Weekend Box Office: Taken 2 Repeats, Argo And Sinister Open Strong

John Goodman’s toast: You were the bomb in Phantoms yo!

Fall may be in the air, but activity at the box office these past two weeks is very summer friendly. First, it was Taken 2 having one of the most successful October openings earning $50 million last weekend. While the film suffered the same problems as The Hangover Part II, which is taking the formula and putting it in a new location, audiences didn’t seem to care. Even in its second week with a drop of 54.6% in attendance, the picture opened so big that second week numbers should have been able to withstand any newcomers entering theaters.

I said as much at the tail end of the “Oscar Insights” podcast I participate in on Saturday mornings. Considering how well the first Taken performed domestically versus overseas, I’m not surprised that international numbers are higher this time around. Costing a reported $45 million and having grossed $218.8M worldwide in two weeks is unexpected. And now it will hit nine figures in the U.S. by next Sunday. The original took five weeks to reach that much heralded mark.

In that podcast I said that Taken 2 would repeat and Argo would place second. Turns out I was right. Warner Bros. has been heavily promoting Ben Affleck’s third directorial feature, especially since it has been met with a lot of critical praise having played to roaring applause and ovations at festivals in Toronto and Telluride. Opening with $20.1M that figure is $3 million less than Affleck’s last directorial effort, The Town (2008). Blame the title for that one. The film even goes as far to play up the meaning of “Argo,” not even the characters in the film knew what it meant. Which means it was the perfect cover as a fake sci-fi movie project out of Canada. But a $20M opening is nothing to complain about, as I suspect this film to play well into November and maybe longer if it is met with the same plaudits that I and others on the Inside Pulse Movies staff expect. In his review of the film, Scott Sawitz remarked, “If Argo is a barometer for what lurks ahead then Affleck could have a career as potentially the best director of his generation.”

Placing third this weekend is the horror film Sinister. Most often horror tends to place first or second, but with the competitive weekend the Summit Entertainment release had to settle for bronze. The last big horror offering was August’s The Possession, which opened with $17.7M. Sinister actually had a higher gross ($18.8M), but The Possession only had to contend with a bootlegging period piece (Lawless) in order to take the last weekend of August.

Movie bloggers should rejoice at the opening weekend success of Sinister. The film was co-written by C. Robert Cargill. Those who frequent entertainment websites and blogs may know him by his handle at Ain’t It Cool News, “Massawyrm”. However, next weekend will be another story. Horror is generally frontloaded to begin with, and with the arrival of Paranormal Activity 4 its gross should drop off considerably. If it can get $8M-$10M its second weekend, I’d consider that a victory. But the film only cost $3M, so everything now is just icing on box office cake. This is good news for Lionsgate, who acquired Summit Entertainment back in January. Now the studio looks to be industry leader in horror fare, and the combined output of both brands will make for an interesting 2013 with the second installment in The Hunger Games trilogy (Catching Fire, a Red sequel, Warm Bodies and Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s seminal sci-fi novel Ender’s Game.

Something drastic would have to occur with the box office estimates if Hotel Transylvania were to outperform number three finisher Sinister. Sony Pictures’ nine-figure hit featuring the voices of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg had another profitable weekend collecting an estimated $17.3M. That brings its three-week total to $102.1M. It also had the lowest drop in viewership for a top 10 release (translation: Damn kids!). Disappointing that Transylvania has outperformed both Frankenweenie and ParaNorman combined.

Kevin James’ comic lead potential seems to be on the way out; he just isn’t a box office draw by himself. His latest, the poorly titled Here Comes the Boom only made $12M on three-thousand screens. That’s quite the departure from Zookeeper‘s $20M and Paul Blartt‘s $31.8M. I count Paul Blartt: Mall Cop as one of those one-offs – a strange anomaly never to occur again. Listen, the guy was a weekly ratings getter for years on the CBS comedy The King of Queens. And his career on the big screen got off to a good start playing opposite Will Smith in Hitch. As part of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison rat pack, he has been part of a handful of box office success stories. But then you have his turn in Ron Howard’s The Dilemma playing off a phoning-it-in Vince Vaughn.

Stand and Deliver a Chokehold or Waiting for a Mixed Martial Artist would have been better titles.

Here Comes the Boom is much better than one would expect from a Adam Sandler-related flick. The story is vanilla, crossing the inspirational teacher story with the sports underdog story. The sport this time around is Mixed Martial Arts, and the filmmakers were allowed to use the Ultimate Fighting Championships branding. Credit to James and his physical transformation to actually look like he could go a few rounds in the cage. Still, I can see why audiences would steer clear from a movie featuring a half-naked Kevin James. And you thought Freddy Kruger tormented your dreams.

Interestingly enough, sixth-place finisher Pitch Perfect and Boom have some similarities. They both features scenes where a character pukes. Filipino songstress Charice has a supporting role in Boom. You may remember her character arc on Glee last season. As for what that has to do with Perfect, well the comedy is just an A Capella version of Glee, right? Nevertheless, Universal’s strategy for slow expansion has been a good plan. Nearing 2800 screens, it won’t make 3000, but it doesn’t need to. It’s already profitable, and it will continue to be on home video.

Rian Johnson’s Looper is at $51.4M after three weeks and should see solid returns when it hits the international market. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is like the little engine that could. It enters the top 10 for the first time after four weeks of release. Adding 505 locations did the trick. Having a quiet release was CBS Films Seven Psychopaths. Playing on less than 1500 screens, Martin McDonagh’s sophomore effort after 2008’s In Bruges couldn’t attract viewers. So that means it’ll likely become a cult classic unless it gets expansion these next few weeks. I wouldn’t count on it. This news will surely upset Sam Rockwell’s character Billy Bickle. (If you can’t make it to a theater to see it, allow my review to tell you all the fun you’re missing.)

Looking at the arthouse scene, Smashed, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul opened on four screens and collected $30k. The attempting-to-get-pregnant comedy Gayby opened at a single location and earned $4.5k. Make a point to see small releases, boys and girls.

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Source: Box Office Mojo