The supernatural thriller Mama knocked out the competition opening at number one with a sensational performance delivering one of the best January debuts ever for a horror film. It was a Jessica Chastain double feature as the Oscar-nominated actress also starred in the number two movie in North America, Zero Dark Thirty which held strong in its second round of wide release. Rival Oscar contender for Best Picture Silver Linings Playbook expanded into a full national run and jumped up into the number three spot while new action releases disappointed. Mark Wahlberg’s Broken City debuted in fifth and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback vehicle The Last Stand took last place in the top ten with a dismal debut. Overall, the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was healthy and showed a small uptick compared to recent years with four Best Picture nominees making the top ten.
Scaring up plenty of business at number one was the fright flick Mama which soared to an estimated $28.1M from 2,647 locations for a sizzling $10,624 average. The PG-13 film not only gave Jessica Chastain above-the-title credit, it also represented her second straight weekend with a number one debut with both Mama and ZDT having $20M+ bows. Though she was not the major selling point for either film, it is still extremely rare for any actor to headline the top two films on the same weekend.
Mama worked its magic by catering to the underserved demographic of young females. Studio research showed that the $15M-budgeted picture’s audience was 61% female and 63% under 25. More than a third of the audience was under 17. With the box office dominated by older-skewing films, Mama presented something exciting for younger people. And with the next six most popular movies on the chart having R ratings, it was one of the only things that younger teens could go and see. The current flood of serious adult films and action pictures left a huge opening for someone to come in with a teen-skewing picture and Universal took full advantage of the situation. Next weekend’s line-up again features all R-rated films.
Every weekend this month has seen a low-budget film aimed at the under-30 crowd overperform and attract larger than expected crowds on the opening frame. Texas Chainsaw 3D and A Haunted House both debuted better than expected too and all dealt with the horror genre in some way. January has long been a great month for scary movies to sell.
Sony enjoyed a sturdy frame for its awards contender Zero Dark Thirty which ranked second with an estimated $17.6M declining by only 28% in its second weekend of wide release. Lead actress Jessica Chastain won the Golden Globe last weekend and continued to see strong sales for her Osama manhunt pic which watched its total climb to $55.9M on its way to a likely $100M+ finish.
In its tenth weekend of release, Silver Linings Playbook finally expanded fully nationwide and jumped up to number three with an estimated $11.4M. The Oscar nominee for Best Picture had patiently waited to pounce allowing rival contenders to see their buzz rise and fall. Now, with guns blazing, the Weinstein Co. release widened from 810 to 2,523 locations tripling its run and more than doubling its weekend gross. Playbook averaged $4,499 which was good for a film now in its third month of play. With an impressive $55.3M in the bank, the Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence hit is hoping to enjoy sturdy legs over the coming weeks and hit the $100M mark. Lawrence hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend bringing added attention to a film which has earned Academy Award nominations in all four acting categories and eight overall.
Falling 47% in its second weekend was the period crime saga Gangster Squad with an estimated $9.1M for fourth place. The Warner Bros. release has banked $32.2M in ten days and should finish with $50-55M.
The new Mark Wahlberg-Russell Crowe political drama Broken City got off to a slow start in fifth place with an estimated $9M from 2,620 theaters for a weak $3,435 average. The R-rated film about a corrupt mayor up for re-election who hires a former cop to investigate his wife earned mostly negative reviews and didn’t impress paying moviegoers that much either. The CinemaScore grade for the Fox release was a lackluster B. Heavy competition for adults was also an issue. Wahlberg has been bankable in so many recent films and even topped this same MLK weekend last year with Contraband which opened to $24.3M over three days.
The spoof comedy hit A Haunted House tumbled an expected 54% in its second weekend taking in an estimated $8.3M for a $30M cume in ten days. Open Road should end with a solid $45M. Oscar contenders for Best Picture Django Unchained and Les Misérables followed with good holds grossing estimates of $8.2M and $7.8M, respectively. Quentin Tarantino’s top-grossing film ever dipped only 25% and has hit $138.4M while Universal’s pricey musical declined by a mere 19% for a cume to date of $132.1M. Django began its overseas run through Sony this weekend and grossed a red hot $48.1M from 54 markets with most opening bigger than the director’s last film Inglourious Basterds. The Jamie Foxx pic stands at $186.5M worldwide and counting.
Dropping only 30% to an estimated $6.4M was December’s biggest grosser The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey giving Warner Bros. a mammoth $287.4M to date. Worldwide total is now a towering $919.6M.
Arnold Schwarzenegger learned the hard way that there are very few people left who will pay to see his brand of entertainment. The former box office superstar’s first starring vehicle since 2003’s Terminator 3 crashed and burned opening in tenth place as the action pic The Last Stand debuted to an estimated $6.3M. It was the actor’s worst opening in 27 years and puts into question his drawing power for future films which are already scheduled to open like his next action film The Tomb with Sylvester Stallone arriving in September.
Last Stand earned reviews that were mixed but generally better than what the former governor routinely sees. Older men made up the bulk of the small audience to no surprise. Studio research from Lionsgate showed that 60% of the crowd was male and 78% was over 25. A B CinemaScore grade and dull $2,163 average from 2,913 theaters indicate a fast fade ahead. A marketplace with too many other options for adult men also contributed to the poor debut.
Older Best Picture nominees continued to rake in extra cash during the lucrative nominee period when everyone is a contender. Presidential hit Lincoln eased just 15% to an estimated $5.4M for a robust $160.5M to date for Disney. Fox’s Life of Pi expanded and climbed up 26% to an estimated $3.4M putting the total at $99.2M. Double Golden Globe winner Argo widened for the second straight weekend and saw sales shoot up 94% to an estimated $2.4M and $115M overall. At this time of year, Globe wins and Oscar nods are key endorsements that can get in business from new audiences that thought films weren’t special enough to see the first time around.
Elsewhere, the James Bond juggernaut Skyfall reached a new milestone by breaking the $300M domestic mark on Friday. The Sony smash did an estimated $1.1M, off 33%, for $300.9M overall. Already over the $1 billion global mark, the latest 007 film finally opens in China on Monday and is expected to be a big seller. Last winter’s Hollywood spy film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol grossed over $100M in that market.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $112.3M which was up 6% from last year’s MLK weekend when Contraband opened at number one with $24.3M; and up 4% from 2011’s holiday when The Green Hornet debuted in the top spot with $33.5M.