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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: ‘Texas Chainsaw’ Wreaks Havoc; ‘Django’ Bests ‘Les Mis;’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Soars

Weekend Box Office Top Ten: 'Texas Chainsaw' Wreaks Havoc; 'Django' Bests 'Les Mis;' 'Zero Dark Thirty' Soars

Three strong Christmas pictures have been battling for box office supremacy for ten days, with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Django Unchained” and “Les Miserables” switching positions almost daily. But none of them ended up on top this weekend. Younger audiences, bored with the the adult and family films dominating the holidays, responded to the first new horror film since Halloween by making “Texas Chainsaw” number one for the weekend.

Total business for the weekend was about the same as last year, a sign of strength in the holdovers since the top-ranked film did $10 million less than last year’s new entry. “Django” and “Parental Guidance” seem to have the best word of mouth among the new films, based on their solid holds this weekend.

Not in the top ten, but a significant performer was Sony Oscar contender “Zero Dark Thirty.” Expanding to 60 theaters after its initial two-plus weeks at five platform runs, it grossed an exceptional $2.75 million, with a per screen average of $45,000 that would be considered strong for an opening in just New York and Los Angeles. This bodes well for its wide expansion next week. More analysis on this in Arthouse Audit, as well as on the wider break for “The Impossible.”

1. “Texas Chainsaw” (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic score: 33

$23,000,000 in 2,654 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,666; Cumulative: $23,000,000

As the industry wondered how the three huge films dominating business from Christmas Day would shake out,  a serial killer reboot cut them down to size. Lionsgate usually has three or four horror films a year hit number one (then usually fall quickly), but defeating such heavyweight competition is still impressive.

This is not unprecedented. Last year, Paramount sprung “The Devil Inside” the weekend after New Year’s, and did almost $34 million (and took number one), so this (with the added boost of many 3-D surcharges) is not up to that level. And the audience response, as indicated by Cinemascore and falloff from its first-day gross, suggests a big drop in rank next weekend.

While Lionsgate makes several of these a year, in this case the film was acquired from Millennium Films, with a reported $20 million marketing commitment. With these numbers, a rebirth of the series is not guaranteed. The 2003 New Line redo opened to $28 million and held on to do $80 million total (with lower ticket prices), which doesn’t seem in the cards for this go-round.

What comes next: For Lionsgate, which with its merger with Summit soared to the #5 ranking of studios for 2012, this is not a bad way to start the new year.

2. “Django Unchained” (Weinstein) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #2

$20,082,000 (-33%) in 3,010 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,672; Cumulative: $106,352,000

About the only disappointing element about “Django”‘s grosses is that it has passed $100 million in under two weeks without getting tto number one. Everything else looks good for Quentin Tarantino’s biggest hit since “Pulp Fiction.” (That film grossed $107 million in 1994, which would be about $200 million today). The drop was normal for a post-holiday weekend for a film with solid word of mouth, and even better given that “Texas Chainsaw” likely competed for some of the same audience.

What comes next: Will this get an Oscar nomination boost? Chances look better with the strong public response (often paralleled by enough Academy member support to get into the race). That will be a factor in whether upcoming weeks show a normal drop or this continues to overperform compared to expectations.

3. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Warner Brothers) Week 4 – Last Weekend: #1

$17,525,000 (-45%) in 3,755 theaters (-345); PSA: $4,667; Cumulative: $263,820,000

This post-holiday drop is about what would be expected after its strong performance (including three weekends at number one). The last Peter Jackson Tolkien opus – “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” fell about the same percentage post-New Year’s, its third weekend. That massive hit though remained at nuumber one, grossed $28 million (which even before factoring the 3-D and other surcharges for “The Hobbit” would be closer to $40 million now), so as big as this has been, it still is not close to being in the same league.

What comes next: With little Oscar boost ahead, this will now fall steadily and likely disappear by the end of the month, unlike the previous series, which had much longer runs.

4.  “Les Miserables” (Universal) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #3

$16,100,000 (-41%) in 2,904 theaters (+90); PSA: $5,550; Cumulative: $103,600,000

The good news easily exceeds the less good news for the second weekend for this front-ended musical hit. Over $100 million in under two weeks, adding another hefty total to push this to that level, most of the world yet to open and Oscar nominations ahead — what could be a problem?

The clouds on the horizon, such as they are, concern how much higher this will go, particularly compared to expectations for its first great days. This weekend comes in at about $2 million less than its opening Christmas Day, not a great sign. (“Django Unchained,” also a 12/25 opener, did $5 million more). It has now fallen behind “Django” in total gross. The 41% drop is a sign of mixed word of mouth.

Still, to have grossed this much with its first two weekends ranked at three and now four is pretty extraordinary (and a factor of the grossing potential of Christmas week and right after). This could easily end up being the highest grossing film never to be in the top two for a weekend – not a bad distinction, but a little less than hoped for.

What comes next: The upcoming nomination Oscar total — the range could be fairly wide — will help to keep the film visible for the near future (although it also means that Universal would have to spend extra marketing dollars, often just a trade-off for revenue). But it could be a challenge for this to keep playing down the line when rivals like “Zero Dark Thirty” and even “Lincoln” have stronger legs.

5.  “Parental Guidance” (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #4

$10,125,000 (-19%) in 3,368 theaters (+1); PSA: $3,006; Cumulative: $52,760,000

Another decent weekend for this low-budgeted PG-rated film that has managed to sneak in and do well over the holidays. It fell less than any of the films that grossed higher, indicating continued strong audience reaction.

What comes next: Nothing opens right away to challenge this for family audiences, so this should still have a lot of revenue ahead.

6. “Jack Reacher” (Paramount) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #5

$9,300,000 (-32%) in 3,288 theaters (-64); PSA: $2,834; Cumulative: $64,804,000

A normal dropoff from an OK level previously keeps this Tom Cruise-starrer — still to open in most of the world — on track to modest success. Coming off the flop “Rock of Ages” Cruise remains one of the more reliable “A” players, at least with action vehicles like this.

What comes next: This will take a hit with the male-oriented releases next weekend and beyond, but Paramount made the right decision to brave the tough Christmas market in the U.S., where this had less competition for its core audience than might have been expected.

7. “This Is 40” (Universal) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #6

$8,559,000 (-31%) in 2,931 theaters (+17); PSA: $2,920; Cumulative: $54,460,000

This has quietly become a surprising success. Holding very well, and clearly benefiting from positive audience reaction so far, “This Is 40” initially seemed a disappointment (there had been awards buzz). But it has held on and now, after adult audiences have sampled other films, seems to be gaining some steam. That it is a lower-budget film (around $35 million) makes these relatively modest totals (for Judd Apatow at least) more exciting.

What comes next: Though it won’t get close to $100 million– barring a very strong hold going forward–this still is gratifying to Universal, which took a big risk in having two new films going at the same time.

8.” Lincoln” (Buena Vista) Week 9 – Last Weekend: #7

$5,258,000 (-28%) in 1,901 theaters (-65); PSA: $2,766; Cumulative: $143,933,000

A modest drop, this long-legged hit is far from being done. The last film to spend nine weeks in the top ten was “The Avengers,” and that was as far as it got. This likely has more ahead.

What comes next: The equivalent to the second Inaugural comes Thursday when the film is expected to lead the Oscar nominations. That will give the film yet another boost on its road to a possible $200-million domestic total.

9. “The Guilt Trip” (Paramount) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #8

$4,530,000 (-31%) in 2,312 theaters (-119); PSA: $1,959; Cumulative: $31,207,000

Looking slightly less bad as more post-holiday gross gets added, the film still lags behind the other Christmas releases, as it has from the start.

What comes next: This will start to lose a sizeable number of theaters this week, with most gone before too long.

10. “The Promised Land” (Focus) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #51

$4,312,000 () in 1,676 theaters (+1,651); PSA: $2,572; Cumulative: $4,661,000

Its first week in wide expansion finds this Matt Damon/John Krasinski co-starring and written fracking drama with an adequate PSA (a little less than “Lincoln” at slightly fewer theaters), indicating some appeal and the potential for planting the seeds for good enough reaction to soldier on. However, comparisons aren’t promising. Exactly one year ago, Focus widened “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” to 809 theaters (fewer than half here) and grossed $5.5 million, then shortly after had the boost of a handful of Oscar nominations, not expected to factor in here.

What comes next: With “Zero Dark Thirty” expanding wide next week and “Gangster Squad” opening along with well Oscar-related action, competition will remain intense ahead, so it will take very strong WOM for this to hold on very long. Even with its much better initial wide week, “Tinker” only ended up at $24 million.

11. “Monsters, Inc. 3D” (Buena Vista) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #

$3,900,000 (-40%) in 2,103 theaters (-515); PSA: $1,865; Cumulative: $27,916,000

Considering the loss of theaters and the post-holiday factor, this is actually a normal or even better than usual drop for this kids-oriented reissue. It’s still disappointing, but at least most of the expense was in marketing, not production.

What comes next: This will be off most screens in the next couple weeks.

12. “Silver Linings Playbook” (Weinstein) Week 8 – Last Weekend: #12

$3,611,000 (-11%) in 745 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $4,847; Cumulative: $34,672,000

An encouraging hold at the same number of theaters as last week, as this heads to over $35 million before its wider release ahead, coordinated to see the first national TV buy and largest number of theaters come after the expected major nominations ahead.

What comes next: The two months of exposure of course has already taken a chunk of potential business away, and makes the upcoming expansion not as fresh as “Zero Dark Thirty” will be next weekend. But the unusual (particularly for Weinstein) strategy has worked well so far, as indicated by the very strong holds this has had so far.

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