Things are picking up at the spring box office as two films opened to over $30 million this weekend. DreamWorks Animation's "The Croods" performed as expected while FilmDistrict's "Olympus Has Fallen" doubled its anticipated take. The Top Ten grossed around $129 million, a big jump from last week's $93 million. But year-to-year comparisons are doomed, as this weekend last year saw the opening of "The Hunger Games" ($152 million) which propelled those three days to a giant $202 million, meaning about a 30% drop coming on top of a 2013 that is already significantly down from last year.
1. The Croods (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 56
$44,700,000 in 4,046 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $11,048; Cumulative: $44,700,000
The first Dreamworks Animation release to be distributed by 20th Century Fox (after leaving Paramount) opened to a credible gross that should reassure worried investors who did not react well to the February $90 million writedown for costly flop "Rise of the Guardians." "The Croods" is no record setter for animation at this time of year. "The Lorax" last March opened to $70 million on the way to a $212 million domestic gross.
With a $135 million budget, this badly-reviewed picture needs to hold well and score internationally to equal that film's success ($348 million total worldwide). In its favor: an A Cinemascore and upcoming spring school vacations peaking over the next two weeks and Easter.
The film's two directors had previously worked on other animated releases (Chris Sanders was co-director of "How to Train Your Dragon," Kirk DeMicco did "Space Chimps"), while unusually for the male-dominated cartoon world, both producers are women (Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell).
What comes next: Weekdays should be very strong, with $75 million by week's end possible.
2. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 43
$30,500,000 in 3,098 theaters; PSA: $8.845 ; Cumulative: $30,500,000
2013 has seen few films open to over $30 million, fewer still have exceeded expectations, and none have boasted as much action as this White House hostage drama. This is the biggest opening ever for FilmDistrict, which mainly acquires independent but mainstream wide release genre films. This hit will enhance their reputation.
The film also represents a significant comeback for its principals. Director Antoine Fuqua's previously best opening was "Training Day" in 2001, whose $22 million opening with inflation would have been slightly under this figure. Though he has worked steadily since then (including Disney's expensive flop "King Arthur," which only grossed $55 million with a $120 million cost), this marks a comeback.
For star and co-producer Gerard Butler this is a big turnaround. This gross is double than the opening of any of his wide-release starring films over the last three years, and reestablishes him as a legitimate action lead.
The film didn't come cheap. From Avi Lerner's Millennium films (with ex-Miramax executive Mark Gill as another of the producers), it cost $70 million, with FilmDistrict reported to have provided a significant marketing investment.
What comes next: Sony has a similarly-plotted "White House Down" from Roland Emmerich as one of their significant summer releases (with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx). This has stolen some of its thunder.
3. Oz: The Great and Powerful (Buena Vista) Week 3; Last Weekend: #1
$22,031,000 (-47%) in 3,805 theaters (-107); PSA: $5,790 $ ; Cumulative: $177,559,000
Considering the competition for the family audience from "The Croods," this is a decent hold for the year's biggest film so far. It continues to consistently perform at about two-thirds the level of "Alice in Wonderland" (which grossed $34 million its third weekend, reaching $265 million by this point).
What comes next: The worldwide total is $356 million. With other significant territories still to open and more ahead in the U.S., this looks to have a strong shot of passing the $600 million level that should safely put this into profit, although it has no shot of getting to the $1 billion level "Alice" achieved.
$8,700,000 (-49%) in 2,507 theaters (no change); PSA: $3,470; Cumulative: $30,904,000
This Halle Berry thriller came back to earth after a stronger-than-expected opening last weekend; the fall of about 50% suggests a mild response. With an initial budget of $13 million, this is another of a series of modestly successful genre films with female leads that have clicked with audiences this year.
What comes next: This has a shot at $50 million domestic, much better than anticipated, as Sony burnishes its reputation as a solid provider of mid-budget genre fare.
5. Admission (Focus) NEW - Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic score: 49
$6,445,650 in 2,160 theaters; PSA: $2,984; Cumulative: $6,445,650
The good news for Focus is that this had a strong bump Saturday over its weak Friday opening, suggesting its intended older audience is responding somewhat to this comedy about a single female Princeton admissions official. The overall result though is weak, hurt by surprisingly poor reviews for a film starring popular Tina Fey . Though this was not a high budget production by current standards - around $13 million before considerable marketing expense to launch a wide release, it still was expected to have greater appeal than this. Her most successful film in a lead role, "Date Night," with Steve Carrel (rather than Paul Rudd here) opened to $25 million on its way to just under a $100 million total.
Director Paul Weitz has ties to Universal (Focus' parent company) with huge hits like "Little Fockers" and "American Pie." But Focus released his "Being Flynn" early last year on a limited basis to only $540,000 total. Another lower cost/high concept comedy, "American Dreamz," did even less well in 2007 ($3.7 million in 1,500 theaters on its way to only $7.2 million), so this at least is an improvement,
What comes next: Audience reaction to this (the B- Cinemascore for opening night wasn't encouraging) will be critical in determining whether this can claw its way back to a passable ultimate gross.
6. Spring Breakers (A24) Week 2; Last Weekend: #27
$5,000,000 (+1,801%) in 1,104 in theaters (+1,101); PSA: $4,529; Cumulative: $5,407,000
Harmony Korine's unlikely (and unprecedented) limited hit from last week broadened more widely than initially planned to a decent if not spectacular gross at about 1,100 theaters. The PSA was much higher than that of "Admission," which played at almost twice as many theaters. However, "Spring Breakers" was slightly ahead of "Admission" on Friday, but fell below after, suggesting both that its appeal is much younger and hinting that word of mouth might not be enough to push this to a significantly wider release.
What comes next: With a low budget and economic social-media driven marketing, this should stand as one of the most successful independent releases of the year. The key question is how wide A24 decides to go in upcoming weeks.
7. The Incredible Burt Winterstone (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last Weekend: #4
$4,275,000 (-58%) in 3,160 theaters (no change); PSA: $1,353; Cumulative: $17,365,000
A significant drop from a weak opening shows that this didn't make up in word of mouth what it lacked in initial appeal.
What comes next: Summer can't come quickly enough for Warner Bros., which has several likely blockbusters in their slate.
8. Jack the Giant Slayer (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last Weekend: #3
$2,965,000 (-53%) in 2,560 theaters (-797); PSA: $1,158; Cumulative: $59,052,000
No good news here as this is likely its final weak in the Top Ten, with a less that $70 million domestic total likely, making it even lower than Disney's early spring flop "John Carter" last year.
What comes next: Foreign territories have started to open, with somewhat better results. But it is hard to see how that will make up for the huge domestic shortfall.
9. Identity Thief (Universal) Week 7; Last Weekend: #5
$2,500,000 (-42%) in 2,166 theaters (-676); PSA: $1,175; Cumulative: $128,000,000
Tailing off after a terrific run, this Melissa McCarthy comedy is finally lagging her previous costarring hit "Bridesmaids" (which did over $7 million its seventh weekend with much strong word of mouth to reach $136 million by this point) after holding even or better earlier. But with a $35 million initial cost, this is already one of the few standout successes of the year so far.
What comes next: This has yet to open in most foreign territories, where "Bridesmaids," like most American comedies, did solid but less business than domestic.
10. Snitch (Lionsgate) Week 5 ; Last Weekend: #6
$1,930,000 (-45%) in 1,807 theaters (-546); PSA: $1,068; Cumulative: $40,343,000
Continuing to perform reasonably well, with only a 45% drop in gross despite losing a chunk of theaters, this urban family crime drama shows once again that The Rock can carry a modestly budgeted film along with the bigger franchise films that have made him successful.
What comes next: Foreign, which hasn't opened, will likely not have as strong a response.