Box Office Breakdown: Identity Thief Returns To #1, While Die Hard Drops Hard Its Second Weekend

No matter what the prognosticators say, I’ll never understand why it is bad to release new movies on Oscar weekend. Just like I don’t understand why a studio would want to avoid releasing something Super Bowl weekend. The big event/game doesn’t happen until Sunday night anyway, so what’s the big deal. But as tradition proves, studios shy away from pushing their wares this weekend. Which is why we got the major releases Snitch and Dark Skies. One starred wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson while the other is a small budget thriller with an extraterrestrial hook that wasn’t screened for critics. At least it wasn’t in my part of the world. Knowing this, it’s not surprising that the comedy Identity Thief would reclaim the top spot. This time next week it will have passed $100 million to become the highest grossing film of 2013.

Helping the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy is the fact that it has managed to have audience percentage drops of less than 45% for its first three weekends. But more importantly is the weak offering of competitors in a marketplace. Oh, and it’s the only big comedy in major release. So you could argue that Identity Thief‘s success is because of a lack of competition. And believe it or not, people like to have their funny bone tickled. Sometimes a studio just has to time a comedy just right and it’ll make a pretty penny with the right leads involved.

Coming in second place is Dwayne Johnson’s Snitch. In recent years, Johnson has become a franchise booster of sorts oozing machismo in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Fast Five. However, his last solo effort, Faster was a flop. His presence in Snitch no doubt helped in acquiring the right amount of funds to help get the film made, and he’s been getting good reviews for his performance. Sadly, the film is close to being Lifetime movie-of-the-week material, and somebody should have informed director Ric Roman Waugh that it’s better to use a tripod than do without. The $13 million opening is on par with Johnson’s non-franchise solo efforts, like Gridiron Gang and Doom. Considering its low production costs, somewhere in the area of $14 million, the film should make some nice scratch when it hits Redbox. In the meantime, Johnson will go back to franchise mode with G.I. Joe Retaliation arriving at the end of March, Fast and Furious 6 for Memorial Day, and Michael Bay’s non-franchise Pain and Gain in between.

Women can’t get enough of Nicholas Sparks. Books, movies, it doesn’t matter. Safe Haven has collected $48 million in 11 days and should get as high as #3 on the best-performing Nicholas Sparks adaptation, right behind The Notebook and Dear John. Eight of his books have had big screen adaptations and none have made less than $41 million at the box office. At this rate, any studio that snags up a Sparks book, the smart move is to greenlight them and have them prepped and ready for the screen for Valentine’s Day weekend. If films like Saw and Paranormal Activity can have a stranglehold on the box office in late October, why not Sparks for Feb. 14th. Which begs the question, why doesn’t Tyler Perry have his stuff during Black History Month?

For parents who don’t take their kids to the library on the weekend to expand their horizons we have Escape from Planet Earth as an alternative. Much like Identity Thief it is filling a void as the last big animated film was Rise of the Guardians and that came out last November.

Dying hard over the weekend was A Good Day to Die Hard. The hardcore audience was there for Presidents Day weekend to give it a $30+ million opening, but bad word-of-mouth and worse reviews signaled the massive drop from first to fifth place. Still, the picture is performing well overseas, and with only a $92 million budget Fox knew it would be making its money internationally. Hence, the big European premiere. If there’s a healthy return overall we may be getting yet another Die Hard sequel. However, if the executives at Fox clearly gave a damn, they would entrust the franchise with a writer-director or writer and director that can do the John McClane character justice and not have him be “unbreakable.” The 60% drop in attendance for the fifth Die Hard installment joins the likes of Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand as R-rated underperformers by these three action icons (or should I say failed Planet Hollywood entrepreneurs).

With low expectations and minimal press screenings, Dark Skies debuted outside of the top five. It’s only advertising cache was that it was from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Not to be confused with the short-running NBC series of the same name, or TNT’s Falling Skies, the only other selling point wasn’t its story but its star actress Keri Russell who is relevant again thanks to the FX series The Americans. Look for Dark Skies to be at the bottom of the top ten this coming weekend with the arrival of The Last Exorcism Part II, which looks like utter crap, but crap sells, right?

Posting the lowest drop again in the top ten was Silver Linings Playbook. Actually, it was a good weekend overall for films vying for Academy Awards. SLP was the only Best Picture contender in the top 10, but going down the list you had five more Best Picture contenders between spots 11-20. Silver Linings has succeeded where most romantic comedies have failed by being an offbeat romance about bipolar disorder. Also, having a protagonist that has a strong dislike for the works of Ernest Hemmingway helps, I guess. Warm Bodies looks to be the ultimate winner in the battle of YA literature over Beautiful Creatures. Bodies has been a minor hit for Summit Entertainment, while Creatures is a franchise stopper (not starter) for Warner Bros.

While it didn’t finish in the top ten, or top twenty for that matter, special attention must be given to the Arenas Entertainment release, Bless Me, Ultima. Released in 22 markets on 523 screens, it finished with $503k. Not a strong opening, but compared to the new mainstream films that opened in the top ten, this was the much better option.

Upcoming this weekend we have four new films vying for your entertainment dollar. All four open on more than 2000 screens, with Jack the Giant Slayer leading the pack with 3500+. Look for the 18-25 year olds to favor 21 & Over and The Last Exorcism Part II, while families look to Slayer. As for Phantom (a Crimson Tide knock off if you ask me), it could be dead in the water.

Weekend Box-Office Top Ten for February 22 – February 24, 2013

1. Identity Thief (Universal) – $14 MILLION ($93.7m cume)

2. Snitch (Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate) – $13 MILLION

3. Escape from Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $11 MILLION ($35.1m cume)

4. Safe Haven (Relativity Media) – $10.6 MILLION ($48m cume)

5. A Good Day to Hard (Fox) – $10 MILLION ($51.8m cume)

6. Dark Skies (The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films) – $8.85 MILLION

7. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $6.05 MILLION ($107.4m cume)

8. Warm Bodies (Summit/Lionsgate) – $4.75 MILLION ($58.3m cume)

9. Side Effects (Open Road) – $3.5 MILLION ($25.2m cume)

10. Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.) – $3.4 MILLION ($16.3m cume)

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