Here's your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Identity Thief - $14.0 million
2. Snitch - $13.0 million
3. Escape from Planet Earth - $11.0 million
4. Safe Haven - $10.6 million
5. A Good Day to Die Hard - $10.0 million
6. Dark Skies - $8.8 million
7. Silver Linings Playbook - $6.0 million
8. Warm Bodies - $4.7 million
9. Side Effects - $3.5 million
10. Beautiful Creatures - $3.4 million
The Big Stories
All weekend ol' Nikki Finke has been asking the question, "Seriously, why do studios open movies on Oscar weekend?" The context of her query turns out to be more in jest, suggesting that there is so much to cover that why should anyone care about new movies and why should she have to do any extra work. The Weinsteins did not even want us caring about their latest release. For the second week in a row they unleashed a film without screening it for all but very select press. Dark Skies was hardly bad enough to deserve such treatment. (The past two weeks number-one films were egregiously worse), and its unlikely that good reviews would have brought people to the theaters this weekend, but did that have anything to do with the Oscars?
What About the Commercials?
It may be an event seen "all around the world" but the Oscars do not carry the same sort of spectacle weight as the Super Bowl. The ratings are huge. Parties are organized. In many ways it is a three-hour advertisement for studios hoping to squeeze a couple extra bucks out of their theatrical runs. The winners, anyway. The losers will officially announce their Blu-ray releases by Tuesday. If Finke's question really was one of harsh suggestion that studios are dumb to use this weekend as a launching pad, one would have to look no further than Alice In Wonderland and The Passion of the Christ to dismiss that as nonsense. Their $116.1 and $83.8 million starts were on Oscar weekend and, until last year's Hunger Games, were the top two openers in the first quarter of all time. Let's take a quick look at the Oscar weekend openers going back to 2004.
Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million), The Passion of the Christ ($83.8), Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail ($41.0), Act of Valor ($24.4), Vantage Point ($22.8), Tyler Perry's Good Deeds ($15.5), The Number 23 ($14.6), Hall Pass ($13.5), Brooklyn's Finest ($13.3), Snitch ($13.0)
What Exactly Is the Rock Cooking?
You can see that the latest vehicle for Dwayne Johnson just barely snuck onto that list this weekend. The charismatic former wrestler was dubbed "franchise Viagra" at last year's CinemaCon, coming off successful boosts to both the Fast & Furious series and a strong showing for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. That was also on the verge of Paramount's promotion for G.I. Joe: Retaliation which, at the last minute, was delayed nine months on the schedule to either (A) take advantage of Channing Tatum's star boost and add more flashbacks after killing him off or (B) avoid the poisonous buzz that was coming off of promo screenings.
Johnson has pretty much three guaranteed solid openers on the horizon with the G.I. Joe sequel, Pain & Gain with Mark Wahlberg and Fast & Furious 6. Snitch is a film sold solely on the actor's presence with no franchise tags or familiarity to boost it. Take that element away and...
Race to Witch Mountain ($24.4 million), The Game Plan ($22.9), The Rundown ($18.5), Walking Tall ($15.5), Doom ($15.4), Gridiron Gang ($14.4), Tooth Fairy ($14.0), Snitch ($13.0), Faster ($8.5)
So we cheated a little in the familiarity department there as Witch Mountain and Walking Tall were modern updates and Doom certainly had its share of fans back in the day. Johnson's best successes on his own, though, have proven to be more family-friendly fare. Tooth Fairy and Witch Mountain grossed over $60 million and Game Plan ballooned to $90. Journey 2 lopped up over $103 million last year. Hey, good for him. If he can appeal to a wide range of audiences and actually add a modicum of personality to the Fast & Furious series, that's a win/near win for everyone. It wouldn't hurt if adults showed up occasionally too, but the Rock is far above where Jason Statham is.
Success and Failure Tidbits
This week audiences will make one of the worst films of the year the first $100 million grosser of 2013. Identity Thief will soon enough be usurped when Oz: The Great & Powerful has the highest grossing film of the year, but that is no excuse for putting it in that position, people. Universal still owns the most profitable film of the year (budget to grosses) in Mama, and with Identity Thief in the black as well it is certainly sitting prettier than Warner Bros. or Fox so far. A Good Day to Die Hard's near 60% drop from a $24.8 million weekend to a $10.0 weekend all but certifies it will be the softest entry in the franchise -- and deservedly so. It still needs around $100 million worldwide just to break even. Warner's Beautiful Creatures meanwhile is unlikely to hit $25 million in the U.S. and needs just as much help internationally to avoid the studio being a big zero for three on the year with the $190 million-budgeted Jack the Giant Slayer opening next weekend in the hopes of avoiding becoming this year's Battleship or John Carter.