Weekend Box Office: HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS Leads Weak Field with $19 Million

     January 27, 2013

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After three relatively strong frames, a January chill has hit the box office. Three new titles opened nationwide but only one managed to top $10 million: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters with an estimated $19 million from 3,372 locations. That was good enough for first place and higher than Friday’s results suggested, but it was not high enough to put a positive spin on the weekend.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters $19,000,000 $19
2.  Mama $12,860,000 $48.6
3.  Silver Linings Playbook $10,000,000 $69.4
4.  Zero Dark Thirty $9,800,000 $69.9
5.  Parker $7,000,000 $7
6.  Django Unchained $5,005,000 $146.2
7.  Movie 43 $5,000,000 $5
8.  Gangster Squad $4,200,000 $39.6
9.  Broken City $4,000,000 $15.2
10.  Les Miserables $3,900,000 $137.2

hansel-gretel-witch-hunters-posterJanuary isn’t known for producing blockbusters. The start of each year can see great numbers from December holdovers like Avatar and it can give us surprise hits like Paul Blart: Mall Cop but, typically, studios don’t look to January to premiere their prime material – which brings us to this weekend and our three decidedly sub-prime new releases.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the R rated action comedy starring Jeremy Renner, managed to come out on top, despite its disastrous critical reception (15% on Rotten Tomatoes) and bad start on Friday. The film was originally scheduled to debut last March, until someone at Paramount figured out that going up against The Hunger Games was a bad idea.

And how did it all work out? Given the, ahem, quality of its competition, it was generally accepted that Hansel and Gretel would open on top this weekend. Earlier this week, projections put the film above $21 million through Sunday. But then Friday’s numbers came in and Hansel and Gretel was being compared to The Brothers GrimmTerry Gilliam’s fairytale folly from 2005 – and not because of their obvious thematic connection.

parker-poster jason stathamHansel and Gretel did manage to bounce back a bit on Saturday, putting it ahead of the $15 million debut of The Brothers Grimm (though the distance between the two dwindles if you adjust for inflation). With word of mouth against it and the Super Bowl on the horizon, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters will probably fail to reach its reported $50 million price tag here in the US. Luckily, the film is having better luck overseas, so the news could be worse

Worse on the scale of Parker and Movie 43, for example. Both films are looking like major missteps though, to be fair, few expected big things from either. The R-rated Parker earned an estimated $7 million from 2,224 locations – in range with distributor FilmDistrict’s projections. Still, that is lower than the debuts of Safe ($7.8 million) and Killer Elite ($9.3 million), two of Jason Statham’s most recent disappointments. Parker did have the best critical reception among our new releases (35% on Rotten Tomatoes) and is expected to do better internationally so, once again, it could have been worse.

Movie-43-poster-quadThe limit of my optimism fades, however, when faced with Movie 43. It is hard to see how this weekend could have been much worse for the R-rated comedy. If you caught any of the film’s TV spots you know that it features more big names (in front of the camera and behind) than could reasonably fit on one poster. All that talent did not help at the box office, however, where Movie 43 earned a pitiable $5 million from its 2,023 runs. Of course, the collection of comedy shorts only cost $6 million to make, so financial exposure was low. But with its 5% Rotten Tomato rank and the headline “Biggest Bomb of the Year” to overcome, Movie 43 isn’t going to get a pass just because it was made on the cheap.

In fact, the only film that gets a pass this weekend is Silver Linings Playbook. In a sea of underperformers, the Oscar contender claimed the best hold of the weekend by falling just 7% in its second week in wide release. Nearly three months after its debut, Silver Linings Playbook has earned almost $70 million in the US… and its reviews have been pretty good too.

If January ended on a sour note, I wouldn’t look to February to cleanse your palette. Last year’s Super Bowl weekend produced two $20 million+ debuts with Chronicle and The Woman in Black, but odds are against a repeat in 2013. Though the new teen-zombie adaptation Warm Bodies is on good footing, Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head  not so much. With the complete disaster of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand ($10.6 million in 10 days) fresh in my mind, my money is definitely not on the movie starring the aging action star.

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