Box Office: Jessica Chastain Dominates With #1 Mama And #2 Zero Dark Thirty; Schwarzenegger’s Comeback The Last Stand Bombs


Mama says: Close the door before you catch cold.

A few days ago I was embroiled in a conversation with a guy that does not like Mark Wahlberg. He also doesn’t like Channing Tatum. I think it stems from a severe dislike of any actor whose previous employment either involved stripping or modeling underwear. While this may be true it’s hard to ignore Wahlberg’s, and recently Tatum’s, bankability as a leading man. The same may also be true for actress Jessica Chastain. Recently picking up a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Zero Dark Thirty, she is currently starring in the top two films at the box office despite facing competition in the form of Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, and a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cheap horror is usually a safe bet to finish first and this weekend was no different. Mama opened strong, but it wasn’t on account of Jessica Chastain. Guillermo del Toro’s name was plastered all over the marketing. Nevertheless, its success is a feather in the cap of Chastain who is the lead actress in the horror feature. Combined with the second weekend of of Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture nominee, Zero Dark Thirty, audiences got to see different sides of the actress. It’s not just Chastain’s films finishing first and second, but the range that she shows. In the horror picture she plays an ineffectual twentysomething goth surrogate mother. In the military thriller she’s a CIA agent in charge of the biggest and costliest manhunt in history.

For Guillermo del Toro the success of Mama sort of vindicates him for the last genre picture that was heavily marketed on his name alone, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. That film pulled in $24 million back in 2011, but Mama easily outgrossed that film in three days with $28.1 million.

Zero Dark Thirty held up strong in its second week in major release. With $55.9 million it is now Kathryn Bigelow’s highest-grossing effort, surpassing the $43 million by Point Break in 1990. Controversy sells and in this market people are buying tickets. The general public aren’t as vocal as politicians and pundits that are using the torture debate to stroke their own egos. The film is likely to play well through Oscar night with healthy returns. It probably won’t help its Best Picture chances as the field this year is populated with a number of high-grossing films, minus Sony Picture Classics’ Amour.

Finally getting some much-needed expansion, Silver Linings Playbook lands in the top three. In its tenth week of release the offbeat romantic comedy added 1,713 screens to bring its screen count to 2,523. The awards exposure and word-of-mouth helped to bring it past $50 million domestic. The Weinstein Company would like nothing better to A) get this to $100 million, and B) play spoiler at the Academy Awards. The film’s expansion had it leap over Gangster Squad which looks like it will be gone from the top ten discussion sooner rather than later. Expect this one to become one of the “new classics” on TNT in a year or so.

Last January, Mark Wahlberg had a strong opening with Contraband ($24 million). This year, however, Broken City opened to ho-hum results. It will need the four-day weekend to make it past $10 million. Marketed as a potboiler with some quality talent attached, the film ultimately failed at igniting interest in those who see enough corruption and scandal on the evening news. If Wahlberg’s status was unphased by the likes of The Happening and Max Payne, Broken City will likely follow suit. Besides, he’s got Pain and Gain and 2 Guns arriving in Spring and Summer, plus he’ll always have the success of Ted, which grossed $500 million last year. Oh, and he’ll also be starring in a fourth Transformers film.

A Haunted House took a big drop in its second weekend but it was made on the cheap and was picked up on the cheap as well. Despite a horrid critical response, the almighty dollar has made it a minor hit for Open Road. It should also be a strong rental and seller once it hits DVD and Bluray in a few months. Just below Marlon Wayans’ Paranormal Activity spoof is Django Unchained and Les Miserables. Since opening on Christmas, both films have managed to obtain solid numbers. Both films has grossed more than $130 million apiece domestic. Django finally had its overseas debut in the U.K. with more territories to follow. Les Miserables currently sits with an international gross of $115 million and growing.

The sixth weekend of The Hobbit is only noteworthy for the fact that it was able to beat out the weak opening of The Last Stand. What was billed as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback vehicle as an action powerhouse. The last time we saw Schwarzenegger in a leading role before becoming the Governator of California was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I blame the current generation of moviegoers for not going to seeing the Austrian Oak on the big screen. Instead, they’ll watch remakes of Conan the Barbarian and Total Recall and accept movie actors as action heroes. Like that Paula Cole song “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” it’s more like where have all the action heroes gone? With Johnny Knoxville getting emphasis as the co-star, which he is far from, The Last Stand couldn’t even match the first-weekend gross of Walking Tall starring Dwayne Johnson and also featuring Johnny Knoxville. Granted, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t getting any younger, but at 65 years of age he can still kick ass. Maybe the public just wants to see its heroes wearing spandex and with special powers than the rough and tough breed I grew up loving.

Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for January 18 – January 20, 2013

1. Mama (Universal) – $28.1 MILLION

2. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony Pictures) – $17.6 MILLION ($55.9m cume)

3. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $11.35 MILLION ($55.3m cume)

4. Gangster Squad (Warner Bros.) – $9.1 MILLION ($32.2m cume)

5. Broken City (Fox) – $9 MILLION

6. A Haunted House (Open Road) – $8.3 MILLION ($29.8m cume)

7. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $8.2 MILLION ($138.3m cume)

8. Les Miserables (Universal) – $7.8 MILLION ($130.3m cume)

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D (Warner Bros.) – $6.4 MILLION ($287.4m cume)

10. The Last Stand (Lionsgate) – $6.3 MILLION

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