Here's your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters - $19.0 million
2. Mama - $12.8 million
3. Silver Linings Playbook - $10.0 million
4. Zero Dark Thirty - $9.8 million
5. Parker - $7.0 million
6. Django Unchained - $5.005 million
7. Movie 43 - $5.0 million
8. Gangster Squad - $4.2 million
9 . Broken City - $4.0 million
10. Les Miserables - $3.9 million
The Big Stories
In an unprecedented display of "no confidence," as Princess Amidala might call it, three films opened this weekend without being screened for press. (Night-before screenings do not count any more than they did in the days before the Internet.) Relativity would not even screen Movie 43 for press doing interviews and despite being the best of the lot (in admittedly low company) the critics lined up to trash it like it was Howard the Duck, which gets a mention in the film. Critics have long known the deal that a studio will hide a film as long as it possibly can to avoid bad word of mouth from hitting the street. No screenings. No confidence. That is saying something considering it did screen Playing for Keeps and Alex Cross for press last year. The three films this week brings 2013's tally of Caveat Emptor Cinema to four. At least 15 were released virtually sight unseen in 2012 and the proof is in the numbers that critics are not the only ones to occasionally put on their sheep's wool.
The Witches' One Eye Is King
Only 15% of reviewing critics at Rotten Tomatoes approved of the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay-produced Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but audiences notched up over $18 million in ticket sales. That just bests last summer's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ($16.3 million) and other films in its milieu like Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm ($15 million) and Red Riding Hood ($14 million). The final grosses on those three films providing their new twists on classic stories are freakishly close at $37.5, $37.9 and $37.6 million, respectively. (Even the abhorrent Catherine Hardwicke film was screened for critics.) Of the films on the "no confidence" list in the past 13 months, here is what audiences have done opening weekend in not taking the hint.
The Devil Inside ($33.7 million), Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection ($25.39), Underworld Awakening ($25.30), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ($22.1), Texas Chainsaw 3D ($21.7), Resident Evil: Retribution ($21.0), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters ($18.0), Tyler Perry's Good Deeds ($15.5), House at the End of the Street ($12.2), One for the Money ($11.5)
To Get Away Clean, You Have To Play Dirty
$13.7 million was the average opening weekend on the top 15 wide releases without screenings in 2012. The average so far in 2013 is approximately $12.7. So we are headed in the right direction, even if a couple more garbage franchises and Tyler Perry films can raise that right quick. On the other hand, if studios keep giving us Jason Statham films the numbers have nowhere to go but down. The action star has done OK in films where he is part of an ensemble (i.e. The Expendables and The Italian Job), but has only cracked a $13 million opening once where he was front and center. And that was a sequel (Transporter 2 - $16.5 million) which was also the only film on his resume as a headliner to hit $40 million total. His numbers continue to dwindle as the star in non-sequels:
Death Race ($12.6 million), The Mechanic ($11.4), Killer Elite ($9.3), Safe ($7.8), Parker ($7.0)
That is in order, too, since 2008 just after his most critically acclaimed film, The Bank Job. Death Race is the only film on that list to even hit $75 million worldwide, so Statham can hardly even boast the title of "international action star." Can you believe that Killer Elite was budgeted at $70 million? That is more than all of Open Road's other films combined and the only major loser for the studio. Since 2006's Crank, Lionsgate has taken the share of responsibility for the whole Statham thing and based on Parker's performance I'm sure Film District is happy to give him back. As long as LG can make them on the cheap though and get a new Expendables film every few years out of him, theaters are likely to see more of him even as fewer people seem to be.
Box Office Tidbits
Note the weak performance of Movie 43, which will be written about as a disaster even as it ends up making a profit (it's already made $8.5 million in Russia) and critics are reminded of far worse comedies. (Here are the IMDb pages of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.) Universal's Mama is currently the highest-grossing film of 2013 and probably the only film to hit $50 million until Universal's Identity Thief opens in a few weeks. Weinstein's platform ploy of Silver Linings Playbook paid off thanks to eight Oscar nominations. This week, after 20 days of post-nomination glory the film will have grossed more than it did in its first 55 days of limited release and now looks like it will even outgross Zero Dark Thirty. That is on top of Django Unchained (Weinstein Co.'s all-time champion) approaching $150 million. Meanwhile, every Weinstein acquisition from Sundance is hoping the brothers will slot their film for November or December.
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]