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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (January 4-6, 2013)

Following up on the phenomenal 2012 box-office will be a tough act, but things have kicked off well this year with the Top 12 amounting to $126.3 million, down an expected 22.9% from last weekend, but dead even with the same weekend last year, even though the #1 movie wasn’t a breakout as huge as The Devil Inside which burst onto the scene with $33.7 million in its first three days. Overall business was very strong for the first weekend of January with five movies topping $10 million over the weekend as most holdovers faced very little direct competition. This should be exemplary for the rest of the month which will see eight more R-rated releases (including the expanding Zero Dark Thirty) and its only new wide PG-13 release will be a horror flick – Mama. This will mean certain death for most R-rated holdovers and, at the same time, unusual longevity particularly for family-oriented films released in November and December.

 

After handily winning Friday with $10.2 million, Texas Chainsaw 3D topped the weekend with $23 million despite losing Saturday and Sunday to Django Unchained, once again proving that the first half of January is usually a prime release spot for horror flicks. The newest entry in the long-running slasher franchise averaged a solid $8,666 per theatre at 2,654 locations. Ever since White Noise’s $24.1 million opening in January 2005 (back then the 4th-biggest January opening weekend ever), every single year has seen a horror release in one of January’s first two weekends. Last year, the trend peaked with The Devil Inside. Smartly advertised before Paranormal Activity 3, the micro-budgeted $1 million-flick opened to $33.7 million from less than 2,300 theatres. The movie was terribly received and had very short legs, but the opening alone made it a bona fide success story. Of course not all horror movies succeed in that spot. Primeval ($10.6 million) and Season of the Witch ($24.8 million) posted mediocre numbers. However, by and large, it is a safe bet to release a horror flick on one of the year’s first two weekends. Even critically-lambasted films (see White Noise or One Missed Call) usually delivered at least decent numbers. Same goes for Texas Chainsaw 3D which garnered just 22% positive reviews at RottenTomatoes.com.

Compared to the more recent films in its franchise, Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s opening day was almost on par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s $10.6 million Friday in 2003. However, that film had a much better internal weekend multiplier and ended up with $28.1 million in its first three days. Taking inflation into consideration, Texas Chainsaw 3D pales even more. The first remake’s opening adjusts to $36.2 million and its total to more than $100 million – and that without even taking 3D into consideration. With the premium subtracted, Texas Chainsaw 3D saw less than half of the 2003 film’s admissions opening weekend. Then again, it must be stressed that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-remake is still the financially most successful remake of an US-horror film to hit theatres over the past ten years. Its unadjusted $80.6 million total is still impressive today, whereas the remakes of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street all finished in the $55-65 million range. On the upside, Texas Chainsaw 3D opened $4.5 million above The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, the prequel to the 2003-released remake. With a reported “C+”-CinemaScore and extremely heavy R-rated competition in the upcoming weeks (most prominently from the likes of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and A Haunted House), Texas Chainsaw 3D will falter very quickly and fail to reach $50 million. It probably won’t have such disastrous legs as The Devil Inside which failed to even reach a multiplier of 1.6 and dropped on average 74.4% on each of the five weekends following its start, however it probably doesn’t have what it needs to hit a multiplier of 2, especially considering that 64% of its opening weekend audiences were younger than 25. This is the demographic that usually rushes out to see a movie opening weekend, leading to terrible drops in the following weeks. Texas Chainsaw 3D should find its way to $43-46 million, which is respectable given the $20 million budget.

 

Though Django Unchained wasn’t able to overcome the gap between it and Texas Chainsaw 3D, caused by the latter’s big Friday number, it can still be called the weekend’s true winner in spirit. Holding on to #2 of the box-office, Quentin Tarantino’s latest eased just 33.3% to $20.1 million, showing no signs of frontloading or suffering competition despite the wide released being also rated R. After 13 days in release, the western/blaxploitation has accumulated $106.4 million, making it the third $100 million-grosser in Tarantino’s career and the 7th $100 million R-rated flick of 2012. It is the highest number of R-rated $100 million-grossers since 1999 (which had nine). If Zero Dark Thirty really catches on, we might even get eight R-rated $100 million flicks for 2012. This weekend was very important for Django Unchained in deciding how far it’ll go as over the next weeks it will face very harsh R-rated competition and will be one of the few holdovers that won’t be able to benefit from a rather empty marketplace. It needed a good hold and it got one. Next weekend, it should also hold well in face of competition thanks to the likely numerous Oscar nominations that it will receive. Right now, the film is tracking around $27.5 million ahead of Inglourious Basterds after the same number of days and around $17 million ahead of True Grit, another December-released western breakout with major awards buzz. Django also passed the running total of Les Misérables in its sophomore frame, despite opening $3 million lower on Christmas Day and tracking behind it at first.

It’ll take less than a week from now for Django to pass the domestic total of Inglourious Basterds ($120.5 million). At the same time it is not certain that it’ll pass True Grit’s $171.2 million, given that film’s PG-13 rating and its tremendous late legs. However, the film’s out at the perfect time with Oscar nominations right ahead, while the film is already doing very well. The Oscar noms should assure that it’ll have at least two more weekends above $10 million (also thanks to the Martin-Luther-King-weekend).  The movie will fly past $150 million before the end of the month. It currently has at least $160 million locked up, which guarantees it a spot among the 20 highest-grossing R-rated films of all time in North America. Depending on how the awards pan out for it, it could even top the seemingly unreachable Dances with Wolves ($184.2 million). A more realistic projection puts its total at $170-180 million, though, giving Tarantino his first really big blockbuster (given the genre).

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey relinquished the top spot in its fourth outing, dropping 45.1% and two spots down to $17.5 million and #3 of the charts. After four weeks, its running total stands at a solid, if unremarkable (all things considered) $263.8 million total. It is incredible to just imagine that after four weeks on release, The Hobbit still hasn’t passed the total gross of the new James Bond-film and that despite having the 3D-advantage to boot. After 24 days, the Middle Earth-set prequel is tracking $38 million behind Return of the King, the highest-grossing entry in the Lord-of-the-Rings-franchise, $9 million behind The Two Towers, but still a solid $47.5 million ahead of Fellowship of the Ring. Its post-holiday weekend drop was admittedly harsher than that of Fellowship of the Ring (40.5%) and Return of the King (44.3%), but still a tad better than that of The Two Towers, which lost 48.8% in its first weekend of January back in 2003. I still fully expect the film to rebound and to finish above $300 million. The MLK-weekend will help it, but most of all, it should benefit from the lack of family-friendly and general PG-13 fare more than almost any other film in theatres right now. Word of mouth is good and with no PG-13 alternatives presented, other than Mama (which has a limited scope due to its genre), most audiences should still keep flocking to this. It could very well pass the $300 million mark before the end of the month and play well into February. Between Skyfall (which is also well on its way to pass $300 million) and The Hobbit, it’ll be interesting to see which one will come out on top – a question no one would have even dreamed to ask a year ago. I still see The Hobbit pulling ahead, mainly due to the fact that it’ll be able to benefit from the lack of competition, but it is now no longer a sure thing. I project The Hobbit to finish in the $310-320 million range.

 

Les Misérables slid down one spot to #4, losing 40.9% of its audiences in the process. After a $16.1 million 2nd weekend, its running total stands at an unbelievable $103.6 million after just 13 days! It has already become the 7th-highest-grossing musical ever in North America unadjusted for inflation and the biggest musical since Mamma Mia! ($144.1 million) in 2008. Evidently, it has been somewhat frontloaded due to its very eager fanbase, but with Oscar nominations ahead, it should rebound rather nicely throughout the month. It is unlikely to win any major awards, other than Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway and it is hard to tell how much this win will help the movie. Either way, it is enjoying more than solid WoM among its target audiences and there is very little competition for these demographics in January. That should allow for decent legs despite natural frontloading and a total above $150 million when all is said and done. It probably won’t quite reach the unadjusted heights of Chicago ($170.7 million), but a $155-165 million finish is also extraordinary for this bleak 2.5-hour musical.

 

Parental Guidance continued to impress as the quiet breakout hit of December 2012. The Fox-released family-oriented comedy eased 30.4% to $10.1 million and occupied the 5th spot of the box-office over the weekend. The film, modestly budgeted at $25 million, has already brought its running cume to a very impressive $52.8 million total after just 13 days which is far beyond than many have expected it to gross in total. The best news is that, it still has some very good weeks ahead. Faced with zero direct competition all the way until Escape from Planet Earth in mid-February, it should develop some terrific legs (also aided by its great “A-“-CinemaScore). The movie currently looks likely to cross $80 million and might even finish ahead of the December tentpole such as Jack Reacher. Either way, it should end up with around $80-85 million, probably prompting Fox to consider a sequel.

 

Speaking of which, Jack Reacher placed 6th this weekend with a formidable 31.6% decline to $9.6 million, bringing its total to $64.8 million after 17 days. The action thriller is now tracking roughly $5 million behind Valkyrie, another middle-of-the-road December-released success starring Tom Cruise. Bugeted at $60 million, $15 million less than Valkyrie, Jack Reacher should wind up an even bigger success domestically. The question still remains, how much the R-rated competition in January will affect the film’s legs. Albeit rated PG-13, Jack Reacher mostly targets adult men – the demographics that films such as Broken City, The Last Stand and Parker will cut into. If it manages to survive this onslaught of newcomers, then it should be able to leave the theatres with a very respectable $85-90 million in its pockets.

 

Judd Apatow’s newest directing gig, This Is 40, decreased an impressive 31.5% to $8.6 million, occupying the 7th spot of the box-office this weekend. The movie has raked in $54.5 million so far and has already passed the final gross of Apatow’s last film, Funny People. With a $35 million price tag, This Is 40 is shaping up to be a formidable moneymaker for Universal which ended their most successful year ever on another high note. This Is 40 has become the 21st movie of 2012 to pass $50 million at the box-office and it should have decent legs throughout the months. Although the upcoming new releases will also be rated R, few of them will aimed at female audiences in the way This Is 40 is, allowing it to keep its niche. Therefore, it will continue to pull good numbers despite seemingly mediocre WoM. It should therefore end its run with around $75 million in the bag, giving 2012 its final R-rated comedy success.

 

Lincoln easily held best among non-expanding films in the Top 10 and declined just mere 28.3% from its previous weekend to $5.3 million. The film has already amassed $143.9 million at the domestic box-office and should be at roughly $145 million by the time Oscar nominations will be announced. That’s simply tremendous. The King’s Speech was at roughly $58 million by the time the Oscar nominations have been announced and it went on to gross further $80 million from then on. Of course Lincoln has already realized most of its potential by now, but there is no denying that it will receive yet another major push with the Oscar nods, likely after the Golden Globes and, provided it wins Best Picture, also after the Academy Awards ceremony itself. A somewhat more fitting comparison is probably Walk the Line, which opened around the same time as Lincoln and added $13 million after having scored Best Actor and Best Actress nominations at the Oscars, along with a few other nods. However, Walk the Line was already doing worse at that point and, most importantly, hasn’t been nominated for Best Picture. Therefore, the least I can see Lincoln grossing now is $170 million. However, provided everything goes as expected and it wins the major awards (Picture/Director/Actor), it should handily make it to $200 million when all is said and done. That means it’ll become Steven Spielberg’s 9th (!) $200 million-grosser and the 9th-biggest film he has ever directed. That’s damn impressive!

 

After an abysmal opening, The Guilt Trip has recovered rather nicely. With a $4.5 million take, it spent this weekend at #9, grossing 30.8% than in its prior frame. So far the film has amassed a total of $31.2 million and should be able to further benefit from a relative lack of competition in the domestic marketplace. I expect it to wind up with a $43 million total by the end of its run.

 

After a very mediocre per-theatre-average in just 25 theatres last weekend, not much could have been expected of the nationwide expansion for Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land. The flick added 1,651 theatres for a total count of 1,676 and bowed to $4.3 million this weekend at #1, averaging just $2,673 per location. With little awards buzz, mediocre reviews and an okay-ish “B”-CinemaScore, it certainly won’t go far. It’ll start shedding screens and theatres very quickly and should top out with $12-13 million. 2012 wasn’t a great year for Focus Features financially. Moonrise Kingdom was a certified hit with $45.5 million and ParaNorman did alright with $56 million, but its $50-60 million budget puts that in a different light. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Being Flynn and Promised Land all flopped, whereas Anna Karenina ($10.8+ million) failed to live up to awards expectation and disappointed at the box-office.

 

The Monsters Inc. 3D re-release dropped out of the Top 10 down to #11 and brought in another $3.9 million (down 39.2%) and reached a running cume of $27.9 million. Its lifetime total is already at $283.8 million. The film is currently tracking $9 million behind the Finding Nemo re-issue, but it has shown better legs so far and will benefit from the lack of family-oriented releases until the third weekend of February! I expect it to close the gap between it and Finding Nemo 3D somewhat and end up with around $36 million.

 

Once again, Silver Linings Playbook hasn’t added any theaters and played at just 745 venues. Nevertheless, it has proven tremendous stability. Dropping just 11.5% to $3.6 million, it remained at #12 and its PTA is still higher than two weeks ago when it was playing in just half as many theatres. By now the film has grossed $34.7 million in North America and should see a large expansion over the MLK-weekend. It is pretty impressive that the movie will be at $35 million before the announcement of the Oscar nominations, despite having never played at more than 750 theatres. Last year, The Descendants has added around $30 million after the announcement of the Oscar noms. It also hasn’t played at more than 900 theatres before the announcement. However it has reached more of its potential by then as it saw a relatively early expansion into 876 theatres, a number that Silver Linings Playbook has yet to see. Therefore, the least one should expect for the film’s total is $70 million if The Weinstein Company doesn’t totally screw it up. However, I find a finish with around $75-85 million more likely.

 

Skyfall dropped out of the Top 12 down to #13, but declined mere 29.4% and added another $3.2 million over the weekend, bringing its running total to an incredible $296.9 million. It has already become the 42nd-biggest film ever at the domestic box-office and will be moving up the ladder in the upcoming weeks. I see it finishing with $306 million by the end of its run. Meanwhile The Impossible expanded from 15 into 572 theatres and made a decent $2.8 million over the weekend for a total of $3.4 million thus far. The movie’s PTA isn’t great, but with Naomi Watts being a likely candidate for a Best Actress nomination, it should stick around for a while and finish with $10-15 million. Zero Dark Thirty was far more impressive. Put into 55 more theatres, the movie was playing at a total of 60 locations this weekend and delivered an incredible $2.75 million weekend take from those, averaging $45,833 per theatre. The film will go wide (2,400+ theatres) after the upcoming Oscar nominations.

 

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Total Comments: 2
David
David    Jan 9 2013 7:56am
Nicely written and much appreciated, Arthur, as always.
Arthur A.
Arthur A.    Jan 14 2013 1:24am
Thanks a lot :)