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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: Weak Openers Led by 'Hansel and Gretel'

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
January 27, 2013 1:26 PM
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"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"

Things picked up on Saturday after poor box office performance Friday due to Eastern weather. But it was still a weak result overall, with the Top Ten down about 25% from last weekend (even without major football competition) and about $6 million under last year (which saw a slight bump for two new Oscar nominees).

Both of the two top films are genre flicks with appeal to the younger audience which has been recently underserved. Paramount's worefully reviewed "Hansel and Gretel" ended up with a credible performance, with Universal's "Mama" coming down to earth after last week's stronger opening. But two other new openings -- "Parker" (FilmDistrict") and "Movie 43" (Relativity) --showed little life.

Meantime, two Oscar contenders -- Weinstein's "Silver Linings Playbook" and Sony's "Zero Dark Thirty"-- continued to play well in their expanded runs, with the former holding particularly well.

With the Super Bowl and related social activities coming next weekend (distributors tend to shy away from the date), January marks a weak start to 2013. This is particularly disappointing after the adult-oriented releases of late 2012 (plus "The Hobbit") ended the year well. Globally targeted genre films, mostly horror and male action, don't always make the best fit for American screens, even if that mix usually works well overseas.

1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: B; Metacritic score: 18

$19,000,000 in 3,372 theaters; PSA (per screen average):; Cumulative: $19,000,000

This R-rated variation on the classic children's horror tale came in stronger than expected based on Friday's grosses, and easily won the race for top new film for the week. Considering the bottom-of-the-barrel reviews (this was not screened, so they had less impact), this is a credible showing on a spotty weekend, with 3-D premium tickets helping.

With a cast led by Jeremy Renner, this is the second horror film in two weeks to star an actor who got an Oscar nomination working for Kathryn Bigelow (after "Mama" with Jessica Chastain scored well last week). Originally set for last March, the release was delayed in part in the expectation that Renner's renown would be higher, particularly internationally, after his turns in "The Avengers" and "The Bourne Legacy." The performance so far shouldn't hurt his stock.

The $50 million production was co-financed by MGM and had among its multiple producers Will Ferrell and his some-time director Adam McKay. The director is Norwegian Tommy Wirkola, who came to fame with "Dead Snow," released minimally in the U.S. by IFC.

What comes next: Though not likely to have a sustained long run, this is set up to have greater success overseas, and could end up in breakeven territory.

2. Mama (Universal) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1

$12,900,000 (-55%) in 2,682 theaters (+35); PSA: $4,795; Cumulative: $48,600,000

A slightly more than normal drop for a horror films' second weekend, due in part to "Hansel and Gretel" competing for the same audience, this just adds to the success for this low-budget ($15 million) Spanish-financed film starring Jessica Chastain.

What comes next: This will playout quickly going forward, but a total gross of $65 million + seems likely.

3. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 11 - Last weekend: #3

$10,000,000 (-7%) in 2,641 theaters (+118); PSA: $3,786; Cumulative: $69,465,000

Whatever doubts remained about Weinstein's strategy of holding back their wide release of David O. Russell's romantic comedy now seem totally erased after this strong hold in its second week of wide release. Only falling a small amount with a minor theater count increase, it looks to be benefiting both from continued strong word of mouth and the dearth of strong new competition.

Still a long-shot contender for Best Picture with no clear-frontrunner established, this ongoing success also does Jennifer Lawrence's chances in a tight Best Actress race no harm either.

What comes next: Weinstein will have little difficulty holding on to most of these theaters for the time being with reaching the $100 million mark now seeming likely.

4. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) Week 6 - Last weekend: #2

$9,800,000 (-38%) in 2,929 theaters (-17); PSA: $3,346; Cumulative: $69,904,000

Another better-than-average later week drop, neck-and-neck with "Silver Linings Playbook" both in weekend and total gross, this continues to show enough strength to reach $100 million, about six times more than Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker."

What comes next: It's a long way yet till the Oscars, where Jessica Chastain is the film's best chance for a major win, but that helps to keep this in theaters. Meantime, Universal launched this in Europe, with those upcoming numbers to be an indication of how big a hit this ultimately will be after a decent domestic run. (The five day number in five territories was just under $8 million, including a #2 position in France).

5. Parker (FilmDistrict) NEW - Cinemascore:; Metacritic score: 43

$7,000,000 in 2,224 theaters; PSA: $3,147; Cumulative: $7,000,000

Mystery writer Donald Westlake's iconic hard-boiled character Parker has been used in several films, most famously John Boorman's "Point Blank" (played by Lee Marvin) but also by Mel Gibson ("Payback") as well as Robert Duvall, Jim Brown, even Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's "Made in USA." Apparently using his real name for the first time in a film adaptation wasn't the key to continued success. With Jason Statham, usually reliable in an ensemble but wobbly as a lead in the role, this looks to be performing at about the weak level of the actor's lowest recent wide release (2008's "Crank: High Voltage").

For director Taylor Hackford, for many years a reliable provider of well-received wide-audience hits ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "Ray"), this is the second consecutive disappointment, following the limited failed release of "Love Ranch" starring spouse Helen Mirren. It represents a low-end for him among studio films, with only "Dolores Claiborne" in 1995 less in raw totals (which would be higher adjusted to 2013 ticket prices).

FilmDistrict acquired U.S. rights for this $30 million production, backed by six separate companies.

What comes next: After their success with the pickup "Red Dawn," this is the second underperforming film for this reworked distributor, now competing with Open Road in acquiring mid-level budgeted general audience films. They continue to be able to get films launched by finding dates with less competition, but remain at the mercy of the quality of the product.

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