Box Office: Texas Chainsaw 3D Massacres The Hobbit And Cuts Django’s Chains

Texas Chainsaw Hero Image

Time to put on your game face.

Leave it to Michael Bay to have the brilliant idea to want to remake horror properties under his Platinum Dunes banner. And by “brilliant idea,” I really mean not-so-brilliant idea. The banner’s first release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was a big success. I don’t think it was because the filmmakers cast it-girl of the moment Jessica Biel or because R. Lee Ermey made an appearance. It had more to do with the property or legacy of the franchise. Plus, Leatherface is such a cool name for a homicidal maniac. A prequel, rather than a sequel, would follow three years later and it would make less than half the gross of the 2003 release. Platinum Dunes has since let go of the rights to the franchise. Looking to turn things around was Carl Mazzocone who used to run production at Twisted Pictures, the production outfit most known for making the Saw franchise. Mazzocone took a meeting with the suits at Lionsgate and after 15 minutes (so he says) he walked out of the room with a production deal that could lead to as many as six more Leatherface movies. Ugh.

Dropping “Massacre” from the title didn’t seem to dissuade horror fans, as there were enough of them to push a more sympathetic Leatherface (what is this, a Lifetime original movie?) to #1 with a $23 million opening. That’s a good way to start off the new year, but that total is $11 million less than last year’s The Devil Inside, a horror release that was critically ravaged but had a great three-day opening before people found out that it utter crap. Texas Chainsaw got a boost from 3D surcharges, but take those away and the inflation and its performance is no better than the 2003 and 2006 releases. I’m thinking that Leatherface’s chainsaw needs a change of oil. The arrival of Gangster Squad and the wide release of Zero Dark Thirty could translate to a one and done for this horror reboot.

If Django Freeman likes killing white guys, he really likes killing hobbits. And that’s just what he did as Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western Django Unchained moved ahead of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which dropped to third place over the weekend. Since its Christmas Day release, Tarantino’s film has passed the $100 million domestic mark and should become Tarantino’s highest-grossing film when it surpasses Inglourious Basterds this weekend. While there’s been much said and written about its controversial subject matter and the usage of the N-word (tabulated at 100 or more times), the press has definitely translated to dollar signs for Harevy Weinstein and it has made up for The Weinstein Company’s 2012 calendar year in which a Madonna movie (W.E.) and Brad Pitt movie (Killing Them Softly) had less-than-healthy returns. Not even Shakespeare (Coriolanus) could muster an encore performance.

As for The Hobbit, it will have finished the weekend having passed $800 million worldwide even it as it vanquishes first place to chainsaw-wielding maniac. While it may squeak by the $300 million domestic mark, the addition of inflation and 3D surcharges makes that feat less impressive than the performance of Peter Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, with the influence on numbers overseas, The Hobbit Part 1 of 3 may just have enough muscle to cross one billion globally.

That other Christmas Day release, Universal’s Les Miserables, has also crossed the $100 million domestic mark. It is the first musical since Mamma Mia to make more than nine figures in America, but it may very well do better overseas after it expands in more territories. As it stands now, the musical has made $67 million internationally. The combination of the source material being a celebrated musical both on Broadway and at London’s West End should help propel it to figures worth singing about. A slew of Oscar nominations should also help its bottom line.

In three weeks Jack Reacher has grossed $64 million domestic. That would be a good number if it was a thriller that didn’t have Tom Cruise’s name attached as star. Any thoughts of this being a franchise starter may end if it can’t get to $100 million in the U.S. It may do killer business overseas but when Cruise is in franchise mode he should be good for $100 million domestic easy. The only potential for a franchise is if Ben Stiller or Judd Apatow does the sequel and have it be called Reach Around. You could have R. Lee Ermey as the Drill Instructor. (Wow, two R. Lee Ermey mentions in one box office report, whodathunk?)

As for Judd Apatow, his latest, This Is 40 hasn’t made the same connection that The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up did. It may not be the audience rejection that Funny People ended up being, but people aren’t falling over themselves to see Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann headline a comedy (so far it has only grossed $54 million vs. a $35 million budget). Apatow is running in to the same problem that plagued many Kevin Smith comedies and that’s an over dependence on working with friends. Yes, working with friends may be comfort food like ice cream, but once in a while you need to try the other 30 flavors that Baskin Robbins has on the menu.

Lincoln once again posted the smallest audience drop in the top 10 as it pushes its domestic earnings to $144 million. Once Oscar nominations come out on Friday look for more people to venture to see it. By the time it’s all over the film will likely have emancipated audiences of $180 million. In a surprise, the expansion of Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land, from 25 screens to 1,676, helped to push Monsters Inc. 3D out of the top 10 in its third week. While it may be headlined by Matt Damon, the expansion of Promised Land could only muster $4.3 million at the box office. I guess that many people were interested in a movie about a mid-western town concerned about fracking. Oh well, at least Matt Damon is writing again. Maybe once he gets to working on the Whitey Bulger project with best bud Ben Affleck maybe we’ll see them get back into a Good Will Hunting groove. How do you like them apples? In the mean time, look for Damon to get back to his winning ways with this summer’s Elysium and the Oscar-timed release of The Monuments Men directed by George Clooney.

Expanding from five to sixty theaters was Zero Dark Thirty and it was again a big winner with a $45k per-screen average to gross $2.75 million. It will be interesting to see how well it performs as it expands wide on January 11th. It will have to contend with Gangster Squad and Marlon Wayans’ found-footage spoof A Haunted House. Other Oscar hopeful, Silver Linings Playbook brought in $3.6 million in its eighth weekend for a $35 million total. Be sure to read this week’s Monday Morning Critic column as Scott and I offer commentary on the upcoming Oscar nominations.

Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for January 4 – January 6, 2013

1. Texas Chainsaw 3D (A Lionsgate Films release) – $23 MILLION

2. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $20 MILLION ($106.3m cume)

3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros.) – $17.5 MILLION ($263.8m cume)

4. Les Miserables (Universal) – $16.1 MILLION ($103.6m cume)

5. Parental Guidance (Fox) – $10.1 MILLION ($52.7m cume)

6. Jack Reacher (Paramount Pictures) – $9.3 MILLION ($64.8m cume)

7. This Is 40 (Universal) – $8.6 MILLION ($54.4m cume)

8. Lincoln (DreamWorks Pictures / Buena Vista) – $5.3 MILLION ($144m cume)

9. The Guilt Trip (Paramount Pictures) – $4.5 MILLION ($31.2m cume)

10. Promised Land (Focus Features) – $4.3 MILLION ($4.6m cume)

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