Here’s your 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Lone Survivor – $ 38.5 million
2. Frozen – $ 15.0 million
3. The Wolf of Wall Street – $ 9.0 million
4. American Hustle – $ 8.6 million
5. The Legend of Hercules – $ 8.6 million
6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – $ 8.0 million
7. August: Osage County – $ 7.3 million
8. Saving Mr. Banks – $ 6.5 million
9. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – $ 6.3 million
10. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – $ 6.1 million
The Big Stories
AMERICA! F*** YEAH!!! Nobody puts our soldiers in the corner. Unless they are out of radio contact, pinned down and outnumbered behind enemy lines. Stupid Taliban! Americans were all about taking the journey with our homegrown supermen and their “A+” Cinemascore rating showed they didn’t care about the politics of war either. Just bad guys shooting the hell out of our good guys, suffering like Christ for our freedom on a failed op. World Police or not, what else were you going to do? Go see Hercules?
Spoiler Alert Survivor
If the title didn’t clue you in or Mark Wahlberg on the promotion circuit letting us know the story was based on the book his character wrote, Lone Survivor does not turn out well for everyone. Except for Universal, of course, who are going to bounce right back after their 47 Ronin debacle. Yes, it was the biggest bomb of 2013, but the studio still cleared about $ 1.2 in profit (not just gross) last year and Peter Berg’s $ 40 million film is going to look good on their books. A far cry from last year’s Battleship debacle. Both Black Hawk Down (2001) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) started in limited December release and expanded into January to the tune of $ 28.6 & $ 24.4 million. $ 108.6 & $ 95.7 million later, someone probably saw the benefit of releasing a soldier-op war film in the doldrums of January while everyone else is dumping their garbage as if an Imperial cruiser was in sight.
Cloverfield ($ 40.0 million), Lone Survivor ($ 38.5), Star Wars (Special Edition) ($ 35.9), The Devil Inside ($ 33.7), The Green Hornet ($ 33.5), The Book of Eli ($ 32.7), Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($ 31.8), Gran Torino ($ 29.4), Black Hawk Down ($ 28.6), Mama ($ 28.4)
Those are the best January openers of all-time. Lone Survivor is also the 4th best opener of Wahlberg’s career. Frozen, 42 and The Best Man Holiday are the only other films last year to get the perfect “A+” from audiences. The sequel opened to $ 30.1 million and went on to gross over $ 70.5 million. The Jackie Robinson story started with $ 27.4 million and ended up with just over $ 95 million. Disney’s blockbuster opened to $ 67.3 million and as of this weekend is over $ 316 million. Lone Survivor is likely to finish somewhere closer to 42, but should find its way over $ 100 and could hold well enough to even beat Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which the studio is holding from critics until later in the week.
Hercu-who, Hercu-who, Hercu-who?
Two questions need to be asked in relation to this week’s release of The Legend of Hercules. The first up is who thought it was time to put a pair of Hercules films into production? The character is more associated with Steve Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger than Greek mythology at this point and even Disney’s animated version couldn’t quite find $ 100 million in the U.S. It’s bad enough that we have to sit through one with Kellan Lutz, but there’s actually a Brett Ratner version on the way this summer. That brings us to our second question – who in the hell continues to give Renny Harlin money to make movies. Is he digging into Uwe Boll’s Nazi gold?
Harlin used to have a little cache after delivering Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. He even had one of the better Nightmare on Elm Street sequels. Even after Cutthroat Island was one of the big bomb tales of 1995, Harlin bounced back with another pair of fun movies in The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. This century has been another story altogether though.
Driven ($ 94 million budget / $ 54.7 worldwide gross), Exorcist: The Beginning ($ 80 million budget / $ 78 million worldwide gross), Mindhunters ($ 27 million budget / $ 21.1 million worldwide gross), The Covenant ($ 20 million budget / $ 37.5 million worldwide gross), 12 Rounds ($ 22 million budget / $ 17.2 million worldwide gross), 5 Days of War ($ 12 million budget / $ 17,479 worldwide gross)
Those are significant money losers across the board since 2001. $ 255 million in budget and a little over $ 208 million in gross worldwide. And now he has a film that cost $ 70 million and with a less than $ 9 million start is certain to be the first big loser of 2014, even if it did get a generous “B-” score from audiences.
Please Don’t Bother Tryin’ To Find Her. She’s Not There
We come to the saddest story of the week as the best film of 2013 (IMHO) could not even break into the top ten despite expanding into over 1700 theaters. People went out and saw The Legend of Hercules instead of Spike Jonze’s wonderful, brilliant, funny and heartbreaking Her which generated just $ 5.4 million this weekend. Granted, the idea of a lonely guy falling in love with his computer is not the easiest sell on the planet (unless it starred Adam Sandler for all you idiots still going to see his comedies) but this is why we can’t have nice things. Hopefully when the film gets a handful of Oscar nominations this Thursday (including ones for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay) audiences will be more willing to take a chance instead of just flocking to the next found footage horror film or Chris Pine putting his forgettable stamp on another franchise. Her might seem like a big puss film compared to the rah-rah of Lone Survivor, but I bet even the big bad Navy SEALs would shed a tear or two as many of them unfortunately can only communicate with their ladies by hearing their voice too.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV’s First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]