Weekend Box Office: The Hobbit Holds the Top Spot; Other Openers Mixed

December 23, 2012

Weekend Box Office: The Hobbit Holds the Top Spot; Other Openers MixedLast-minute Christmas shopping, travelling and other holiday-related activities slowed the North American box office this weekend as Warner's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey once again held the top spo.. The Middle-earth saga easily held off the debuts of Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, The Guilt Trip, Cirque Du Solei: Worlds Away, This Is 40 and the 3D reissue of Monsters Inc. Sony also launched its Oscar hopeful Zero Dark Thirty which had a magnificent bow on only five screens. Overall, business was down approximately 11% from last year at this time when Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows led the pack.

After setting a record last weekend with its $84 million opening, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took an expected dip in business due to the upfront demand being satiated in its opening days. However, the drop wasn't as steep as many thought. The Peter Jackson-directed fantasy flick was off 57% in its sophomore session to earn an estimated $36.7 million on 4,100 screens. The ten-day total for Bilbo stands at a big $150 million.

Business should remain steady throughout the upcoming holiday week, which should help An Unexpected Journey sail past the $200 million mark by New Year's Day and wind down with roughly $290 million in domestic sales. A great number to be sure, but decidedly lower than any of "The Lord of the Rings" films that came before it a decade ago. Each of those films broke the $300 million mark and did so without the help of 3D and IMAX screens, and with lower ticket prices. Currently, An Unexpected Journey is running 16% ahead of The Fellowship of the Ring but 11% behind The Two Towers and trailing The Return of the King by 22%.

Paramount took the pre-Christmas week opportunity to launch three new movies into the marketplace, which met with results that varied from decent to dismal. The first of the three, the Tom Cruise thriller Jack Reacher landed in the number two position with good numbers given the Christmas Day buildup. The Christopher McQuarrie-directed feature opened on 3,532 screens to earn an okay $15.6 million in its first three days. Critics gave the movie a mild pass with a 62% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while ticket buyers gave it an "A" CinemaScore rating. The $60 million production should see steady business over the next couple of weeks.

Not faring as well was the studio's Seth Rogen/Barbara Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip, which limped its way into sixth place with a dismal $5.4 million opening on 2,431 screens. Since its opening day this past Wednesday, the movie has earned $7 million. Critics hated it (36% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating) and audiences found better things to do with their time than watch Babs drive Seth Rogen nuts for 90 minutes.

The third and final release from Paramount this weekend was the 3D feature Cirque Du Solei: Worlds Away. The feature, directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia) and produced by James Cameron, opened in 840 theaters and only had two showings each day, both which may have limited its box office potential this weekend. Still, the film managed to pull in $2.4 million to land just outside the top ten. The movie should see its business perk up when the movie begins a regular roster of screenings starting on Christmas Day.

Landing in third place was Unviersal's R-rated comedy This Is 40, which earned a mediocre $12 million from 2,912 theaters. A spin-off from the studio's 2007 sleeper hit Knocked Up, the latest overlong, self-indulgent Judd Apatow raunch-fest got knocked around by critics (who gave it a 49% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), who are normally kind to the filmmaker. Case in point: they gave Apatow's endless Adam Sandler flick Funny People a 68% approval rating a few years ago. Despite Universal's endless bombardment of advertising and pushing the film as a Knocked Up sequel, audiences didn't seem all that interested in it as well. They gave the movie a "B-" CinemaScore rating, which could spell a rough road ahead for Paul Rudd/Leslie Mann film.

Instead of releasing a new animated feature prior to the Christmas holiday, the Mouse House opted to put a 3D version of their 2002 animated smash Monsters Inc. into theaters instead. The result wasn't as successful as recent 3D reissues such as Finding Nemo and The Lion King as Sully and Mike scared up a flat $5 million and $6.5 million since Wednesday, landing the beloved Pixar classic in seventh place.

The news wasn't so dire for Sony's controversial drama Zero Dark Thirty, which bowed in only five theaters but managed to pull in astounding numbers since opening on Wednesday. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed feature on the decade-long hunt for Bin Laden (my personal favorite of 2012) rode the wave of both critical huzzahs (94% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating), year-end Best Picture awards from critics and of course the hullabaloo surrounding the film's depiction of torture as an interrogation device. These factors formed together to bring in a remarkable $410,000 this weekend for a sensational per-screen average of $82,000. Since Wednesday, the movie has earned a big $639,000. The movie will remain in limited release until it expands to a few more markets on January 4 prior to its nationwide launch a week later.

Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians found itself in fourth place this weekend as the holiday-themed 3D animated feature earned an estimated $5.9 million from 3,031 theaters to bring its domestic total to $79.6 million. The film's business should drop quite a bit once Christmas Day passes on Tuesday but the movie should finish its run near the $90 million mark which will make for decent, but not great final numbers for the $145 million production. Rounding out the top five this weekend was the historical blockbuster Lincoln, which had another strong hold in its seventh weekend of release. Off a mere 20%, the movie lobbied for an estimated $5.6 million from 2,293 theaters. To date, the awards contender has earned a great $116.7 million.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

8. Skyfall (Sony/MGM) $4.7 million (-28% from last weekend); $280 million

9. Life of Pi (Fox) $3.8 million (-30%) $76 million

10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Summit) $2.6 million (-49%) $281 million

Christmas Day will bring the long-awaited releases of Universal's Les Miserables, the Weinstein Company's Django Unchained, as well as the comedy Parental Guidance and an expanded release of Silver Linings Playbook, which has earned roughly $20 million in limited release since November.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, everyone. Get out and see a movie!

- Shawn Fitzgerald