Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Taken 2 - $22.5 million
2. Argo - $20.1 million
3. Sinister - $18.2 million
4. Hotel Transylvania - $17.3 million
5. Here Comes the Boom - $12.0 million
6. Pitch Perfect - $9.3 million
6. Frankenweenie - $7.0 million
8. Looper - $6.3 million
9. Seven Psychopaths - $4.2 million
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - $2.1 million
The Big Stories
Audiences were not quite ready to let go of Bryan Mills, keeping Taken 2 at the top of a crowded opening weekend. Only the ninth film of 2012 to hold onto the number one spot for a second straight weekend, its drop wasn't nearly as steep as I expected. It's 54% decline was right in line with recent action sequels, The Expendables 2 (53.1%) and The Bourne Legacy (55.3%). As the 12th highest opening weekend of the year and the 16th film to open to more than $40 million over its first full Friday to Sunday, Taken 2 is more on the high end of drops on that list.
Hotel Transylvania (36.4%), Ted (40.8%), Safe House (41.2%), Madagascar 3 (43.5%), The Vow (44.0%), The Amazing Spider-Man (44.2%), The Lorax (44.7%), Men in Black 3 (48.57%), Brave (48.59%), The Avengers (50.3%), Taken 2 (54.6%) Ice Age: Continental Drift (56.2%), Snow White and the Huntsman (59.0%), The Dark Knight Rises (61.4%), The Hunger Games (61.6%)
It took the first Taken 22 days to reach the $86 million that Taken 2 has amassed in just 10, but it is still unlikely to catch the $145 million its successful word-of-mouth predecessor generated in 2009.
Argo Number Two, but Joins Rare Club
Ben Affleck's critically lauded Argo with its real-life rescue couldn't quite displace the fictional ridiculousness of Taken 2, but so what? When all is said and done, Argo is going to be remembered well into next year (and beyond) with a cascade of Oscar nominations and maybe even a few wins. The early numbers are just a stepping stone towards this and are indicative of the respect Affleck is earning as a director. In his career as a leading man, his top openings had the added benefit of epic history (Pearl Harbor), comic book cache (Daredevil) and franchise awareness (The Sum of All Fears). Armageddon and He's Just Not That into You were ensemble pieces, leaving The Town to be the sixth biggest opening of Affleck's resume. Argo is now number seven with $20.1 million. If it matches the word-of-mouth appeal of his 2010 directorial effort, it will finish with around $77 million. But there is the possibility it could go even higher.
Argo garnered an A+ from Cinemascore surveys. That puts it amongst these titles:
Antwone Fisher, The Avengers (2012), The Blind Side, Courageous, Driving Miss Daisy, A Few Good Men, The Fugitive, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Help, The King's Speech, The Lion King, Schindler's List, Soul Surfer, Tangled, Titanic, Toy Story 2, Up
What do we learn from that? Other than that recent Catholic-themed films have less discerning audiences than others? On the surface you are looking at two of the three highest grossing films of all time, nine Best Picture nominees and four winners. Taking the limited initial openers out of the equation and an Olympic-style scoring system that is an average multiplier of opening weekend to final gross of 5.64. Only four of the previous 17 A+ films failed to grab $100 million. Two of them were those faith-based flicks. With stellar word of mouth from audiences imminent and the beginning of awards season right around the corner, Argo may have a shot to make it.
A Solid Horror Opening?
Sinister surprised many by taking the number one spot on Friday, helped in no small part by a million bucks in midnight shows Thursday evening. Even without it, though, there was enough to edge out Taken 2 and Argo before falling a bit back to earth over the weekend. Still, almost $19 million is pretty good for a horror film in any year. Take away your franchise players, action-based horror and more loosely classified tales of terror like Contagion and The Grey, here is where Sinister's opening ranks since last year.
The Devil Inside ($33.7 million), The Woman in Black ($20.8), Sinister ($18.8), The Possession ($17.7), The Rite ($14.78), The Cabin in the Woods ($14.74), Red Riding Hood ($14.0), Insidious ($13.2), House at the End of the Street ($12.2), Apollo 18 ($8.7), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark ($8.5), The Thing (2011) ($8.49), Shark Night 3D ($8.40), Chernobyl Diaries ($7.9), Fright Night (2011) ($7.7), Silent House ($6.6), The Darkest Hour ($2.9), The Apparition ($2.8)
None of these films could hit the 3x multiplier with their final grosses and Sinister is not helped matters by a C+ cinemascore, which is also a rather rare score in a very forgiving moviegoing world. It is the ninth film this year to receive such a rating after...
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Gone, Hit & Run, Resident Evil: Retribution, Savages, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Watch
...and based on their final grosses, Sinister could be looking at a final gross around $44 million. Though with Paranormal Activity 4 poised to dominate once again next weekend, its drop might be larger than expected.
The Sadness of the Newbies
Kevin James' Here Comes the Boom is less than two million away from outgrossing last year's Warrior, the superior MMA film that also featured a high school teacher who becomes admired by his students and principal when he takes up fighting for money. Almost as sad, Seven Psychopaths is on less than 1500 screens and finished ninth in total dollars but was still only eighth in per-screen average. In better news, roughly the same amount of people saw Atlas Shrugged Part II as last year's Part I on opening weekend. The difference is the first part opened to $1.6 million on 299 screens. Part II opened out of the top 10 to $1.7 million on 1012 screens. Distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures can still brag on having the most successful documentary of the year with 2016: Obama's America, which is the saddest of all.