BOX OFFICE: Better Weekend than Last, and ‘The Master’ Breaks Records

The last two weekends were nothing short of horrible for the box office. While this week might not have been much better, it was nonetheless a respite of sorts. The total box office for the top 12 was up by about 34 percent from last weekend, no doubt aided by the modest performance of the top two films – a franchise favorite (Resident Evil: Retribution) and a 3D re-release (Finding Nemo). Still, box office numbers were down about 19 percent compared to last year, an number made all the more damning by the fact that all that weekend’s new movies  – Drive, Straw Dogs, I Don’t Know How She Does It – were considered flops.

Of course, if you look at the limited release films, it’s a completely different story. The Richard Gere thriller Arbitrage managed to score an average of $10,508 on its 197 screens. That’s a considerably better per-screen average than either of the top-grossing new films. The real story, however, is surely the debut of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which earned a whopping $146,000 on each of its five screens. This is a record performance for a 2012 film; the only other movie to debut this year with these per-screen numbers is the extremely popular Moonrise Kingdom ($130,749 per screen). Let’s see, though, if The Master has the legs of that Wes Anderson film.

Box Office Estimates

August 14 – 16, 2012

1) Resident Evil: Retribution (Opening)

WEEKEND: $21.1 million | TOTAL: $21.1 million
At 21.1 million, this is actually the lowest opener for a Resident Evil movie since the first one came out a decade (!) ago. That’s not saying much, however, as this series has a tradition of each installment opening with modest domestic numbers, only to make back its money in the international market. That certainly seems to be the case with Retribution, which earned $50 in non-domestic numbers this weekend. That’s enough to have already earned back its $65 million budget.

2) Finding Nemo 3D (Opening)

WEEKEND: $17.5 million | TOTAL: $17.5 million
As far as 3D rereleases are concerned, Finding Nemo is…. decidedly average. It didn’t even come close to reaching The Lion King 3D‘s opening weekend record of $30.2 million (which, notably, opened this same weekend last year), but it also wasn’t quite as weak as Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3D‘s $12.5 million. It’s about on  par with most of the other 2012 3D re-releases, like Titanic 3D ($17.3 million) and Beauty and the Beast 3D ($17.8 million). With a $22.5 million opening weekend, though, The Phantom Menace is still this year’s top 3D re-release.

3) The Possession (3rd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $5.8 million | TOTAL: $41.2 million
With a $14 million budget, this little horror flick has proven to be quite the mini-sleeper. There is a good chance that it will crack $50 million during its theatrical run. With the success of The Hunger Games and the wise investment in smaller movies like this, 2012 will surely be a banner year for Lionsgate Films.

4) Lawless (3rd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $4.2 million | TOTAL: $30.1 million

John Hillcoat’s third film is also his most successful one by a mile. As Alex said last week, much of this likely has to do with the Weinstein Company backing the movie a lot harder this time around. Considering his palpable talent behind the camera, expect Bob & Harvey to considerably heighten the Proposition director’s profile in the coming years.

5) ParaNorman (5th Weekend)

WEEKEND: $3.04 million | TOTAL: $49.3 million

Dishearteningly, the stop motion sub-genre of animation doesn’t get the credit it quite deserves, but ParaNorman‘s strong reviews and relatively decent performance (numbers-wise, it’s about on par with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride), it’s clear that Laika is  in the middle of a long, gradual process of building a brand. The big question is this: will Frankenweenie outperform it? My gut says “yes,” but my William Kristol-like ability to give crappy predictions says “don’t trust my gut”

6) The Expendables 2 (5th Weekend)

WEEKEND: $3.03 million | TOTAL: $80.3 million

Compared to its predecessor, The Expendables 2 is trailing its predecessor by about $20 million in its 5th weekend, and has no chance of catching up domestically. Internationally, on the other hand, it’s a different story. The film has made an additional $158.4 million overseas, which is impressive enough for me to believe that an Expendables 3 will be here by 2014. Quick, Mayans! Finish us off before it’s too late!

7) The Words (2nd Weekend)

WEEKEND: $2.9 million | TOTAL: $9.2 million

There are two ways to look at this one. First, you can consider the movie’s minuscule, $6 million budget, and say that this poorly-reviewed love story will nonetheless have made CBS Films a couple of bucks in the end. Another way to look at this is that for such a widely released film (it opened in 2,801 theaters), The Words is simply not performing all that well, considering its star power. I am more inclined to go with the latter interpretation.

8) The Bourne Legacy (6th Weekend)

WEEKEND: $2.9 million | TOTAL: $107.8 million

Just because it’s both the weakest Bourne movie and the weakest performer in the Bourne franchise doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of that-dude-who’s-not-Jason-Bourne. Universal already has a fifth film in development, which means the studio definitely believes in the franchise. I’ll just be interested in seeing how many staffing changes take place between then and now.

9) The Odd Life of Timothy Green (5th Weekend)

WEEKEND: $2.5 million | TOTAL: $46.3 million

I simply don’t know what else to say about this one as it enjoys its final week in the Top 10. Everything about the film’s performance has been wholly unremarkable, and no amount of viral videos of kids sobbing is likely to help it this late in the game. Perhaps Timothy Green will live an odder – and better- life on DVD and Blu-Ray.

10) The Campaign (6th Weekend)

WEEKEND: $2.4 million | TOTAL: $82.9 million

That’ll do, Will Ferrell. That’ll do.

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  • Very happy for The Master making that Per-Theater Average record.

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