By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood January 12, 2014 at 1:21PM
4. (tie) American Hustle (Sony) Week 5 - Last weekend: #5
$8,600,000 (-31%) in 2,629 theaters (+111); PSA: $3,271; Cumulative: $101,563,000
Dropping even less than "Wolf" (the additional theaters helped), this Oscar-frontrunner's total take is already over $100 million even before it gets its expected boost with nominations. This looks like it could outgross director David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" within weeks -- that film didn't reach $100 million until near the end of February, ultimately reaching $132 million. This is already a public-driven film on its own, which can't hurt its awards chances.
What comes next: This could rise to the top 3 next weekend as the next step in its race to a possible $200 million total.
4. (tie) The Legend of Hercules (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 24
$8,600,000 in 2,104 theaters; PSA: $4,087; Cumulative: $8,600,000
"Hercules" star Kellan Lutz might look at the "Lone Survivor" grosses and ponder a better future if he can follow Mark Wahlberg's career. Both started out getting attention for their muscular shirtless physiques with little expectation of long-term success. Wahlberg smartly managed to parlay a successful part in "Boogie Nights" into becoming a serious actor and producer. Lutz's movie career actually has been full of hits -- the "Twilight" series, "The Immortals," the "Nightmare on Elm Street" reset -- as mainly a supporting actor before this lead turn, which opened up flat and is going nowhere fast.
Produced by Millennium and distributed (but not financed) by Lionsgate in the U.S. (but not Canada, where this didn't open, reducing the gross by about 10%), this had a modest wide-release theater count in this crowded market. Exit surveys indicate this failed to score the expected younger audience -- 55% of attendees were over 25, with about half the revenue from 3-D screens. Production expense estimates have a wide range, from $40-70 million suggested.
This was hoped to be something of a comeback for director Renny Harlin, who came to the U.S. from Finland in the 1980s and had significant success with action hits "Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger" and "The Deep Blue Sea." In recent years he has made quickly forgotten films like "12 Rounds," "The Covenant" and "Mindhunters." Back to the drawing board.
What comes next: This will be offscreen quickly in the U.S., with upcoming international openings spread out over upcoming months needing to be much bigger to make of the difference.
6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend: #3
$8,015,000 (-49%) in 3,075 theaters (-655); PSA: $2,607; Cumulative: $242,219
Finally beginning to come down to earth after its dominant position over the last month, Peter Jackson's middle film of the "Hobbit" trilogy is still solid, performing better still than several other later Christmas releases that have quickly faded.
What comes next: This looks like it will come in at about 85% of the very successful initial entry.
7. August: Osage County (Weinstein) Week 3 - Last weekend: #31
$7,315,000 (+5,128%) in 905 theaters (+900); PSA: $8,083; Cumulative: $7,860,000
Forget placement but look at very good PSA. With a big jump Saturday over Friday, the initial expansion of the film version of Tracy Lett's acclaimed play outpaced several other films that are searching for audiences right before Oscar nominations are announced. This is a superheated market for the limited audience for these films. TWC has had multiple strategies for releasing this film, switching from a November opening to Christmas, then deciding to only open New York/Los Angeles, before deciding on this plan to widen in stages (a further expansion is planned for this Friday).
This became an unexpectedly tricky film, despite its talent's high pedigree, after it became apparent that reviews were going to be mixed. That meant that maximizing core interest in the film became a question of threading the needle. It needed to open in New York and Los Angeles to qualify for awards, irrespective of reviews. The grosses there were ordinary compared to other recent limited releases (in PSA below "Lone Survivor" head to head), and with better reviewed films like "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," and "Nebraska" also expanding this week, and new reviews in many major cities similar to the initial ones, its fate was uncertain.
This number of theaters for an initial expansion is unusual and comparisons are imperfect. Two years ago, Focus opened "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" in early January at 809 theaters for a PSA of $6,772. "August" is better than that, and more significantly, faced greater competition as well as lacking "Tinker"'s reviews. Its Saturday jump was 20% above "Tinker"s, suggesting importantly better word of mouth at this early stage.
Two things now are key for the film after this successful expansion. First, an A- initial Cinemascore is a positive early sign for building strong word of mouth. Second will be scoring key anticipated Oscar nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as well as a long-shot chance at Best Picture (as the even worse reviewed and weaker opening "Extremely Loud and Dangerously Close" pulled off two years ago). But these initial results at least are substantially above pre-release expectations whatever the future holds.
What comes next: With further expansion next Friday, TWC is betting that the nomination haul will add to the momentum.
8. Saving Mr. Banks (Buena Vista) Week 5; Last weekend: #7
$6,578,000 (-24%) in 2,671 theaters (+561); PSA: $2,463; Cumulative: $68,949,000
A sizable jump in theaters helped keep the dropoff to a low level as Disney's second holiday success continues to do well even if it never has has ranked better than fifth. Despite that, it looks like it should hit $100 million by the time it is through.
What comes next: This is another film awaiting nomination results, which will have a key role in its further attention.
9. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend: #2
$6,300,000 (-66%) in 2,883 theaters (+16); PSA: $2,185; Cumulative: $28,471,000
It's not all good news this week, with a nearly 2/3s drop and fall to #9 added to last week's less than expected opening making this an early 2014 disappointment.
What comes next: Nothing much left for this film other than foreign, which might make this low-budget entry more successful.
10. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend: #6
$6,100,000 (-43%) in 3,012 theaters (-395); PSA: $2,025; Cumulative: $118,518,000
Still holding in better than three films released a week later, this comedy hit has sustained a much better run than expected.
What comes next: The series' legacy has been reinforced, with more likely to follow.
11. Her (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend: #17
$5,410,000 (+600%) in 1,729 theaters (+1,682); PSA: $3,129; Cumulative: $8,809
Though this opened to decent platform grosses, then expanded over the holidays to key cities with respectable results, Spike Jonze's acclaimed off-beat rom-com totally fizzled in its wide release, with a gross only about 75% of "August: Osage County" though it played at almost twice as many theaters. This is one of the big disappointments of the season. Though this had a precious storyline, Joaquin Phoenix hasn't proven to be a big draw. Warners clearly hoped a young, urban audience would discover this, and quickly. They didn't, and the film faces a bleak future.
What comes next: The B- Cinemascore indicates a mixed response. Even a better than expected Oscar nomination haul might not make a lot of difference.