Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office: Lone Survivor Has 2nd Biggest January Debut Ever, Frozen Crosses $700 Million Worldwide

To see our other box office top 10 breakdowns please go here.

So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: Lone Survivor didn’t so much survive competition from fellow new release Legend of Hercules but destroyed it with a big debut while Hercules pretty much bombed.  Elsewhere, Frozen crossed the $700 million worldwide mark, and in the battle of the awards contenders August: Osage County trounced both Her and Inside Llewyn Davis despite playing on far fewer screens.

Top 10 Domestic Totals for the 1/10-1/12 Box Office 

1. Lone Survivor (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$37.8 million
  • Budget=$40 Million

Foreign: It came out in 2 countries last weekend, and 4 countries this weekend (in addition to US/Canada). There is no current estimate as to its earning in these assorted countries, which include Spain and France.

Recent war movies or movies detailing the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have included Zero Dark Thirty and Act of Valor, both of which made $24 million in their first weekends playing wide (Zero Dark build up to a wide release over Christmas whereas Valor opened wide right away).  Lone Survivor was supposed to do something similar; it did not.

Instead, its opening trails only Cloverfield ($40.1 million) on the list of best debuts of all time for the month of January (not accounting for inflation).  The movie stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster.  It’s based on Marcus Luttrell’s memoir about four SEALs sent on a dangerous mission to Afghanistan.  It was expected to play big in the MidWest while Martin Scosese’s racier and challenging Wolf of Wall Street continues to dominate the coasts.  Unlike Wall Street, audiences loved Lone Survivor, give it a rare A+ grade on CinemaScore.  This is a huge personal victory for the film’s director Peter Berg, who just last summer was practically begging audiences to stop seeing The Avengers so many times and give his big budget Battleship a chance, which ultimately bombed domestically but had been a hit overseas.

2. Frozen 


  • Weekend Gross=$14.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$317.3 million
  • Budget=$150 million

Foreign: $25.8 million this weekend for new foreign total of $394.6 million and worldwide total of $711.9 million.

After making headlines last week by reaching #1 in its sixth weekend of wide release, Frozen yielded the top spot to Lone Survivor but only fell off by 23%.  The only movies to have bigger seventh weekends?  The Passion of the Christ ($15.2 million), Titanic ($25 million), and Avatar ($31.2 million), not accounting for inflation.  Domestically, Frozen has passed Monsters University ($268 million) to become the second highest grossing animated film released in 2013, still trailing Despicable Me 2 ($368 million).  All-time, this is enough to make it the 7th highest domestic grossing animated film ever, 14th after you adjust for inflation.  It faces animated film competition from The Nut Job next week, which will likely offer a bit more of a fight than Walking with Dinosaurs did last month.  Overseas, Frozen still has China and Japan yet to go, both of which combine to account for 17% of the global marketplace for movies.

3. The Legend of Hercules (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$8.86 million
  • Budget=$70 million

Foreign: It’s playing overseas, but at the moment there is no official estimate as to its overseas earnings.

Holy crap, Renny Harlin is still around!  As a director, Harlin brought avant garde visuals to the underrated Nightmare on Elm Street 4 in 1988, and made huge hits out of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger in the early 90s.  Then he directed Cutthroat Island, by some measures the biggest box office bomb of all time, so big it closed the studio that made it.

It’s good that he has that experience in his past because the soul-crushing disappointment of Cutthroat Island should prepare him for the all-too-familiar realization that his new movie, Legend of Hercules, just made a mere $8.8 million after costing $70 million to produce.  That’s very not good.  In terms of gross compared to budget, it’s marginally better than the ill-fated $90 million budgeted Conan the Barbarian re-boot, which opened with $10 million in 2011 before ending with a total domestic/worldwide split of $21 million/$48 million.  One could imagine similar totals for Legend of Hercules.

You could question why this movie was ever made in the first place, let alone why there’s a competing Hercules movie due out later this year.  However, it was just 2 years ago that similar sword and sorcery/fantasy titles like Wrath of the Titans and The Immortals managed domestic totals north of $80 million.  The studios are still chasing that 300 business, with a 300 sequel due out this year, hoping guys will show up for the action and girls for the hot, muscle-bound guys with their shirts off.

4. The Wolf of Wall Street


  • Weekend Gross=$8.83 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$78.4 million
  • Budget=$100 million

Foreign:  Currently, its total foreign gross is $18.5 million which now adds up to a worldwide total of $96.9 million.

47 Ronin, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Grudge Match, and The Wolf of Wall Street were 2013’s big Christmas releases along with American Hustle, Anchorman 2, and Saving Mr. Banks, which beat those others to the market by a week.   Other than the “we all knew it was going to bomb” 47 Ronin, The Wolf of Wall Street seemed like the riskiest bet.  It’s 1 minute shy of being 3 hours long, and features all the things which will turn off conservative audiences: sex, foul language, drugs, midget-tossing…actually, that last one is kind of unique. It’s a celebration of hedonism that never stops to shake its finger and say “this is wrong.”  The result is a controversial film opening night audiences hated, giving it a C- on CinemaScore.

However, while Wall Street is a tough sell in the American heartland it is playing to packed theaters on the coasts.  Defenders of the film will argue one group is simply too stupid to get the movie whereas its critics are too busy watching Lone Survivor so what do they care. This has all added up to a film which has at this point won the competition with the other Christmas releases, outlasting all of them.  However, because it cost so dang much to make they still have quite a bit to go before they are actually making a profit.

5. American Hustle

American Hustle

  • Weekend Gross=$8.3 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$101 million
  • Budget=$40 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $17 million from limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $118 million.

Remember everything I said about The Wolf of Wall Street, looking back to the Christmas movie season to see which new releases emerged the victors?  Well, American Hustle cost less to make, has made more money, and has been raking in the awards nominations.  However, with so many other awards contenders finally expanding wide as well as multiple more mainstream fare opening next week will American Hustle‘s charmed one and extended stay in the middle of the top 10 be able to continue?

6. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug


  • Weekend Gross=$8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$242.2 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $566 million which now adds up to a worldwide total of $808.2 million

Desolation of Smaug is the weakest domestic performer in the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit franchise since Fellowship of the Ring but easily the weakest of all time after you adjust for ticket price inflation.  Even with strong sales overseas, it seems unlikely to pass the $1 billion mark worldwide, as An Unexpected Journey did last year.  It’s only remaining major markets are China and Japan, where Unexpected Journey grossed a collective $70 million.  Desolation of Smaug may very well match that performance, but that likely wouldn’t be enough to get it up to the $1 billion club.  So, it’s not matching the lofty expectations of the franchise, but it will still end up as one of the top 5 worldwide grossing films released in 2013.  

7. August: Osage County


  • Weekend Gross=$7.1 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$7.6 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $3 million from very limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $10.6 million.

August: Osage County is transparent Oscar-bait (ensemble of respected actors, cancer storyline, based upon beloved play) released by guys (Weinstein Co.) who specialize in that.  It’s such a shame then that it’s actually not that great, jam-packed with a couple too many “for your consideration” performances.  It’s picking up a handful of acting nominations for Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and could receive a bunch of out of nowhere Oscar nominations.  However, it’s also completely unlike anything out at the moment, tailored for the female audience.  It surprised everyone by outperforming the more widely adored Her despite playing on far fewer screens, 905 for County versus 1,729 for Her.  In fact, Osage County put up the second best per-screen-average of any movie to crack the top 10, trailing only Lone Survivor.

Before we get too crazy in using the female-heavy Osage County as just the latest evidence in “stupid, sexist Hollywood needs to make more movies with women because audiences will see them” argument let’s actually wait to see if this turns out to be a fluke or the beginning of a surprising run at the box office for Osage.

8. Saving Mr. Banks


  • Weekend Gross=$6.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$68 million
  • Budget=$35 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $9.1 million from very limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $78 million.

All together, Saving Mr. Banks has illustrated some strong staying power, dropping off only 24% this weekend, and will do what you’re supposed to do – double its production budget.  Some might have expected more, but it’s already a bigger domestic hit for Tom Hanks than recent non-Captain Phillips movies like Cloud Atlas ($27 million), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ($31 million), and Larry Crowne ($35 million).

9. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones


  • Weekend Gross=$6.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$28.3 million
  • Budget=$5 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $16.2 million from very limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $44.5 million. 

This is the second weekend of release for a horror movie.  Now, it’s time to play a game of: HOW – FAR – DID – IT -DROP?

65%.  Oooh, that’s very not good, although its right about franchise average.  Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4 all fell  59%, 65%, and 70% respectively.  The first Paranormal Activity was a bit of a different beast, slowly building its audience in limited release for a month before expanding whereas all of its sequels went wide right away.  However, since The Marked Ones had the lowest opening in franchise history last weekend it really needed a far stronger second-week hold to have a chance of getting up to at least Paranormal Activity 4‘s franchise lows of $53 million domestic/$142 million foreign.

That all being said, its current total worldwide gross of $44.6 million is a great return on investment for a film which cost $5 million to produce.  Plus, Paramount at least publicly makes it seem as if since The Marked Ones is a spin-off, i.e., the beginning of an extension of the Paranormal Activity brand, they expected it to return fewer dollars.  Interestingly, The Marked Ones faces direct competition next weekend from fellow found footage horror film Devil’s Due.  Ouch.

10. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


  • Weekend Gross=$5.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$118.2 million
  • Budget=$50 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $40 million which now adds up to a worldwide total of $158.2 million.

Remember everything I said about The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, looking back to the Christmas movie season to see which new releases emerged the victors?  Maybe crowning American Hustle the winner at this point is a bit premature.  After all, in both domestic and foreign gross Anchorman 2 has actually made the most money.  The main difference is that Anchorman 2 is winding down whereas the others are banking on perhaps getting carried a little longer due to boosts from the Golden Globes/Academy Awards, although such a boost is increasingly tenuous.  Either way, Anchorman 2 has silenced any of its critics who thought 9 years was too long between sequels, turning into an even bigger hit than the first Anchorman, even after you adjust for inflation.


What Happened Outside of the Top 10?

Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (#9 to #12), Secret Life of Walter Mitty (#8 to #13), and Grudge Match (#10 to #14).  Catching Fire has now surpassed Iron Man 3 as the highest domestic grossing release of 2013.   Walter Mitty now sits at $52 million domestic/$121 million worldwide for a movie with a $90 million production budget.  Grudge Match briefly rebounded last week, cracking the top 10, before losing over half of its audience this week.  It now sits at $28 million domestic for a movie with a $40 million production budget.  

Elsewhere, both Inside Llewyn Davis and Her performed admirably after expanding to more than 600 screens for the first time (600 screens or more qualifies as a wide release), experiencing as much as a 75% surge in business.  It wasn’t enough to crack the top 10 even, but Her still made over $5 million this weekend.  That’s around $4 million more than 47 Ronin, which after making a little over $1 million this weekend now has a domestic total of $36 million…for a movie which cost $175 million to make.  Whoa.

What’s Up Next?: We get the first legitimate influx of new movies in 2014.  There’s a big budget action movie franchise reboot from Paramount with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  There’s a buddy cop comedy (Ride Along) teaming up Ice Cub and Kevin Hart.  There’s a found footage horror film with a Rosemary’s Baby twist in Devil’s Due.  Finally, there’s a family-friendly animated film about squirrels and an adorable pug, The Nut Job.  All of these open on Friday (1/17).  It’s worth noting that Shadow Recruit was originally supposed to come out this past Christmas, but Paramount blinked in the face of intense competition.  As it turns out, its new weekend is fairly crowded as well, although all 4 of these films are remarkably different and court different audiences.

UPDATE: This article was updated 1/14 to reflect the actual box office numbers instead of the studio estimates.  The major change?  Instead of finishing 4th Hercules actually finished in 3rd, albeit just barely.   

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