Look, it’s me Bilbo. And I’m off to rescue the Princess from Bowser.
With Christmas falling early in the week it made for an interesting three-day weekend at the box office. It was going to take a Herculean feat to knock The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from the top spot, but it was almost accomplished. Both Sony Pictures/The Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures gave it their best shot going toe to toe with the global juggernaut. While families and Tolkein supporters went to see The Hobbit during the Christmas holiday, musical fans and those craving bloody good entertainment went for Les Miserables and Django Unchained. Only $5 million separates the first place and third place finishers. That should tell you how competitive the box office was this weekend. With its third consecutive week at #1, The Hobbit has now collected $686 million worldwide. By the time we are ringing in the New Year it will have crossed $700 million. That’s no chump change.
As for the performance of Django Unchained, it came ever so close to toppling Peter Jackson’s fantasy adventure. Both films were marketed heavily by the man at the helm, though The Hobbit had the extra incentive of being based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkein. Django might have had Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, but QT’s name was by far the biggest name on the marquee. Eight movies as a writer-director Tarantino’s popularity is bigger than ever. He’s come a long way since Reservoir Dogs premiered on 19 screens back in 1992. His last few features have played on more than 2600 screens, and Django Unchained marked the third time he’s had a film debut on more than 3000 screens. It may have played on 1000 less screens than The Hobbit, but it came within $3 million of finishing first. In the span of six days the film has grossed $64 million, and of the three major Christmas releases at play right now it’s the strongest candidate to have the best word-of-mouth popularity. Now that, my friends, is a bingo. Sorry, Spike Lee.
So what is Tarantino to do to celebrate? The latest is that he wants to a 1930s gangster film, but he also wants to do a spin-off of Inglourious Basterds called Killer Crow, about a regiment of African-American soldiers during World War II that goes on a killing spree after being wronged by the U.S. military. Personally, at this point Tarantino could make sweded versions of RoboTech and I’d watch. Harvey and Bob Weinstein are no doubt pleased with the opening week performance of Django, since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was only seen by his fans. As for Silver Linings Playbook, it’s failure to strike gold is the fault of The Weinstein Company of not putting it into enough theaters. It finally got some major expansion over the weekend. And by major I mean increasing its theater count to a total of 745. Hell, Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away is playing on more screens.
Les Miserables may have finished first on Christmas Day, but the enthusiasm surrounding the picture seems to have petered out. Theaters were packed with musical theater nuts and it has accumulated $67 million in its first five days. That’s a big number, but considering how internationally revered the Broadway musical has become it’s not unexpected. Tom Hooper, who was given the freedom to take on any project he wanted after his Oscar win for The King’s Speech, could have another feather in his cap if Les Miserables can meet or surpass the $414 million worldwide gross of The King’s Speech.
Audiences who were in no mood for prestige pictures settled for seeing Billy Crystal getting hit in the crotch with an aluminum baseball bat. Parental Guidance looked bad from the ads and if it had come some Analyze This crossover action with Robert De Niro on board it could have easily been confused as City Fockers. Don’t be surprised if we see Crystal spring to life again and get some more on-screen supporting roles as the cantankerous granddad. Even better is that he somehow work with Tarantino (When Harry Meets Django).
Jack Reacher had a soft opening two weeks ago, but it finished with similar numbers over the weekend. It’s not likely to strum up more interest in the coming weeks or hit the coveted $100 million mark. Reacher was made $60 million, a mere pittance compared to other action vehicles, but it will need overseas help if the franchise is to continue. If that doesn’t happen, Cruise still has the live-action Wall-E movie forthcoming (Obilivion) and All You Need is Kill. If they don’t strike gold, well there’s always Mission: Impossible Cinco, or he could do something outrageous (besides couch-jumping) and make a feature that is tailor-made to get him that elusive Oscar statue.
This Is 40 managed to stay afloat its second weekend, but it’s obvious that Judd Apatow is running into the same problem that plagued Kevin Smith and his movies. He can’t keep making movies where they star its crop of players. He tried to branch out with Adam Sandler as the lead, but Funny People failed financially. What he needs to do is work with someone unexpected. Close your eyes and imagine a name actor/actress, now imagine that person starring in a Judd Apatow comedy. People forget that when Knocked Up was in development Anne Hathaway was originally cast as the one who gets preggers, not Katherine Heigl. Maybe Apatow should court Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Betty White as three generations of one family and let the the hijinks ensue.
Lincoln may have lost a good amount of screens and is the only top ten release to play at under 2000 locations but it is still bringing in crowds in its eighth week of release. The period piece has become the highest grossing drama of the year and it is closing in on $150 million domestic. Speaking of milestones, Skyfall is $11 million short of surpassing $300 million domestic. Just missing the top ten was Silver Linings Playbook. The romantic comedy played at 274 more locations and pocketed $4.1 million as a result.
The big winner in limited release continues to be Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial Zero Dark Thirty. At five theaters in New York and Los Angeles it had a massive $63k per-screen average. It has also crossed $1 million in its second week. Matt Damon’s Promised Land got off to a slow start at 25 locations with a $900k gross. If you live around NY/LA do yourself a favor and see Zero Dark Thirty and see what all the fuss is about.
Tags: box office, box office report, Django Unchained, Jack Reacher, Les Miserables, lincoln, parental guidance, Silver Linings Playbook, the guilt trip, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this is 40, weekend box office, weekend box office report, Zero Dark Thirty