It was a piss-poor weekend at the box office. Grosses showed somewhat more strength Saturday than Friday. The Super Bowl always damages both audience turnout and viable new releases, but this looks like the worst in total gross since at least 2007, and less than that when higher ticket prices are included. And this doesn't come in a vacuum — business has been down since the start of the year.
The Top Ten grossed about $64 million, down from $80 last weekend and nearly 30% from last year. The pattern remains the same as past weeks — a younger oriented horror genre film ("Warm Bodies") comes in at #1, the earlier ones drop off, an action film with a past big draw ("Bullet to the Head") underperforms, and meantime a bunch of Oscar nominees fill in some of the gap. (Five of the Top Ten this week are Best Picture nominees, and two others fell just a bit short). The net result is a total gross that for theaters represents signs of a continued slump that is starting to raise anxiety levels.
For studios, the silver lining comes from the lower budgets of some of the successes as well as the continued success of late 2012 older audience films still holding on. But signs of weakness are abundant, and unless things turn around quickly (and no "Hunger Games" to save March), 2013 is off to a worrisome start.
Falling below the Top Ten, with only 659 theaters, Lionsgates' older-audience appeal "Stand Up Guys" opened to $1,500,000 after initially qualfying for non-existent awards attention last month. Meantime, Warner Bros. expansion of its on-the-roll "Argo" to 930 theaters and added another $2,100,000 to its already impressive haul.
1. Warm Bodies (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic Score: 59
$20,025,000 in 3,009 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $6,665; Cumulative: $20,025,000
Performing a bit above expectations, and benefitting from a lack of strong competition, this PG-13 younger-oriented zombie romance did a bit less than two new openers ("Chronicle" and "The Woman in Black") did against the Super Bowl last year. Still, with a $30-million budget and targeted advertising below normal wide expense, this looks initially like a success, just a week after Lionsgate flopped bigtime with "Parker."
Made by Lionsgate's Summit label, among its producers are David Hoberman and Todd Liebsman, whose past successes include "The Fighter" and "The Muppets." Director/writer Jonathan Levine, who comes out of the indie world ("50/50," "The Wackness") elevated this story with an up-and-coming young cast and a look toward a more female audience. So far it looks like they have hit their target.
What comes next: Word of mouth will determine whether this can build on the initial success, but this is one case where opening against the Super Bowl seems to have paid off.
2. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #1
$9,210,000 (-53%) in 3,375 theaters (+3); PSA:; Cumulative: $34,463,000
Considering the circumstances, a slightly more than 50% fall isn't disastrous for this R-rated retelling of the classic children's story starring Jeremy Renner.
What comes next: With international already outgrossing the domestic counterpart, this modestly-budgeted film looks like it will be a success.
3. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 12 – Last Weekend: #4
$8,113,000 (-14%) in 2,809 theaters (+168); PSA: $2,888; Cumulative: $80,378,000
Another stellar week for this long-running hit, elevated to third (for real — last weekend ended up #4 after an initial overestimate) by the lack of strong competition as well as its ongoing decent word of mouth. This gross comes in part with ongoing advertising, more expensive for this stage of a run than normal, and at a point where usually the distributor takes a lower share of the receipts. That said, it is still churning out enough business to justify the delayed expansion.
What comes next: This is playing like a classic film that gets to $100 million as it is being propelled toward a Best Picture win. Though that is unlikely, it should easily hit that gross and go beyond, all the while keeping Best Actress contender Jennifer Lawrence front and center.
4. Mama (Universal) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #2
$6,700,000 (-49%) in 2,781 theaters (+99); PSA: $2,420; Cumulative: $58,200,000
Any drop of less than 50% for the third weekend of a horror film, more so with the competing factors, is a sign of some residual good reaction. This Spanish produced Jessica Chastain-starring film continues as the most successful new 2013 release, even more impressive with its $15 million budget.
What comes next: Nearly all the world has yet to open, but with these figures Universal likely will clamor for a sequel. Whether its acclaimed star would return at this stage of her career remains to be seen.
5. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) Week 7 – Last Weekend: #3
$5,300,000 (-45%) in 2,871 theaters (-58); PSA: $1,846; Cumulative: $77,798,000
The biggest fall yet as this hits its fourth wide weekend, although not surprising as its older male core audience is occupied elsewhere.
What comes next: Barring major Oscar success, this likely won't quite make $100 million domestically, but it still has performed about as well as expected.
6. Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic Score: 47
$4,500,000 in 2,404 theaters; PSA: $1,872; Cumulative: $4,500,000
The last of Joel Silver's films before he and Warner Bros. terminated their long-time production partnership (including the "Lethal Weapon," "Matrix" and "Sherlock Holmes" films) is also one of his least. Delayed from its original spring 2012 release date and placed to open in a nothing weekend, it did worse than even its low expectations.
Based on a popular French graphic novel and reported to have a budget of $50 million or more, veteran director Walter Hill ("The Warriors," "48 Hours") worked with Sylvester Stallone for the first time. Though the mixed reviews noted signs of some of Hill's past successes, particularly in the action sequences, this is another case — right after Arnold Schwarzenner's disastrous "The Last Stand" — where audiences who were curious to see aging icons together in "The Expendables 2" had little interest in them by themselves.
What comes next: A quick fade-out while hoping for better results overseas.
7. Parker (FilmDistrict) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #5
$3,215,000 (-54%) in 2,238 theaters (+14); PSA: $1,437; Cumulative: $12,440,000
Jason Stathan's contribution to the action-driven underachievers of early 2013 didn't fall as much as it might have, but that is about the only positive thing to report about the gross.
What comes next: Another film that will gross less than several much older Oscar nominees next week.
8. Django Unchained (Weinstein) Week 6 – Last Weekend: #6
$3,039,000 (-39%) in 1,777 theaters (-230); PSA: $1,710; Cumulative: $150,979,000
Another respectable week for this major hit, whose international gross now nearly equals its domestic performance.
What comes next: This likely will end up close second to "Les Miserables" as the biggest grossing Best Picture nominee worldwide (assuming "Lincoln" as it rolls out internationally has less appeal than at home.) The Quentin Tarantino franchise for Weinstein looks as strong as ever.
9. Les Miserables (Universal) Week 6 – Last Weekend: #9
$2,439,000 (-42%) in 1,848 theaters (-353); PSA: $1,320; Cumulative: $141,500,000
Another Top Ten week even as the gross falls off as this musical continues to show reasonable late-run strength.
What comes next: Though its Oscar wins won't likely to be what Universal hoped for, this still has managed to reach a very strong level.
10. Lincoln (Buena Vista) Week 13 – Last Weekend: #11
$2,412,000 (-38%) in 1,756 theaters (-153); PSA: $1,374; Cumulative: $170,787,000
Jumping back into the Top Ten, continuing to hold amazingly well as it ends its third month of playing wide, everything continues to go right for Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film (other than the Guild awards). This is playing like it is the people's choice to win and still getting audiences who want to catch up with it in case it does.
What comes next: At some level, this ongoing response is Disney's best case for it still to win Best Picture.