Weekend Box Office: OZ Stays on top; THE CALL Connects, BURT WONDERSTONE Bombs

     March 17, 2013

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For a second week in a row, Oz the Great and Powerful reigned at the domestic box office. The Disney hit earned an estimated $42.2 million, down 47% off from last weekend’s debut. But the big news this week is the film that took second place. With an estimated $17.1 million from 2,507 locations, The Call wound up stealing the spotlight from the comedy debut of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

 Title  Weekend Total
1.  Oz the Great and Powerful  $42,222,000 $145
2.  The Call  $17,100,000 $17.1
3.  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone    $10,305,000 $10.3
4.  Jack the Giant Slayer  $6,220,000 $53.9
5.  Identity Thief  $4,500,000 $123.6
6.  Snitch  $3,500,000 $37.2
7.  21 and Over  $2,619,000 $21.8
8.  Silver Linings Playbook  $2,587,000 $124.6
9.  Safe Haven  $2,495,000 $66.9
10.  Escape from Planet Earth  $2,327,000 $53.1

oz-the-great-and-powerful-posterAfter opening with over $79 million last weekend, it was a foregone conclusion that Oz the Great and Powerful would remain on top of the domestic box office. Over ten days in theatres, the Disney feature has earned an estimated $145 million in ten days, crossing the $100 million mark on Thursday. Oz added another $100 million from international markets as of Friday, bringing its worldwide total to approximately $245 million.

Oz certainly looks impressive (especially in light of 2013’s pitiable box office record), though it begins to lose some luster when it’s compared to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Back in 2010, Alice shocked box office watchers with its $116 million debut. Alice soared past $200 million in just ten days: on its way to a domestic total of over $334 million. But Wonderland showed the most muscle in international territories, which accounted for 67% of the film’s final, $1 billion worldwide total.

It may seem unfair to compare Oz the Great and Powerful to Alice in Wonderland, but it is also hard to resist. Both films were made by Disney and based on beloved children’s properties. Both debuted in March and were released in 3D – but that’s where the box office similarities stop. It’s true that Oz has offered a welcome reprieve from 2013’s series of financial flops, but an Alice and Wonderland-sized hit, it is not.

incredible-burt-wonderstone-steve-carell-steve-buscemi-olivia-wilde-1This week, another film was added to the list of 2013’s failures: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Few expected the Warner Brothers comedy to soar, but the presence of Steve Carell and Jim Carrey should have clinched a debut closer to $20 million. Instead, Wonderstone defied even the direst forecasts with its estimated opening of $10.3 million from 3,160 locations. To put that number into perspective, Universal’s Mystery Men opened with just over $10 million in 1999… not adjusted for inflation.

Of course, Wonderstone was budgeted at a relatively thrifty $35 million; but because that number now seems like the most Warner Brothers can hope for from its final US tally, there’s little hope that the studio will be able to diffuse its latest box office bomb.

The failure of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone only added to Warner Brothers’ recent woes, which began with Gangster Squad and hit their nadir with Beautiful Creatures last month. But one studio’s loss is another’s gain and, this weekend, Sony emerged the big winner. The studio (with TriStar), handled distribution for The Call, the R-rated thriller that surprised many box office observers with its second-place finish.

the-call-posterFrom 2,507 locations (653 fewer than Burt Wonderstone) The Call earned $17.1 million. That estimate was 40% higher than pre-release expectations; and although Halle Berry has been active in promoting The Call, star-power hasn’t counted for much at this year’s box office. So why the success? The film received a B+ CinemaScore (though Rotten Tomatoes rates it just 40%), so word of mouth might have played a role. Aside from that, it’s hard to say why The Call connected. This year has been swamped by R-rated thrillers, especially those catering to older male audiences so, perhaps the time was right for a female action hero? Or maybe it’s time to admit that, despite our sophisticated box office models, what appeals to audiences on any given weekend remains a mystery.

On that note, I leave you to puzzle out the future of next weekend’s releases. The failure of Burt Wonderstone could open the door for the Tina Fey comedy Admission, and Fox’s The Croods will surely be welcomed by families who have suffered through the animated desert of the 2013 release schedule. Even if all of three new releases do well, however, they will pale in comparison to The Hunger Games, which opened on the same weekend in 2012. Or maybe I’m selling Olympus Has Fallen a little short?

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