January 7, 2012



Everyone wanted to go to the movies on the first full weekend of 2012.
PARAMOUNT:  The studio went straight to its Paranormal Activity playbook to launch THE DEVIL INSIDE (pre-release screenings, months of buzz), and it all worked:  the picture should gross at least $30M in its opening weekend, and with a $1M production cost and relatively minimal marketing, that means serious profit.  No one expects the movie to last long (from all accounts, its abrupt non-ending has patrons all but storming the concession stands), but at those prices, who cares?  Meanwhile, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL held very well (as did virtually everything in the week’s Top 10) and could bully its way to $200M in the US.  THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN had a so-so hold and its US result will be negligible compared to its international success.  HUGO and YOUNG ADULT, though, were on the low end of the weekend’s holdovers and are shedding theatres and boxoffice potential.

FOCUS:  TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY expanded to 809 theatres and made its way into the week’s Top 10, with a likely $5.5M and the highest per-theatre gross in the group (other than Devil Inside).  For a cerebral thriller, these are great numbers–if the Academy can just see fit to bless it with some nominations, the movie could become a mainstream success.  PARIAH expanded slightly to 11 theatres, and should get to a decent $10-12K per theatre for the weekend.
WEINSTEIN:  THE IRON LADY added a theatre for a total of 5, and that cushioned its Weekend 2 fall to a somewhat misleadingly low 25%.  THE ARTIST held well with only a 22% decline, but its likely $6K average at 172 theatres (adding 5) continues to be underwhelming, and eventually the studio is going to have to expand it beyond a tiny number of art-houses.  The perils of that are shown by MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, in 584 theaters (a loss of 46) with a lousy per-theatre average that won’t hit $1500 for the weekend.
FILMDISTRICT:  Angelina Jolie’s IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY expanded a bit to 7 theatres, and held pretty well on a per-theatre basis.  Unfortunately, it’s holding at a low $4K per theatre.
SONY:  THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO had the lowest drop in the Top 10, but that still means a hold at a much lower level than the studio was hoping:  with perhaps $11M for the weekend, the picture will still struggle to get to $100M in the US.
WARNERS:  SHERLOCK HOLMES:  A GAME OF SHADOWS held fine, and continues on its pace to approach but not match its predecessor’s boxoffice.  NEW YEAR’S EVE, not surprisingly, crashed now that its holiday is over, and won’t reach $60M.  EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is still 2 weeks from national expansion–word of mouth is clearly good, as it had the lowest drop on the board while remaining in 6 theatres.  But its $15K or so per-theatre number is unexciting, and the strategy to keep it out of wide release for a full month is looking like a disaster in the making, unless the Academy notices that it exists.
FOXALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS:  CHIPWRECKED had a fine enough hold, and still won’t get within $85M of either of the franchise’s other entries.  WE BOUGHT A ZOO could make it to $75M in the US, which while far from great, could allow it to hit profit if the picture finds an audience overseas. 
DISNEY:  WAR HORSE isn’t looking at much more than $75M in the US unless its probable Oscar nominations can lift it up.  (Wins are considerably less likely.).  THE MUPPETS took a big hit for the weekend, and won’t get to $90M.
FOX SEARCHLIGHT:  THE DESCENDANTS continued as it has been, with a mediocre $3500 average in 737 theatres despite all the buzz and awards attention.  It may well win the Golden Globe (it won’t face The Artist because of the way the Globes are structured), and the question is whether that and Oscar nominations will spur the film to break out later in the month.  SHAME dropped a few theatres, and is headed for a $4-5K average in 45.
Next week, the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend brings out a few relatively major releases:  Universal’s Mark Wahlberg thriller CONTRABAND (which it’s been marketing for months), Fox’s Tuskegee Airmen story RED TAILS (from producer George Lucas), and Warners’ Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah family music drama JOYFUL NOISE, as well as Disney’s 3D wide re-release of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

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."