The good news: Universal's Melissa McCarthy comedy "Identity Thief" scored the best Friday gross of any film so far this year. Battling both a Northeastern blizzard– which closed theaters across the most populated stretch of the country– and inferior reviews, it easily surpassed the first-day gross for "Bridesmaids" (just under $8 million in May 2011), which, propelled by great word of mouth, stuck around for months to gross a total $169 million. The bad news: the rest of the box office.
The toll of the storm tells only part of the story. The same weekend last year saw two films open over $13 milliion: the romantic comedy "The Vow" ($15.3) and Denzel Washington-starrer "Safe House" ($13.6). This year's storm took a toll to be sure, but it still only affected less than 20% of the population. It certainly doesn't account for the continued drop from last year's totals. The top 10 films for the same Friday in 2012 grossed $51 million, more than double Friday night's $24 million. Even with the storm factored in, this is an horrific falloff. It continues a trend that has been seen since the new year began, with nearly all new openings falling short of similar weeks a year earlier.
Open Road's "Side Effects" was the other new wide release. Steven Soderbergh's last planned theatrical film before his announced retirement from filmmaking benefited from strong reviews but might have been hurt more with the storm hitting upscale areas. The $2.8 million opening day was good for third place for the day. It will need a strong uptick from the rest of the weekend to reach second place and the $10 million-plus total anticipated for the film.
"Warm Bodies" fell a bit over 50% from its #1 position last Friday to second place for the day; its full weekend drop will likely improve a tad. Two other 2013 horror-oriented past #1 films, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" and "Mama," stuck around to improve on their decent hauls, although both also dropped more than half.
Three Oscar best-picture nominees continued to hold better, with "Silver Linings Playbook" dropping only a third. "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Django Unchained" also had respectable holds.
Two films returned to the top 10 after absences of vastly different length. "Argo," taking advantage of its recent awards sweep and new-found status as Oscar frontrunner expanded to a planned 1,405 theaters, while "Top Gun" became the latest past blockbuster to get a 3-D redo. Both films grossed just over $500,000, a low number to reach the top 10 for a Friday, and indicative of the slim pickings out there at the moment for moviegoers.
Top 10 (in $ millions)
1. Identity Thief (Universal) – $11.2
2. Warm Bodies (Lionsgate) – $3.3
3. Side Effects (Open Road) – $2.8
4. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) – $1.6
5. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) – $1.4
6. Mama (Universal) – $1.2
7. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) – $1.0
8. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $.6
9. Django Unchained (Weinstein) – $.6
10. Top Gun 3D (Paramount) – $.6