By Gabe Toro | The Playlist January 22, 2012 at 12:08PM
If there was ever a weekend that better illustrated the divide between audience and critics, we certainly can't remember it. Following a financially successful franchise pattern thus far, "Underworld: Awakening" joined the other films in the series in opening to over $20 million. In the grand scheme of this vampires vs. werewolves franchise, this opening comes in lower than the second installment, but a shade beyond the first and third.
A good comparison for 'Awakening' is another franchise installment with an arbitrary subtitle, "Resident Evil: Afterlife." That picture was the fifth in the series, but it utilized 3D-inflated prices to go supernova, particularly worldwide, where it grabbed $296 million. 'Awakening' was viewed as a back-to-basics sequel after the last entry, "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," was a prequel without series star Kate Beckinsale that grossed far lower than the previous films. With an opening in the mid $20s, it means Beckinsale has opened three pictures in this franchise over $20 million, an impressive achievement for an actress most wouldn't consider an A-Lister.
Like 'Awakening,' but slightly moreso, critics savaged "Red Tails," the independently produced WWII fighter pilot drama. But even with a significant run-time and a cast comprised of no-names and also-rans, the second place opening has to be considered a success. The film ran Lucasfilms just under (a reported) $60 million, so distributor Fox isn't exactly sweating this, though it isn't exactly a big enough number to get some of the black actors in the film mentioned on studio shortlists whenever they're looking for a generic leading man. "Black John Carter" is still a while away.
Falling out of the top spot was "Contraband," though the thriller held up moderately well, suggesting audiences are responding a bit stronger than they did for other Mark Wahlberg solo outings like "Shooter." Clearly, no one cared either way whether the former Funky Bunch leader could have prevented 9/11. Closely behind was the wide expansion for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," sporting a somewhat underwhelming per-screen average after four weeks out in arthouse theaters. The picture never broke out with critics, and awards committees have ignored it thus far, so the heat just wasn't there for this to play to massive numbers.
It was a sharper-than-expected drop for "Beauty and the Beast 3D," which didn't nearly have the opening, or the legs, of the 'Lion King' re-release. Not that this was unexpected, given that 'Beast' was never as popular a title, but Disney re-releasing a number of 3D-ified films from their catalog that also aren't as beloved as "The Lion King" might lead to diminished returns. It's impossible to ignore that 'Beast' was also opening in a vacuum where no other animation competition was being released.
Relativity was confident pushing "Haywire" as a low-temperature boutique actioner, ignoring their wealth of tentpole stars in favor of selling the movie as some indistinguishable punchfest starring a total no-name. Among many mistakes was releasing this on the same weekend as another genre picture with an ass-kicking female lead and a built-in audience. But while "Haywire" was the most critically approved movie being released this week, it might also be the most loathed, with audiences awarding the film a rare, and completely unfair, D+ – even worse than the grade acheived by "Drive" last September. "Haywire" was surprisingly cheap, with overseas rights selling for a bundle, so this opening is just about good enough, but hey – Cinemascore proves in this case that you can lead a horse to water, but sometimes they're still a fucking stupid horse with no taste and shitty standards.
Weekend two of "Joyful Noise" happened. Hope we can all agree on that. Behind the gospel film was the final stretch for "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," which shed a number of screens, though it should hit $200 million domestic within the next few days. There's still a tidy amount of business to be done overseas, so 'Ghost Protocol' is actually well on its way to becoming the most successful worldwide entry in the franchise. It's a Tom Cruise world, we're all just living in it. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" also dropped a number of screens as it finishes its run, likely short of $200 million, while "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" hung around the top ten, flirting with $100 million domestic.
Despite decent television ratings, the Globes did very little for select movies. "The Iron Lady" expanded further, though it couldn't maintain a very high per-screen numbers, collecting $3.7 million at 1,076 engagements. "The Artist" won the Best Picture Musical Or Comedy Award and the film expanded from 216 to 662 theaters, but its $2.4 million gross was accompanied by a feeble $3.5k per-screen average, as the film has totaled only $12 million in nine weeks of release. There was a bit more support for Best Picture Drama winner "The Descendants," though the picture dropped one hundred locations, grabbing $2.3 million at 560 locations, bringing its total over $50 million. Because America cares so much about awards, both films were outgrossed by the fifth weekend of "We Bought a Zoo." There is a lesson in this somewhere.
A wealth of potential awards contenders meant The Weinstein Company lost their zest for Shakespeare adaptation "Coriolanus." As a result, the quietly promoted film opened this weekend to $60k at nine locations. A strong per-screen debut was the skin-heavy documentary "Crazy Horse," though the film only opened on one New York screen, grossing $10k. Another doc, "Ultrasuede," only scored $4k at a single location, as no indie opener could come close to matching indie holdovers like "A Separation," which grossed $183k on thirteen screens, its $14k average spectacular for the fourth week of a foreign film. Also still doing strong business on only ten screens was the doc "Pina," which brought in $120k in week five, and "We Need To Talk About Kevin," grossing $77k at seven theaters. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Underworld: Ad Nauseum (Sony/Screen Gems) - $25.4 million
2. Red Tails (Fox) - $19.1 million
3. Smugglers Gotta Smuggle (Universal) - $12.2 million ($46.1 mil.)
4. Don't Stand So Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close To Me (Warner Bros.) - $10.5 million ($11.2 mil.)
5. Haywire (Relativity) - $9 million
6. She Should've Picked Gaston 3D (Disney) - $8.5 million ($33.3 mil)
7. Joyful Noise (Warner Bros.) - $6 million ($21.9 mil.)
8. Mission: Impossible - A Game Of Shadows (Paramount) - $5.5 million ($197.3 mil.)
9. Sherlock Holmes: Ghost Protocol (Warner Bros.) - $4.8 million ($178.6 mil.)
10. The Girl With The Unfortunate Tattoo (Sony) - $3.7 million ($94.7 mil.)