December 15, 2013



OPENINGS:  THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) had a better Saturday hold than last year’s An Unexpected Journey (-22% vs. -25%), suggesting that positive word of mouth is kicking in, and no doubt easing the minds of Warners executives.  The studio’s $73.7M weekend estimate still puts it 13% below Journey‘s start, but if that number holds (as usual, it depends on an aggressive Sunday estimate), it will technically be above the $72.6M opening of the last and highest Lord of the Rings picture–somewhat misleading since Return of the King opened on a Wednesday and had already earned $51.4M before the weekend even began.  Overseas, Smaug pulled in $131.2M, which Warners claims is roughly the same as Journey‘s $138M international start, but it’s difficult to cut those figures accurately, since Smaug opened in a somewhat different set of territories, and the studio is counting around $24M that came in from some territories on Wednesday and Thursday.  What we do know is this:  at the end of its first weekend, Journey had a worldwide total of $230M, and Smaug (if its estimates hold) is at $205M.  The question of whether it will ultimately match Journey‘s $1B worldwide or end up with “only” $900M is of importance mostly to the movie’s investors.

A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) was the lowest Madea opening ever with $16M, and it wasn’t even close–the previous low was $25.1M for Madea’s Big Happy Family.  (It was also the 3rd lowest opening for any Tyler Perry movie.)  Plus it’s so specifically a Christmas picture that it may not pull in the post-Dec 26 revenue that this season’s openings usually do.  The one ray of hope was that the Saturday number was up 10% over Friday, while Perry movies usually decline on Day 2.  On the other hand, the bigger concern has to be that the last 3 Madea openings have been the character’s lowest, suggesting a franchise that’s on the way down.  That doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere–Perry keeps his costs down, so his movies are still a big business–but the really big paydays may be behind it.

HOLDOVERS:  FROZEN (Disney) fell just 30% from last weekend for a terrific $22.2M, now at a $164.4M total.  That’s $49M ahead of where Tangled was at this point in its run, with a 3rd weekend 50% ahead of Tangled‘s.  There’s only one other family movie opening this holiday season (20th’s Walking With Dinosaurs), and Frozen‘s path to $250M in the US seems clear.  It’s having a slower overseas rollout (typical for Chrismas-season animations), and made $31.5M in just 25 territories ($101.6M to date).  THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) isn’t holding as well, down 50% for a $13.2M weekend.  It’s still $20.3M ahead of the first Hunger Games, but it’s running out of gas, with a 4th weekend only 2/3 of what Hunger Games made in the parallel weekend.  The question will be whether it can earn enough during the holidays to keep its lead.  Overseas, though, there’s no contest, as Catching Fire has already reached $372.9M after a $19.5M weekend, almost $90M higher than Hunger Games, putting its worldwide total at $729.9M, $38.6M above where Hunger Games was at the end of its run.  Catching Fire should get past $800M worldwide before it’s done.

OUT OF THE FURNACE (Relativity) collapsed in its second weekend, down 56% to $2.3M and unlikely even to reach $20M in the US.

None of the awards hopefuls are setting the multiplexes afire, but PHILOMENA (Weinstein) led the pack, down just 20% to $1.8M at 835 theatres with a $2100 per-theatre average.   DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) fell 25% to $1.1M–not at all bad, since it also lost 20% of its theatres–with a $2K average at 574.  THE BOOK THIEF (20th) dropped 36% to $1.7M with a $1400 average at 1158.  12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) lost more than half its theatres and fell 40% to $685K, a $1400 average at 497.  Attempts to expand BLUE JASMINE (Sony Pictures Classics) and ALL IS LOST (Roadside/Lionsgate) to around 300 theatres each went nowhere, as their per-theatre averages were at $300 and $600 respectively.

LIMITED RELEASE:  AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) had the highest non-premium per-theatre average of the year with a huge $115K at 6, a total of $690K.  It’s accomplished exactly what it wanted to with its brief platform run, and when it goes wide on Friday, it can get the jump on the somewhat similar The Wolf of Wall Street, opening 5 days later.  SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) had a comparatively mild start, $421K at 15 theatres for a $28K average–not a terrible number, but it has to be considered a disappointment.   Mr. Banks also goes wide on Friday.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) had a bumpy expansion, dropping 15% from last weekend even though it almost quadrupled its theatre count to 15.  Its $344K weekend total and $23K average may foretell tough times ahead as it widens again next weekend.  Somewhat shockingly, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) plunged 58% from last weekend to $32K, a mere $8K average at 4 theatres.

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."