December 7, 2013



OPENINGS:  OUT OF THE FURNACE (Relativity) will do nothing to change the reputation of the first weekend in December as a terrible time to open a new movie.  Even in a more robust weekend, the grim quasi-art film, quasi-action thriller would have had a hard time (and the presence of Christian Bale didn’t help at all, since he has little box office value without the Bat-Cape).  With a $1.9M Friday, it may struggle to reach even $5.5M for the weekend.  The budget was relatively low ($22-27M) and marketing expenses were moderate, but considering the mixed reviews and lack of any awards steam, there’s little chance of the drama breaking out for any profit.

HOLDOVERS:  THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) took Friday over FROZEN (Disney), $7.7M to $6.8M, but Frozen is likely to zoom with Saturday matinees to a $28M weekend, while Catching Fire will probably be $1-2M behind.  Don’t weep for Katniss Everdeen, though:  by the end of the weekend, Catching Fire should be well over $600M worldwide, getting close to the $691M total for Hunger Games and sure to pass it before the holiday season is over.  (See Mitch Metcalf’s Friday Box-Office Report for a detailed analysis of Catching Fire‘s performance in the context of other blockbuster openings.)   Frozen, for its part, is running more than 35% ahead of where Tangled was at this point in its run, and seems headed for at least $250M in the US.

Everything else was far back, topped by a $1.3M Friday for THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney), creeping toward $200M in the US.  DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/isney) continues to hold well at its very low level with a $1.2M Friday, but still won’t get much higher than $30M when it’s done.

There was no spark among the awards hopefuls in semi-wide release.  THE BOOK THIEF (20th) had a $755K Friday and perhaps a $2K per-theatre average for the weekend at 1316, around the same average as DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) will have at 734.  PHILOMENA (Weinstein), at 835, should end the weekend with around a $2500 per-theatre average.  12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) may have a weekend average at 1082 that barely exceeds $1000, and it’s going to have a hard time holding onto theatres during the holiday season.  Also, it appears that the attempt to boost awards-season consciousness of THE BUTLER (Weinstein) by expanding it back to 1000 theatres failed badly, since it didn’t even hit Friday’s Top 10.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The Coen Brothers’ INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) rode its filmmakers’ fame and rapturous reviews (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) to a big start, with $31K on Friday at each of its 4 NY/LA theatres and a weekend average of as much as $100K possible.  But this isn’t one of the Coens’ more crowdpleasing efforts, and the trick will be to sustain its success once it moves past the coasts.

NEXT WEEKEND:  There’s no question about what will be #1 next week, as THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warner Bros/MGM) roars its fiery breath at the box office.  The first Hobbit opened with $84.6M, but Smaug is getting notably better reviews (including here), so that may not be its ceiling.  Also arriving is Tyler Perry’s A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate).  Two major awards contenders begin with limited releases:  AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) and SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney).

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."