By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood November 16, 2013 at 3:15PM
In an unexpectedly close race for top position this weekend, Universal sequel "The Best Man Holiday" was the top grosser yesterday, taking in $10,700,000 and edging out the second Friday for "Thor: The Dark World" (Buena Vista). The latter took in just under $10.5 million, falling 67% from its opening figure. Even more impressive, director Malcolm D. Lee's film (which brings back the African-American cast of 1999's "The Best Man") played in only slightly more than half as many theaters as "Thor" and doesn't boast 3-D premium ticket prices.
Originally set as counter-programming to what had been expected to be the weekend's big launch, Martin Scorsese's now delayed "The Wolf of Wall Street"-- and the first wide release opening featuring African-American characters since "The Butler"-- "The Best Man Holiday" was expected to show some niche strength and be a solid performer. And with an economical sub-$20 million production cost and targeted marketing, it seemed likely to be a success for Universal even with little or no hope for foreign business. But now, a possible $30 million + weekend and good word of mouth and the Thanksgiving holiday could yield grosses on the order of the best of Tyler Perry's comedies ("Madea Goes to Jail" at $90.5 million was the highest).
"Thor: The Dark World" will fall less for the rest of the weekend and could easily still end up #1. The original in 2011 fell 64% its second Friday, and should stabilize somewhat (second Fridays almost always drop more than the rest of the weekend). Still, it had been expected to be an easy #1 this weekend before it and everything will get clobbered by "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" opening next week.
The Top 10 overall collapsed from a year ago -- $35 million compared to $106 million, but with the caveat that "Twilight - Breaking Dawn 2" opened at $71 million for the day, with "Skyfall" at $12 million its second Friday providing a much higher level of draw. Next weekend will go a long way toward making up that gap.
Most of the rest of the Top 10 actually held fairly well, led by CBS's "Last Vegas" at $2.5 million, down only 22%. Paramount's "Bad Grandpa" was #4 at $2.3 million. The rest grossed between $1 and 2 million -- "Free Birds" (Relativity), "Ender's Game" (Lionsgate), "Gravity" (Warner Bros.), "12 Years a Slave" (Fox Searchlight), "Captain Phillips" (Sony) and "About Time" (Universal), in 6th to 10th place respectively.
"Nebraska" (Paramount) opened in four New York/Los Angeles theaters to just over $40,000, for a respectable per screen average of over $10,000. This puts Alexander Payne's film (in somewhat fewer theaters) a bit ahead of what "Dallas Buyers Club" (Focus) took in, and more than double the initial day for "All Is Lost" (Roadside Attractions), both strong rivals for best actor awards ahead.
More details on Sunday.