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Box Office: ‘The Hobbit’ Defeats Strong Debuts From ‘Django Unchained’ & ‘Les Miserables’

Box Office: 'The Hobbit' Defeats Strong Debuts From 'Django Unchained' & 'Les Miserables'

It’s going to take a lot to knock “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” off its pedestal, even if studios tried their best this weekend, firing off both barrels against a global blockbuster. Families and teens supported ‘An Unexpected Journey’ over the holiday period, defeating two high-profile newcomers to be the top attraction for the third straight week. ‘The Hobbit’ is now eyeballing $300 million domestic, but as always international dollars are a big factor, and by time January 1st rings in the New Year, it will cross $700 million worldwide.

While “Django Unchained” carried considerable star power, there’s no doubt that the main name on the marquee was Quentin Tarantino. And that name is bigger than ever. “Django Unchained” not only nearly toppled ‘The Hobbit’ even though it’s on less than 1000 screens, with $64 million in six days, it’s the best first week opening ever for Tarantino. It’s also the strongest candidate for word-of-mouth popularity during the holidays – you’ve gotta do some coaxing to get your relatives to see a three-hour slavery western.

But now the question is just how much the picture can leg out after the diehard faithful buy tickets. The Academy Award nominations are just around the corner, and a strong showing there will keep this one motoring along. But box office success once again means Tarantino is free to pursue whatever creative and narrative path he wants. No other filmmaker could have had back-to-back hits, and critical favorites, with these topics. Who else could follow a WWII revenge fantasy film with an irreverent plantation western action-comedy? Probably Steven Spielberg, but it wouldn’t be much fun, would it? It’s notable that “Django Unchained” also accomplishes these numbers during a period where families must adhere to the wishes of their kids.  As The Weinstein Company, head into the final quarter of the awards season, “Django Unchained” has come off the bench in a big way to step in where “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Master” may have failed to catch on.

Though the picture seized first place at the box office on Christmas, the enthusiasm waned for “Les Miserables” as the weekend approached. Regardless, with musical theater nuts packing the crowd, the picture rings up over $67 million in its first five days. These are big, if expected, numbers for one of the biggest musicals of all time, a tidy feather in the cap of a film expected to be a big Oscar player. And overseas, the movie is doing brisk business, getting to over $115 million worldwide already. It’s certainly possible this could surpass the $414 million worldwide gross of director Tom Hooper’s last film, “The King’s Speech.”

But who needs prestige and Oscars when you have elderly men getting hit in the crotch in “Parental Guidance”? Billy Crystal’s return resulted in weirdly strong numbers, with some audience members probably thinking they were getting another ‘Focker’ adventure. For a film quietly promoted as an ostensible eighth-best choice this holiday season, these are terrific numbers. While he’s stayed away from the screen for a while, it wouldn’t be tremendously unexpected to see Crystal capitalize on this heat somehow, maybe with a choice supporting role here or there; it would be a riot to see him try something nasty in, say, a Tarantino picture.

Jack Reacher” hung around with numbers similar to last weekend’s soft opening. There was the hope interest would kick up a bit more at this point, but that doesn’t seem to have happened, casting doubt on the franchise potential of the “Jack Reacher” brand. It’s possible ‘Reacher’ plateaus for a bit, with another double-digit gross next weekend, but it’s doubtful a $100 million gross is in the cards. Not a major problem for Tom Cruise, who has two more tentpoles coming up in “Oblivion” and “All You Need Is Kill” – if either of those doesn’t pan out, there’s always “Mission: Impossible V,” though given the trajectory of his career, maybe he’ll make another serious Oscar grab before he returns to that well.

Business kicked up a bit for “This Is Forty” in its second weekend, improving on its piddling opening. But the film will need to do stronger numbers to avoid the stigma of being Judd Apatow’s weakest directorial performer. What’s next for Judd? Always a superstar producer, Apatow will remain in the film world in that capacity, but he’s no longer a selling point behind the camera. He’s got two options – one is to direct something outside of his wheelhouse, preferably with a big star. Tom Cruise would be ideal, Jeff Bridges would be interesting, Denzel Washington would be incredible. But re-teaming with one of the regular Apatow players will just reek of familiarity, and the ‘B-‘ Cinemascore suggests his core audience is no longer onboard. The second option, by the way, is return to television full time. It is a less likely option.

Lincoln” was the only film in the top nine to lose a substantial number of screens, dropping 327 engagements, the only film in the top ten at under 2000 locations. Somehow, the picture still improved upon last weekend’s score in its eighth week of release. That’s almost unheard of, with the Spielberg hit playing strong across the holiday season on the eve of Academy Award nominations. It’s a sure bet to hit $150 million, and it has already become the highest grossing drama of the year.

The Guilt Trip” and “Monsters Inc. 3D” also found their numbers increasing after substandard openings. Neither is a hit, but this helps the bottom line either way. “Guilt Trip” may carry into January with those looking for lighter fare to watch, with otherwise easily offended relatives. “Monsters Inc.” might be the definitive end to Disney’s 3D re-release experiment, however, best to leave those to a once-a-year schedule, maybe with actual films in the Disney vaults, and not something like “Monsters Inc.,” which can frequently be caught on a sleepy weekend on ABC Family.

Fingers crossed for “Rise Of The Guardians” – the animated flop is about to cross $100 million domestic, a small saving grace for a picture that’s hugely disappointed thus far. Just outside of the top ten, “Skyfall” barely dropped from last weekend, and is now making a violent thrust towards $300 million (it’s at $289 million) while The Weinstein Company finally gave a strong push to “Silver Linings Playbook”: the romance jumped from 371 to 745 locations, pocketing $4.1 million for a $27 million total.

In indie theaters, it was a so-so start for “Promised Land,” which popped up at twenty five locations for a $190k gross, averaging only $7.6k per-screen. The numbers were softer for doc “West Of Memphis,” which grabbed only $13.9k at five theaters. The big indie winner was again “Zero Dark Thirty,” which grabbed a massive $63k per-screen average at five theaters, collecting $315k and crossing the $1 million mark in only two weeks. The second weekend of “The Impossible” pulled in $185k at fifteen locations, while “Amour” grossed a strong $60k in only three engagements. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. The Hobbit: A Pretty Damn Likely Journey (WB) – $32.9 million ($222.7 mil.)
2. Django Unchained My Heart (The Weinstein Company) – $30.7 million ($64 mil.)
3. Lessy Missy (Universal) – $28 million ($67.4 mil.)
4. Parental Guidance (Fox) – $14.8 million ($29.6 mil.)
5. Tom Cruise Test-Drives Another Franchise (Paramount) – $14 million ($44.7 mil.)
6. This Is Sporty (Universal) – $13.1 million ($37.1 mil.)
7. Lincoln (Disney/Dreamworks) – $7.5 million ($132 mil.)
8. The Guilt Trip (Paramount) – $6.7 million ($21.1 mil.)
9. Monsters Stink 3D (Disney) – $6.3 million ($18.4 mil.)
10. Rise Of The Guardians (Paramount/Dreamworks) – $4.9 million ($90.2 mil.)

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