Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office: Ride Along Scores Best Ever Debuts for January & MLK 4-Day Holiday

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

So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: Universal dominated the top of the chart, scoring the biggest January debut and Marting Luther King Jr. performance for Ride Along, and enjoying a strong second week for Lone Survivor.  Elsewhere, Nut Job succeeded where Walking with Dinosaurs failed, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit failed to connect with younger audiences, and among all awards contenders American Hustle received far and away the biggest boost.  Elsewhere, The Legend of Hercules plummeted out of the top in just its second weekend, officially the first huge bomb of 2014 (since 47 Ronin was technically a January release).

Top 10 Actual Domestic Totals for the 1/17-1/19 Box Office 

1. Ride Along (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$41.5 million
  • Budget=$25 Million

Foreign: This weekend’s opening in the United States and Canada was its exclusive debut anywhere.  It is not scheduled to open anywhere else until early March.

Last week, Lone Survivor was the surprising box office over-performer, scoring the second biggest debut for a January release, trailing only Cloverfield.  Well, here’s how quickly those kinds of records fall nowadays: it’s only one week later, and Lone Survivor‘s second-best January debut ever is now only the third-best.  Why?  Because Ride Along just recorded the biggest January debut ever, better than Cloverfield‘s $40.1 million from 2008.  Moreover, Ride Along is protected to end with a $48.6 million 4-day opening, the biggest ever performance over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, another record previously held by Cloverfield.  Of course, after inflation adjustments Cloverfield ($53 million) had a bigger opening.  However, isn’t that kind of thing always true of modern box office records?

Not surprisingly, this opening for Ride Along played huge with African-Americans and Hispanics (in addition to Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, the movie also stars John Leguizamo), who made up 80% of the audience.  It follows the big debut of November’s Best Man Holiday, another African-American comedy boosted by largely African-American audiences.  Plus, Ride Along‘s director, Tim Story, guided African-American comedy Think Like a Man into a $33 million opening and $96 million worldwide gross in 2012 on a budget of merely $12 million.  However, the mediocre-to-outright-bad performances of Black Nativity and A Madea Christmas since the release of Best Man Holiday indicate you can’t simply put together a cast of mostly African-American actors and expect like-skinned audiences to turn it into a hit.  That’s where Ride Along’s star Kevin Hart comes in.

Hart has emerged as a bonafide all-star of the stand-up comedy circuit over the past couple of years.  Somewhat quietly this past summer his concert film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain enjoyed a top 5 debut over the July 4th weekend, and ended with a worldwide gross of $32 million.  Compare that to Grudge Match, which features him in a guest-role alongside a cast of old white guys, and it’s only made $29 million to this point. His presence isn’t enough to make something into a hit, but Ride Along was his first starring role.  His audience was clearly more than ready for it, and the presence of such a high profile African-American-leaning film over a 4-day holiday associated with an iconic African-American figure (Martin Luther King Jr.) didn’t hurt.

2. Lone Survivor 


  • Weekend Gross=$22 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$72.8 million
  • Budget=$20 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $3.2 million (almost entirely from France and Spain) which now adds up to a worldwide total of $76 million.

Interestingly, Ride Along‘s distributor, Universal, is also distributing Lone Survivor.  It sure helps to have the top 2 movies at the top of the box office less than a month after watching 47 Ronin bomb.  Here in its second weekend, Lone Survivor dropped a respectable 38% at the domestic box office, and pushed its worldwide gross to now being nearly three times its production budget.  Hopefully, that makes up for being mostly snubbed by the Oscars.

3. The Nut Job (Opening Weekend)


  • Weekend Gross=$19.4 million
  • Budget=$30-42 million ($30 million after tax breaks)

Foreign: This weekend’s opening in the United States and Canada was its exclusive debut anywhere.  It is expands into at least 4 additional countries beginning next weekend. 

The Nut Job has outperformed expectations, ending up at $25 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.  The movie, starring Will Arnett as the voice of a squirrel scheming to rob a nub shp, is the inaugural feature for South Korean ToonBox.  It’s being distributed in the United States by Open Road Films, who have previously done the same for films like The Grey, End of Watch, Haunted House, and Machete Kills.  This is the second biggest opening in Open Road’s history behind The Grey‘s $19.6 million.

4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$15.4 million
  • Budget=$60 million

Foreign:  Concurrent to its domestic debut, Shadow Recruit opened in 29 international markets where it grossed a combined $22.4 million for a worldwide debut of $37.8 million.

Shadow Recruit comes us to nearly 12 years after the last Jack Ryan film, The Sum of All Fears, which was itself an attempted franchise reboot which did okay ($193 million worldwide on a $68 million budget) but not good enough.  They tried for years to make a sequel, but Ben Affleck’s stunning fall from stardom had a huge part to play with the development process being delayed for so long.  They went through multiple scripts and directors (Sam Raimi for one) before a post-Thor Kenneth Brannagh took over to get this dang thing made; Chris Pine was already attached at that point.  The result is a prequel/franchise reboot featuring an entirely original script since the other Tom Clancy Jack Ryan novels are too crazytown bonkers to be filmed.

Paramount was originally going to release this on Christmas Day, but pushed it back to make room for Wolf of Wall Street, also a Paramount title.  They probably thought that by escaping the overcrowded Christmas they’d be in line for even bigger business for Shadow Recruit.  Instead, the got the second worst opening in franchise history (ahead of only The Hunt for Red October‘s $17.1 million in 1990), easily the worst after you adjust for ticket price inflation (at 2014’s ticket prince, Red October‘s opening adjusts to $33.8 million).  Early demographics indicate Paramount failed to connect with younger audiences sincer nearly 40% of their North American audience was over the age of 50, aka, old enough to remember the heyday of the Jack Ryan films.  On the promotional trail, director Brannagh has made it clear he’d love to make a Shadow Recruit sequel.  The budget is low enough that a strong run overseas could make that happen.

It might be a bit surprising, but the average Jack Ryan movie prior to Shadow Recruit only averaged a total domestic gross of $92 million, $168 million after you adjust for inflation.

5. Frozen 


  • Weekend Gross=$11.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$332 million
  • Budget=$150 million

Foreign: $24.6 million this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $426.5 million which now adds up to a worldwide total of $758.9 million.

Even with the competition from Nut Job, Frozen still only dropped 19% this weekend.  It is now the 6th highest domestic grossing animated film of all time, 14th after you adjust for inflation (having just passed Up on the inflation-adjusted chart).  Worldwide, it just passed Monsters University‘s $743 million to become the second highest worldwide grossing animated release of 2013.  It won’t likely reach Despicable Me 2, though.  Frozen still has China and Japan on the way in early February, which comprise 17% of the worldwide box office, but Despicable Me 2 just opened in China last week meaning its $954 million worldwide total is still growing.

6. American Hustle

American Hustle

  • Weekend Gross=$9.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$115.6 million
  • Budget=$40 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $25.7 million from limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $141.3 million.

American Hustle just won several Golden Globes, including Best Comedy, last weekend, and tied with Gravity (10) for the most Oscar nominations this year.  As such, it got the big awards bump this weekend, with a stunning 28% surge in business.  At this rate, it will end up with more money, domestically, than last year’s Silver Linings Playbook ($132 million) from the same director (David O. Russell) and half of the same cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper).  It primary remaining challenge is to start adding to its foreign totals as well, where it had been playing in limited release until this weekend.  From this point forward, it is currently scheduled to start expanding into all of the big, significant foreign markets.

7. Devil’s Due (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$8.3 million
  • Budget=$7 million

Foreign: It also opened in the UK/Ireland, Singapore, and Vietnam this weekend, taking in $2 million (almost all from the UK).

Audiences weren’t too keen on Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones two weeks ago, giving it the worst debut in Paranormal Activity history.  However, they really weren’t that enamored with Devil’s Due.  They graded it as a D+ on CinemaScore, and gave it a mediocre $8.3 million opening for a film which cost $7 million to make.  This isn’t rocket science here: you make your horror movie for super cheap, use the combination of perfectly timed scheduling and effective marketing to soar to a big-to-huge opening weekend, and then start development on a sequel even though audiences abandon the film in droves after that first weekend.  However, you have to have that first big weekend because cases like Insidious where you actually grow your audience over the time and become a word-of-mouth hit are very are in the modern horror genre (at least at the box office).  Beyond apparently being a bad film, Devil’s Due’s lackluster returns might be attributable to scheduling since coming out this soon after The Marked Ones was always a bad idea.

8. August: Osage County


  • Weekend Gross=$7.3 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$17.9 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $6.3 million from very limited release which now adds up to a worldwide total of $23.9 million.

Well, after American Hustle’s 28% surge this is not nearly as impressive, but August: Osage County posted a 6% bump in business this weekend.  It did manage to score Oscar nominations for Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, although many argue Streep in no way deserved her nomination.  Plus, although neither of them won both Roberts and Streep received plenty of face time during the Golden Globes, perhaps alerting some audiences to the existence of this movie.  Also, this is the most female-skewering release out there at the moment.  Altogether, it’s on a two-week hot streak at the moment, surprising many when it first cracked the top 10 last weekend.

9. The Wolf of Wall Street


  • Weekend Gross=$7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$89.8 million
  • Budget=$100 million

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is $77 million which now adds up to a worldwide total of $166.8 million.

The Wolf of Wall Street was also heavily featured at the Golden Globes, with star Leonardo DiCaprio taking home Best Actor (Comedy).  It just scored several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.  This didn’t translate to improved business but instead a strong hold, declining weekend-to-weekend by only 15%.  Until now, it had been outlasting all Christmas releases, but now American Hustle has emerged as the true domestic victor of those batch of films.

10. Her
  • Weekend Gross=$4 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$15 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Currently, its total foreign gross is less than $1 million.

The studio estimates had Saving Mr. Banks as #10 on this list, but the actual totals released on 1/22/14 revealed Her actually made a little more, thus giving the Spike Jonze comedy its inaugural weekend in the top 10.


What Happened Outside of the Top 10?

Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: Saving Mr. Banks (#8 to #11), The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (#6 to #12), The Legend of Hercules (#3 to #13), Anchorman 2 (#10 to #15), and Paranormal Activity (#9 to #18).  Desolation of Smaug now has a worldwide gross of $833 million whereas Legend of Hercules has just $16 million, dropping out of the top 10 in just its second weekend.  Ouch.  Paranormal Activity only has $31.3 million domestic after 3 weeks, but its worldwide gross of $75 million is still an amazing return on investment for Paramount considering it only cost $5 million to make.

Multiple Oscar contenders were re-released this weekend, including GravityCaptain Phillips12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club.  Such re-releases have a mixed history of effectiveness.  Last year, Argo added $20 million during its re-release.  So far, Gravity is projected to make $1.9 million over the holiday followed closely by 12 Years with $1.8 million.

What’s Up Next?: After 2014’s first legitimate big weekend with 4 wide new releases, we take a breathe, and watch as Lionsgates’ ill-fated and dreadful-looking big budget I, Frankenstein either bombs as expected or makes fools of us all by opening to huge business.  Elsewhere, Oscar nominees will hope to add more money from their re-releases, and Ride Along aims for staying power instead of a huge post-first week fall-off.

UPDATE: The above box office figures have been updated to reflect the actual totals instead of studio estimates.   The major change?  Her was actually #10 on the list, not Saving Mr. Banks.

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