'Django Unchained'
'Django Unchained'

Three strong Christmas pictures have been battling for box office supremacy for ten days, with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables" switching positions almost daily. But none of them ended up on top this weekend. Younger audiences, bored with the the adult and family films dominating the holidays, responded to the first new horror film since Halloween by making "Texas Chainsaw" number one for the weekend.

Total business for the weekend was about the same as last year, a sign of strength in the holdovers since the top-ranked film did $10 million less than last year's new entry. "Django" and "Parental Guidance" seem to have the best word of mouth among the new films, based on their solid holds this weekend.

Not in the top ten, but a significant performer was Sony Oscar contender "Zero Dark Thirty." Expanding to 60 theaters after its initial two-plus weeks at five platform runs, it grossed an exceptional $2.75 million, with a per screen average of $45,000 that would be considered strong for an opening in just New York and Los Angeles. This bodes well for its wide expansion next week. More analysis on this in Arthouse Audit, as well as on the wider break for "The Impossible."

1. "Texas Chainsaw" (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic score: 33

$23,000,000 in 2,654 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,666; Cumulative: $23,000,000

As the industry wondered how the three huge films dominating business from Christmas Day would shake out,  a serial killer reboot cut them down to size. Lionsgate usually has three or four horror films a year hit number one (then usually fall quickly), but defeating such heavyweight competition is still impressive.

This is not unprecedented. Last year, Paramount sprung "The Devil Inside" the weekend after New Year's, and did almost $34 million (and took number one), so this (with the added boost of many 3-D surcharges) is not up to that level. And the audience response, as indicated by Cinemascore and falloff from its first-day gross, suggests a big drop in rank next weekend.

While Lionsgate makes several of these a year, in this case the film was acquired from Millennium Films, with a reported $20 million marketing commitment. With these numbers, a rebirth of the series is not guaranteed. The 2003 New Line redo opened to $28 million and held on to do $80 million total (with lower ticket prices), which doesn't seem in the cards for this go-round.

What comes next: For Lionsgate, which with its merger with Summit soared to the #5 ranking of studios for 2012, this is not a bad way to start the new year.

2. "Django Unchained" (Weinstein) Week 2 - Last Weekend: #2

$20,082,000 (-33%) in 3,010 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,672; Cumulative: $106,352,000

About the only disappointing element about "Django"'s grosses is that it has passed $100 million in under two weeks without getting tto number one. Everything else looks good for Quentin Tarantino's biggest hit since "Pulp Fiction." (That film grossed $107 million in 1994, which would be about $200 million today). The drop was normal for a post-holiday weekend for a film with solid word of mouth, and even better given that "Texas Chainsaw" likely competed for some of the same audience.

What comes next: Will this get an Oscar nomination boost? Chances look better with the strong public response (often paralleled by enough Academy member support to get into the race). That will be a factor in whether upcoming weeks show a normal drop or this continues to overperform compared to expectations.

3. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Warner Brothers) Week 4 - Last Weekend: #1

$17,525,000 (-45%) in 3,755 theaters (-345); PSA: $4,667; Cumulative: $263,820,000

This post-holiday drop is about what would be expected after its strong performance (including three weekends at number one). The last Peter Jackson Tolkien opus - "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" fell about the same percentage post-New Year's, its third weekend. That massive hit though remained at nuumber one, grossed $28 million (which even before factoring the 3-D and other surcharges for "The Hobbit" would be closer to $40 million now), so as big as this has been, it still is not close to being in the same league.

What comes next: With little Oscar boost ahead, this will now fall steadily and likely disappear by the end of the month, unlike the previous series, which had much longer runs.