By Gabe Toro | The Playlist January 29, 2012 at 12:14PM
Good ole’ dependable Liam Neeson. This is the third straight early-year period where the character actor turned badass leading man has scored a number one hit. While “The Grey” couldn’t pull in the same numbers as “Taken” or “Unknown,” it did top $20 million. Not a bad figure considering this was a much less commercial beast, with an R-rating, and it’s arguable that few leading men could have gotten a man-vs.-wilderness drama into an eight figure debut.
This is distributor Open Road’s second ever release. Their first, last year’s “Killer Elite,” seemed like a surefire commercial proposition, but it pulled in half of what “The Grey” is looking to make on this opening weekend. You could argue this was a bait and switch, as the ads centered around spoiling, and misinterpreting, the film’s ending -- Cinemascore was a not-entirely-kind B-. But everyone got the opening they wanted -- this puts Open Road on the map, it gets Joe Carnahan out of Director Jail following “The A-Team” and it continues Neeson’s winning streak. Also worth noting: throughout each week in 2012 so far, the number one slot at the box office has been filled by R-rated fare.
Like most genre films, “Underworld: Awakening” lost about half its audience from its debut. But it’s the strongest second weekend hold for the series thus far, and with the inflated 3D prices, it could become the biggest “Underworld” yet. Which it should be, considering it’s no doubt the most expensive. Regardless, without anyone really caring, an “Underworld 5” will no doubt be coming. Hey, who knows, maybe they’ll accidentally make a good one.
Powered by GroupOn receipts, “One For The Money” kept its head above water, pulling in an opening bigger than what distributor Lionsgate expected. The film’s GroupOn promotion offered cheaper tickets for some customers, and while final numbers haven’t revealed what percentage of this gross comes from the special deal, this opening is in the neighborhood of GroupOn’s last big-screen collaboration, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” which grossed $13.2 million last year. Given that 'Lawyer' may still spawn a franchise and is getting a television spinoff, the news might not be that dark for “One For The Money.”
The Katherine Heigl bounty hunter comedy was adapted from a series of best-selling books, but after pulling the film from a high profile summer release slot, most felt that this had the stench of off-product. Heigl opened “27 Dresses” by her lonesome to $23 million four years ago, but it’s been diminishing returns as she’s been paired with increasingly dubious leading men. While her career survives based on the idea that this was expected to be a belly flop and now will probably just be a modest money loser at a $42 million budget, she’s probably on the hunt for more supporting roles at this point, starting with this fall’s star-studded “The Big Wedding.”
“Red Tails” managed to hold steadily. Audience polling and the decent second weekend hold suggests the movie’s seriously connecting with some viewers. $60 million is likely the target, though it will need to maintain these legs to make it there.
Also being helped by a discount ticket plan, this one from Living Social, was the thriller “Man On A Ledge.” However, unclear ads and a pretty insipid premise meant the film was a total non-starter, though Cinemascore audiences rated the film a B+. Does it matter than Sam Worthington can’t open a non-tentpole? Not particularly, as he’ll be back for future “Avatar” movies, and has “Wrath Of The Titans” coming soon. With those on the horizon, someone like Worthington is free to experiment as the lead in a few mid-budgeted efforts, without the pressure of being the next Harrison Ford. For studios, of course, this means Worthington is a B-List holding pattern kinda guy -- he’ll add something to any project, sure, but no one is going to go out of their way to see The New Sam Worthington Movie.
Meanwhile, amongst the Oscar nominees making the chart were Best Picture candidates “Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close” and "The Descendants." For the former, it only lost about a quarter of its audience from last weekend’s wide expansion, though it’s still not doing spectacular numbers. Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight's platform release plan for the George Clooney starrer continues to pay off, with film now on over 2000 screens, and closing in on $60 million and a likely long play into February. It's unlikely, but $100 million is definitely a distant possibility for the Hawaii-set drama.
“Contraband” continued to whittle down its theatrical run, and it should finish around a very solid $70 million. “Beauty And The Beast 3D” crossed $40 million and has maybe one good weekend left in the tank, a solid return for a cheap re-release. It outpaced “Haywire” for the last spot, the Steven Soderbergh thriller losing half of it’s miniscule opening weekend audience. And though it's not in the top ten, "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" cracked $200 million. It has also become the top-grossing picture of the franchise globally with a $571 million gross and in another week or two it will be the top film of the franchise domestically. And you thought Tom Cruise's career was on the skids.
Expanding onto just under 900 screens, “The Artist” was unable to capitalize on its Oscar heat, failing to crack the top ten. In its tenth week of release, the film has yet to break out. The Weinsteins are going to keep this in theaters until the Oscars, in the hopes that a few wins help the film capitalize, but as of now its $17 million tally pales in comparison to the $414 million "The King's Speech" took in last year for TWC. Also expanding post-nominations was "Hugo," grabbing $2.3 million at 965 locations, not exactly a muscular showing for the Oscars' leading nominee. Even with it's $150 million plus budget, by far the most expensive film in the running for Best Picture this year, it's been outgrossed by five fellow nominees.
Making its awards' season marketplace debut was "Albert Nobbs," though it wasn't particularly strong, with only $773k on 245 screens. On only one screen, meanwhile, another, more intriguing debut took place, with the documentary "The Inconsistent Truth" grabbing $20k worth of tickets from those hip to its conservative agenda. Which, in this case, judging by the trailer, seems to be YAY IGNORANCE. "A Separation" continued to unite audiences, averaging $9k at thirty one locations for a $281k take, while "Pina" ($186k, 35 engagements) and "We Need To Talk About Kevin" ($66k, ten locations) continue to perform strongly. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Old Man Wolfpuncher (Open Road) - $20 million
2. Underworld: Chick In Hot Leather Again (Sony/Screen Gems) - $12.5 million ($45.1 mil.)
3. One For The Money (Lionsgate) - $11.7 million
4. Red Tails (Fox) - $10.4 million ($33.7 mil.)
5. Man From Sister Sledge (Open Road) - $8.3 million
6. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Naked (WB) - $7.1 million ($21.1 mil.)
7. The Relatives (For Searchlight) - $6.5 million ($58.8 mil.)
8. Contraband (Universal) - $6.5 million ($56.4 mil.)
9. Beauty And The Beast 3D (Disney) - $5.3 million ($41.1 mil.)
10. Haywire (Relativity) - $4 million ($15.2 mil.)