Jan 11 2014, 11:29am CST | by Forbes
Two weeks in and 2014 already has its first major hit. Following a limited awards-qualifying run starting on Christmas day, Universal (a division of Comcast) unleashed Lone Survivor in wide release against one new release and a handful of other expansions. It’s no contest, with the Mark Wahlberg war thriller earning $14.4 million on its first day. In terms of winter war dramas, I hedged my bets last month, comparing Lone Survivor to Act of Valor ($24m debut in February 2012) as opposed to the high-water mark that is Black Hawk Down ($29m debut in January 2002). It’s no secret that I’m reluctant to predict break-out success for fear of poisoning the well, so count this as another happy surprise. And yes, once again, Mark Wahlberg is a real movie star in that “star + concept” kind of way.
Depending on how front loaded Lone Survivor is, the film could merely end up over/under $35m or it could end up over/under $40m for the weekend, which is extra impressive as it only expanded to 2,875 theaters. So yes, we could be looking at a record January opening weekend, with the current record holder being Cloverfield‘s $40m Fri-Sun debut in 2008. The number two January debut (Star Wars Special Edition with $35m) is surely in jeopardy. Presuming it gets to just $29 million on Sunday (which would be a terrible 2.0x weekend multiplier), it will have become (I believe) the biggest-grossing film explicitly set during the Afghanistan/Iraq wars in just three days of release, trumping the $28.5m domestic total of the Jake Gyllenhaal/Natalie Portman/Tobey Maguire drama Brothers from 2009.
The Peter Berg-helmed drama, concerning a real-life botched Navy Seal raid in 2005, cost just $48m, so it will surely be a massive hit from domestic grosses alone (I don’t see how it doesn’t top $100m at this point), a rare thing these days. Despite my misgivings about the film (I think it somewhat sensationalizes the deaths of US combat troops, audiences who gave it an A+ Cinemscore grade either disagree or don’t care), Lone Survivor is the kind of film we should want more of. It’s an adult-skewing, R-rated, star-driven genre entries that are cheap enough not to have to earn record worldwide grosses to qualify as hits. Moreover, it highlights the genuine box office draw of major studio releases that play more to proverbial “flyover country” than New York or LA. This is one of those cases where I’m happy that a film I didn’t like is doing well.
The lone new release this weekend was The Legend of Hercules. The Renny Harlin would-be epic, the first of two Hercules films to be released this year, was distributed by Lionsgate but financed elsewhere, which is good since the $70 million picture earned just $3.08 million on its first day. Despite the unquestionable box office drawing power of Kellan Lutz, the terribly-reviewed picture (it’s at 2% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 2.4/10) will struggle to top $8m for the weekend, which is frankly better than I thought it would do. Lionsgate’s financial exposure is very limited, and the picture may-well break out overseas, so I’ll refrain from casting too much judgment at the moment. But from a domestic point-of-view, this one feels like a template for everything wrong with Hollywood thinking.
The next major expansion of the weekend was the Weinstein Company’s August: Osage County. The all-star adaptation of the acclaimed Tracy Letts play earned $2.2 million on its first day of semi-wide (905 screens) release. The Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts/Benedict Cumberbatch/etc. family melodrama (which is quite good, by the way), is banking on Oscar attention next Thursday, specifically for Streep’s hammy-but-award-friendly starring turn as a cruel drug-addicted matriarch (ironically she’s arguably the least “good” performance among the large cast). The film cost $25m, so this isn’t a terrific debut. It may-well have gotten lost in the Oscar shuffle while everyone was raving about Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle. Still, like Lone Survivor, this one will play outside the big city so I wouldn’t remotely count it out yet.
Spike Jonze’s Her finally went semi-wide this weekend, only to be met with relative indifference. The Joaquin Phoenix/Scarlett Johansson romantic comedy about a man who falls for the voice of his computer operating system (think “Siri”) expanded to 1,729 theaters and earned $1.8 million, bringing its total to $5.19m domestic. The Warner Bros. (a division of Time Warner) release is hoping for major Oscar nominations on Thursday, and whether or not it gets them will likely determine if this offbeat and somewhat challenging picture plays beyond the likes of film geeks. Sadly so-far playing to the “converted” is Inside Llewyn Davis, which CBS Films expanded this weekend to 729 screens after playing in limited release for well-over a month. It’s earned $7.9m as of Friday, so at least it will out-gross A Serious Man ($9m) this weekend or soon after. Like Her, this one has much to gain from Oscar traction. These are two of the best films of the year, so I hope they get what they deserve.
In general holdover news, Frozen earned another $3.11m, bringing its cume to $305m. The Disney release may-well top $312m by the end of tomorrow, officially surpassing the original theatrical release total of The Lion King to become Walt Disney’s top non-reissued animated feature. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is officially the top-grossing film in America of 2013, surpassing Iron Man 3 on Thursday. It earned $1.2m Friday and is now over the $410m hump. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned another $2.05m yesterday, bringing its domestic cume to $236.5m ($33m in IMAX alone). The Wolf of Wall Street earned another 2.73m on Friday bringing its cume to $72m. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones dropped 75% from last Friday, earning $2.1m and bringing its cume to $24.2m. 47 Ronin earned another $462k and brought its domestic total to $35m.
Grudge Match earned $575k, bringing its cume to $27m. The Stallone/De Niro boxing comedy won’t match its $40m budget domestically. Saving Mr. Banks earned $1.95m yesterday and sits with $64m total. It will be near double its $35m budget by tomorrow in domestic earnings alone. American Hustle earned another $2.58m yesterday, giving it a $95m cume and setting the stage for $100m+ tomorrow. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty earned $1.32m yesterday to bring its cume to $49.6m. Philomena earned $397k and brought its domestic cume to $20.9m. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues earned another $1.88m, bringing its domestic total to $114.3m.
That’s it for today. Join us tomorrow for weekend estimates and more analysis.
Source: Forbes Business
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.
blog comments powered by Disqus