To see our other box office top 10 breakdowns please go here.
So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: after teasing it for several weeks, Frozen finally managed to re-take the #1 spot on the chart even though this was its seventh weekend of release (sixth weekend of wide release). As such, the now-seemingly unstoppable force that is Frozen prevented the debuting Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones from opening atop the chart. Elsewhere, the cautionary tale of 47 Ronin continues as it vacated the top 10 in only one week.
Top 10 Domestic Totals for the 1/3-1/5 Box Office
- Weekend Gross=$19.5 million
- Total Gross to Date=$296.6 million
- Budget=$150 Million
Foreign: $52.5 million this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $342.1 million and worldwide total of $638.7 million.
Do you remember how Frozen‘s $28.5 million total from last weekend was the second best showing of all time for a film in its sixth weekend, trailing only Avatar ($34.9 million) but easily beating Titanic ($25.2 million)? Well, that all depends on whether or not you actually consider Frozen‘s first weekend when it played in only 1 theater an official weekend. If you don’t, then this past weekend would technically be its sixth weekend of release, meaning its $19.5 million total would rank third of all time for a movie in its sixth weekend.
Yeah, enough with the technicalities. What Frozen is doing is astounding. It’s certainly not uncommon for films to have long lives at the box office, but as a point of comparison Hunger Games has been out pretty much just as long and its down at #9 on the chart whereas Frozen has outlasted Desolation of Smaug and held off a new Paranormal Activity movie. The last movie to be at #1 at the box office in its sixth weekend was freakin’ Avatar in 2010. This has the look of an absolutely brilliantly timed release on the part of Disney benefiting from no real direct competition (sorry Walking With Dinosaurs) and boosted by the greatest factor of all which can lift a movie which has been out this long: audiences are head over heels in love with Frozen. At this point, Frozen has surpassed Tangled both domestically and worldwide to become the highest grossing film in Walt Disney Animation Studios history. Don’t let that fool you, though. This particular line of Disney – Walt Disney Animation Studios – has actually only been around for a couple of years with only 7 movies to their name, such as last year’s Wreck It Ralph. Frozen is also now the 7th highest domestic grossing animated film of all time, behind Shrek the Third and Despicable Me 2.
2. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Opening Weekend)
- Opening Weekend Gross=$18.3 million
- Budget=$5 million
Foreign: $16.2 this weekend for a worldwide total of $34.5 million.
The slasher heyday of the 1980s is well behind us, but it’s box office legacy lives on. We are seemingly forever destined to go through boom and bust cycles in the horror film genre. There’s typically one film (Friday the 13th, Scream, Saw, Paranormal Activity) which kicks off a particular cycle, opening to huge business and even bigger business for its inevitable sequel. However, then the market is flooded with competition from movies which knock-off the formula/sub-genre. As a result, the novelty of a slasher film or self-aware horror film or found footage format film wears off. Plus, the quality of the sequels of the primary franchise typically diminishes. Business starts declining but the films are made for so cheap we continue to see several sequels to increasingly diminished overall gross until eventually a different brand comes along to start the cycle all over again.
Of course, none of this is to say that the found footage subgenre is dead nor that the Paranormal Activity franchise is on its last leg. Just that we might be more on the bust than boom part of the cycle now. The franchise peaked in 2011 with Paranormal Activity 3, which opened with $52 million on the way to a domestic total of $104 million/worldwide total of $207 million, all for a film which cost $5 million to produce. In 2012, Paranormal Activity 4 set franchises lows for opening ($29 million), domestic ($53.9 million) and worldwide ($142.8 million) gross. That’s still amazing return on investment for a film which cost $5 million to produce, but it’s also the lowest for the franchise to date.
With The Marked Ones, Paramount is seeking to extend the Paranormal Activity brand by establishing a spin-off line focused on a separate story line, marketed more toward Latin audiences. They also experimented by releasing it in January whereas all prior Activity movies have been October releases. Since this is not a true sequel but a spin-off, the expectations were surely lower. A $34.5 million worldwide opening on a yet-again $5 million production budget is crazy profitable. It’s just not up to par with the prior standards of the franchise. Will the likely meager earnings of The Marked Ones simply be the result of audiences wanting a proper Paranormal Activity and not a spin-off, or has the franchise lost most of its audience either way? We’ll find out when Paranormal Activity 5 comes out this upcoming October.
3. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
- Weekend Gross=$15.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$229 million
- Budget=They’re Not Telling
Foreign: $58 million this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $527 million and worldwide total of $756 million.
Desolation of Smaug has now been out for 24 days. How does its domestic total of $229 million compare to the 24-day domestic totals of the prior films in The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings franchise:
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 24-Day Total=$263 million
- LOTR: Return of the King 24-Day Total =$301 million ($381 million after adjusting for inflation)
- LOTR: The Two Towers 24-Day Total =$272 million ($354 million after adjusting for inflation)
- LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring 24-Day Total =$216 million ($291 million after adjusting for inflation)
So, it’s the weakest domestic performer since Fellowship of the Ring but easily the weakest of all time after you adjust for ticket price inflation. The true story, as it was with Unexpected Journey, is the international market where Desolation of Smaug remains remarkably strong despite having yet to open in China and Japan. As a result, it still has a shot at joining the club of movies to finish with a worldwide gross north of $1 billion. Granted, more films than ever before are reaching that mark, but, still….we’re talking about $1 billion!!
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
- Weekend Gross=$13.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$63 million
- Budget=$100 million
Foreign: It’s playing overseas, but at the moment there is no official estimate as to box office performance.
It’s 3-hours long, technically 2 hours and 59 minutes. It has so much sexual content it was “this close” to getting an NC-17 rating were it not for last minute cuts made by director Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor. The advertising has hidden both of those aspects, and opening night audiences detested it, giving it a C grade from CinemaScore. However, since then director Scorsese and star DiCaprio have been on serious damage control, giving numerous interviews to defend the controversial elements of the film. This has translated to an increased profile and great interest in what the heck everyone’s talking about, indicated by Wolf of Wall Street dropping only 28% here in its second weekend. If this holds up it has a shot of earning back its production budget from the domestic market alone.
5. American Hustle
- Weekend Gross=$12.4 million
- Total Gross to Date=$87.9 million
- Budget=$40 million
Foreign: $1.9 million in extremely limited foreign release for a worldwide total of $89.8 million.
This is basically like an All-Star team version of a David O. Russell film, combining the two best parts of The Fighter (Christian Bale, Amy Adams) and Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence). The end result is a deeply appealing film to audiences, although many are likely walking away feeling duped by advertising which makes Lawrence seem like she is a bigger part of the movie than is actually true. As such, American Hustle is on pace to surpass the domestic total of The Fighter ($93.6 million) but maybe not Silver Linings Playbook ($132 million).
6. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
- Weekend Gross=$10.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$108.7 million
- Budget=$50 million
Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $35 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $143.7 million.
The facts are these: The original Anchorman only ever made $85 million. At the average 2014 ticket price, the original Anchorman would have made $107.6 million. After 19 days, Anchorman 2 has made $108.7 million. At current ticket prices, after 19 days the first Anchorman would have made $92.4 million. So, basically, by every measure Anchorman 2 has now made more money that its predecessor. Of course, Anchorman 2‘s budget is also around twice as big ($50 million vs. Anchorman‘s $26 million). With the recent box office funk of Anchorman 2‘s stars (Paul Rudd, Steve Carrel, Will Ferrell), and the 9-year gap between Anchorman sequels there was no guarantee this film was ever going to be a hit. It’s not like Anchorman was that big of a hit to begin with. However, Anchorman 2‘s solid business is possibly justifying the studio’s incredibly aggressive ad campaign.
7. Saving Mr. Banks
- Weekend Gross=$8.6 million
- Total Gross to Date=$58.9 million
- Budget=$35 million
Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $5.5 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $64.4 million.
This is a 33% weekend-to-weekend decline for Saving Mr. Banks, which is doing perfectly reliable though somewhat unspectacular business for Disney. Their worldwide gross has just about doubled their production budget.
8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- Weekend Gross=$8 million
- Total Gross to Date=$45.4 million
- Budget=$90 million
Foreign: $31.5 this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $68.8 million and worldwide total of $114.3 million.
Ben Stiller’s first film as a director since 2008’s Tropic Thunder is turning into a bit of a disappointment. Much as the Night at the Museum movies were his bid for family film stardom as an actor, Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been positioned as his attempt at mainstream critical acclaim. However, critics haven’t really liked it (50% on RottenTomatoes), and awards bodies are ignoring it, even the-always-unpredictable Golden Globes. It’s doing okay business at home, but has found far more of a market outside of North America. It could ultimately end up being saved by the international market, at least as far as seeking to turn a profit.
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- Weekend Gross=$7 million
- Total Gross to Date=$407.1 million
- Budget=$130 million
Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $423.4 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $830.5 million.
Well, it’s finally definitely going to happen. After Catching Fire‘s somewhat unexpected slight surge over the holidays, it will now pass Iron Man 3‘s domestic total of $409 million to be the highest domestic grossing film to be released in 2013 (even if the final money to put it over the hump will have been earned in 2014). Iron Man 3 is likely patting Katniss on the hand condescendingly, “Good for you. Of course, we made $1.2 billion worldwide. So, we actually made the most money, but, still, good for you making more than us in the States.”
10. Grudge Match
- Weekend Gross=$5.3 million
- Total Gross to Date=$24.8 million
- Budget=$40 million
Foreign: It’s playing overseas, but at the moment there is no official estimate as to box office performance.
You should generally not overreact to weak opening weekends from movies whose primary appeal is to older audiences as those movies traditionally take time to build business. Apparently, us youngsters are the ones more prone to rush out and see something opening weekend. Grudge Match is one such older-age skewing title, but by failing to even crack the top 10 last weekend it seemed to clearly be a big disappointment. Yeah, well, that’s probably still true, but it only dropped 23% in its second weekend and at least managed to crack the top 10.
What Happened Outside of the Top 10?
Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: 47 Ronin (#9 to #11), Walking with Dinosaurs (#10 to #12) 47 Ronin dipped 50% from its already low debut and now has $32 million from the domestic market. Thankfully, it opened big in Russia, helping it make $20.5 million from the combined international market this weekend. Its worldwide gross is now $83.9 million, but that’s still not nearly enough for a movie which cost $175-200 to produce.
What’s Up Next?: 3D fantasy action movie The Legend of Hercules opens wide on Friday. Also invading theaters will be two movies making their wide expansions: Her (on Wed.) and Lone Survivor.
Jeez, enough with the numbers already.
UPDATE 1/7/2014: The above article has been updated to reflect the actual totals from the weekend, replacing the prior studio estimates.