Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - $31.4 million
2. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - $26.7 million
3. Frozen - $19.16 million
4. American Hustle - $19.10 million
5. Saving Mr. Banks - $9.3 million
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $8.7 million
7. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas - $8.5 million
8. Walking with Dinosaurs - $7.3 million
9. Dhoom 3 - $3.3 million
10. Thor: The Dark World - $1.3 million
The Big Stories
Was everyone tired of Ron Burgundy already? That's a more than legitimate question when considering the opening box office take for the long-awaited sequel to Anchorman. Oh, it did just fine. But this is a film that should have been looking at Fockers numbers. Certainly, at least, Austin Powers numbers. And it's a long holiday season and it could very well chug along to that. But where were the fans this weekend? Where were all the people who quote the film endlessly? Were they too busy asking around if it's any good? Should they spend their money or were they being set up for another major disappointment a la Caddyshack II or Ghostbusters II? C'mon people, you flocked to the theater for those garbage Hangover films. Where are you now when Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and co. injected some life into a genre, second only to animation, that has had a pretty bad year qualitywise? Or do I not know what we're yelling about?
"Tell Them What They Want to Hear."
AMERICA! The last full weekend before Christmas has generally been perceived as more of a launching pad on a greater investment rather than a horse that's going to charge out of the gate. Studios are looking for stamina here and a strong finish rather than grabbing the early lead. Consider the top 20 films to open on this weekend since 2000:
Avatar ($77.0 million), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($72.6), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ($62.0), King Kong ($50.1), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ($47.2), National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($44.7), TRON: Legacy ($44.0), What Women Want ($33.6), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events ($30.0), Anchorman 2 ($26.7), The Pursuit of Happyness ($26.5), Eragon ($23.2), Yogi Bear ($16.4), Jack Reacher ($15.2), Two Weeks Notice ($14.3), Dude Where's My Car? ($13.8), Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ($13.8), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ($12.7), The Family Stone ($12.5), This Is 40 ($11.5)
Even the average final grosses of those films opening under $17 million was $78.9 million (with two of them even hitting $100.) If you factor in Anchorman 2's Wednesday opening (and how that money may have been made in a three-day weekend), it moves just a couple notches up the list when it was not unreasonable to assume it could at least topple King Kong's number. The first Anchorman had $36.4 million in the bank in its first five days. The sequel is just over $3 million more. It took only two years in video cult land for Austin Powers to go from a $9.5 million opening to a $54.9 million opening for its sequel. Both sequels grossing over $200 million. Surely, audiences have enough good taste and sense for Anchorman 2 to do as much, right? Just look at the Rotten Tomatoes on pure live-action comedies in wide release this year.
The World's End (89%), The Way, Way Back (85%), This Is the End (84%), Anchorman 2 (76%), The Best Man Holiday (67%), The Heat (65%), Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (62%), Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (62%), The Bling Ring (60%)
If you want to throw in titles like Don Jon (81%), Warm Bodies (80%) and Spring Breakers (68%), be my guest. But these are the best-reviewed titles of the lot and the only ones to hit the "fresh" mark. What have audiences chosen this in 2013?
The Heat ($159.5), We're the Millers ($150.3), Identity Thief ($134.5), Grown Ups 2 ($133.6), The Hangover Part III ($112.2), This Is the End ($101.4), Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa ($100.6), The Best Man Holiday ($69.4), Last Vegas ($61.9), The Internship ($44.6)
Anchorman 2 pops up on that list in the next day or so, but how high does it climb? Back to that Fockers money idea for a second. Meet the Fockers also opened on a Wednesday (December 22, 2004 the year of our Lord Ron Burgundy.) Its three-day-weekend haul was $46.1 million and a five day of $70.5. It ended up making nearly four times that over the holiday with $258.8 million by the end of 2004 and over $279 million when all is said and done. If Anchorman 2 can develop the good word of mouth it deserves, even with the Christmas day onslaught of releases (and only The Wolf of Wall Street should make any kind of dent) it should be able to become the highest grossing comedy of 2013. It may be a long shot, but to paraphrase the next big modern comedy classic hoping to generate big numbers next holiday with a sequel, "we're saying there's a chance."
Wide Releases Branch Out
In 2010 Paramount took David O. Russell's The Fighter wide in its second weekend (from four theaters to 2,503) and it grossed $12.1 million. It took Harvey Weinstein 10 weeks to bring Silver Linings Playbook into over 2,500 screens (the week before Oscar nominations were announced.) It had already grossed nearly $44 million on no more than 810 screens and went on to gross over $132 million. Sony is taking The Fighter approach and striking while the iron is hot. One of the best-reviewed films of the year may not stand a chance against 12 Years a Slave or Gravity at the Oscars this year, but it's a lock already for a number of nominations. We'll see if the $19 million this weekend can stretch into triple digits over time as audiences discover a more nuanced character piece rather than a twisty con caper.
A film that has disappointed some in how it's doing so far in the Oscar race (and the box office) is Disney's Saving Mr. Banks. The headline last weekend was not how it grossed $413,373 on just 15 screens but how it didn't gross the $740,455 that American Hustle did on just four screens. (The Fighter did $300,010 on its opening four screens in 2010.) Banks is likely going to be the "PG" film that adults make their way towards once the holidays are out of the way. So don't panic Disney. Here are the films since 2000 that opened in the back half of December to between $9-11 million
Miss Congeniality ($106.8), Cheaper by the Dozen 2 ($82.5), Gangs of New York ($77.8), The Adventures of Tintin ($77.5), The Family Man ($75.7), We Bought a Zoo ($75.6), Charlie Wilson's War ($66.6), The Good Shepherd ($59.9), Sweeney Todd ($52.8), The Tale of Despereaux ($50.1), Fat Albert ($48.1), Kate and Leopold ($47.1), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem ($41.7), The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep ($40.9)
Disney may not be looking at much more than an Emma Thompson nomination for Best Actress (and possibly Thomas Newman's score) come January 16 for Mr. Banks, but its box office take should be more than satisfactory.
Finally, raise your hand if you've ever seen a Dhoom film. No, not the video game thing with the Rock and without the "H". Basically it is the Hindi answer to the Fast & Furious series, only on motorbikes. So maybe that makes it the answer to Torque. Regardless, the first film grossed $245,756 in the U.S. in 2004. The 2006 sequel grossed $2.6 million and added another $29.7 million overseas. Now, seven years later, part three has jumped out to over $3 million on its opening weekend. That's nearly as much as Machete Kills and Paranoia and more than The Fifth Estate did on at least 1,500 screens more. Makes Fox's number for the $80 million budgeted Walking with Dinosaurs look all the more sad. Here are the worst 10 wide openers on this weekend since 2000:
The Darkest Hour ($2.99 million), Joe Somebody ($3.55), The Majestic ($4.90), Flight of the Phoenix ($5.01), The Wild Thornberrys ($6.01), P.S. I Love You ($6.48), Did You Hear About the Morgans? ($6.61), How High ($7.10), Walking with Dinosaurs ($7.30), How Do You Know ($7.48)
Unless The Secret Life of Walter Mitty can put together some decent numbers, it looks as if its string of losers to finish out 2013 could put its films in the red after a strong first half.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
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