January is supposed to be a dead zone for new movies, but then Ride Along and Lone Survivor had two of the biggest January openings of all time last year. Now, this January has given us Taken 3, which used brilliant marketing to combat Liam Neeson movie fatigue and delivered what’s estimated to be the second biggest January opening of all time. Elsewhere, Selma didn’t exactly wow in its nationwide expansion, but it’s expected to hold up well in the coming weeks. Into the Woods passed $100 million domestic, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies passed Guardians of the Galaxy to become the second biggest worldwide release of 2014, and Hunger Games: Mockingjay again inched closer to surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy to become the biggest domestic release of 2014. The Imitation Game continued doing King’s Speech-level business, better actually, and Night at the Museum 3 had a big weekend internationally.
Let’s do the numbers:
Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals (1/9-1/11)
- Weekend Gross=$40.4 million
- Budget=$48 million
Foreign: After debuting in 2 territories last weekend, Taken 3 pulled in $41m from 36 total foreign territories this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $52.3m/$92.7m
Liam Neeson was in 4 films last year, two of them starring vehicles (Non-Stop, Walk Among the Tombstones), two of them not (The LEGO Movie, Million Ways to Die in the West), two of them box office hits (Non-Stop, LEGO Movie), two of them not (Tombstones, Million Ways). When the last of the 4 films, Walk Among the Tombstones, landed with a colossal thud to the tune of $53m worldwide against a $28m budget, it was seen by some that Liam Neeson audience fatigue had set in. It made one wonder how well Taken 3 would do. Well, audiences may or not be tiring of seeing Liam Neeson do his action hero schtick, but they’re not tired of seeing him do it in a Taken film, handing Taken 3 the second-biggest January opening of all time, behind last year’s Ride Along ($41.5m). Granted, this is a lower opening than Taken 2‘s $49m in 2012, but did I mention the part about this being the second biggest January opening of all time?
What happened? The marketing did two things brilliantly: 1) Differentiate this Taken from the two that came before; 2) Beat home the fact that this is meant to be the end of the trilogy. We couldn’t make any jokes or parody videos about how yet another family member gets taken hostage because the story was totally different for Taken 3, which is basically The Fugitive (“I didn’t kill my wife!”) re-purposed for the Taken franchise with Liam Neeson and Forest Whitaker standing in for Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.
2. Selma (Nationwide Expansion)
- Weekend Gross=$11.2 million
- Total Gross to Date=$13.4 million
- Budget=$20 million
Foreign: No foreign box office yet
At one point, Selma was going to be made by Lee Daniels, who ultimately covered similar territory with The Butler. Once Daniels was gone Selma seemed like it might not happen, but the man they’d cast to play Martin Luther King, Jr., David Oyelowo, refused to let the project die. He led the way in recruiting a new director, Ava DuVernay, who in turn recruited Oprah Winfrey who in turn helped attract many other actors and investors. The result is a film with a 98% on RottenTomatoes, and an A+ from CinemaScore. Its box office number for this weekend isn’t amazing, not compared to The Butler‘s $24m opening, but with word-of-mouth being so strong, Oscar nominations likely on the way later this week, and Martin Luther King Day around the corner Selma seems certain to post strong holds (if not gains) for the rest of the month.
- Weekend Gross=$9.7 million (-48% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$105.2 million
- Budget=$50 million
Foreign: $7.6m from around 15 markets this weekend, including debuts in the UK, Australia, Croatia, Slovenia, and New Zealand. Its updated international/worldwide split is $15.3m/$120.5m.
Into the Woods is thought to have minimal international appeal once you get past Europe whereas prior Christmas Day musical Les Miserables was a worldwide smash, with $293m overseas contributing to a worldwide gross of $441m. So, that’s why it is doubly important for Into the Woods to do so well in the United States and Canada, and that’s exactly what it’s doing, already doubling its production budget at the domestic market alone.
- Weekend Gross=$9.4 million (-57% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$236.5 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: $21.8m from 65 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $545.3m/$781.8m. It still has China left to go (1/23), but for now its top international market is Germany ($74.4m).
The Hobbit trilogy is doing the Star Wars prequel thing at the box office, with the nostalgia-heavy-yet-ultimately unsatisfying initial entry (Unexpected Journey) setting the ceiling ($303m), the darker, better sequel (Desolation of Smaug) failing to win everyone back ($258m), and the finale (Five Armies) receiving a “last of the franchise!” boost that is good but not good enough to return to the franchise highs. Or at least it had been, but not only is Five Armies $30m behind the pace of Unexpected Journey it is now barely ahead of the pace of Desolation of Smaug. That means that though it’s unlikely there’s actually a chance Five Armies could finish as the lowest-grossing Hobbit film. It has been a down year at the box office, though, and even in this market, Five Armies is a lock to end up among the top 5 domestic releases of 2014. It’s already the second biggest worldwide release of 2014, passing Guardians of the Galaxy‘s $772m.
- Weekend Gross=$8.3 million (-54% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$101.6 million
- Budget=$65 million
Foreign: $5.7m from 24 territories this weekend, including debuts in France, Korea, Sweden, Portugal, Belgium, and Switzerland, for a new international/worldwide split of $14m/$115.6m. It will hit 39 more international markets over the next couple of months.
The awards snubs for Unbroken just keep on coming, with the BAFTA’s not giving it a single nomination a month after being similarly shut out of the Golden Globe nominations. This is one of those situations where there’s a big difference between what the critics think of the film (49% on RottenTomatoes) and what audiences think (74% of RottenTomatoes readers “Liked It.”). So, Unbroken will likely continue being shut out from awards shows but it won’t need any big nominations to get people out to see it. Though it may be a failure as a prestige picture Unbroken is a on its way to becoming a success as a money-making endeavor.
6. The Imitation Game
- Weekend Gross=$7.6 million (-2% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$40.8 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: No word yet on what it earned in limited play in less than 10 markets this weekend, but its current international/worldwide split is $32.9m/$73.7m.
The Imitation Game’s content, Oscar aspirations, and release cycle compare most directly to eventual Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, which similarly enjoyed a solid limited release beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving before expanding wide over Christmas. Well, Imitation Game is almost exactly $8m ahead of the pace of The King’s Speech, which ultimately ended up with $135m domestic. Both films are products of The Weinstein Co. who are again proving that they are masters of leveraging critical darlings into awards heavy hitters and surprise box office hits.
- Weekend Gross=$6.7million (-54% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$99.5 million
- Budget=$127 million
Foreign: $46.2m from 47 markets this weekend, including a $26.7m debut in China, for a new international/worldwide split of $148.6m/$248.1m.
In general, everything about this franchise has been a downward slide ever since the first one. It scored $250m domestic, $323m international in 2006, the second one scored $177m domestic, $235m international in 2009, and now the third one basically sits at $100m domestic, $149m international. However, it’s done well for itself to even get to $100m domestic after a ho-hum opening weekend, and it’s actually outpacing the second Night at the Museum in most major foreign markets. In fact, no movie made more from the total international market than Secret of the Tomb this weekend, and even now that it’s out in China it still has a handful of major foreign markets left to go. The end result is that while this won’t likely turn into an insane money-maker for the studio they probably won’t lose money on it either.
- Weekend Gross=$4.9 million (-56% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$79.4 million
- Budget=$65 million
Foreign: $1.4m from 19 markets this weekend for a new international/worldwide split of $19.4m/$98.8m. It did open in China this weekend, but there’s no word yet on how well it did over there.
Annie‘s box office is largely being graded on a curve because: 1) Expectations were so low; 2) Musicals not named Mamma Mia! or Les Miserables don’t do very well. So, compared to the likes of recent musicals Jersey Boys ($47m domestic), Rock of Ages ($38m domestic), and Nine ($19m domestic), Annie looks like a box office smash. However, it is quickly entering into its inevitable box office slide. When you just judge it on a worldwide gross vs. production budget basis you see that Annie actually still has a way to go before it reaches the break-even point, which is around $130m worldwide, and that’s not even taking into account whatever they spent on marketing. Thankfully, then, it still has the majority of the international market on the horizon.
- Weekend Gross=$4.8 million (-68% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$22.3 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: No word yet on what it earned in limited foreign play this weekend, but its current international/worldwide split is $4m/$26.3m.
Relativity Media spent $1m to acquire the domestic distribution rights to Woman in the Black 2, which is looking like quite the worthy investment. Oh, sure, by plunging nearly 70% in just its second-weekend Woman in the Black 2 did what most bad horror movies do, and it won’t likely make any more appearances in the top 10. It’ll probably end up barely making half of what the first Woman in the Black did domestically ($54m), but if they spent so little to pick it up and likely rather little on marketing one would think Woman in Black 2 should still end up being a profitable venture for them.
- Weekend Gross=$3.7 million (-50% from last weekend)
- Total Gross to Date=$329.5 million
- Budget=They’re not telling
Foreign: No word yet on what it earned this weekend, but its current international/worldwide split is $371.6m/$701.1m.
Marvel’s Iron Man 3 was the highest-grossing domestic release of the 2013 calendar year, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was actually the highest-grossing film of 2013. It just needed some extra business in its second full month of release, in this case, January 2014, to get there. Well, here we are again. With $333m domestic, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the top film of the 2014 calendar year, but Mockingjay might yet pass it, albeit just barely.
What Dropped Out of the Top 10?:
The Gambler (#9 to #13) and Big Hero 6 (#10 to #14). Big Hero 6 is now up to $214m domestic, $195m foreign, with its top international market being Japan ($44.4m). It still has Korea, Germany, the UK, and France on the way in the next month before hitting in China at the end of February (2/28).
What’s Up Next?:
Next week brings us nationwide openings for Chris Hemsworth’s Blackhat, Paddington (which has been doing huge business in the UK for a month now), Kevin Hart’s The Wedding Ringer, and Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper with a limited release of Julianne Moore’s Still Alice. So, take one last look at this week’s box office top 10 because nearly half of those films won’t be in the top 10 next weekend.