"Exodus: Gods and Kings" (20th Century Fox) easily took first place yesterday with over $8.6 million. That alone makes up about 40 percent of the very soft Top Ten total of $22 million for the day. That figure itself comes in $9 million less than "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" grossed the same Friday last year all by itself (Warners opens this year’s entry next week domestically).
Though this time of the year provides multiple excuses not to see movies, the reality is that Fox didn’t choose a suicidal date, but rather one that has previously launched major hits. And "Exodus" has already shown strength in its initial international dates last week (over $32 million so far). It looks headed to around a mid-20s weekend (in line with some other mid-December non-3D enhanced openers. However, several of those were more family oriented and positioned to thrive later during the holiday break, which might not end up boosting Ridley Scott’s epic nearly as much.
And figures don’t lie – the similar appeal "Noah" opened nearly double its first Friday with $15.2 million. And last year, four films grossed over $4 million the same date, but only "Exodus" did this year. That suggests, similar to most weeks since May, that a deep-rooted domestic slump is an ongoing problem.
The other semi-wide opener, Chris Rock’s acclaimed "Top Five" (Paramount) debuted in $2.5 million in 979 theaters to take third place for the day (though likely to drop one slot or more after the animated offerings get a weekend bump). This opening was a quick turnaround for the studio, which acquired it only three months ago after its strong Toronto premiere for $12.5 million.
The remainder of Top Ten consists mainly of holdovers. In second place is "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" (Lionsgate) with $3.8 million (actually only down about $300,000 from last year’s series entry). Tightly bunched for the day in fourth to seventh are "The Penguins of Madagascar" (20th Century Fox) – $1,570,000, "Interstellar" (Paramount) – $1,490,000, "Horrible Bosses 2" (Warner Bros.) – $1,475,000 and "Big Hero 6" (Buena Vista) – $1,391,000. This order will shift in the weekend totals.
"Dumb and Dumber To" (Universal) took eighth with $796,000, with "The Theory of Everything" (Focus) ninth grossing $737,000, adding 294 theaters, holding well with a per screen average down about a third from last Friday. "Wild" snagged tenth place with $475,000 in only 116 theaters in its second week, a strong suggesting the Reese Witherspoon-starrer has a chance to become a crossover success.
The sole major platform opener is "Inherent Vice" (Warner Bros.) which amassed an excellent $128,000 in five New York/Los Angeles runs. Its opening day PSA of $25,600 is second best to "The Imitation Game" (Weinstein) among the seasonal awards contenders this year (the latter had a holiday-boosted average of $45,000). Paul Thomas Anderson’s films usually open strong – "The Master" in September, 2012 took in $242,000 its initial Friday, also in five, but failed to show similar appeal as it widened. More detailed analysis of both films and the rest of the specialized releases in tomorrow’s Arthouse Audit.