Though much of the Northeast is still drowning under an ocean of snow, Blizzard Nemo didn’t sink the national box office. In first place, Identity Thief took in an estimated $36.5 million, for the highest three-day total so far this year. The R-rated comedy is looking like a solid hit – coming in 40% higher than first projected and 73% higher than Side Effects, the weekend’s only other wide release.
|4.||Silver Linings Playbook||$6,908,000||$90|
|5.||Hansel & Gretel||$5,750,000||$43.8|
|7.||Zero Dark Thirty||$4,000,000||$83.5|
|10.|| Bullet to the Head
After two less-than stellar frames, the box office showed a little life this weekend by sending its first number one debut above $30 million. Prior to this weekend, the year’s strongest openers were Mama ($28.4 million) and Texas Chainsaw 3D ($21.4 million). Making Identity Thief’s success that much sweeter is the fact that many people believed it wouldn’t happen. Earlier this week, the Universal comedy was projected to earn first place, but with just over $20 million – and that was before the effect of Nemo was factored in.
Why were expectations so low? You can lay that partially at the feet of the critics, whose reviews earned Identity Thief a dismal 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You’d think that someone would have noted that audiences would be dying for a laugh after being fed a steady diet of horror and drama all year, but box office pundits are not known for their boldness. We tend to rely on studio quotes and comparative models to guide our predictions: which is how we maintain our excellent 41% (estimated!) success rate with pegging opening weekends.
If the reviews for Identity Thief were not promising, the impact of the East Coast blizzard promised disaster. Though geographically small, the eastern part of the country accounts for between 10-15% of all tickets sold on any given weekend. Think back to December 2009, when another East Coast storm left Avatar with a disappointing opening weekend of just $77 million. Of course, Avatar rebounded a bit with its $760 million final tally, but for a film like Identity Thief, a bad opening weekend might have meant the end.
As it stands, Identity Thief has a chance to reach $100 million by the end of its run. The comedy has already earned more than Horrible Bosses ($28.3 million) and Bridesmaids (26.2 million) did on their own opening weekends in 2011. Both those films had summer release dates and excellent word of mouth to drive their multiples, however. With four new releases scheduled to hit theatres next weekend, it will be interesting to see how long Identity Thief will remain in such esteemed box office company.
Speaking of esteemed box office company, if Steven Soderbergh can be believed, this may be the last weekend that audiences will enjoy a new release from the celebrated director. According to Soderbergh, Side Effects, the drama starring Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, will be his last feature film. The man behind such hits as Ocean’s Eleven and Erin Brockovich has had his box office ups and downs; but the past two years have been extremely good to Soderbergh, between 2011’s Contagion and last summer’s Magic Mike. If Side Effects really is the director’s final film, he’ll be going out on a slightly down note. From 2,605 locations, the drama earned just $10 million, more in line with the little-seen Haywire than with Soderbergh’s more profitable recent releases.
There are two other items of note in this weekend’s box office results: the return of Argo and the release of Top Gun 3D. After collecting awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press and nearly every industry acronym imaginable (SAG, DGA, etc.) Argo is back in the domestic top ten for the first time since Thanksgiving. Now playing in 1,405 locations (an increase of 470 venues since last weekend) Argo took in an estimated $2.5 million to bring its domestic total up to an impressive $123.7 million.
Though it missed the top ten by less than $100,000, congratulations are in order for the 3D re-release of Top Gun. The 1980s classic opened in just 300 locations this weekend, and earned an estimated $1.9 million and eleventh place. So why is that worth a round of applause? Last September, Raiders of the Lost Ark got its own 3D re-release and earned $1.67 million from 267 locations. From a strictly per-theatre perspective, that means that Top Gun 3D was more popular than Raiders 3D and, seriously, who would have imagined?
Even with the bigger-than-expected first place finish of Identity Thief, this weekend’s overall box office was not exactly a winner. Combined earnings came in nearly 45% below 2012’s frame, when both Safe House and The Vow earned over $40 million. Things look much more promising for next weekend’s top ten, however, including the debuts of Beautiful Creatures and A Good Day to Die Hard. Both films (and the romantic Safe Haven) will open on Thursday instead of Friday, to capitalize on Valentine’s Day.