Weekend Box Office: Tight Race Sees End Of Watch and HATES Tied For First

Watch your six! Clint Eastwood’s gunning for that top spot.

The good news is that two weeks after we saw no film have a weekend gross of more than $10 million, we got three earning more than $12M. The bad news is that the top three was so close that the top spot is a toss up. Because the race is so tight, you’ll have to wait for Monday’s actuals.

This weekend saw an odd assortment of new releases, ranging from cheapo horror to experimental cop drama to Clint Eastwood acting in front of a camera for a director not named Clint Eastwood for the first time in twenty years. Of the three, Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve has the most visibility as we near the end of another season of baseball and of course Eastwood being the subject of news media scrutiny with his appearance at the Republican National Convention. The film also arrives a year after Moneyball, which had a stronger pedigree in the form of director Bennett Miller (Capote) and writer Aaron Sorkin (TV’s The West Wing, The Social Network). Whereas Curve comes from Eastwood’s longtime collaborator Robert Lorenz, who makes his directorial debut.

And while one can argue that baseball has been made for great cinema, when you consider the amount of classic films about the sport, those types of films aren’t major theatrical draws. Sadly, if you were to look at the top-grossing baseball movies, the top spot goes to the Adam Sandler-produced The Benchwarmers ($19.6M), followed close behind by Moneyball‘s $19.5M.

While I may not agree with Scott Sawitz’s assessment that Curve was the movie that Moneyball wanted to be – I found it to be a maudlin story about father-daughter relationships – Curve is definitely geared towards an older audience that preferably lives in a red state or is fan of Eastwood as a filmmaker and iconic actor, having played a pair of legendary characters in his career (The Man with No Name and “Dirty” Harry Callahan).

End of Watch, the latest cop drama from writer-director David Ayer, continues to see Ayer living off the success of decade old Training Day. Continued to be fascinated with the world of cops, Ayer wrote and directed both Harsh Times and Street Cops to diminishing returns. However, with a micro-budget (reportedly around $7M), Ayer tackles the subject of Los Angeles cops with a “found footage” feel by leaving the tripod in the backseat and shooting everything handheld. If you can get past this technique and immerse yourself in the lives of the two police officer protagonists (like I did), then you may find End of Watch to be the best police drama in quite a while. Open Road, which earlier this year released the stellar Joe Carnahan drama The Grey with Liam Neeson, acquired the domestic rights on the cheap, and already it is looking like a good investment as the weekend estimates have it finishing tied for first with $13M.

The movie it is tied with is the Jennifer Lawrence horror-thriller House at the End of the Street (HATES, for short). The starlet of The Hunger Games saw herself jump from tweens to grown-up kids with this restricted release. On Friday it got off to a strong start by having the top opening for the day, but generally horror movies open strong only to drop off in performance on Saturdays and Sundays. But with costs low ($10M) and international sales to other territories, it’s already a success with its $13M opening. Domestic rights were acquired by Relativity for less than $3M. Depending on how the actuals fare, this could be Jennifer Lawrence’s second film release of 2012 to open at #1.

Taking a steep drop in week two, Disney-Pixar’s Finding Nemo in 3D finished with $9.4M. Yet to reach $30M, one could argue that it was simply to early to bring back Marlin and Dori to the big screen. It’s only been nine years since Nemo has been absent from theaters. Readily available on home video, it seems that American audiences, unlike international audiences, are more secure with their pocketbooks. Which may explain why 3D re-releases are more popular overseas than they are in the United States.

The other big release for the weekend, and surprisingly one of the best reviewed (check out Brendan Campbell’s review if you don’t believe me), Dredd 3D was a disaster performance-wise only mustering $6.3M. Considering it’s a $60M production, Lionsgate better pray that it is a big hit overseas, or hope that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 is a monstrous hit this fall. Also not helping Dredd was the fact that it looked eerily similar to Sony Pictures Classic’s The Raid: Redemption which also had a similar premise. (Note: both films were in production at the same time.) Biggest to blame is probably Lionsgate’s marketing department. Outside of horror movies and the works of Tyler Perry, the studio has been unable to market quality hits, except for maybe The Hunger Games with its built-in fanbase.

Dredd 3D is currently waging a mini war with the latest Resident Evil for the last spot in the top five. Either way, neither Lionsgate and Sony Pictures can be happy with how these films are performing. They aren’t cheapo action pics by any means. Again, like 3D re-releases, 3D films are generally more embraced by international audiences moreso than in North America.

Breaking into the top ten with resounding fashion, one week after its record-breaking performance on but a handful of screens, was Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. The Weinstein Company usually gives its films a slow burn before expansion, but not with this one. Jumping from five locations to 788, The Master‘s viewership increased by 579% to finish the weekend with $5M. Not bad considering the difficult subject matter. The film is more enigmatic than Anderson’s previous effort, 2007’s There Will Be Blood, but it includes a remarkable performance from Joaquin Phoenix, who is one of the top frontrunners, if not THE top frontrunner, in the Best Actor race. The Master may be part of the public’s conscious as “that Scientology movie,” but make no mistake there’s more going on here than trying to play on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. It will be interesting to see how the fall shakes up when The Weinstein Company releases Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained and see the distributor decide which film it wants to push for Best Picture kudos.

The bottom of the top ten sees The Possession and Lawless nearly out of the discussion. The first proved that one should be wary of garage sale purchases, while the other shows that Shia LaBeouf still has some growing up to do be considered a leading-man material. Between the two, The Possession ended up being a minor hit for Lionsgate, opening in first place upon its release and staying relevant to a $45M cum. And finishing in tenth place we had ParaNorman, a film that will be a Top 10 memory with the release of Frankenweenie on Oct. 5th.

The most notable release on the arthouse scene, The Perks of Being a Wallflower scored an opening of $244k at four locations.

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Source: Box Office Mojo