Marvel/Disney’s “Thor: The Dark World,” aided both by upbeat audience reaction and the lack of product in theaters aimed at the young action-movie demo, roared back to Number One in its second weekend. Universal’s “The Best Man Holiday” beat it out for top spot on Friday, but fell back to score more than $30 million, even more impressive as it played at some 1,800 fewer theaters than “Thor” (“Best Man”‘s per screen average was actually 50% better).
The rest of the top 10 consists of mostly fall holdovers, with smaller than usual drops at this point for all except for Lionsgate’s disappointing “Ender’s Game.” But the year-to-year comparison is devastating. The top 10 grossed around $119 million, only half of the same weekend last year. The difference is that 2012 saw “Breaking Dawn 2” open (last year this was the pre-Thanksgiving weekend, which is delayed a week in 2013), which alone did $141 million to open, with “Skyfall,” “Lincoln” and others adding to the total to make it the second best weekend of 2012. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” next week should outdo the “Twilight” finale, so much of this gap should be closed. Still, it shows that there’s still a steep climb to match last year’s total $10.8 million gross.
Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” (Paramount) was the major new limited release, with a PSA of $35,000 in four New York/Los Angeles theaters making it the best platform opening since “12 Years a Slave.” Focus’ “Dallas Buyers Club,” which opened nearly as well two weeks ago, managed to place #12 this weekend with a quite good $1,785,000 in 184 theaters. More on both of these films and other specialized titles in Arthouse Audit.
1. Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$38,454,000 (-55%) in 3,841 theaters (unchanged); PSA (per screen average): $10,011; Cumulative: $146,965,000
This held better than the lower grossing “Thor” in 2009 even with a 55% drop and is otherwise ahead of that film’s performance (both second weekend total and gross to date). As solid as the domestic totals are, the bigger news is foreign, where the total so far is already $333 million (“Thor” for its entire run reached $268 million) with two major territories — Japan and Italy — still to open. That puts its foreign take ahead of “Gravity” as the biggest of the season, though it still lags behind that film domestically. Marvel knows its market, and the performance here shows the boost the smash success of “The Avengers” has given to all its franchises.
What comes next: “Catching Fire” will take a lot of wind out of its sails, but this had $75 million+ additional domestic business left.
2. The Best Man Holiday (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 59
$30,600,000 in 2,024 theaters; PSA: $15,155; Cumulative: $30,600,000
Though it didn’t sustain its #1 opening day position and actually lagged further behind “Thor: The Dark World” than looked likely yesterday, “The Best Man Holiday” still ended up strong. With a $17 million budget for this 14-year later sequel (which in a much different universe opened to $9 million and ended up at $34), this had an overwhelmingly African-American (87%), female (75%) and older (63% over 35) audience, making the total more impressive in its draw from a narrower range of moviegoers.
This is a major step forward for veteran director Malcolm D. Lee (who also wrote and co-produced the film). He had four previous films with total grosses between $32 and $42 million (apart from “The Best Man,” “Undercover Brother,” “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” and “Scary Movie 5”) with this looking to end up far above all of these ($75 million and possibly more). The A+ Cinemascore — very rare — suggests superb word of mouth, although the narrowness of the draw will keep the multiple below what otherwise might result from that kind of response.
The film recreated most of the original’s cast (Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut) and was coproduced by Sean Daniel, who in his 30s was head of production at Universal. This is something of a comeback for him, with his biggest successes as a producer (“Dazed and Confused,” “Tombstone,” “Michael,” “The Jackal,” “The Mummy”) going back to the 1990s.
What comes next: Nearly all of the business will be domestic, but it should be strong enough to suggest that another sequel won’t take nearly as long to be realized.
3. Last Vegas (CBS) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$8,885,000 (-20%) in 3,237 theaters (+155); PSA: $2,739; Cumulative: $46,958,000
Very strong hold for this comedy, similar to “The Best Man Holiday” playing primarily to older audiences. This jumped over two films that it trailed last week, and now looks certain to surpass “The Woman in Black” as CBS Films’ biggest hit to date (that film did $54 million — this will get much higher).
One of the underlying stories of 2013 has been the number of unexpected comedy successes, at least in terms of performing above expectations. Six of the top 25 grosses of the year have been non-animated comedies, all of them except “The Hangover Part III” exceeding expectations, with “Vegas” and “Bad Grandpa” continuing the trend this fall. With the production costs of these films usually far below many other top grossers, expect the studios to be pushing for more in their upcoming production schedules.
What comes next: “Vegas” has a long way to go, with the holiday ahead likely to keep these grosses at or close to this weekend’s level.
4. Free Birds (Relativity) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$8,300,000 (-25%) in 3,510 theaters (-226); PSA: $2,365; Cumulative: $42,218,000
Once again, it helps to be the most recent animated film around, as Relativity’s cartoon original holds well again and has a decent weekend.
What comes next: These grosses guarantee that this will hold most theaters. through the lucrative Thanksgiving period, even though Disney’s “Frozen” will replace it as the go-to kids’ film in the market.
5. Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa (Paramount) Week 4 – Last weekend #2
$7,670,000 (-32%) in 3,190 theaters (+3); PSA: $2,404; Cumulative: $90,202,000
Continuing to hold far better than anyone anticipated, the latest Jackass variation shows the benefit of adding a plot line to go with the gags that sustained the three previous films. “Jackass 3D” in 2010 had grossed $72 million at this stage (with 3-D surcharges aiding the gross), while this go round will easily top $100 million and even more impressively more than triple its opening weekend, showing a great audience reaction.
What comes next: The success here should guarantee that the franchise will continue for sometime.
6. Gravity (Warner Bros.) Week 7 – Last weekend #6
$6,280,000 (-26%) in 2,560 theaters (-160); PSA: $2,453; Cumulative: $240,556,000
Another very strong hold for what remains the biggest non-summer release of the year so far, and overall #5 for the year.
What comes next: Worldwide is now at the half billion mark, with China and Japan still to open.
7. Ender’s Game (Lionsgate) Week 3 – Last weekend #5
$6,200,000 (-40%) in 3,236 theaters (-171); PSA: $1,916; Cumulative: $53,777,000
#7 is not where Lionsgate wanted this to be in its third weekend, with the disappointing run for this $100 million+ budget film falling fast. And their own “Catching Fire” won’t help matters next week and beyond.
What comes next: International is rolling out more slowly (only at $9 million so far), and doesn’t look likely to help turn this around.
8. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) Week 5 – Last weekend #7
$4,700,000 (-30%) in 1,411 theaters (+267); PSA: $3,311; Cumulative: $24,949,000
Already up to an impressive total, this strong awards contender took a bit of a dip this weekend. The gross fell 30% despite adding a number of new theaters, with the PSA dropping over 40%. By comparison, “Precious” at the same point in its run has grossed $36 million despite still being at only 664 theaters at that point. (The earlier film though did open a bit later and benefited from Thanksgiving playtime). It is now Fox Searchlight’s biggest film of the year and their best since “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in summer 2012.
What comes next: This likely won’t see as big a screen count again until after the nominations in January, with the weekend gross falling while still playing a core group of theaters in the interim.
9. Captain Phillips (Sony) Week 6 – Last weekend #8
$4,500,000 (-21%) in 2,626 theaters (-20); PSA: $2,626; Cumulative: $97,617,000
Holding in terrifically once again, and doing well in a very crowded market for older-audience appeal films, with foreign now coming along (another $55 million so far). Sony has a significant hit that has a lot more total gross still to come.
What comes next: And star Tom Hanks still has “Saving Mr. Banks” to open next month, making a one-two punch that returns him to the upper level of major actors after falling behind a bit recently.
10. About Time (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #9
$3,462,000 (-27%) in 1,280 theaters (+80); PSA: $2,705; Cumulative: $11,568,000
Not a bad hold for this still somewhat limited release, suggesting decent word of mouth and a degree of success for Universal’s risky initial smaller first week release.
What comes next: It will be tougher to sustain some of these theaters with big competition over the next couple weeks (not only new films but other stronger current releases), but they should get enough to end up with double or more the current total. International so far has taken in an additional $38 million.