By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2012 at 1:45PM
Things are looking up at the 2012 box office, which featured a bevy of strong women this weekend. Four new films arriving or expanding into wide release outperformed expectations, marking the third consecutive up frame of the year. The estimated total for all films was $135 million, up a solid 32% from the comparable weekend last year, a nice achievement considering the heavy snow storms battering the Midwest and East Coast as well as competition from the NFL playoffs. (Top Ten Chart is below.)
Kate Beckinsale returned to carry the fourth iteration of Screen Gem’s R-rated “Underworld" franchise, the first in 3-D and IMAX, with pricier tickets. Patrick Taopoulos' $70-million "Awakening” took the top spot with an estimated $25.4 million. The opening proved to be the second highest of the four films, just behind “Underworld: Evolution,” which was the last film Beckinsale was in as the actress skipped number three. The film garnered a nice “A-“ CinemaScore, even though critics gave it a rotten rating of 24% on the Tomatometer.
20th Century Fox’s “Red Tails,” the story of the famed Tuskegee airmen in World War II, did much better than the tracking indicated and landed safely in the second spot with an estimated $19.1 million. The $58-million PG-13 feature directed by Anthony Hemingway and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston was financed entirely by producer George Lucas. The period actioner scored a high “A” CinemaScore grade, but fared poorly with the critics. The film marked a huge 44% bump from Friday to Saturday, which was attributed to positive word-of-mouth by Chris Aronson, EVP of Domestic Distribution for Fox: “This is an original movie and a true story that audiences have really responded to.”
Warner Bros.’ “Extremely Loud Incredibly Close” expanded into 2,630 theaters, marking its first weekend in wide release, and arrived in the fourth spot with an estimated $10.6 million, which was a little higher than expected. Stephen Daldry's post-9/11 drama, starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, scored a strong “A” from CinemaScore which should help the film grow its audience as the film plays out in theaters. The PG-13 rated picture opened on Christmas Day and has picked up an estimated $11.2 million so far.
Of the frame’s new arrivals, Relativity’s “Haywire” proved to be the biggest disappointment with an estimated $9 million fifth place opening in 2,439 locales. Stephen Soderbergh's R-rated female-heroine actioner starring Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor and Gina Carano, was a critic favorite but not embraced by audiences , who gave it a weak “D+” CinemaScore grade, much like "Drive."Relativity's modest $23 million budget for “Haywire,” which was financed by foreign sales, should mitigate the risk.
Last weekend’s top film, Universal’s “Contraband,” held up well as the Mark Wahlberg-starrer placed third with an estimated $12.2 million, down 50% as compared with the first three days of the four-day MLK holiday weekend. The cume to date is around $46.1 million.
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” moved into the sixth slot with an estimated $8.56 million, off 52% on its sophomore session. The animated 3-D feature has collected $33.4 million so far.
In its second week in release, Warner Bros.’ “Joyful Noise” pulled in an estimated $6.1 million, down a moderate 46% from its debut. The Queen Latifah-Dolly Parton starrer has picked up an estimated $21.9 million so far.
Benefitting from its Golden Globe best actress win, The Weinstein Company’s “Iron Lady” jumped to 1,070 locations, 277 more than a week earlier, and placed eleventh with an estimated $3.7 million. The Meryl Streep vehicle was down just 31% from a week earlier, although that drop was helped by the added locales. The total to date is roughly $12.6 million.
Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” was another film that profited nicely from Golden Globe attention, taking in an estimated $2.45 million – up 17% from a week ago while losing 100 theaters. The George Clooney starrer has grossed approximately $51.3 million so far. The Weinstein Company’s “The Artist” also benefited from its Golden Globe nods, and added 406 theaters to bring the count to 622, taking in an estimated $2.37 million to bring its cumulative gross to around $12.1 million.