February 11, 2012



You’re frontloaded!  No, you’re frontloaded!
OPENINGS:  The movie audience has 3 main components–men, women, kids–and a weekend that offers a strong title for each one has a good chance of being successful.  The relatively low-budget THE VOW (Screen Gems/Sony) got off to a great start (too bad it’s not a great movie), with $15.4M on Friday.  That’s higher than the entire opening weekend for Rachel McAdams’ last soap The Notebook (which ended up grossing $81M) and higher than opening day for Channing Tatum’s last dip in the soap pool Dear John (also an $80M grosser).  Meanwhile, for the guys there was the (more expensive) SAFE HOUSE (Universal), also very strong with a $13.8M Friday.  Safe House looks like it’ll be the 2d highest opener of Denzel Washington’s entire career (behind only American Gangster), and even though we won’t know until tomorrow (or Monday) which picture edged out the other for the weekend crown, they’re both big hits.

Meanwhile, the kids weren’t neglected.  STAR WARS EPISODE I:  THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (20th) scored $8.7M on Friday, and JOURNEY 2:  THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (Warners) wasn’t far behind with $6.6M.  The consensus seems to be that Phantom will be more frontloaded with fanboys, but again this won’t be determined for another day or two.
HOLDOVERSNote:  because of Super Bowl Sunday, all weekend-to-weekend drops will be artificially low this week.  Thanks to that, CHRONICLE (20th) and THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) are both likely to be down under 50% this weekend, although BIG MIRACLE (Universal), which just couldn’t find a reason to exist, may cross that mark.  Longer-running titles are dropping theatres due to all the new product in the market, so they’re mostly down 50+%.
OSCAR NOMINEES:  With the rush of the nomination announcements done, these pictures are losing theatres, but otherwise holding fairly well.  THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) lost about 22% of its theatres and should be down around 30% for the weekend, THE ARTIST (Weinstein) also shed 20% of its theatres and should drop about an equal amount at the boxoffice, and HUGO (Paramount) actually had the best hold, ejected from 30% of its theatres but down only around 20%.  The exception is EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Warners), which lost almost half its theatres but is looking an ugly weekend drop of over 60%.
LIMITED RELEASES:  No major arrivals this week.  RAMPART (Millenium), which was unable to get a Best Actor nomination for Woody Harrelson, is headed for a mild $12K average in 5 theatres.  IN DARKNESS (Sony Classics), nominated for Foreign Film, should average around $7500 in 3.  Madonna’s W.E. (Weinstein) tried an expansion to little avail, and may not even get to a $3500 average in 17.
Next weekend the studios aren’t offering much for the long Presidents Day holiday:  THIS MEANS WAR (20th), which had to postpone its Valentine’s Day opening because it would have been crushed by The Vow (it’s also the target of one of the most brutal Hollywood Reporter reviews in recent memory), and GHOST RIDER:  SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (Columbia/Sony) with Nicolas Cage, that eternal mark of high quality.  Also in a mid-level release is Disney’s release of the Japanese (dubbed) animation THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY.  

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."