By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood January 29, 2012 at 1:06PM
With three new wide releases hitting the marketplace this weekend, along with a bevy of expanded Oscar runs, Open Road’s “The Grey” froze out the competition as it took the top spot with an estimated $20 million. The health of the marketplace overall remained robust as the total for all films this weekend was around $126 million, up some 15% from the comparable session a year ago and marking the fourth consecutive up frame at the boxoffice.
Fledgling Open Road's second release marks the distributor's first number one film. Backed by AMC and Regal, the company opened “Killer Elite” back in September in the fifth spot with $9.4 million. The opening for “The Grey” topped expectations heading into the weekend as most projected the film take in around $12-15 million.
Starring marquee draw Liam Neeson and helmed by Joe Carnahan, “The Grey" was acquired by Open Road for a modest $5 million. The R-rated action-thriller played well with both audiences and critics, scoring in the high 70th percentiles for both on RottenTomatoes. com, but it only scored a B- Cinemascore. Neeson’s last two films were “Unknown” ($21.9 million) in 2011 and “Taken” ($24.7 million) in 2009.
The disappointment of the weekend was Summit’s “Man on a Ledge,” a $42 million production that debuted with a lean $8.3 million from 2,998 theaters to take the fifth slot. Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks star in the PG-13 rated thriller, which was tracking weakly. Summit offered discounted tickets through LivingSocial. Asger Leth directed the picture about a framed man who tries to clear his name. Critics granted the film a 24% rotten Tomatometer rating, while audiences were 66% favorable.
Sony’s “Underworld Awakening” held up in the second spot with an estimated $12.5 million, slipping a moderate 51% from its debut. With a cume of about $45.1 million after 10 days, “Awakening” is tracking as the highest-grossing in the “Underworld” franchise to date. And while out of the top 10, Sony’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is closing in on the $100 million mark with $98.2 million in its boxoffice coffers.
Lionsgate’s “One for the Money” arrived in the third slot with an estimated $11.75 million, which is on the high end of where it was expected to be. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson and starring Katherine Heigl, the action-comedy was based on the first novel in author Janet Evanovich's popular Stephanie Plum series. The PG-13 rated film from Lakeshore Entertainment was loathed by critics who gave it a 3% rotten Tomatometer rating, while audiences gave the film 70% positive marks. The distributor grabbed a boost from selling Goupon discounted tickets on the film.
Fox’s “Red Tails” was in the fourth slot with an estimated $10.4 million on its second mission, dropping a modest 45% by generating positive word of mouth. The story about the Tuskegee airmen has picked up $33.78 million in its first 10 days.
Among the Oscar contenders, Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” moved back into the top 10 this weekend, taking in an estimated $6.55 million to place seventh. The drama was in the 16th spot last weekend, but added 1,441 locations to bring the theater count to 2,001. The film picked up five Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Director (Alexander Payne) and Actor (George Clooney). With an estimated $58.85 million total to date, “Descendants” is on track to surpass “Little Miss Sunshine” ($59.9 million) to become the fifth highest grossing film ever for the distributor.
The Weinstein Company’s multiple Academy Award nominee “The Artist” added 235 runs to bring the count to 897 and took in an estimated $3.32 million, up a sterling 40% from a week earlier. Erik Lomis, President of Theatrical Distribution and Home Entertainment, calls it a significant increase as the theater count was up only 35%. “It’s a special picture," he said. "We’re continuing to build momentum and will expand it very carefully throughout the award season.” “The Artist” has generated around $16.74 million so far and is on track to win some Oscars, as it just added the significant DGA award for best director for Michel Hazanavicius this weekend.
Weinstein’s other multi-award nominee and winner, “The Iron Lady,” likewise added 168 locales to take the count to 1,244 and grossed around $3.19 million. The Meryl Streep starrer was off a scant 13% from a week earlier, taking the cume to an estimated $17.5 million.
And Paramount’s “Hugo,” which garnered more Academy Award nominations than any other film, added 315 engagements to bring the tally to 965 locations, and grossed an estimated $2.28 million. The Martin Scorsese helmed picture has taken in around $58.7 million to date, and is unlikely to become profitable, even with a few Oscar wins.