Here's your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Texas Chainsaw 3D - $23.0 million
2. Django Unchained - $20.0 million
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - $17.5 million
4. Les Miserables - $16.1 million
5. Parental Guidance - $10.1 million
6. Jack Reacher - $9.3 million
7. This Is 40 - $8.5 million
8. Lincoln - $5.2 million
9. The Guilt Trip - $4.5 million
10 . Promised Land - $4.3 million
The Big Stories
In a weekend that could have gone to any one of three challengers, it was the first newbie of the year to surprise many and come out on top. For the second straight year, a horror film kicked off 2013 by leading the domestic box office. Texas Chainsaw 3D, the seventh in the series that asks the audience to disregard at least five of the other films, took the edge over current adult-male favorite Django Unchained. All is likely to change next week, however, as the film everyone is waiting for should take a good bite out of both.
Solid Texas Chainsaw Opening Primed for Quick Fall
In 2012, the first weekend of the year gave us The Devil Inside, which opened to a near record-breaking $33.7 million for the month of January. Perhaps to make up for that film's lack of an ending, the makers of Texas Chainsaw 3D gave us two -- just stay until after the credits. Better yet, don't go at all. That advice is likely to be heeded, as goes the history of the front-loaded world of horror. Opening to a $10.2 million Friday (including Thursday late shows), the "direct' sequel barely outgrossed its first day over its next two. But that strong start was enough to put it in league with other scary January releases. More of which than you probably remember.
Cloverfield ($40 million), The Devil Inside ($33.7), White Noise ($24.1), Texas Chainsaw 3D ($23.0), Hide and Seek ($21.9), My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.2), The Unborn ($19.8), Hostel ($19.5), Legion ($17.5), Final Destination 2 ($16.0), Daybreakers ($15.1), The Rite ($14.7), One Missed Call ($12.51), Darkness Falls ($12.02), The Mothman Prophecies ($11.2), The Uninvited ($10.3), From Dusk Till Dawn ($10.2)
The previous top 10 of January horror openings averaged a 2.24 multiplier for its final gross. The Devil Inside is the lowball with only a 1.57. That would still give Texas Chainsaw 3D a $51 million gross, an improvement over the series' 2006 prequel ($39.5 million) but well below the $80 million of the 2003 remake. If the history of the $20-plus million openers of the list is any indication, the new film could be suffering a 60% drop next weekend as gears shift to horror spoof A Haunted House, with another big drop in attendance the week after when PG-13 horror Mama opens up with an almost unrecognizable Jessica Chastain. Speaking of which...
Zero Dark Thirty Poised for Oscar Nods and Number-One Weekend
Since mid-December only a select few beyond the nation's film critics have gotten a look at Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. While it has led the awards race in victories (by a narrow margin over Lincoln), it has only been in five theaters until this past weekend when it got a slight expansion. The film's per-screen average has been at least three times any other on the charts. The $83,430 average it kicked off with was just slightly below Lincoln's $85,846 which started on 11 screens and currently has grossed over $140 million with a likely future of leading all Oscar nominees on Thursday.
Back in December 2001, Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down opened on four screens to an average of $44,955. When it expanded to over 3100 screens three weeks later (over the Martin Luther King holiday) it opened to $28.6 million ($33.6 including Monday). Extrapolate with inflation, praise and controversy and it is very possible that Bigelow's film takes down Cloverfield for the all-time January opening weekend. And it only has the benefit of a second weekend with a holiday to maintain its momentum as well. By next Sunday, Kathryn Bigelow could already be looking at her highest grossing film to date. Zero Dark Thirty only needs $43.2 million to supplant 1991's Point Break for that title.
Limited and Blockbuster Tidbits
It took 572 screens for the tsunami drama The Impossible to barely edge out what Zero Dark Thirty did on 60 ($2.76 vs. $2.75 million.) Still much better than David Chase's directorial debut, Not Fade Away, did on 565 ($280,000). Meanwhile, The Hobbit is passing $800 million worldwide and both Django Unchained and Les Miserables passed $100 million and should continue to do well as each register multiple Oscar nominations just before next weekend.