Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. End of Watch - $13 million
2. House at the End of the Street - $13 million
3. Trouble with the Curve - $12.7 million
4. Finding Nemo 3D - $9.4 million
5. Resident Evil: Retribution - $6.7 million
6. Dredd - $6.3 million
7. The Master - $5 million
8. The Possession - $2.6 million
9. Lawless - $2.3 million
10. Paranorman - $2.2 million
The Big Stories
Four new movies opened this weekend, plus the wide expansion of another. Three of them are separated by single digits on the other side of the decimal point. Two of them are being estimated at a virtual tie at the top. Not a one of them amounted to much of an impressive opening; each basically fighting it out to be the tallest midget at the box office. That's the broad, immediate picture that people will look at. This was the 15th time in September this century that the studios have opened four or more films on over 800 screens. The marketplace has been flooded before and each demographic barely showed up for their respective target film. Of those 15 weekends, where does this foursome rank since 2000?
(2010) The Town, Easy A, Devil, Alpha and Omega ($62,938,353)
(2008) Burn After Reading, Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, Righteous Kill, The Women ($62,912,790)
(2011) Moneyball, Dolphin Tale, Abduction, Killer Elite ($58,930,964)
(2009) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Informant, Love Happens, Jennifer's Body ($55,694,369)
(2003) Underworld, Secondhand Lions, The Fighting Temptations, Cold Creek Manor, Anything Else ($55,515,662)
(2008) Eagle Eye, Nights in Rodanthe, Fireproof, Miracle at St. Anna ($52,883,207)
(2011) The Lion King 3D, Drive, Straw Dogs, I Don't Know How She Does It ($51,018,036)
(2006) Jackass: Number Two, Jet Li's Fearless, Flyboys, All the King's Men ($49,268,831)
(2012) Trouble with the Curve, House at the End of the Street, End of Watch, Dredd ($45,900,000 estimate)
(2008) Lakeview Terrace, My Best Friend's Girl, Igor, Ghost Town ($36,085,691)
It hardly matters which of the films can ultimately claim the number-one spot. Trouble with the Curve isn't going to gross much more than what Gran Torino opened to during its January expansion in 2009 ($29.4 million). Open Road's End of Watch has already nearly made back its budget, so why should it care if it finished first or second when it's clearly the best in quality of the new releases this week. Relativity's House at the End of the Street will also be in the black soon enough, having doubled up on the opening of the other girl-in-white-tanktop-explores-creepy-house movie from 2012 (Silent House). Bottom line is that the numbers may not have lit the box office on fire, but they will be wins for their studios.
Maybe the Third Time Will Be the Charm
Fanboys, geeks and genre-loving reviewers alike all tried to sell us that the new Dredd was the real deal; a vast improvement over what was once just a forgotten (now apparently infamous) Sylvester Stallone attempt to bring the comic book to life back in 1995. And then in usual fashion, nobody showed up. The fifth Resident Evil dropped 68% in its second weekend and it couldn't even beat that, finishing sixth overall. Sure the excuses will be filing in as to why Dredd couldn't be propped up to a more impressive opening. No major headline stars and a C-list comic book entity for starters. Consider, though, that in 2012 Chernobyl Diaries, The Raven and Silent House all posted higher opening numbers. None with exactly A-list stars and all on less screens than Dredd. Even last year's Thing prequel/sequel/reboot/whatever got more curiosity for a project that had been generally trashed since conception.
It's a wonder sometimes if we have reached the point of film criticism (professional and amateur) that certain reboots will automatically get a power boost in the praise department after the last attempt drew mediocre or even worse reactions. Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk opened to less than Ang Lee's widely criticized (but actually far superior) version and just barely outgrossed it. The Amazing Spider-Man started things over after Spider-Man 3 landed with a thud and grossed nearly $40 million less. Dredd 3D cost $40 million less than Stallone's film but still opened to only about 51% of what it did in 1995, putting it on pace to be just as big a bomb unless the international audiences show up to support their U.K. hero. For further perspective, Lionsgate's R-rated Punisher film opened to $13.8 million in 2004. Punisher: War Zone couldn't even gross that much in its entirety and Dredd 3D is barely going to do more than that.
The Master goes wider and the numbers shift
There was much ballyhoo last week over the record numbers put up by Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master on only five screens. Now that the Weinsteins have opened it wider, is the love still there for its numbers? This is the quickest that any PTA film has had its screen count expanded. There Will Be Blood expanded in its fifth weekend (just after receiving 10 Oscar nominations) and averaged $5,502 on 885 screens. Magnolia expanded to over 1,000 screens in its fourth weekend and did a similar $5,507 average. Boogie Nights also expanded in its fourth weekend to 907 screens to average $5,162. The Master jumped up 783 screens in just its second week and boasted a healthy $6,345 average, easily the highest in the top 10, but may be headed towards a quicker dropoff. Punch-Drunk Love added 403 screens in its third week to average $6,877 before adding another 771 screens the following week and dropping to a $3,197 average even with a big star like Adam Sandler to help sell it and less Scientologists campaigning against it. Again though, no matter because the key number amongst all of them is 10. That is the number the Weinsteins will hope they can advertise for The Master when the Oscar nominations are announced... on January 10.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]