The post-Christmas weekend can be one of the biggest of the year. And so it was. The top 10 grossed $171 million, up a healthy $17 million from 2012, which nudges the year’s totals slightly ahead of 2012. However the strong weekend total comes despite an uneven performance from a wide variety of films. The top three slots went to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (at #1 on its third weekend), repeating “The Hobbit”‘s three-weekend hold on the top spot, Thanksgiving holdover “Frozen,” and “Anchorman 2” in its second weekend.
Five new wide releases (anemic “Justin Bieber Believe” did not crack the top 12) all placed lower over the holiday. Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the best, only ranking at #5 for the weekend. Two holdover awards contenders, “American Hustle” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” boosted their numbers over the lucrative holiday.
Among limited run films, “Her” enjoyed a healthy expansion, while “August: Osage County” took in a mediocre $36,000 per screen on five New York/Los Angeles screens. “Lone Survivor” fared slightly better on two screens with a $46,000 PSA. More details in Arthouse Audit.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last weekend #1
$29,850,000 (-5%) in 3,928 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $7,599; Cumulative: $190,304,000
Holding far better than the post-Christmas weekend of the first “Hobbit” film last year (which fell 13%) and not much below that film’s gross (about $2 million less), you can forget any residual talk about this second series entry being a disappointment. While the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy’s grosses did rise along the way, that was an exceptionally strong series. “Desolation of Smaug” now looks headed toward an easy $250 million-plus domestic take, with worldwide (international is performing ahead of US/Canada by some margin) heading toward the last film’s mighty $1 billion take.
What comes next: This actually has a shot of a fourth straight #1 next weekend, more than last year’s entry achieved.
2. Frozen (Buena Vista) Week – Last weekend: #3
$28,845,000 (+47%) in 3,335 theaters (-205); PSA (per screen average): $8,649:; Cumulative: $248,366,000
Since 2000, no November-released film has placed in the top four at the end of December (“Toy Story 2” was the last, also coming in at #2). That includes huge hits in the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series as well as “Skyfall” and “Lincoln” last year, all continuing to play through the holidays but lagging behind after great early performances. “Frozen” was helped not only by its clear appeal to family audiences, but also by the lack of any other competitor (Fox’s “Walking With Dinosaurs” failed to gain traction). This didn’t start out as one of the top animated openers — several summer releases topped it, led by “Despicable Me 2.” But this has had an extraordinary hold and isn’t done yet, with more holiday playtime ahead. This is already nearing $400 million worldwide.
What comes next: Expect this to play through January, with $300 million domestic likely and a chance to rival “DM 2” as the highest-grossing animated release of 2013.
3. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount) Week 2 – Last weekend #2
$20,150,000 (-25%) in 3,507 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,746; Cumulative: $83,677,000
Will Farrell’s sequel has turned out to be much bigger than expected. Not only is the #3 placement much higher this weekend than anticipated, but some grumbling last weekend about its performance (when it fell just short of $40 million over its first five days) now seems silly. It ranks as the top comedy of the season (“Walter Mitty,” with less slapstick, was expected to do better), and in just under two weeks has outgrossed the 2004 original. And for the weekend it also is Paramount’s top grosser, ahead of “Wolf of Wall Street.” All involved are likely doing high-fives not only for the numbers involved but overall relative performance.
What comes next: It took nine years for this sequel to be produced. It’s unlikely there will be as big a gap before the next one.
4. American Hustle (Sony) Week 3 – Last weekend #4
$19,550,000 (+2%) in 2,507 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $7,798; Cumulative: $60,035,000
As happy as the “Anchorman” team might be, the Sony/Annapurna folks should be thrilled with “American Hustle”‘s performance. The plan to platform for a week, then open pre-Christmas (despite the risks for an older-audience film) paid off big-time as the gross slightly increased and the total is already at $60 million with possible many weeks of play ahead. This Oscar frontrunner continues to far outpace the much slower roll-out for director David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” last year, which relied more on awards traction to gain momentum. Through post-Christmas weekend, “SLP” had taken in $27.3 million (on 745 screens at that point) on its way to $132 million by the time the Oscars were over. This looks poised to outdo that figure, as well as having momentum at exactly the right time to influence Academy members. Very significant is that this topped “The Wolf of Wall Street”‘s opening weekend.
What comes next: This could easily rise to #3 or even higher next weekend.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 75
$18,510,000 in 2,537 theaters; PSA: $7,296; Cumulative: $34,302,000
Martin Scorsese’s much ballyhooed three-hour 1970s epic came in at close to pre-opening estimates, which was what it needed to do to have any chance of reaching domestic numbers that will help recoup its $100 million cost. However, there are some problematic signs. The C Cinemascore suggests some audience resistance, and its fall in position from #2 on Christmas to #5 for the weekend indicates that this might have already seen its best grosses.
Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio have some history with this. Their “Shutter Island” had a similar C+ Cinemascore. But despite opening in January, this opened to $41 million, $7 million more than the five-day holiday take this time around. The three-hour running time hurts somewhat, but this will fall far short of the earlier film’s $128 million (as well as their earlier “The Departed,” which reached $132 million). For DiCaprio, this falls below his last two hits, “The Great Gatsby” ($50 million opening/$145 total) and “Django Unchained” ($30 million post-Christmas weekend, $162 million). It looks though that it will outdo Scorsese’s acclaimed “Hugo,” which struggled to get to $74 million.
Beyond the two big names, the creative team also included “Boardwalk Empire” creator and “Sopranos” writer Terence Winter (whose previous features include “Get Rich or Die Tryin”” and “Brooklyn Rules”). Luckily for Paramount, financing came entirely from Red Granite productions (“Friends With Kids,” “Out of the Past”), a U.S.-based company raising much of its money from Asian and Middle Eastern sources. The studio is handling the film for a distribution fee, and managed to rearrange its release schedule when the editing wasn’t done in time.
What comes next: This is on the cusp for upcoming awards consideration. Any attention ahead could help, with next weekend being critical in seeing how much traction this divisive film might still attain.
6. Saving Mr. Banks (Buena Vista) Week 3 – Last weekend #5
$14,021,000 (+50%) in 2,100 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,645; Cumulative: $37,844,000
The biggest gamble of Christmas this year seems to be paying off. Disney risked relatively low platform openings and a sub-$10 million first weekend gross to create word of mouth. The 50% jump this weekend — better even than the phenomenal “Frozen” — proves that the bet is paying off. Note that this is only in 2,100 theaters so far, leaving it room to expand. This holiday release looks to stick around for weeks to come.
What comes next: This is another film that could benefit from Oscar attention, with hopes for recognition beyond star Emma Thompson (a Best Picture nomination remains possible) adding to potential future interest. For now, positive audience reaction seems to be working well enough.
7. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 55
$13,000,000 in 2,909 theaters; PSA: $4,469; Cumulative: $25,595,000
A disappointment so far, with director-star Ben Stiller’s remake of the 1939 James Thurber short story falling short of expectations, both initially and over the three-day weekend, when it did worse than on its first two days. As a PG-rated film, Fox hoped to score better with family audiences, who instead preferred “Hobbit,” “Frozen” and “Anchorman.”
Stiller has been a goldmine in franchise films like the “Fockers” and “Night in the Museum” series, and his directing efforts have received decent response (led by “Tropic Thunder”). But otherwise his starring-efforts have not done quite as well (“Watch,” “Greenberg,” “Heartbreak Kid” were all weak, with only ensemble “Tower Heist” gaining much opening traction).
The feel of the marketing came close to “The Life of Pi” than the broader comedic appeal of his top films, and Fox needs to hope that long-term (and international, where Stiller’s biggest films have thrived) as well as still possible good word of mouth might keep the grosses steady enough to give this a fighting chance to recoup its reported $91 million cost.
What comes next: Next weekend will be critical in determining whether this will have a short shelf-life or might be able to run deeper into January.
8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) Week – Last weekend #6
$10,200,000 (+16%) in 2,315 theaters (-634); PSA: $4,406; Cumulative: $391,124,000
“Frozen” might be the top story among November films still thriving, but look at “Catching Fire.” Another $10 million, up from last weekend, all despite a big drop in theaters. This is now almost certain to outgross “Iron Man 3” ($409 million) as the top 2013 domestic release.
What comes next: Two more “Hunger Games” films are due, and expect Lionsgate to push beyond. This series looks even bigger than the “Twilight” films, at least domestically.
9. 47 Ronin (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 28
$9,900,000 in 2,689 theaters; PSA; $3,670; Cumulative: $20,600,000
Universal’s second colossal disaster of 2013, even worse than “R.I.P.D.” last summer. Coming in at a cost of $175 million, this managed despite the holiday weekend to gross almost $3 million less, with few prospects for recovery or international coming to the rescue. This Keanu Reeves-starring retelling of the Japanese epic may wind up the biggest money-losing film of 2013.
This was the debut film for director Carl Rinsch. Its writers had higher pedigree — Chris Morgan for the “Fast and Furious” franchise, Hossein Amini was an Oscar nominee for “Wings of the Dove.” Its producers boast credits like “Identity Thief” and the “Austin Powers” series. But Reeves hasn’t top-billed a breakout hit since his “Matrix” days, and this story, unknown to most American audiences, clearly wasn’t the best vehicle for a comeback. (His last wide-release film was “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 2008; it reached $79 million domestic).
What comes next: The B+ Cinemascore and lack of much action in the top grossers might mean a bit of life through the remaining holidays. It may squeak by “R.I.P.D.”‘s anemic $33 million take, but not by much.
10. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (Lionsgate) Week – Last weekend #7
$7,400,000 (-12%) in 1,788 theaters (-406); $: $4,139; Cumulative: $43,719,000
A possibly over-optimistic Sunday projection gets this tenth place for the moment, but with the holidays ending soon, Tyler Perry’s Christmas-related comedy seems certain, despite the holiday push, to fall short of most of his previous comedies.
What comes next: Don’t expect the “Madea” series to end soon, but they don’t carry the appeal they once had.
11. Grudge Match (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 35
$7,310,000 in 2,838 theaters; PSA:; $2,576; Cumulative: $13,435,000
Greenlit after Sylvester Stallone’s successful return with the “Expendables” films and coming in the wake of Robert De Niro’s success in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Last Vegas,” this comedy teaming of two actors whose greatest acclaim came in boxing stories ends up as the weakest of the four widest Christmas Day releases. A relatively inexpensive production ($40 million), this looked to appeal to older audiences looking for a holiday comedy, but it fell short. Apart from its two stars, it had a legitimate pedigree. Director Peter Segal’s previous five films all grossed over $100 million (“Get Smart,” “The Longest Yard” “50 First Dates,” “Anger Management,” “Nutty Professor 2”), and writers Tim Kellerer and Rodney Rothman’s credits include a long list of successful TV comedies. Both stars are a tad overexposed: this marks Stallone’s third and De Niro’s fourth film of the year. One minor positive sign — Saturday had a bigger pickup from Friday than most other films, but this might just be a normal older audience factor.
What comes next: Unless grosses stabilize, this will be gone after two weeks in many theaters.
12. Walking With Dinosaurs (20th Century Fox) Week 2 – Last weekend #8
$7,100,000 (unchanged %) in theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,189; Cumulative: $20,968,000
This family animated film managed to hold its gross, but considering the post-Christmas date (and the 47% jump for “Frozen”) this is no major achievement. This has been a disappointment all around.
What comes next: This has some vacation playtime left, but this has likely seen the majority of its gross already.