Even with five new movies competing at this weekend’s box office, Taken 2 had no trouble holding on to first place for a second week in a row. The action movie edged out Ben Affleck’s Argo and Friday’s first-place horror feature Sinister, though each put up strong debut numbers. The picture was not as rosy for the remaining three new releases, including Sony’s comedy Here Comes the Boom with Kevin James.
|5.||Here Comes the Boom||$12,000,000||$12|
|10.||Perks of Being a Wallflower
Along with Taken 2, the big winner this weekend was the overall box office tally, which was up by approximately 45% over 2011. One year ago, two notable misses debuted – the remakes of Footloose and The Thing. Their failures allowed Real Steel to stay on top with just $16.3 million on one of 2011’s least-lucrative frames. While no single film broke out in a big way this weekend, when taken as a whole, the estimated gross was good enough to keep the box office in the black for another week. And, if you remember where things stood back in September, that’s reason enough to celebrate.
You may recall the big splash that Taken 2 made in its debut last weekend. Not only did the sequel’s $49.5 million opening double that of the original Taken, it also ranked as the third highest October opening of all time. You may also recall that Taken was a commercial success due to its amazing week-to-week holds and that the sequel was expected to be much more front-loaded. In its sophomore frame, Taken dipped just 17% and followed that with an even more impressive -7.6% hold a week later. Taken 2 was not expected to match that, and it didn’t. However, its 55% drop was not nearly as a dramatic as it could have been for a film that is currently rocking a 21% Rotten Tomato score. After ten days, Taken 2 is well ahead of where Taken stood at the same point, though it is unclear if the sequel can hold on long enough to match its predecessor’s $145 million final gross.
In second place on this most-crowded of weekends was Argo: the critically-lauded third feature from director Ben Affleck. From its debut in 3,232 locations, Argo took in an estimated $20.1 million, which fell right in line with most projections for the drama. Of this weekend’s five new titles, none was more widely discussed than Argo. The film’s plot, dealing with the real events surrounding the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, had an eerie resonance with the recent attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. And if you somehow missed those parallels, not to worry! Affleck turned up on just about every news program and talk show to fill you in on the details.
Films with a political bent are not typically expected to realize $20 million debuts, as the string of financially-disappointing war movies from the past decade can attest. Argo, on the other hand, had two things going for it that features like Green Zone did not. First, it had overwhelmingly positive critical support and a rare ‘A+’ CinemaScore to match; and, second, it was Affleck’s directorial follow-up to The Town. In September 2010, The Town opened with $23.8 million. In a notoriously slow month, that was a big number – and a big win for a star-turned-director with only one, much more modest, screen credit to his name. Argo may not have matched The Town opening but, considering the film’s great word-of-mouth, it is likely that Argo will have legs enough to walk off with an impressive final gross.
After narrowly edging out Taken 2 for first place on Friday (some question whether Summit secured the win by combining Thursday numbers with their Friday estimate), Sinister fell to third for the weekend with an estimated $18.5 million from 2,527 runs. That was as expected for an R-rated horror title, whose audiences are usually strongest on Friday nights. Even with its Saturday drop, the film’s opening gross was better than expected. Sinister was projected to land in the mid-teens, below recent PG-13 horror films like The Possession. Considering that Paranormal Activity 4 is expected to syphon the lion’s share of horror fans to its own debut next weekend, this was a much-needed win for Sinister.
With a strong holdover in Taken 2 and five new films vying for attention, not every debut could be a winner. The most notable loser this week was the Sony comedy Here Comes the Boom, starring Kevin James. Three years ago, the combination of mixed martial arts and James’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop likeability might have been enough to guarantee an opening estimate of at least $20 million. Instead, Boom took in just $12 million from 3,014 locations. That is way-under the $17.8 million debut of the 2011 James-vehicle The Dilemma and represents the latest in an ever-growing string of disappointments for Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison productions.
Also falling under the heading ‘disappointment’ was Seven Psychopaths. Opening in 1,480 locations on Friday, the CBS Films’ release earned an estimated $4.2 million, or a per-screen average of $2,889. The R-rated second feature from director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) has enjoyed excellent reviews but, as this week’s opening was meant to test the waters for a wider release, the theatrical future of Seven Psychopaths is less than secure.
Finally, Atlas Shrugged: Part II placed below the top ten (early estimates had it in tenth place but the limited release Perks of Being a Wallflower ended up beating it after expanding into 726 locations. Take that Ayn Rand!) with an estimated $1.7 million from 1,012 locations. “Part II,” you say? “I barely remember the first Atlas Shrugged! What fool decided that the sequel deserved such a big release?” That I cannot answer. I can tell you that, in April 2011, Atlas Shrugged opened with $1.6 million from just 299 locations. If held to a similar, more limited, release pattern, who knows how Part II would have fared?
Next weekend will bring the box office back to normal: with only two new wide releases instead of five. Of the two, it goes without saying that Paranormal Activity 4 is the one to watch. Last October Paranormal Activity 3 set a record for the biggest October release of all time and the film’s only competition, Alex Cross, is not expected to make it out of the mid-teens. I doubt that PA 4 will top number three’s $52.5 million but I also thought that Here Comes the Boom would make $20 million. I am wrong a lot.