What comes next: Watch for this to have only modest drops in weeks ahead -- there was a lot of new competition this weekend, but this has a real shot at stabilizing and maintaining a top five position for some time ahead.
3. The Nut Job (Open Road) NEW - Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 36
$20,550,000 in 3,427 theaters; PSA: $5,996; Cumulative: $20,550,000
Looking like the biggest hit yet for exhibitor-owned (Regal and AMC) Open Road. timed perfectly for the holiday weekend with a dearth of family films since the still strong "Frozen," this 3-D animated comedy shows once again that this genre is a goldmine. This one is more impressive with its lack of brand pedigree (it is a Canadian/South Korean co-production, with co-directors who initially started at lower-level Disney jobs). Even more impressive (though helped by their "in" at the two biggest circuits) is how many theaters Open Road managed to book in one of the most intense weeks of the year (four new films plus Oscar holdovers). This looks like a success for all involved (the estimated budget with national tax-credits deducted was around $30 million). With the school holiday tomorrow, this has a shot at ending up #2 for the four-day weekend.
What comes next: Open Road's previous biggest hit was "The Grey," which got to almost $52 million, which this should easily reach.
4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 58
$17,200,000 in 3,337 theaters; PSA: $5,078; Cumulative: $17,200,000
Somewhere the late Tom Clancy is laughing -- Kenneth Branagh, the director best known for his Shakespeare films, took over the Jack Ryan franchise (actually not that much of a surprise since his "Thor" for Marvel/Paramount grossed worldwide more than his previous nine films combined). With the studio's go-to star Chris Pine ("Star Trek") taking over a well-known character, this was supposed to reboot the franchise that goes back to "The Hunt for Red October" and starred Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. This result is not at the same level, and Paramount's late-inning willingness to push this out of Christmas for "The Wolf of Wall Street" suggests some anxiety about its competitiveness during that period. With a thrifty $60 million budget and lower marketing costs outside the intense holiday period, this will need a better than expected hold (this gross suggests around a $50 million domestic take) and stronger international appeal to have a chance of making this a franchise restart.
Along with Branagh and Pine, this had a high creative pedigree -- cowriter David Koepp's credits include "Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible" and "Spider-Man," its producers have among their recent films entries in the "Harry Potter," "G.I. Joe" and "Red" series, and co-stars Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner add appeal to sophisticated audiences. So far though the response has fallen short.
What comes next: Next week's hold will be make or break for this. It needs to be strong to make it more than a short playoff run.
5. Frozen (Buena Vista) Week 9; Last weekend #2
$11,971,000 (-19%) in 2,979 theaters (-260); PSA; $4,018; Cumulative: $332,602,000
Its Oscar nods don't hurt, but this smash is just unstoppable -- now in its third month, its third holiday boost, and no end in sight.
What comes next: This is still $36 million short of "Despicable Me 2"'s domestic gross, which now looks vulnerable as this keeps playing steadily.
6. American Hustle (Sony) Week 6; Last weekend #5
$10,600,000 (+28%) in 2,204 theaters (-425); PSA: $4,809; Cumulative: $116,431,000
"American Hustle" had a great week with the Golden Globe wins, the co-lead in Oscar nominations and now its SAG ensemble award, but the biggest news of all comes at the box office, with a 28% jump in gross and clearly dominating public interest among the nominees. This now looks like it will stay on screen through most of the voting and then, after potential wins, still have new life. This could be headed to $200 million domestic, with its popularity its possible ace-in-the-hole with Academy voters. This jump came when the film actually lost a chunk of theaters (what were they thinking?) -- don't be surprised to see total stabilize or even increase.
What comes next: Watch Sony ride this wave as they hope to get the studio's first Best Picture win since "The Last Emperor" 36 years ago.
7. Devil's Due (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: D+; Metacritic: 35
$8,500,000 in 2,544 theaters; PSA: $3.341; Cumulative: $8,500,000
The second new horror release of the year is even more disappointing than the first ("Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," which opened stronger (but way below earlier series entries). This stand-alone low-budget "Rosemary's Baby"-inspired story came with a low cost -- $7 million before marketing. It was co-directed by long time creative partners with roots in the Chad, Matt & Robb comedy group (prominent on-line and elsewhere) whose earlier short was part of the "V/H/S" package. But marketing costs will come in higher, and with the gross already falling its second day, the domestic box office total could fall short of what is needed to help make this break even.
What comes next: Expect this to be off nearly all screens after its second week.
8. August: Osage County (Weinstein) Week 4; Last weekend #7
$7,592,000 (+6%) in 2,051 theaters (+1,146); PSA: $3,702; Cumulative: $18,181,000
Post its two acting nominations, "August" went up 6%, but with the caveat that it more than doubled its theater count. Weinstein has successfully maintained awareness and interest in this film so far, but this gross is not as impressive as last weekend's similar result in far fewer theaters. The 54% Saturday jump suggests this is skewing older, an audience that sometimes takes its time getting to a film, and which responds to word of mouth at a higher level.
What comes next: Next weekend will be crucial in determining whether this can maintain a presence beyond the next two weeks. The release pattern for this tricky film so far has boosted it above what expectations were after its mixed initial response.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) Week 4; Last weekend #4
$7,500,000 (-15%) in 1,930 theaters (-591); PSA: $3,886; Cumulative: $91,677,000
Though this dropped from #4, this is a solid hold for Martin Scorsese's adult-audience three-hour film, with its Best Picture/Director/acting nominations clearly giving this an extended life after its decent initial weeks. Whether this is a one-week help or can give this further life (its performance nationally has been uneven -- it lost almost 600 lower-grossing theaters this week) will be something Paramount's marketing people need to address, but look for them to continue to push this hard over the next weeks.
What comes next: Leonardo DiCaprio's late-rising Oscar hopes would be greatly enhanced if this can stay prominent over the next month.
10. Saving Mr. Banks (Buena Vista) Week 6 - Last weekend #8
$4,147,000 (-37%) in 2,449 theaters (-222); PSA: $1,693; Cumulative: $75,391,000
Holding in the Top 10 despite its near-total (and surprising) Oscar snubs, this no longer looks certain to hit the $100 million total that seemed likely in its initial weeks, but still with its lower budget and most of the world still to open appears on its way to ultimate profit at least.
What comes next: Tough for it to sustain a run much longer, but the decent hold this weekend shows this still is finding an audience against big competion.
11. Her (Warner Bros) Week 5 - Last weekend #11
$4,065,000 (-24%) in 1,729 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,351; Cumulative: $15,026,000
The multiple nominations helped "Her" to a degree -- it kept the drop to a modest 24%. That said, these are not grosses likely to keep this on screen in many of these locations much longer, even with the awards boost.
What comes next: This clearly has avid fans and enough interest to keep it on screen in more specialized locations, where it could sustain a modest run and come closer to realizing its deserved potential than it has so far.