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Top Ten Takeaways: ‘Taken 3’ Leads Off Weekend; ‘Selma’ Lags behind ‘Precious’ and ‘Butler’

Top Ten Takeaways: 'Taken 3' Leads Off Weekend; 'Selma' Lags behind 'Precious' and 'Butler'

However, next Friday’s huge expansion for “American Sniper” as well as The Weinstein Co’s well-reviewed “Paddington,” comedy “The Wedding Ringer” and Michael Mann hack thriller “Blackhat” should boost the box office –along with the impact of Thursday’s Oscar nominations.

The Top Ten

1. Taken 3 (20th Century Fox) – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 26; Est. budget: $48 million
$40,400,000 in 3,594 theaters; PSA (per screen average); $11,241; Cumulative: $40,400,000
2. Selma (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #24
$11,200,000 (+1,669%) in 2,179 theaters (+2,157); PSA: $5,140; Cumulative: $13,487,000
3. Into the Woods (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$9,750,000 (-48%) in 2,833 theaters (+255); PSA: $3,442; Cumulative: $105,272,000
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend: #1
$9,435,000 (-57%) in 3,402 theaters (-473); PSA: $2,773; Cumulative: $236,517,000
5. Unbroken (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #3
$8,368,000 (-54%) in 3,301 theaters (+111); PSA: $2,535; Cumulative: $101,600,000
6. The Imitation Game (Weinstein) Week 7; Last weekend #7
$7,624,000 (-2%) in 1,566 (+812); PSA: $4,868; Cumulative: $40,840,000
7. The Night of the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (20th Century Fox) Week 4; Last weekend #5
$6,700,000 (-54%) in 3,371 theaters (-431); PSA: $1,988; Cumulative: $99,523,000
8. Annie (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$4,919,000 (-56%) in 2,856 theaters (-310); PSA: $1,722; Cumulative: $79,437,000
9. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (Relativity) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$4,825,000 (-68%) in 2,602 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,854; Cumulative: $22,334,000
10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lionsgate) Week 8; Last weekend #8
$3,750,000 (-50%) in 2,063 theaters (-442); PSA: $1,818; Cumulative: $329,525,000

The Takeaways

“Taken” and the Top Ten in Context

It looks like a weak Top Ten: only two films topped $10 million for the weekend. That’s unusual for post-New Year’s weekends, which usually see between four and five new and expanding films top that figure. But no holdover managed that level. The only new wide release –“Taken 3”– plus an expanding “Selma” contributed to a small drop in grosses compared to last year. Lingering harsh wintery weather on Friday hurt that day, and the 40% overall jump Saturday improved the three-day results. “Taken 3” improved slightly on “Taken 2″‘s second day take. That film open to $49.5 million, about 23% better in October 2012. “Taken 3” itself took on the characteristics of many top-grossing films, as a wide swath of multi-cultural moviegoers made up 54% of its audience.

“Selma” and Its Complicated B.O. March

Paramount has been playing catch-up with late-breaking “Selma,” which is clearly a work in progress, with its roll-out and its future prospects heavily tied to the Golden Globes and Oscar nominations on Thursday morning. The lack of wide early viewing hurt its chances in some of the awards groups, which can weaken Oscar momentum. In the middle of all this, Paramount’s overriding concern is trying to make money on this $20 million film without letting marketing costs hurt its chances for ultimate profit. (Conventionally, international cannot be counted on to be lucrative for this, although “Mandela” last year more than doubled its minor American take of $8.3 million overseas.)

Taken as a normal initial expansion gross, “Selma”‘ $11.2 million (in 2,179 theaters) seems weak compared to “The Butler” in August 2012 or “Precious” when it first got to over 1,000 runs. “The Butler” — which had the advantage of opening against far less holdover competition from adult oriented films — grossed over $24 million in about one third more theaters en route to an unexpected $113 million total (it had no prior platform run). “Precious” in its third weekend, propelled by much younger appeal, managed to gross close to “Selma”‘s take in only 629 theaters (ultimately reaching $47 million). All three films shared an Oprah Winfrey connection; she produced and stars in “Selma.”

The film’s audience demographic numbers are 61% female (very high) with 83% over 25% (skewing older). Earlier opening numbers showed those theaters with larger African-American appeal were outpacing big-city platform theaters that usually provide the highest numbers.

So what’s next? Paramount, perhaps sensing a degree of resistance to the historical nature of the film, has decided, following its initial wider than usual platform runs, to release this weekend before the nominations (Warner Bros. is waiting until next Friday for “American Sniper”) because they need to maximize word of mouth ahead of the potentially lucrative Martin Luther King holiday weekend, which falls right after the Oscar nominations.

The bottom line is that next weekend, even not counting the holiday, has a shot of being about the same (even with four potentially strong and diverse new openings). If so, Paramount’s strategy will be justified. If the results are much lower, it will be another case where a studio needed more time and hands-on-deck to handle the intricacies of this kind of release.

Holdover Report Card

The weekend’s large holdover drop was dramatic and unexpected. Some of the dip comes from last Friday’s boost as a semi-holiday– many people took the long weekend. Taking out “The Imitation Game” (which doubled its theaters), the other seven holdovers in the Top Ten dropped 55%. Last year’s fell only 40%.

Only “Into the Woods” managed to keep its decrease to under 50% (48). Both “Into the Woods” and “Unbroken” (also now over $100 million) are running out of steam more quickly than “American Hustle” and “Wolf of Wall Street” (both nabbed Oscar nomination largesse that does not look likely for either of these). This year’s “Hobbit,” despite lesser playtime so far, dropped 57% compared to 48% last year. “Mockingjay” dropped 50% this time around, compared to 38% last year (when “Catching Fire” actually took in $700,000 more. Even the high-flying “The Imitation Game” — already nearing $41 million — fell 2% despite more than doubling its theaters. (While its PSA fell by more than half, it still remains $7 million ahead of “The King’s Speech” on a similar date and length of run, although the latter didn’t go this wide until the following week.)

Most of these films (other than leading contender “Game”) could end up taking a big hit next week with the major new releases battling for screen space (most theaters will be pushing for multiple screens for “Sniper,” making the crunch even greater), and facing major fresh competition. They may have to take solace, if these drops continue, for their bigger than expected Christmas performances.

Bubbling Under the Top Ten

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Internal Vice” (Warner Bros.) though unlikely to be either a major Oscar contender or a big crossover success, showed some pop as it placed 11th with $2.9 million in only 645 theaters, its first significant expansion. Fox Searchlight’s “Wild” passed $30 million (better than longer-running fellow awards contenders “The Theory of Everything” (Focus) and “Birdman” (Fox Searchlight) which should get a boost from the upcoming nominations).

“The Gambler” lasted only two weeks in the Top Ten and fell 62%. It looks like it will struggle to reach $40 million. “Big Eyes” (Weinstein) dropped 50% at a disappointing $12.2 million. That company has both “Imitation Game” to expand further and the kids’ live action “Paddington” to open this Friday, so it is nearing the end of its run.

Asian Niche Commercial Films Continue to Gain a Foothold

Notable also are the unreported (so far) grosses of five Asian films
from, South Korea, the Philippines and regions of India off the radar
of most moviegoers. Sources report the following estimated results:
“Gopala Gopala” (Big Sky), a Tegula-language remake of a prior Bollywood
Hindi film, looks to take in about $800,000 in 93 theaters it first
weekend; “Ode to My Father” (CJ) from South Korea started off with
$280,000 in 38; the hugely successful Bollywood “P.K.” about $250,000 in
103 in its fourth week, now over $10 million total; “Tevar” (Eros), a
Hindi remake of a Tegalu hit took in $175,000 in 125 theaters; and a
Filipino horror sequel “Feng Shui 2” (Star) did about $110,000 in 30.
Exhibitions embrace of commercial Asian cinema is a major growth area
for American theaters.

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