If it felt like a forgettable and rather dead weekend at the box office, that’s because it was. Studios typically don’t release major films in theaters the weekend of the Academy Awards, the conventional wisdom being that everyone’s going to be watching the awards, gearing up for the awards, and or doing something that involves preparing for the ceremony and not going to movies.
This is largely true, and the releases put in that weekend are generally counter-programming offers with 2014 being no different. While you may have spent your entire weekend pouring your Oscar ballot, those who don’t really give a toss turned out for both action and religious fare. Liam Neeson’s “Take On A Plane,” errrr… “Non-Stop” took the number one slot with a strong $30 million. A mid-budget franchise alert? Don’t scoff. Over the last five years, Neeson has had six action films open at #1. That's more than Tom Cruise, Matt Damon and Will Smith combined. If you’re sick of the old-man over 60-action bit from Neeson, this weekend demonstrates it's probably not going to end any time soon.
And while it was no “Passion Of the Christ,” which set off lots of Jesus-like records, Fox’s “Son of God” opened to a healthy $26.5 million for all the religious zealots who could give a shit about what Jennifer Lawrence will be wearing this weekend. While that’s a good sign for religious picks and this underserved audience, don’t expect many of them to turn out later this year for Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah,” because it veers away from the canonical text so much Paramount was apparently forced to release it with a disclaimer that it will not be “biblically accurate” (because suspension of disbelief is not broken enough by the simple fairy tale about a man who puts two of every animal species on a giant boat to avoid a catastrophic flood brought down by a wrathful God).
And all things considered it was a rather fit weekend at the box-office, with the top 3 films hauling in approximately $78 million in total. “The Lego Movie” opened in the third spot with $21 million—most films should be so lucky to earn half as much in their third weekend of release. The movie crossed the $200 million mark domestically this weekend and has already hit $301.8 million worldwide. $500 million could be in reach and yes, that sequel is already in the works (as are the knock-offs; everyone will want that kind of cheddar).
As expected, Disney’s “Frozen” joined the $1 billion dollar club, but only the 5th film to get there that was not a sequel or a prequel. Falling hard off their respective perches in week two were “3 Days To Kill” (plummeting 60%) and “Pompeii” (50%). In two weeks time they should vanish from the top 10 and probably from memory. And while “Pompeii” has had a disastrous opening domestically, it’s earned $65 million worldwide and should be able to hit the $100 million mark and feel… less embarrassed than it should have otherwise. “3 Days To Kill” has also been quite the turkey and while it hasn’t opened up internationally yet, Kevin Costner’s draw abroad is likely not going to save it.
Derided by many, while it’s unclear if George Clooney will have the last laugh (the movie still has a ways to go before its profitable), the fact remains that “The Monuments Men” has stayed four straight weeks within the top 5. The movie has cracked the $100 million mark worldwide. If these steady—but surely—legs continue, Clooney’s WWII drama may not win the race, but it might not end up a blemish either (presumably when it hits VOD and DVD that’ll help too).
While its opening domestically hasn’t been anything to write home about, Sony’s “RoboCop” remake opened to a massive $20.5 million—almost as much as its first weekend stateside. That number has pushed its overseas total to $186 million worldwide and if it keeps going the $100 million-budgeted film could land far enough in the clear that it could yield a weak sequel builder ala “Red” and “G.I. Joe” (franchise that performed weakly at home, but well enough overseas to get greenlit).
Elsewhere, the R-rated extended cut of “Anchorman 2” grossed an estimated $1.34 million this weekend to land in the 14th slot. But only having grossed $126 million domestically, it’s no wonder Adam McKay recently said this franchise is over (look out Ben Stiller, your “Zoolander 2” may not see the light of day if the paltry ‘Anchorman 2’ profits are any indication). On this Oscar weekend, the Best Picture nominees combined for an estimated $7.4 million, and “12 Years A Slave” has now surpassed the $50 million at the domestic box office. Expanding into 496 theaters just before the Oscars, Buena Vista’s English-dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved Japanese animated film (which will likely lose to “Frozen” tonight) performed decently with $460,000. Good enough for the thirteenth slot, despite its more limited release.