December 28, 2013



OPENINGS:  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount/Red Granite) fell behind American Hustle on Friday, dropping 6% to $6.3M, but considering that it’s a polarizing, 3-hour, hard-R saga that people aren’t even sure whether to call a black comedy or a drama, that’s still a fine result, and the film is likely to earn $50M+ by New Year’s Day.  Whether it will recoup its $100M production cost (as well as another $100M+ for worldwide marketing) is still unclear.  Paramount’s conservative decision not to finance the film itself, but to distribute for the independent production company Red Granite, limits is risk but also its potential upside.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th) dropped another 5% to $4.5M, not a great sign for a $90M movie (plus marketing) that was once seen not just as a potential blockbuster, but as a possible Oscar contender.  It could have $40M by Wednesday, and while it should be Ben Stiller’s biggest live-action success since Little Fockers, it won’t come close to that movie’s $148M, nor likely to Tropic Thunder‘s $111M.

The definition of “saw it coming”:  the failure of 47 RONIN (Universal) has quietly been written off by its studio over the course of 2013, so that its losses could be applied against the revenues of Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2.  (This worked out particularly well now that Universal has had to move its tentpole Fast & Furious 7 to 2015 due to Paul Walker’s untimely death, weakening its 2014 slate.)   Ronin, which fell another 7% on Friday to $3.4M, could end up losing close to $200M–Lone Ranger territory–unless it perks up internationally.

GRUDGE MATCH (Warners), thanks to its older-skewing audience, rose 12% on Friday to $2.4M, and could have $20M by New Year’s.  That still won’t go far in earning back its probable $125M production + marketing costs.

Does the utter failure of Justin Bieber’s BELIEVE (Open Road)–down 22% on Friday to $790K, a terrible number even in just 1037 theatres–mean Bieber’s 15 minutes is coming to an end?  Just 2 1/2 years ago, Never Say Never made $73M, and this may not do 20% of that.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein), now expanded to 975 theatres, was up 6% on Friday, but its $800K total still wasn’t very notable, on the low-end of the day’s per-theatre averages.  Unless Idris Elba wins a surprise Golden Globe in 2 weeks, it seems likely to fade fast.

HOLDOVERS:  FROZEN (Disney) leaped to the top of the Friday box office, climbing 13% to a fabulous $10.2M.  That could give it the #2 5th weekend of wide release in history, if it can beat Titanic‘s $30M.  (Other sites, at Disney’s behest, are calling this Frozen‘s “6th weekend,” because then it easily beats Titanic‘s $25.2M, but that’s silly, considering that it initially opened in just a single theatre.  In any case, it will be behind the giant $40M+ weekends of Avatar.)  Frozen looks as though it will beat Monsters University to become the biggest Disney animated movie of 2013 (both of them well behind Despicable Me 2‘s $367.6M), a quiet rebuke to the creative stasis of its higher-profile stablemate Pixar.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) was right behind Frozen, down 4% to $10.1M, and possibly moving ahead for the 3-day weekend.  It’s still running almost $30M behind An Unexpected Journey, with $170.6M vs. $200.3M, but on a day-to-day-basis the gap is now narrow, with Journey just $500K ahead on its parallel Friday.  Smaug will benefit a bit because New Year’s will occur on its 20th day of release, a day later than for Journey.  Worldwide, Smaug has passed $500M, while Journey was at $686.7M as of the equivalent of tomorrow.

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount), benefiting from the soft business for Walter Mitty, is holding very well, down 3% yesterday to $7.1M, and with $100M+ likely by New Year’s.  It should beat The Other Guys ($119M) and could approach the $148M for Talladega Nights.  (Although as with the success of Grown Ups 2 for Adam Sandler this year, it doesn’t answer the question of where Ferrell stands in a non-franchise movie.)

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) is going great guns, passing its direct competition Wolf of Wall Street by rising 1% to $6.4M.  It could have $75M by Wednesday, and with Oscar season stretching for weeks, $100M looks like a sure thing–perhaps even the $132M of Silver Linings Playbook.

SAVING MR BANKS (Disney) edged up 1% from Thursday to $4.7M, and could hit $50M by New Year’s, very comfortable for a moderately-budgeted film.  The less good news for Disney is that it’s become the target of hit pieces from various writers who accuse it of besmirching P.L. Travers and burnishing its home studio, which could damage its Oscar chances.

Other famlly-oriented holdovers did well on Friday, including THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate), up 12% to $3.4M and a US total of $384.3M, $20M ahead of the first Hunger Games at this point in release; WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th), up 17% to a still undistinguished $2.5M and perhaps $30M by Wednesday; and A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate), up 12% also to $2.5M, still not thrilling for the Madea franchise.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The last of the year’s Oscar contenders made its debut as AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) seems headed for an OK $35K weekend average at 5 NY/LA theatres.  LONE SURVIVOR (Universal), which arrived on Wednesday, is doing better, and may average $45K at 2 theatres.  THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Sony Pictures Classics), another Wednesday opening, is facing a mild $12.5K average at 3.  HER (Warners), expanded to 47 theatres, had a heartening 17% increase on Friday, although a $15K weekend average is still nothing special.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) should average $8K at 161.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The first movie weekend of any year is never much to speak of, as the market is saturated with holiday openings.  The only new arrival is the micro-budgeted PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (Paramount), which will attempt to push the Paranormal franchise specifically to the Latino market.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."