With less than $300,000 separating the top three films this weekend, the final order of the domestic top ten has been difficult to call. Sunday’s estimates have End of Watch and House at the End of the Street tied for first with $13 million each. Warner Brother’s Trouble with the Curve is not far behind, however, so more definitive results will have to wait until Monday. One thing we can say for sure? Dredd 3D is off to a rough start.
|1.||End of Watch||$13,000,000||$13.0|
|2.||House at the End of the Street||$13,000,000||$13.0|
|3.||Trouble with the Curve||$12,720,000||$12.7|
|4.||Finding Nemo 3D||$9,446,000||$29.9|
|5.||Resident Evil: Retribution||$6,700,000||$33.4|
A week ago, the thought that the horror/thriller House at the End of the Street and the cop drama End of Watch could have tied for the box office’s place of honor was almost inconceivable. Not only are both films from smaller distributors, but they received a fraction of the attention afforded the higher-profile Trouble with the Curve. The last time I remember a race for first being this close was in July of 2009, when Ice Age 3 challenged Transformers 2. Of course, the stakes for that photo finish were a bit higher (around $42 million for each film) but we take our excitement where we can get it in the box office business.
The baseball drama Trouble with the Curve was supposed to be the easy winner this weekend with at least $18 million, so we’ll start there. It had the widest release of any of this frame’s four new titles – 3,212 locations – and it got some free publicity after star Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention. So what went wrong? Nothing, really. In this case I’d say the projections for Curve were unrealistic.
There is no doubt that Eastwood is one of the most celebrated directors of the past decade. Unfortunately, that has not always translated into big opening weekends for his films. His last two projects as director, 2011’s J Edgar and 2010’s Hereafter, opened with $11.2 and $12 million, respectively, on their first weekends in wide release. They each ended up with domestic totals below $38 million. As an actor and director, Eastwood has had more luck. In December 2008, Gran Torino opened with $29.4 million on its way to a final domestic gross of $148 million. Of course, like many Eastwood projects, Gran Torino played in limited release for weeks prior to its wider launch. For Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood served as the film’s producer and star (Robert Lorenz directed) and skipped the platform-release model that helped build momentum for many of his past features.
It is likely that Warner Brothers was hoping Curve would become the next Moneyball. On this same weekend in 2011, director Bennett Miller’s sports-themed drama became a surprise hit with its $19.5 million opening and a domestic total that topped $75 million. That was big news at the time because it was the second-highest debut and second-highest domestic total ever for a baseball movie. The sport’s biggest opening was $19.6 million for 2006’s The Benchwarmers; 1992’s A League of Their Own remains the top grosser with $107.5 million (not adjusted for inflation). In the end, Eastwood’s film lacked the critical praise of Moneyball, making it difficult for baseball’s newest film to match its predecessor’s opening gross.
When it comes to the two films currently vying for the top spot on this weekend’s top ten, neither carried the high expectations of the Curve. In fact, until Friday’s surprise win for House at the End of the Street, few paid much attention to this low-budget thriller. With its PG-13 rating and generic horror title (remember Dream House? Silent House? The Last House on the Left?) the lone selling point for the feature seemed to be star Jennifer Lawrence. From 3,083 locations, House at the End of the Street took in an estimated $13 million – not exactly Hunger Games-sized numbers, of course; but a bit above what was expected.
Like House at the End of the Street, a big first weekend was not supposed to be in the cards for End of Watch. The cop drama written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day) cost a reported $7.5 million to make and was acquired by Open Road Films for just $2 million. With its R-rating, End of Watch was launched in fewer locations than its competitors – 2,730 locations – and could not boast a built-in audience for its star, Jake Gyllenhaal. Unlike Lawrence and her Hunger Games success, Gyllenhaal has had a harder time connecting at the box office. After 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow, the actor starred in both high-profile misses (Prince of Persia) and independent mini-hits (Source Code). It appears that End of Watch will be counted among the latter, especially if Monday’s actuals allow the film to add “The Number One Movie in America” to its marketing campaign.
No amount of marketing will be able to save the weekend’s final new release, Dredd 3D. Lionsgate’s R-rated take on the popular comic series came in at number six, with an estimated $6.3 million from 2,506 locations. Fans seemed to embrace the new Dredd after its Comic-Con debut in July; but, as we learned from the launch of Watchmen, the approval of hardcore comic fans does not always translate into wider box office success. Especially for those of us who remember Sylvester Stallone’s take on the character in 1995’s Judge Dredd, any reboot, however well done, may have been too much to swallow.
After breaking records last weekend in its limited debut, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master expanded from 5 to 788 locations. Though, with an estimated $5 million, the drama did well enough to make it into the top ten, The Master did not realize anything close to the giant per-theatre averages of last weekend.
As expected, the overall box office wound up down from 2011 by approximately 20%, making this the fifth frame in a row to fall short. That could change next weekend if the animated Hotel Transylvania becomes a hit. Of course, next weekend will also see the release of the drama Won’t Back Down and the sci-fi feature Looper, with Bruce Willis. So yeah, Hotel Transylvania is probably our only hope.