This weekend Jessica Chastain owns the box office, a rarity for actresses today. Based on Friday's numbers she looks to lead both the three-day and four-day numbers with the top two films -- the new Spanish horror film "Mama" and the second week of the wide release of her nominated film "Zero Dark Thirty." Meanwhile her Oscar rival Jennifer Lawrence is hosting "Saturday Night Live" as her "Silver Linings Playbook" finally goes wide.
It isn't unusual for a leading Oscar contender to have a new film out during the voting period. Natalie Portman's "No Strings Attached" also opened to #1 two years ago, although "Black Swan" was not #2. Eddie Murphy had "Norbit" open at the top while "Dreamgirls" was contending. A rare case for any actor to be the star of the top two films was Leonardo DiCaprio in 1998, when "The Man in the Iron Mask" supplanted "Titanic" from #1 after its lengthy stay at the top. (DiCaprio wasn't a nominee).
"Mama" curiously also trumps another of Chastain's rivals. As a Spanish film, it joins Naomi Watts' "The Impossible" as a second production from that country to be playing across the country, although "The Impossible" is playing at far fewer (886) theaters.
Silver Linings Playbook" in its tenth weekend reached in fourth place for Friday but may move up to third for the weekend, quite credible for a film that as been playing at most of the top theaters already for weeks. "Zero Dark Thirty" fells almost 50% from its wide-opening Friday last week, with the drop for the full weekend likely to be a more normal 40%. By the end of the holiday weekend, both films should be about equal in total gross.
All this comes at the expense of opening and holdover films starring a range of top male stars. 20th Century Fox's political thriller "Broken City," with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, both coming off major hits, eked out third place for Friday, with fourth place expected for the full weekend. Much worse is Arnold Schwarzenneger's "The Last Stand" (Lionsgate), which is the cinematic equivalent of an electoral recall --it barely reached #9 for the day. Warner Bros.' struggling "Gangster Squad" with its testosterone-loaded cast including Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin fell to fifth after its disappointing debut last weekend.
Business overall was about the same as last year, when another horror film, "Underworld Awakening," also opened to #1 at about $9.3 million. The only Best Actress nominee in the top 10 was Meryl Streep's "The Iron Lady," at #10, as compared to possibly two of the top three this weekend. Likely Best Actor winner Daniel-Day Lewis' "Lincoln" fell to number 11 for the day, but could easily jump a notch by the time the full weekend is reported.
The top 10 films (in millions + totals)
1. Mama (Universal) - $10.0/10.0
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) - $4.6/42.9
3. Broken City (20th Century-Fox) - $3.0/3.0
4. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) - $3.0/46.9
5. Gangster Squad (Warner Brothers) - $2.7/25.8
6. A Haunted House (Open Road) - $2.4/24.0
7. Django Unchained (Weinstein) - $2.2/132.3
8. Les Miserables (Universal) - $2.0/124.6
9. The Last Stand (Lionsgate) - $2.0/2.0
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros.) - $1.5/$282.4