Weekend Box Office Top Ten: Pitt's 'Killing' Opens Softly, Holdovers Soar

Box Office
by Tom Brueggemann
December 2, 2012 1:00 PM
4 Comments
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On what is usually one of the slowest weekends of the year-- post-Thanksgiving, when adults are holiday shopping--moviegoers flocked to a wide variety of strongly performing holdovers. The top ten grossed around $100 million, up a strong 40% from last year. 

"Breaking Dawn" ended up #1 narrowly over "Skyfall." But once again, it is a core group of adult-oriented films that made the difference, "Lincoln" and "Life of Pi" among the smaller dropoffs. Those two films in particularly should see their already bright Oscar chances helped by strong audience response. Also among major contenders, long-running "Argo" finally fell from the top ten, but passed $100 million this weekend.

Though not quite making (as of now) the top ten, "Silver Linings Playbook" also thrived with an even smaller drop in a still more limited run, suggesting that it is poised to join the group of popular as well as critically successful films. Its progress will help take the edge off the disappointing opening of Weinstein's other current film. "Killing Me Softly," which mustered only #7 for the weekend.

1. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Lionsgate) Week 3 - Last weekend #1

$17,400,000 (-60%) in 4,008 theaters (-60%); PSA (per screen average) $4,344; Cumulative: $254,600,000

Continuing to thrive despite the normally weak time frame, the final "Twilight" entry grossed almost a million more than "Part 1" did the same weekend last year, and maintained (though more narrowly) its number one position for the third straight week. Despite all the adult films thriving at the moment, younger audiences still rule most of the time.

Also of note - this is the 11th (and likely last) weekend Lionsgate/Summit will have the #1 film for a weekend in 2012. They did so more than 20% of the year, a major achievement for any distributor.

What comes next: This might not quite hit $300 million, but any level about $250 million at this point in the series -- particularly with international doing better than previous entries -- means expectations have been met.

2. Skyfall (Sony) Week 4 - Last weekend #2

$17,000,000 (-52%) in 3,463 theaters (-63); PSA: $4,909; Cumulative: $246,029,000

A very reasonable post-holiday drop for Bond 23, continuing its impressive increases over other recent series entries.

Here's how phenomenal "Skyfall" is: "Quantum of Solace," in its fourth weekend (also just after Thanksgiving) grossed $6.8 million - around 60% less - and had reached a total of $152 million. Normally, with similar elements, "Skyfall" wouldn't have been expected to do much more than whatever ticket price increases would add to the total, if it even sustained the same level (never guaranteed). This could come close to doubling "Quantum."

What comes next: This is on its way to over $300 million domestic and approaching if not passing $1 billion worldwide. No mid-life crisis for 007.

"Lincoln"
3. Lincoln (Buena Vista) Week 4 - Last weekend #3

$13,509,000 (-47%) in 2,018 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,694; Cumulative: $83,700,000

Coming off its huge holiday weekend, this marks a below-normal drop for Steven Spielberg's way-over-expectations hit. If there had been any doubt about this maintaining most theaters through Christmas (still several weeks away), this erases them. This is exactly the kind of film conventionally thought to be the opposite of what would bring in wide audiences with all the competition from shopping and parties that dominate leisure time in early December. But instead, this continues to be a must-see-now film for many people.

What comes next: This will hit $100 million likely by next weekend, and increasingly it appears that the ultimate domestic gross could double that with the holidays and then awards response ahead. This should increase its already solid Oscar chances.

4. Rise of the Guardians (Paramount) Week 2 - Last weekend #4

$13,500,000 (-43%) in 3,672 theaters (+19); PSA: $3,676; Cumulative: $48,947,000

Though this is still not performing close to what is needed with the production cost, the 43% fall is quite modest and suggests a brighter future than the opening week suggested. Last year, the much bigger grossing "The Muppets" fell 62% its second weekend. This seems to be benefitting from being the sole new family film in the market as well as decent word of mouth despite the initial disappointing grosses.

What comes next: A chance now to play (at least matinees) through the lucrative Christmas vacation.

5. Life of Pi (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 - Last weekend #5

$12,000,000 (-47%) in 2,928 theaters (+1); PSA: $4,098; Cumulative: $48,361,000

Continuing to overperform compared to expectations (and fears with the $125 million estimated budget), this modest falloff indicates solid word of mouth and more importantly, enough strength to maintain reasonable playoff through the holidays. Though not the phenomenon "Lincoln" is- - the latter grossed $1.5 million more in 30% fewer theaters a week later in wide release -- by any other standard this is doing better than hoped.

What comes next: This will need some help from December awards mentions to keep the momentum going as competition from new films as well as others trying to stay on screen will make it tough for Fox to keep at this theater count level. But assuming the expected awards attention ahead, this should maintain a presence over the next couple months strong enough to easily pass $100 million in domestic gross, and presumably even better overseas.

6. Wreck-It Ralph (Buena Vista) Week 5

$7,020,000 (-58%) in 3,087 theaters (-172); PSA: $2,274; Cumulative: $158,257,000

This Disney 3-D animated film continues its successful run more than a month after opening and despite competition from the more recent "Rise of the Guardians."

What comes next: Disney also has "Brave" and "Frankenweenie" in the animated Oscar race (the former from partner Pixar), but this late-year success could elevate "Ralph"'s chances.

7. Killing Them Softly (Weinstein) NEW - Cinemascore: F; Metacritic score: 64

$7,000,000 in 2,424 theaters; PSA: $2,888; Cumulative: $7,000,000

Shockingly, this movie scored the audience survey Cinemascore's worst grade, F, while at the same time earned a dsolid 64 score from Metacritic critics. F usually goes to films that studios don't even bother to screen for the press. This suggests an enormous disconnent between the marketing of a Brad Pitt vehicle and the actual smart house film. The end result is a disappointing performance for the one major release of the week.

For producer/star Pitt, \ no good deed goes unpunished. He rivals his friend George Clooney in finding smaller, offbeat projects to attach himself to. This is his second effort with Australian director Andrew Dominik, after "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The latter film, released by Warner Bros. five years ago never went wider than 301 theaters on its way to a $3.9 million total gross. This one, a gritty adaptation of a George Higgins crime novel, features Pitt as part of an ensemble cast in a less-than-sympathetic hitman role.

Mainly financed by Annapurna Pictures for an economical $15 million, this is one of their several productions in release this year along with "Lawless," "The Master" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Pitt, who served as one of the five listed producers, backed the film with his Plan B company. The film has grossed $15 million so far internationally.

Weinstein had two films in competition at Cannes this year, normally the first viewing of their upcoming Oscar hopefuls ("Inglorious Basterds" and "The Artist" in the previous two years premiered similarly). This year, the two they had both opened up in off-weeks, and neither is a factor for awards. The first was Annapurna's "Lawless," which they launched Labor Day weekend (another less competitive date) but managed to get to a respectable $37 million total domestically, benefiting from less competition. "Killing Them Softly" wasn't so lucky.

What comes next: A struggle to reach $15 million, one of a very small number of Pitt's films ever to gross that low.

8. Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) Week 2

$6,555,000 (-54%) in 2,781 theaters (+51); PSA: $2,355; Cumulative: $31,320,000

The one film aimed at young males continues its respectable run.

What comes next: $40 million or better is possible, much better than many thought possible.

9. Flight (Paramount) Week 5

$4,540,000 (-46%) in 2,603 theaters (-35); PSA: $1,744; Cumulative: $81,527,000

Another film holding up well, as Robert Zemeckis' film continues to find an audience amid substantial competition.

What comes next: This will struggle to get much beyond $100 million despite Paramount's continued major push for this. But it should sustain decent theater counts for at least another week, and still have a presence to some extent through Christmas.

10. The Collection (LD) NEW - No Cinemascore or Metacritic score:

$3,409,000 in 1,403 theaters; PSA: $2,340; Cumulative: $3,409,000

This horror film from people previously involved in the "Saw" series seems to have eked out a #10 position over Weinstein's "Silver Linings Playbook" (which had more than 1,000 fewer theaters). A sequel to the little-seen "The Collector" from 2009, it still is an achievement for fledgling LD Films to get into the top 10.

What comes next: This will disappear quickly.

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4 Comments

  • David Lean Fan | December 2, 2012 2:34 PMReply

    Life of Pi? Over-performing? Right! And Flight is "struggling" to get beyond the 100 million mark? How about a respectable 80 million gross for a drama about alcoholism? I really hate agenda-driven analysis. Anne Thompson, get your team together.

  • Tom Brueggemann | December 2, 2012 3:58 PM

    As for Life of Pi, yes, I strongly believing it is doing much better than expected. Most importantly, because of the playtime, it is now positioned to thrive for weeks longer, rather than having the usual decline each week that would leave it far short of $100 million, which would have been disastrous for the expense of the film. This is a film with no stars, an unclear premise to those who haven't read the book, a tough one to market. So yes, I think it has overperformed so far.
    Feel free again to disagree, but again, to suggest an "agenda" is completely baseless.

  • Tom Brueggemann | December 2, 2012 3:55 PM

    David Lean Fan -

    What agenda exactly are you suggesting? It has nothing to do with my analysis - I try very hard not to let my personal reactions enter into my thoughts - but Flight is just about my favorite American film of the year.
    I suggest you look up grosses on previous Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis films, factor in the strong reviews, and Nate Silver-like think about pre-opening one would come with a projected gross below $100 million. Some factors entered into this - Skyfall opening the following week cut into this, opening with far fewer theaters than normal - as well as (maybe) the story elements entered into this. But yes, I do think $100 million is less than it should have done. It's my opinion, but not remotely based on some nefarious agenda you seem to suggest.

  • Sugar | December 2, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    Love how well Flight continues to do. How many films about alcoholics hit $80 Million? Life of Pi is never going to hit $100 Million. This is a $125 Million budget film that is underperforming.

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