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Weekend Box Office: ‘Chronicle’ And ‘The Woman In Black’ Slug It Out For Number One

Weekend Box Office: 'Chronicle' And 'The Woman In Black' Slug It Out For Number One

The numbers don’t lie – 2012 movie attendance is far above what we saw in 2011. And while there have been no real breakout hits, a number of films – some very modestly budgeted – have broken out to solid, eye-opening numbers. That trend looks to continue on Super Bowl weekend, with a race to the finish between two low-budgeted genre entries. Early signs say “Chronicle” will hang on to defeat “The Woman in Black” for the number one spot. But ‘Black”s audience is heavily female, which suggests it could surpass “Chronicle” while the Super Bowl airs tonight because anybody who knows women knows that they’re all like, WHAT IS FOOTBALL WHY DO THEY NOT USE THEIR FEET MEN ARE GROSS SPORTS YUCK.

“Chronicle” reportedly cost $12 million, though some say this is one of those inflated numbers, and the found-footage picture from tyro filmmaker Josh Trank actually cost less. Regardless, this is a victory for the marketing department, who had to sell a non-horror shaky camcorder movie. This could be a turning point in this peculiar subgenre, which generally costs very little and generates major profit. We could start seeing found-footage romantic comedies, found-footage action films, and we’re already getting a found-footage party movie with “Project X” arriving this year. It’s probably a bigger comment on our narcissism as a society that we respond so distinctly to these pictures, but why would such an ideological quagmire stop Hollywood from franchising an idea like this?

With a surprisingly strong second place finish, “The Woman in Black” seems to be taking advantage of the goodwill residue from the ‘Harry Potter‘ series. Far higher than male-centric industry estimates, “The Woman in Black” played to a heavily female audience, suggesting Daniel Radcliffe has a distinct appeal to the fairer sex, which positioned the picture strongly against the boy-aimed “Chronicle.” This is by far the biggest opening for newbie distributor CBS Films, beating out “The Back-Up Plan“‘s $12.2 million, and judging by the numbers, it’s really the first release by the company to be considered a hit. The studio will be waiting for final estimates on Monday, as there’s a slight chance it could overtake “Chronicle” for the top spot, but even if it doesn’t, this is still a major acquisition for the upstart distributor.

Last week’s number one, “The Grey,” took a tumble into second. If it performs much like other Liam Neeson films, we’re looking at a $50-$60 million total, which is pretty good for an R-rated January release by an inexperienced distributor, this time Open Road. The rise of Open Road, and the possible aggressiveness of CBS Films, collides intriguingly with the news of Summit and Lionsgate merging into a mini-major Voltron. While Fox might take the crown this week, there’s no question that outfits like Open Road are gaining some significant muscle to challenge the big boys, and studios like Universal may not be able to keep their head above water if they have a slate like 2011’s. The next time a distributor puts out a “The Dilemma” or a “Your Highness,” there could be a few Open Roads, and they could be armed with more than a couple of releases like “The Grey.”

Even though expectations were modest, “Big Miracle” didn’t attract much attention. It had the smallest release of the three newcomers this week, so Universal is hoping for a bit of a long play, though that might require pumping a few more marketing dollars into this one. It’s stayed above the precipitous second-weekend fall for “One For the Money.” It’s got more than a few superficial similarities to another film utilizing the Groupon reduced price ticket promotion, that being “The Lincoln Lawyer,” and while that picture only lost a quarter of its audience in week two, ‘Money’ is going to be more than halved. Lionsgate knew they had a potential money loser on their hands, so it’s likely they took the opening weekend and wrote off the rest as losses. Silver linings and all that stuff.

Underworld: Awakening” dropped quite a bit, though after three weeks, they have their money, more or less. It will become the highest-grossing film in the series, possibly after next weekend, and overseas it’s doing far stronger business than any ‘Underworld’ thus far. Man, those foreigners really love their shitty 3D, don’t they? “Red Tails” never truly picked up a second wind after its solid opening, though with a likely final tally around $50-$55 million, it’s a nice platform for what Lucasfilm hopes is a robust, handsome DVD set. We wonder if it caught Hollywood’s attention, and that maybe some black actors will be suggested for bigger action parts. We also wonder if we’re giving Hollywood too much credit.

The Descendants” held on respectably, losing a little more than a quarter of its audience and making a late run at $100 million. If the drop levels off and the film receives a significant awards bump after the Oscars, this could go on to become one of the biggest hits in George Clooney‘s career, which is good because usually when Clooney makes interesting movies audiences treat them like oatmeal. Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible. “Man On A Ledge” steadied itself for a less-than-50% drop, though it’s still free falling after that meager opening, while “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is still out there in the top ten… waiting. Watching. Lurking.

As far as other Oscar contenders, none of them have yet to pick up steam, with “The Artist” dropping further despite finally expanding into a thousand theaters. The film added $2.6 million to a $21 million tally, so the numbers aren’t bad, but the Weinsteins are going to end up spending a lot of money promoting a non-blockbuster award winner. Faring better, comparatively, was leading nominee “Hugo,” which only dropped 8% from last weekend, though it only grossed $2.3 million at 1,000 locations, with a significantly weaker per-screen average. Meanwhile, other award contenders like “War Horse” have already cut bait, as the Spielberg film dropped almost 700 theaters, completing week seven of release with $77 million, likely falling short of nine figures.

Arthouse numbers stayed strong for “A Separation,” which grossed $324k at forty locations for a six week total of $1.3 million. Also in forty theaters was 3D dance documentary “Pina,” a surprise hit with a $204k weekend adding to a $1.4 million total. Debuting on four screens was “W.E.,” which averaged $11k for a solid $45k tally, while anti-climate change doc “An Inconsistent Truth” inexplicably continued to do solid business in its second weekend, with $12k on its lone screen. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. Chronicle (Fox) – $22 million
2. The Woman In Black (CBS) – $21 million
3. Wolfpunchin’ USA (Open Road) – $9.5 million ($35 mil.)
4. Whale Shit (Universal) – $8.5 million
5. Underworld: Again (Sony/Screen Gems) – $5.6 million ($54 mil.)
6. Two For The Show (Lionsgate) – $5.4 million ($20 mil.)
7. Red Tails (Fox) – $4.8 million ($41 mil.)
8. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) – $4.7 million ($66 mil.)
9. Ledgeman (Summit) – $4.4 million ($15 mil.)
10. Extremely Louden & Incredibly Closen (WB) – $4 million ($27 mil.)

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