankable than he is savvy in selecting bankable co-stars, this is the biggest opening for a film with him above the title since 2009’s paycheck-gig “Couples Retreat,” which somehow collected $34 million four years ago. As if Fox didn’t need further reason to get started on the “Arrested Development” movie, both because Bateman is sort of a draw, but also to keep him away from doing movies like “Couples Retreat” and “Identity Thief.” This is also Bateman's first major outing as a producer, and he really couldn't have asked for a better result. Expect Universal to see what other comedy ideas he has up his sleeve.
McCarthy is in a more interesting situation. The trailer for “Identity Thief” was not only pushed onto most every big film in the last few months, but often teamed with her film “The Heat” back-to-back. That sort of total immersion can turn off audiences, but that’s certainly not the case here. While most can easily recall her star turn in “Bridesmaids,” they neglect that she’s also the star of the highly-rated “Mike And Molly” on CBS. People talk about “Community,” “Girls” and “Homeland,” but people actually watch “Mike And Molly,” which has a much bigger viewership than any of those shows. With this film handily outdoing the $26 million opening of “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” being moved to a much more competitive summer slot, McCarthy could very well be having her star moment.
While “Warm Bodies” downshifted into second after debuting at the top, the picture still looks like a modest winner. Made on a manageable budget, the zombie comedy isn’t going to be another “Twilight” at this rate, but it will be a solid success. Director Jonathan Levine continues to show he can be successful and appealing in a variety of genres, Summit/Lionsgate has themselves a likely DVD grower, and the movie had its number one weekend. Everyone comes out looking pretty good.
It was a near-impossible task to sell “Side Effects” given the twisty nature of its plot — unless you were going to spoil the film, you’d have to come up with another, possibly misleading hook. Open Road decided not to: ads not only buried the premise, but hid the film’s most bankable actor, Channing Tatum, instead hoping that Rooney Mara would bring them in despite being unrecognizable from her only other big role in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” You could argue it was bungled a campaign or simply the fact that audienes were really in the mood for something else. But either way, Soderbergh's penultimate effort, despite much better reviews, more or less matched the efforts of last year‘s “Haywire.”
The Weinsteins had cannily expanded “Silver Linings Playbook” over the last few weekends to platform just as the Oscars were approaching, but this was really the first bonafide three-day period where the numbers very clearly suss out that this thing is a hit. Without adding any theaters, 'Playbook' had the strongest audience retention numbers of the weekend, and it could speed past $100 million domestic maybe even before Oscar Sunday. Granted, there’s not much to gain by being a $100 million grosser in the Best Picture circle, as several of the nominees are massive smashes, but every bit helps.
“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” capped off the top five, and while the film carried a “turkey” reputation, it looks like it will approach $60 million stateside and is already on its way over the $100 million global mark. The fantasy thriller has been playing a bit stronger overseas, but it’s proven to be no domestic slouch despite stinging early reviews, and it won’t be the black mark against would-be star Jeremy Renner’s career that people expected. Meanwhile, “Mama” is headed towards a nice chunk of change for Universal, and with “Identity Thief” it looks like the studio already has two big winners in 2013.
For a hot minute, “Zero Dark Thirty” was looking like a Best Picture frontrunner and a massive box office hit. Then the torture scandals broke, then the Oscar momentum shifted, and now here it is in its eighth week, finishing with a lower per-screen thatn eighteen-week-old “Argo” and stalling before hitting $100 million. It now looks like out of the nominated studio films, “Zero Dark Thirty” will be the lowest grossing, as it barely stayed above a brief minor expansion getting “Argo” back into the top ten. “Argo” likely won’t continue to perform so strongly, as it’s slated for a DVD release in the next few weeks, but it is impressive how Warner Bros. kept the film in the box office discussion.
“Django Unchained” has now officially become Quentin Tarantino’s biggest moneymaker both domestic and internationally, and following “Inglourious Basterds,” you can ignore the Oscar and critic discussions to acknowledge this – it’s quite the accomplishment to see a filmmaker take two graphic, R-rated, long and fairly idiosyncratic historical epics to such rousing success. The same success is not shared by “Bullet To The Head,” meanwhile, as the picture took the sharpest dive in the top ten, dying a very public death on its way to the hopefully more generous DVD racks. Speaking of DVD racks, “Top Gun” was given a 3D re-release at 300 locations and scored a decent $1.9 million, following in the footsteps of last year’s respectable “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” re-release.
1. Like “Due Date” But With A Woman (Universal) – $36.5 million
2. Warm Bodies (Summit/Lionsgate) – $11.5 million ($36.6 mil.)
3. Side Effects (Open Road) – $10 million
4. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $6.9 million ($90 mil.)
5. Hansel And Gretel: People Paid To See This (Paramount) – $5.7 million ($43.8 mil.)
6. Mama (Universal) – $4.3 million ($64 mil.)
7. [Redacted] Dark [Redacted] (Sony) – $4 million ($83.6 mil.)
8. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $2.5 million ($123.7 mil.)
9. Jangled, Unfazed (The Weinstein Company) – $2.2 million ($154.5 mil.)
10. Stallone Plays The Oldies (Warner Bros.) – $1.9 million ($6.4 mil.)