January finishes strong as The Grey continues streak of restricted films opening in first place.
A better transformation than a certain Hasbro toy, Liam Neeson has gone from playing a “dark man” to being a complete badass. This is the same guy who at one point in his career played Patrick Swayze’s brother in Next of Kin. Now he has become a major force starring in knock-down-drag-outs. Scoring another early-year hit, after Taken and Unknown, his film The Grey topped the weekend with $20 million. That’s a good number considering it was from mini distributor Open Road and it’s not manufactured to be a commercial juggernaut. Besides, when it comes to man vs. wilderness tales, there are few that have the gravitas that Neeson has to pull it off. I mean you would much rather have him lead you out of the wilderness than Dane Cook.
The success of The Grey makes up for Open Road’s debut release, last fall’s Killer Elite. That film had half the opening numbers that Liam Neeson’s wolfpunching tale did. Now Joe Carnahan will look to put his fun, albeit soft release, The A-Team behind him and be relevant again. The Grey‘s #1 opening also continued a streak of Rated R films opening in the top spot for January (the others are The Devil Inside, Contraband, and Underworld: Awakening).
And what about the latest Vampire/Lycan tale. Well it lost half its first-week audience. But it’s a good hold for the series, overall. Much of that has to deal with the added 3D surcharge. In the weeks that follow the film will likely overtake Underworld: Evolution as the most profitable in the series. And when you consider its $70 million price tag (not including P&A costs) it’s going to need those profits before the already-setup sequel goes forward.
In a strategy that worked for Lionsgate with the release of The Lincoln Lawyer, the studio once again teamed with GroupOn to offer tickets to the Katherine Heigl-starring One for the Money at a discount. The promotion worked as the cheaper tickets were an enticer for those wanting to see the movie based off Janet Evanovich’s bestselling series and not pay full price. But considering weak word of mouth and a critical drubbing (3% on RT with only 29 critiques – 1 positive) it looks like it might be a one and done for Katherine Heigl wanting to produce and star in a lucrative film series.
27 Dresses, which opened to strong numbers for Heigl four years ago, almost seems like a distant memory. And it’s been one bad script pick after another with The Ugly Truth, Killers, and Life As We Know It. Maybe she’ll do better as part of an ensemble with this fall’s The Wedding. Instead of having the weight of a picture fall on her shoulders, she’ll have Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, and David “Sledge Hammer” Rasche to help her out.
Red Tails fights another day as it holds steady for fourth place. A good hold its second weekend and cross-section appeal is likely to net a decent return. Mid-$50s to $60 million is the likely target. Though I wonder how it will play in Germany?
Summit Entertainment, which was recently acquired by Lionsgate, also did the discount ticket deal with its release of Man on a Ledge. Living Social offered discounted ads, but the ads and premise was tough to illicit excitement from potential customers. And if you read my review earlier in the weekend, then you know that it is destined for endless airings on TNT in between blocks of Law & Order. Honestly, if Sam Worthington isn’t clashing with Titans or disguised in CG, audiences aren’t inclined to rush out and see his non-tentpole releases. The dude is a B-level talent who will forever be linked to the megahit that was Avatar.
Looking at movies that got a boost thanks to Oscar nominations, you have Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (more like Extremely Grateful & Incredibly Shocked To Get Oscar Nominations) and Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. After six weeks EL&IC has done $21 million – better since its wide expansion a week ago. Alexander Payne’s return to cinema after 2004′s Oscar-winning Sideways continues to play well. Searchlight’s platform release plan has netted the George Clooney starrer nearly $60 million in eleven weeks. Not in the top ten but worth discussion are the leaders of the Oscar nomination pack with eleven each, The Artist and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. The former added 235 new locations, while Scorsese’s family film-cum-film preservation conversation starter had a 142% audience increase with 315 new locations. Strangely enough, both have been in theaters for ten weeks with Hugo getting a big release and falling back versus The Artist‘s slowburn release strategy by The Weinstein Company.
Contraband is nearing its run in the top ten and should finish with around $70 million domestic. Beauty and the Beast 3D has crossed $40 million in three weeks, but look for this one to be irrelevant with the release of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island on February 10th. The last spot goes to Haywire which lost ground against Kate Beckinsale in black leather and couldn’t recover.
Also worth noting is the success of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Though not in the top ten, Tom Cruise’s fourth impossible mission has crossed $200 million and has made $571 million worldwide. That’s right. Maverick is still putting butts in seats.