A weekend standout amid weather closings, "Identity Thief" outdid expectations for a terrific opening. While a number of recent releases and older Oscar contenders held up well (following the depleted Super Bowl weekend), most or all of the Top Ten films are successes. So what's the worry?
Try this – the total for the Top 10 was $84 million, up a healthy $18 millon from last weekend. But one year ago, four separate films (three new releases and a "Star Wars" series 3-D reissue) all grossed over $20 million, with two ("The Vow" and "Safe House") over $40. The ten films together grossed $168 million, double this year.
What is happening? There is less top new product in the marketplace to feed audience desire. With many of the films in release at lower mid-range budgets with small advertising expenses, and the international market thriving for many, the studios are holding their own even with these paltry totals. But for theaters, this is a serious decline that suggests tough times ahead.
Significantly, six of the top ten films midway through February were released before 2013, including five Oscar Best Picture nominees. Last year, only two older films (including a $22 million gross for "The Phantom Menace" reissue) were factors. What 2013 needs — and fast — are fresh hits and films that have good enough word of mouth to stick around for more than a few weeks.
1. Identity Thief (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic rating: 35
$36,593,000 in 3,141 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,650; Cumulative: $36,593,000
A star is born, as Melissa McCarthy for the first time in the lead propelled this poorly-reviewed comedy to easily the top weekend gross and the best since "The Hobbit" despite some loss from the storm impact.
Significantly, this is at least $10 million better than her co-starring film "Bridesmaids" opened to in spring 2011 on its way to a long run that totaled $169 million. This is more likely a front-ended film without the same word of mouth, but its success attests to her broad-based appeal which could turn her into a movie rarity: a major female comedy star.
Even better for Universal, this was a lower-budget film ($35 million) with potential worldwide appeal. It's the best opening yet for previously successful director Seth Gordon (whose "Four Christmases" and "Horrible Bosses" also opened above $25 million on their way to $100 million + grosses), For co-lead Jason Bateman (also one of the producers), this is yet another hit as he quietly builds a solid career ("Up in the Air," "Couples Retreat," "Juno," "The Break Up") over the last decade on his earlier TV success.
For in-house Universal producer Scott Stuber ("Ted," "Battleship" and "Safe House" also in the past year) this is another feather in his cap, as it will be for all participants.
What comes next: Word of mouth will determine how much over $100 milliion this goes, but at this level already a sequel almost certainly will be considered.
2. Warm Bodies (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last Weekend: #1
$11,500,000 (-43%) in 3,009 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,822; Cumulative: $36,652,000
A normal drop for a younger-oriented horror film this weekend as last week's top film still is performing decently. Despite the storm, this was the smallest drop for a #1 film other than "Zero Dark Thirty" so far this year, indicating a positive response from its intended majority female audience despite the competition from "Identity Thief."
What comes next: Apparent good word of mouth should propel this to total gross somewhere approaching $60 million.
3. Side Effects (Open Road) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic rating: 74
$10,015,000 in 2,605 theaters; PSA: $3,845; Cumulative: $10,015,000
Opening a bit below expectations (the storm impact was the major factor), Steven Soderbergh's announced final theatrical feature scored the best reviews of any wide-release so far this year. Independently produced in part by Endgame Entertainment (also involved with another smart film last fall, "Looper") and released by Open Road, the distribution combine jointly owned by exhibitors Regal and AMC, it fell short of two of their earlier well-reviewed films ("The Grey" and "End of Watch"), as well as their comedy "A Haunted House" a few weeks ago (which did $18 million for its opening).
The $30 million production (sold separately to multiple distributors internationally, which likely paid down much of the cost) has a cast with previous blockbusters, led by Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum (the latter the driving force with Soderbergh on the also independently produced "Magic Mike"). The director surrounded himself with other previous collaborators, including writer Scott Z. Burns ("Contagion," "The Informant") and producer Gregory Jacobs, a partner going back to "Full Frontal."
Open Road has pursued both broad-based genre films and more upscale-appealing efforts that are still meant to reach a wide rather than specialized audiences. "Side Effects" is a thriller aimed at an adult audience. The lack of awards and festival attention (because of its time of release) and the continued draw of a range of Oscar nominees might have provided a bit more competition than "End of Watch" had (which ended up grossing $41 million).
What comes next: With its adult appeal, a steady run ahead fueled by word of mouth remains a possibility.
4. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 13; Last Weekend: #3
$6,908,000 (-11%) in 2,809 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,459; Cumulative: $90,002,000
Another solid hold as the Oscar race heads into the home stretch. Though advertising and outside publicity (this was Mental Health Week for the film's participants) helps, at this point the strongest asset seems to be word of mouth.
What comes next: This looks like it will easily pass $100 million before the awards, with a good deal more possible.
5. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) Week 3; Last Weekend: #2
$5,750,000 (-39%) in 3.285 theaters (-90); PSA: $1,750; Cumulative: $43,833,000
A smaller than usual falloff indicates both a decent response from audiences as well fewer than normal new big openings as this R-rated take on the classic children's story continues its respectable run. Overseas is much better, looking like it should easily surpass $100 million above its domestic take.
What comes next: Another film that should end up in the mid-level $60 million range, combined with foreign decent for this decent for this $50 million production.
6. Mama (Universal) Week 4; Last Weekend: #4
$4,300,000 (-34%) in 2,677 theaters (-104); PSA: $1,615; Cumulative: $64,000,000
A modest drop for this Jessica Chastain-starring horror film, which quietly is accumulating a solid total gross.
What comes next: With a $15 millionj budget, and most of the rest of the world still to come, this Spanish production is going to be one of the best returns on investment this year.
7. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) Week 8; Last Weekend: #5
$4,000,000 (-23%) in 2,562 theaters (-309); PSA: $1,561; Cumulative: $83,600,000
A drop of less than 25% even with losing theaters shows the normal pre-Oscar interest continues.
What comes next: This could struggle to reach $100 million (which would make it the seventh of the nine Best Picture nominees) unless is wins one or more major awards.
8. Argo (Warner Bros.) Week 18; Last Weekend: #11
$2,500,000 (+23%) in 1,405 theaters (+470); PSA: $1,779; Cumulative: $123,734,000
Riding the wave of awards that have made this the Oscar Best Picture frontrunner, and just ahead of its DVD retail release next week (Feb. 19), Warner Bros. expanded this to its widest level since before Thanksgiving and a return to the top 10.
What comes next: Though not the biggest grosser among the Best Picture nominees, it has amassed the largest gross pre-Oscars since "The Departed," which was Warner Bros'. last winner.
9. Django Unchained (Weinstein) Week 7; Last Weekend: #8
$2,288,000 (-24%) in 1,502 theaters (-275); PSA: $1,523; Cumulative: $154,501,000
Another Weinstein film that has benefited from ongoing strong word of mouth as well as the lack of multiple new alternatives. This is a very minor falloff for this stage of the run, even more considering each week it loses more theaters.
What comes next: This won't sell quite as many domestic tickets as Tarantino's biggest hit "Pulp Fiction," but with its very strong worldwide performance (already $187 million) it will outperform that film ultimately.
10. Top Gun 3D (Paramount) NEW
$1,900,000 in 300 theaters; PSA: $6,333; Cumulative: $1,900,000
For the number of theaters for this 3-D makeover of this 27-year-old film, this is an adequate figure (keeping in mind the ticket surcharges and the quality of the IMAX venues). It makes the top ten at a lower figure than normal, and pales compared to the $22 million grossed by "The Phantom Menace" in 3-D a year ago (which did play a much wider break).
What comes next: This sort of performance isn't going to encourage similar do-overs for other past iconic hits.