Led by a strong performance by 3-D enhanced “Thor: The Dark World,” overall grosses came in about equal to last year, keeping pace with the 2012 year-to-date total. (2013’s top ten grossed $159 million against $161 million last year.) With $86,109,000 for the weekend, “Thor” came in just behind “Skyfall”‘s stellar opening last year, but the heavy lifting came from the rest of the top 10.
It remains to be seen if November will match 2012’s stellar take (including “Skyfall,” the final “Twilight” entry, “Lincoln” and “The Life of Pi”), but results so far look promising.
1. Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore – A-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 54
$86,109,000 in 3,841 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $22,418,000; Cumulative: $86,109,000
This Marvel “Thor” sequel is already up to $241 million worldwide (where it opened some territories last week), which puts it less than $30 million below what the initial 2009 entry took in. With domestic just starting and several large territories still to come, this is clearly another hit for the Marvel/Disney combine. Coming after Thor played a prime role in “The Avengers,” this clearly seems to be riding on the momentum of that global blockbuster.
But this film also seems to have some unexpected strength of its own. Saturday ended up grossing about the same as the combined two-day Thursday/Friday figure, bigger than what seemed likely. Although this gross didn’t reach the $100 million some had expected, it still managed to be the fourth-best of the year, and more impressive, it comes outside a summer or holiday playtime.
At a $170-million budget plus sizable global marketing costs, these numbers are what the film needed to meet. Interestingly, audience surveys (which report a solid A- Cinemascore) indicate that 61% of the audience is over 25 (once again, the 18-24 demo seems to be underperforming). And despite apparent female interest in stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, 62% of attendees were male. Comic book hero fans seem to hold on to their interests as they age, which may be a big part of the Marvel (as well as D.C. Comics staples like “Batman” and “Superman”) appeal.
Marvel steered this to a more sophisticated feel. Alan Taylor (“Palookaville,” “The Emperor’s Clothes”) has spent most of his career directing high-end cable, mainly for HBO (most recently “Game of Thrones,” an Emmy for “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “Sex and the City,” as well as “Mad Men” and many others. Among “Thor”‘s credited screenwriters are two Emmy-winners for “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” Reviews weren’t stellar, but audiences continue to connect with the extra attention Marvel producer Kevin Feige (“The Avengers” and all of the “Iron Man” films) gave to this project.
What comes next: This will be unchallenged for #1 next weekend, though “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” should open much bigger the following week. Still, this will play into December and, like “Gravity,” end up somewhere in the $250 million + domestic area, with international more than doubling that number.
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Paramount) Week 3 – Last weekend #2
$11,300,000 (-44%) in 3,187 theaters (-158); PSA: $3,187; Cumulative: $78,747,000
Though it was a fairly steep drop, this is actually a better third weekend hold than the last two “Jackass” entries, with a gross that guarantees that this will unexpectedly get to a total gross that will more than triple its opening weekend.
What comes next: This like “Last Vegas” and several other bigger-than-expected hits this year shows that comedies are in big demand at the moment.
3. Free Birds (Relativity) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$11,180,000 (-29%) in 3.736 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,993; Cumulative: $30,196,000
A very healthy second week hold for the newest of the kids’ films in release. Like a lot of original animated films, this gained traction after getting initial viewing and in this case clearly some favorable word of mouth.
What comes next: Disney’s “Frozen” doesn’t open until Nov. 27, so this has a clear shot at two more decent weekends at least.
4. Last Vegas (CBS) Week 2 – Last weekend #3
$11,100,000 (-32%) in 3,082 theaters (+17); PSA: $3,602; Cumulative: $33,531,000
A strong hold for this older-audience appealing comedy, which is being driven by its cast and word of mouth far more than reviews. With a $28 million budget this looks with sustained play and holiday weeks ahead to become at least a modest hit and possibly more – if it reaches $54 million (quite possible) it will surpass “The Woman in Black” as the biggest grosser in the four year history of this company.
What comes next: Watch the weekdays for this film — it actually hit #1 for the day on Thursday, showing real strength among boomers.
5. Ender’s Game (Lionsgate) Week 2 – Last weekend #1
$10,250,000 (-62%) in 3,407 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,009; Cumulative: $44,031,000
Falling from #1 last week, this is just $1.8 million ahead of the sixth weekend of the slightly less expensive “Gravity,” with its PSA even lower. This has become despite an unexpected international turnaround, a significant failure.
What comes next: Mostly over and out when Lionsgate’s “Catching Fire” opens in two weeks, if not before.
6. Gravity (Warner Bros) Week 6 – Last weekend #5
$8,405,000 (-34%) in 2,720 theaters (-304); PSA: $3,090; Cumulative: $231,079,000
Another decent hold for the film that is likely to be the biggest hit among the awards contenders.
What comes next: These grosses are strong enough to suggest that quite a few theaters will be playing through the lucrative Thanksgiving holidays.
7. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) Week 4 – Last weekend #7
$6,600,000 (+38%) in 1,144 theaters (+734); PSA: $5,769; Cumulative: $17,346,000
This continues to impress for a fourth week now, and with Searchlight taking a real risk in going this wide so soon, it appears that they are maximizing the audience for what never seemed like an easy wider-release film, no matter how strong the reviews. This gross is 50% ahead of what “Blue Jasmine” (at this point the biggest specialized release of 2013) grossed when it passed the 1,000 theater mark (in its case, week 5). Best Picture winner “The Artist” (whose release was slower and more modulated to ride the Oscar bandwagon) never grossed more than $3.6 million on any given weekend. What this shows is that Searchlight was right to get this out early and not depend solely on awards to push the film — and they still have that to fall back on later.
What comes next: This will hold in most of these theaters through November, and at some non-stop right into January. It’s too early to firmly guess at its ultimate gross, but at a minimum it has achieved a result impressive enough to buttress its already strong awards chances.
8. Captain Phillips (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #6
$5,800,000 (-31%) in 2,646 theaters (-375); PSA: $2,646; Cumulative: $90,982,000
Another decent hold as the strong adult audience response continues for this Tom Hanks-starrer, which other than the two “Da Vinci Code” entry is his biggest live-action film since 2002 (“Catch Me If You Can”). This soon will top out Sony’s biggest Oscar contender last year (“Zero Dark Thirty”), whose main wide weeks came after its Oscar nominations. International is beginning to come into play with some strength as well, making this $55 million film a likely clear success for the uneven Sony.
What comes next: Expect this to get to $115 million or better before it is through.
9. About Time (Universal) Week 2 – Last weekend #13
$5,200,000 (+381%%) in 1,200 theaters (+1,025); PSA: $4,310; Cumulative: $6,700,000
Performing (when adjusting for slightly different screen counts) about 75% as well as “12 Years a Slave” (although this had a bigger TV campaign), these are adequate grosses for this British romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist. Following a much more limited opening last week, this drew a heavily (71%) female audience as well as older (56% over 40), with Universal reporting strongly favorable audience reactions. A majority of the films that opened last weekend actually improved this time around.
What comes next: These grosses should minimally allow for most theaters to give it a chance to run, and if word of mouth is as strong as suggested, this might turn out to perform well enough to reach a decent domestic gross to add to the $43 million international take so far.
10. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony) Week 7 – Last weekend #8
$2,800,000 (-32%) in 1,836 theaters (-594); PSA: $1,525; Cumulative: $109,966,000
With a significant attrition of theaters, this still fell only 40% and held on as the longest-running top 10 film — even with the more recent “Free Birds” doing well.
What comes next: This won’t quite reach the $125 million level of “Cloudy 1,” but will come close enough plus international to make this a real success for Sony Animation.