December 29, 2013



Truth be told, “weekend” box office doesn’t mean much in a week where Friday/Saturday/Sunday are no stronger than the weekdays that surround them, and virtually all the openings took place on Wednesday.  (Also, morning estimates aren’t very different from the preliminary numbers we posted last night.)  Nevertheless, a few thoughts.

OPENINGS:  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount/Red Granite) is proving, once again, that Cinemascore exit polls are rarely worth the effort of reporting them.  Despite a supposedly dismal “C” grade, Wolf didn’t collapse from terrible word-of-mouth after its opening, and is doing just fine with $18.5M for the weekend and $34.3M to date.  It should be over $50M by New Year’s, and has a real shot at a $100M total.  That’s a triumph for a movie with its running time and content–although it may not be enough to hit profit for one that will cost $225M or so with worldwide marketing.  The other less good news for Wolf is that it’s coming up short toe-to-toe with its direct competitor American Hustle, and that may hurt it in the battle for Oscar nominations.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th) is doing OK with a $13M weekend and $26.6M to date.  However, this was no inexpensive comedy (a $200M production/marketing bill is likely), and it’s unlikely to get much higher than $80M in the US.  The movie has opened to $27.2M in 39 overseas territories, which is again decent but not exciting.

There’s not much to be said about 47 RONIN (Universal).  After $9.9M for the weekend and $20.6M to date, it may not top $60M in the US (plus $13.8M overseas this weekend for a $22.3M international total).  At a whopping $325M or so in total costs, the only question is whether Universal has written off enough of it already or will need to take even more of a bookkeeping hit.

GRUDGE MATCH (Warners) is very mild, with $7.3M this weekend and $13.4M since Wednesday.  $40M in the US will barely pay for its domestic marketing costs.

BELIEVE (Open Road) is a Justin Bieber concert documentary that only die-hard fans had any interest in seeing, DOA with a $2M weekend and $4.3M total.

HOLDOVERS:  The way you look at the competition between THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) and FROZEN (Disney) depends on how you define it.  It seems as though Hobbit will win weekend honors, $29.9M vs. $28.8M, and may also win the battle of the holiday week.  However, with the two movies neck-and-neck each day and Frozen considerably ahead of Smaug in US box office total ($248.4M vs. $190.3M), Frozen looks to be the clear winner in total US take.  On the other hand, though, overseas Smaug is at $423.8M (having opened everywhere but China and Japan), while Frozen, which is having a more gradual rollout, has $243.5M so far.  The worldwide winner may not be clear for a few months.  Digging into those Hobbit numbers a bit, Smaug is behind last year’s An Unexpected Journey by $31.3M in the US, and by $41M overseas–although Journey had already opened in Japan at this point, which was ultimately worth almost $20M.  (Both movies will have China openings the February after they debuted in the rest of the world.)  Depending on China results, it seems like Smaug, while still a blockbuster, may not quite reach Journey‘s magic $1B mark.

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) had a $20.2M weekend, and could hit $100M by New Year’s, so the ubiquitous pre-release appearances of Ron Burgundy did their job.  It’s likely to take much less than 9 more years before we see Anchorman 3.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) came damn close to beating Anchorman 2 for the weekend, just $600K behind at $19.6M, and it’s comfortably ahead of Wolf of Wall Street at $18.5M.  It would go over $100M even without the pile of Oscar nominations it’s expected to receive, and that harvest will only push it higher.  Sony has an interesting double-edged marketing challenge here, and it’s nailed the first part, successfully selling Hustle as the adult entertainment of the season.  After the holidays, it will need to double back and push (well, find) the movie’s gravitas, crucial if it’s to do battle with 12 Years A Slave for Oscar votes.

SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) has found its moderate groove with a $14M weekend and $37.9M to date.  It may hit $50M by Wednesday, and that’s enough to keep it in the Oscar running.  Banks is far from a critical favorite–in fact, it’s more of a target–so it badly needs to get some wins from the Guilds in January.

A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) and WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th) had OK weekends at $7.4M and $7.1M, but both are underperformers.  Madea will do much better than Dinosaurs in the US, but has little foreign appeal (Dinosaurs has taken in $33.4M overseas)–on the other hand, Dinosaurs was much more expensive, so it’s likely to be the real flop here.

Both PHILOMENA (Weinstein) and MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) have $2500 per-theater averages in their semi-wide releases at 727 and 975 theatres.  Philomena, though, is considerably ahead because it’s been in the market longer, with a solid $16.5M total.  Aside from a Best Actress bid for Judi Dench, neither seems likely to be a major Oscar player.

LIMITED RELEASE:  AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) is off to a fair start with a $36K average at 5 theatres.  LONE SURVIVOR (Universal) is a bit more impressive, averaging $46K at 2 after a Wednesday opening.  THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Sony Pictures Classics) was quiet with a $12.5K average at 3.  HER (Warners) expanded to 47 theatres this week and is doing moderately well with a $14K average.  THE PAST (Sony Pictures Classics) added 2 theatres for a total of 5 and an OK $8K average.  Meanwhile, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS), with a $7800 average at 161, and NEBRASKA (Paramount), with a $3200 average at 250, are hoping to make more of an impression on Oscar voters than ticket buyers.  12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) had a good weekend, rising 5% to $390K even though it dropped half its 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."