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Low-Budget Genre Fare Boosts Weekend Box Office: ‘Chronicle’ Narrowly Bests ‘Woman in Black’

Low-Budget Genre Fare Boosts Weekend Box Office: 'Chronicle' Narrowly Bests 'Woman in Black'

Super Bowl Weekend brought box office surprises.  The frame’s top two films not only far exceeded expectations, but the weekend as a whole was up some 37% from last year, marking the fifth consecutive up weekend in 2012. While the film industry is pleased to see box office posting comparable year-over-year increases each weekend thus far, it’s about quantity rather than quality.  Through and including this weekend, 2012 has seen 14 wide releases, compared with just eight in 2011 – that’s a 75% increase in the number of wide releases.  With more films hitting theaters, the box office overall has benefited as the turnstiles keep spinning into positive territory.

In the end, Fox’s found-footage sci-fi drama “Chronicle” controlled the top spot in a close race with CBS Films’ “The Woman in Black,” as the films took in an estimated $22 million and $21 million, respectively, a mere $1 million difference between them.  

In another plus for the box office, the top two film skewed to the much sought-after younger demographic; young moviegoers returned to theaters in droves. Both films carried both low budgets and modest marketing costs.

Heading into the weekend, the PG-13 rated “Chronicle” was anticipated to gross around $15 million. Josh Trank’s $12-million film tracks three high school students who discover they have super powers– which get out of control as the dark side takes over. The primary demographic for “Chronicle” was teenage males under 25, but drew a solid 45% female demo as well. Critics gave the sci-fi thriller a solid TomatoMeter rating of 85% fresh — the highest of the weekend’s three new films, while audiences under 25 gave it a strong B+ on CinemaScore.

“It’s remarkable to be number one with a film targeting a younger demographic that’s been largely missing from movie theaters lately,” said Chris Aronson, Exec VP Domestic Distribution for 20th Century Fox.

“The Woman in Black,” a PG-13 rated horror film about a young lawyer who chases the ghost of a scorned woman terrorizing people in a small village, stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-“Harry Potter” movie lead.  The production cost roughly $13 million to produce, but CBS Films picked it up for just $3 million to distribute in North America and spent about $14 million in marketing.

James Watkins directed “Woman,” which drew mostly younger females, thanks to Radcliffe. It scored a 62% favorable grade on the TomatoMeter, and generated a B- CinemaScore.

Unfortunately, Universal’s poorly tracking $40-million “Big Miracle” took in an estimated $8.5 million to take the fourth spot.  The PG rated adventure-drama, which skewed to families and women, is based on the true story of a small town news reporter who teams with an animal lover and rival world superpowers to rescue a family of grey whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.

Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star in “Miracle,” which had the highest budget of the session’s new arrivals. Ken Kwapis directed the picture, which had hopes of doing “Dolphin Tale” business, which opened to $23.3 million and totaled $72.3 million. On the TomatoMeter “Miracle” achieved a 71% fresh rating, and the Working Title picture picked up a stellar A- on CinemaScore, so upbeat word of mouth may boost the picture as an alternative for women on Super Bowl Sunday and in coming weeks.

Last weekend’s top film, Open Road’s “The Grey” took third with an estimated $9.5 million, down a moderate 52%.  The Liam Neeson starrer skews older so it may take a hit on Sunday due to the Super Bowl.  The 10 day cume on “Grey” is $34.8 million.

Sony’s “Underworld Awakening” placed fifth with an estimated $5.6 million, off 55% on its third weekend in theaters. The Goth-actioner has amassed around $54.35 million to date.

On its second weekend Lionsgates’ “One For The Money” pulled in an estimated $5.25 million and landed in the sixth spot, down 55% from its debut. The Katherine Heigl starrer has picked up $19.67 million so far.

In the Oscar universe, Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” held up well, taking in an estimated $4.6 million from 2,038 locales and remained in the eighth spot, moving its cume to an outstanding $65.5 million. The George Clooney starrer was off just 28% from a week earlier and added 37 locations.

The Weinstein Company’s “The Artist” continues to do well, grossing an estimated $2.6 million from 1,005 engagements, up 108 from a week earlier.  The gross was down a modest 23% from the previous weekend and the cume moves up to $20.6 million. Erik Lomis, President of Theatrical Distribution and Home Entertainment, noted that they will be expanding runs just before the February 26 Oscarcast.

TWC’s “The Iron Lady” pulled in an estimated $1.84 million from 1,021 theaters, 223 less than a week earlier.  The Meryl Streep starrer was off a moderate 42% from last weekend and has taken in around $20.6 million. TWC’s “W.E.” opened in four exclusive runs this weekend, two in New York and two in Los Angeles.  The Madonna directed romantic-drama, about the affair between King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson, mirrored with a contemporary affair between a married woman and a Russian security guard, grossed $45,000 and averaged $11,250 per theater. Andrea Riseborough turned in a strong performance as Wallis Simpson, and the film also stars James D’Arcy, Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac.


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