Here’s something you don’t hear very often: “It was a good week for strong women at the box office.” Up against two new, male-driven action movies, actress Jessica Chastain claimed first and second place with Mama and Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain’s fellow Golden Globe winner, Jennifer Lawrence, took third with Silver Linings Playbook – ahead of Gangster Squad and the big name boys that launched debuts on Friday. Both Broken City (with Mark Wahlberg) and The Last Stand (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) were disappointments – though, fittingly, Arnold’s was on a much more epic scale.
|2.||Zero Dark Thirty||$17,600,000||$55.9|
|3.||Silver Linings Playbook||$11,351,000||$55.3|
|6.||A Haunted House||$8,330,000||$29.9|
|10.||The Last Stand||$6,300,000||$6.3|
Martin Luther King Jr. weekend has seen some impressive debuts over the last five years. 2008’s Cloverfield holds the record with $46.1 million, but both The Green Hornet (2011) and Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) opened in the $40 million range over their initial, three-day frames. One year ago, Contraband was the big hit $24.3 million – impressive enough to slate another Wahlberg vehicle for the same frame in 2013. And yet Wahlberg’s latest tough-guy effort will not go down as a Cloverfield or even Contraband-sized hit. Ditto Schwarzenegger’s return as a leading man. Instead, 2013’s holiday weekend is all about Jessica Chastain.
Of course, last week was also fairly Chastain-centric. In its first weekend playing nationwide, Zero Dark Thirty became the number one film with $24.4 million. This weekend, the Best Picture nominee dropped just 28% – securing second place behind Mama.
It may not be fair to credit Chastain with the success of Mama, however. Marketing for the PG-13 horror film barely mentioned the actress – and many fans would be hard-pressed to recognize the redhead in that Joan Jett wig even if it had. Mama is the latest supernatural scarer from executive producer Guillermo del Toro, though even his fanboy-favorite name doesn’t completely explain why Mama wound up more than $10 million ahead of its projection this weekend. Del Toro’s last horror production, 2011’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark grossed a total of $24 million by the end of its run – less than Mama took in over three days.
Amplifying Mama’s success is the fact that the film has a reported budget of just $15 million. Compare that to the $35 million of Broken City and it’s easy to see why the Fox feature is not the big story this weekend. The three-day projection for Broken City (from 2,620 locations) was for as much as $16 million – far above its current $9 million estimate. But it could have been so much worse.
Worse like The Last Stand, that is. Marketed (when marketed at all) as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big comeback as a leading man, The Last Stand had the widest release of the weekend at 2,913 locations. It was projected to earn between $10 and $15 million, so its current estimate of just $6.3 million is something of a disaster. Lionsgate has not released a budget figure for The Last Stand but, safe to say, it cost more than Mama and is, therefore, more of an embarrassment.
No shame accompanied the nationwide expansion of Silver Linings Playbook this weekend. After nine weeks of careful expansion, the Oscar-nominated feature saw a 126% jump from last weekend’s total after adding 1,700 locations on Friday.
Last weekend’s new releases - Gangster Squad and A Haunted House, saw standard drops of 47% and 54%, respectively, for their sophomore frames. Meanwhile, the Oscar-nominated Les Miserables saw the smallest drop among the top ten, down just 19% after four weeks.
With its PG-13 rating, Mama broke the R-rated spell the studios cast over this January’s box office; but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of the month’s age-restricted offerings. Next week Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Movie 43 and Parker (all rated R) will see release. It may seem like overkill now, but I’m sure we’ll look back on this time fondly when we are knee-deep in kiddie flicks come spring…