Even with inclement weather in the eastern half of the country cutting into attendance, the top 10 came in $4 million ahead of last year. This despite the relative shortfall from this year's standard first weekend opening of a new horror film. "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" failed to land the #1 spot, unlike two similar films in the last two years, while grossing far below the level for previous entries in its series. This allowed Disney's "Frozen" to return to the #1 spot for the second time in its seven-week run.
The box office continues to get a boost from a wide range of appealing films. Seven of the top 10 have either passed $100 million or are likely to cross that threshold (last year it was four). The best hold among these came from Martin Scorsese's much-debated "The Wolf of Wall Street," which is gaining steam from the controversy around it. But half of the top 10 fell less than 30% from the post-Christmas weekend, a very strong showing for a wide group of films.
Two other Christmas releases -- Universal's disastrous "47 Ronin" and 20th Century Fox's "Walking With Dinosaurs"-- fell out of the top 10. Not everything clicked this season.
Two second-week platform films playing held well in New York/Los Angeles (both open wide next week), with "Lone Survivor" dropping only 18% and "August: Osage County" dropping 21%. More on these and other limited films in Arthouse Audit.
1. Frozen (Buena Vista) Week 7 - Last weekend #2
$20,722,000 (-28%) in 3,318 theaters (-17); PSA (per screen average): $6,245; Cumulative: $297,838,000
Films have been #1 in their seventh week (often they are directed by James Cameron), but to return to #1 this late is unusual (last achieved by another Disney animated film, "Aladdin" 20 years ago). This is actually only its second week in the position - it was beaten out by "Catching Fire" in its first week of wide release, then topped by "The Hobbit" since that film opened. It is also the first time a film that opened in November was still #1 in the New Year since "Aladdin." Worldwide is up to $640 million. This was expected to be successful, but the level of its appeal has far exceeded anticipation.
What comes next: Not likely to repeat as #1, but this could hover in the top 5 for several weeks to come.
2. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: C-; Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 44
$18,200,000 in 2,867 theaters: PSA: $6,348; Cumulative: $18,200,000
Despite the strong overall grosses this weekend, if there was a minor glitch it is the below-expected total for this first-of-the-year horror film. The horror genre, mostly low-budget films, took in about $750 million in total gross last year, usually with strong opening weekends with quick drops that leave everyone with a profit. This latest entry in the "Paranormal" series (with a story and cast reset) suffered a sharp drop from the first four (two grossed over $100 million) as well as the last iteration's $29 million opening. The films have owned the prime Halloween playtime in most recent years. But this post-New Year's weekend fell off from the last two years -- last year "Texas Chainsaw" grossed $21.7 million, with "The Devil's Inside" two years ago taking in $33.7. With the built-in history of this franchise, this drop is notable. Later-year horror releases such as "Purge" and "Insidious 2" opened in the mid 30s or more, so the genre remained strong throughout the year.
Producer Oren Peli oversaw the film once again, and director Christopher Landon (son of "Bonanza"'s Michael Landon) wrote three earlier entries. The story and cast were recast with a Latino flavor (which worked well for the most recent "Insidious" film). However, whatever the reason, the C- Cinemascore alone would suggest a quick fall-off--starting earlier than usual.
What comes next: A second week then likely gone. This successful series needs retooling if it is to continue.
3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.) Week 4 - Last weekend #1