Good news: four wide releases grossed over $20 million for the four-day Presidents' Day weekend. On paper that looks solid. Pictures with varied appeal–male action, comedy, young female, kids–marked a return to more normal moviegoing after weeks of adult-sewing films, with a few genre films grabbing scattered attention. Bruce Willis' fifth turn in a "Die Hard" film led the way, staving off a strong challenge by the second week of Melissa McCarthy's career-boosting hit "Identity Thief," which will likely be the biggest film released in the first two months of the year (at least in North America).
But even with these better numbers–the top five films should be hits, helped by reasonable budgets and varying international appeal–the total gross again fell short of last year's. The top ten grossed $144 million for the long weekend, compared to $166 last year, around a 15% drop. Though not nearly as bad as last weekend (which did less than half than the same weekend in 2012), it still represents a continued decline in grosses at theaters this year. The studios (other than Warner Bros., which opened another flop this week) seem to be doing fine, but exhibitors continue to fall short in their revenues.
Note: Grosses are four day estimates; the per cent drop for holdovers is based on three-day comparisons.
1. A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century-Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 28
$29,300,000 in 3,553 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,247; Cumulative: $37,539,000
After recent action flops starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenner and Jason Strathairn, the sold number for the latest in the long-running "Die Hard" series should come as a relief to Fox. This is a true in-house franchise (no outside co-producers) with the franchise having been developed decades ago, and even more impressive, the same star is still in place still running strong.
Set and shot in Russia, this cost a not-enormous $92 million, and with international grosses likely to double or more its domestic take, this is on the way to decent success at least, despite the worst reviews in the series (the early films did quite well critically). This opened in some territories a week earlier, and has already taken in $80 million outside the U.S.
Comparing grosses to earlier releases with lower ticket prices, this falls a bit short, even with the boost of five-day figures. But the increase in foreign revenues will more than compensate for any relative shortfall domestically. And that it shows this level of strength after recent action star flops makes Bruce Willis once again viable in the kind of role he has thrived at.
Director John Moore has made all of his films for Fox (very unusual these days), including remakes of "The Omen" and "Flight of the Phoenix." His biggest previous grossing film actually was "Behind Enemy Lines." Producer Alex Young has overseen "Unstoppable" and "The A-Team," so this will clearly burnish his image as a success in the big-budget action world.
What comes next: This will not be a long-running film, and could fall behind not only next week's new films but also "Identity Thief," but it has done well enough to make another film likely.
2. Identity Thief (Universal) – Week 2; Last Weekend: #1
$27,884,000 (3 day gross -32%) in 3,165 theaters (+24); PSA: $8,810; Cumulative: $75.172,000
After outdoing "Bridesmaids"' opening last weekend, this Melissa McCarthy-starrer looks headed to being slightly ahead for their parallel second stanzas, though by a smaller margin. The earlier comedy grossed $21 million its first three days (compared to $23 million for this). That film fell only 20% on its way to a strong word-of-mouth driven lengthy run.
The PSA for "Thief" actually was better than for "Die Hard" (this played at several hundred fewer theaters), which makes its performance even more impressive.
The 11-day gross for this is unmatched — really nothing even close — for any new film since Christmas. It also means that Universal, with two female-led films (the other "Mama" starring Jessica Chastain), boasts the two biggest new films of 2013. Throw in "Les Miserables" and the modest success of "This Is 40," and the studio is showing some significant strength above other studios at the moment with its diversified release schedule.
What comes next: This looks like it should end up over $125 million. Not "Bridesmaids" perhaps (that ended up near $170), but with lousy reviews and only one female star, still very impressive. And it's still early, so even more than that is possible.
3. Safe Haven (Relativity) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 34
$25,000,000 in 3,223 theaters:; PSA: $7,757; Cumulative: $34,000,000
The number three position for the weekend belies the clear success this film already has had. Budgeted at only $28 million, it is yet another hit from a Nicholas Sparks novel (the eighth to be adapted for movies so far). Director Lasse Hallstrom made "Dear John," another Sparks novel, which opened better ($30 million for its first three days on its way to $80 million), but the five-day figure with the Thursday opening is ahead so far. This is a much stronger opening than the "The Notebook," which then went on to near-cult status among its core audience after doing $81 million domestic.
Relativity has been uneven as a distributor. Their "Mirror Mirror" was a solid success, but most other releases last year underperformed. This effort — which includes the company's founder Ryan Kavanaugh as a producer — got poor reviews but marketing and interest in Sparks seems to have overcome them.
For lead Josh Duhamel, a fixture in the "Transformers" series, this should easily be his biggest film as the star. Julianne Hough, best known for her "Dancing With the Stars" appearance, has already been feature in music related films ("Footloose, "Rock of Ages," "Burlesque"), so this will help broaden her appeal for future work.
What comes next: This went from #1 on Valentine's Day to #3 for the holiday four days, suggesting weak word of mouth. But the verdict won't be clear until the second weekend. This looks like at least a modest B+; Metacritic score: 45
$21,042,000 in 3,288 theaters; PSA: $6,400; Cumulative: $21,042,000
Weinstein isn't one of the major players in animated features (the two "Hoodwinked" films are their two major efforts, the latter topping out at $51 milliion). This opening is modest for most new films in the genre, although the relatively small budget ($40 million before marketing costs) and the potential to hold well for a couple weeks without major competition in the kids' market until Disney's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" makes this a decent opening.
Disney opened the Japanese "The Secret World of Arrietty" to $6.4 million on fewer than half the screens a year ago, but then "The Lorax" came along to a robust $70 million opening shortly after. As a science fiction story (with an environmental theme), this doesn't have the core appeal of many of the top animated films. But this production from a group of TV/cable/video filmmakers does seem to have found at least an initial response showing that there is always a market for product aimed at a family audience.
What comes next: This should minimally outgross the second "Hoodwinked," although not by much.
5. Warm Bodies (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last Weekend: #2
$10,250,000 (3 day -22%) in 2,897 theaters (-112); PSA: $3,048; Cumulative: $51,471,000
Very good holdover gross for this sleeper success from Lionsgate, who seems to regularly find fresh business from less than original concepts. The core younger more female audience clearly has responded to this.
What comes next: With Lionsgate no longer having "Twilight" to release, this, though not close to the same level, might be looked at as a mini-franchise going forward.
6. Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic score: 51
$8,925,000 in 2,950 theaters; PSA: $2,569; Cumulative: $11,467,000
Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer is retiring next week, days after his company's "Argo" likely does well at the Oscars. That is leaving on a high note. It also distracts attention from the fact that four of the last five films released by his company since "Argo" – "Cloud Atlas," "Gangster Squad," "Bullet to the Head," and now "Beautiful Creatures" – have been, to be charitable, disappointing. (Mercifully, "The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey," has been a major success).
This "Twilight" wannabe – based on a modest-selling series of supernatural romances aimed a adolescent girls – cost Alcon Entertainment (who previous supplied "Blind Side," "Something Borrowed" and "What to Do When You're Expecting") around $50 million before marketing, making these numbers even softer than they already look even with a mid-level budget.
For director-writerRichard LaGravenese this is a comedown. His early scripts (including "The Fisher King" and "The Bridges of Madison County") led to adding directing credits ("Living Out Loud," "P.S. I Love You" and "Freedom Riders") that were all mildly successful.
What comes next: Warners likely hoped this might become a franchise a la "Twilight" and "Hunger Games." These grosses wouldn't seem to support that notion.
7. Side Effects (Open Road) Week 2; Last Weekend: #3
$7,800,000 (3 day gross -33%) in 2,605 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,401; Cumulative: $20,621,000
Although this Steven Soderbergh thriller underperformed opening weekend, it held up fairly well with stiff competition its second weekend.
What comes next: It should help with third week holdovers that Open Road is owned by the two largest exhibitors, giving this a chance to hold on if word of mouth is helping.
8. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 14; Last Weekend: #4
$7,630,000 (3 day gross -6%) in 2,202 theaters (-607); PSA: $3,465; Cumulative: $100,004,000
The only time a film hits $100 million this late in a run is when the grosses and the release pattern dovetailed off the awards calendar, and Weinstein has played this year like a great violinist on a Stradivarius. The drop for the three day gross was less than the theater count decrease, showing this is holding in beautifully.
What comes next: After a likely solid gross until Sunday, this could see another significant bump after the Oscars if the film fares well as seems possible. Even if "Argo" (just released on DVD) wins Best Picture, this has a chance to surpass it theatrically with big wins.
9. Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters (Paramount) Week 4; Last Weekend: #5
$4,130,000 (3 day gross -39%) in 2,103 theaters (-1,182); PSA:; Cumulative: $50,358,000
With all the younger-audience appeal and/or R-rated films popping up in the last few weeks, getting to a fourth week in the top 10 suggests continued decent audience response. The over $100 million additional this has already grossed in the rest of the world makes this a success.
What comes next: Studios are in the franchise business, and the total gross makes this a candidate for a sequel at least.
10. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) Week 9; Last Weekend: #7
$3,600,000 (3 day gross -25%) in 1,522 theaters (-1,040); PSA:; Cumulative: $88,529,000
Despite losing 40 per cent of its theaters, the gross only fell a quarter, showing again the impact of people catching up on Oscar nominees.
What comes next: It likely would take a now-longshot Jessica Chastain Best Actress win to make getting to $100 million certain, but should still get close even without that.